Still sunbathing here, so I asked my good friend Dan New Jersey to guest-blog today. I’m calling him Dan NJ because I actually have two friends named Dan who have the same last initial, and both read the blog. One is a born-again Christian who lives in Texas; he and I stomped around the same section (trumpet) of the Watauga High School Marching Pioneers. The other is an irreverent Jew who I met when we sat next to each other in a seminar in New York City back in 2002ish; he, his Akita (Zeke), and I were roomies my last year in Astoria, and now he lives in NJ.
Dan NJ is the best at playing Devil’s Advocate with me.
He will tell me straight to my face when I’m being lily-livered. When I wanted to share my feelings with a man I had fallen for, but was convinced that email was the only way I’d have the courage to do it, Dan NJ said,
Sack up and tell the guy you fancy him in person, or don’t. Choose powerfully, and be satisfied with your choice. But should you email him, don’t be surprised if, after you can’t be bothered to take him seriously enough to engage him, he doesn’t take you seriously in return.
Be AMY SCOTT. Not amy scott.
But the opposite is also true. He builds me up when I’m broken, as I was after I “sacked up” and confessed my affections to the guy, who told me in the gentlest terms possible that my feelings were not reciprocated. Dan NJ blew it off:
…any man who doesn’t want you is gay, stupid, or dead for 72 hours or longer. I’m just saying. Even mostly dead can’t withstand your awesomeness.
Based on all the advice and coaching he gave me during Summer 2012, my girlfriends with whom I shared snippets are convinced he needs his own radio talk show. His opinions are always strong, informed, empowering, and persuasive. And this guest-blog post is exactly that. As with yesterday´s post from amy a, I have thoughts and feelings, but I’d love to hear from you first.
Without further ado, I give you the inimitable Dan NJ.
P.S. Dan TX, let me know if you want to take a guest spot sometime!
I’m just a few weeks away from my second wedding anniversary, and I’m reminded of how wonderful my wedding experience was for my wife and me. In particular our cantor, who is gay, married us in a beautiful ceremony and in attendance were a great many gay friends and family, some married, others not yet allowed to do so by the State. During our wedding my wife and I made a point of showing our support for the opportunity for all people in America to have a similar chance to express their commitment, but I was being a bit of a hypocrite.
I’m not actually in favor of marriage equality. I do believe, fervently, that non-traditional couples should be recognized by the State and afforded all the same rights and privileges that traditional married couples presently receive, but to embiggen the definition of marriage to allow same-sex unions will not address the fundamental violation of the separation of Church and State inherent in our current system. The problem that wants addressing is not that same-sex marriages are not universally recognized, but rather that the State recognizes any religious marriages at all, including and especially “traditional” ones.
When I turned 13, I had a bar mitzvah. At this gala event, I was acknowledged as an adult by the established hierarchy of the reform Jewish movement. Without regard to my pre-pubescent testicles, under-developed sense of responsibility and obligation, and total financial dependence on my family, as far as the elders of the church were concerned I was a man. My majority was not recognized by the United States of America, however, as I was not suddenly eligible to vote, drink, be drafted, or legally have sex with one of my teachers, which didn’t actually come up, but it could have. Seriously, it could have.
I mention this as just one example of the many religiously significant but civilly insignificant events that occur throughout the nation every day, to people of all faiths. These events lack secular impact and civil status for several reasons, but the original source of the State’s blindness to religious events is the Establishment Clause of the first amendment which states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Constitutionally, it is no more appropriate for Congress to formally support (through financial or legislative means) any particular religion or religious act than it is for congress to impede those religions from practicing as they see fit, within the law. Yet in the case of marriage, Congress does both.
The outsourcing of this particular civic activity to religious authorities is inconsistent with the spirit of the Establishment Clause, and it’s that very outsourcing which is at the heart of what I see as both the problem and the solution. The contentious issue that we face today is a result of the State allowing religious marriage to afford civil status, and that conflict will not be resolved by expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Rather, we should reserve the benefits of civil status for a solely secular civil union, and bring integrity back to the separation of Church and State.
I suggest that the nation promote a national civil union contract between tax-paying consenting adults, with clearly defined creation and dissolution procedures, in order to promote the general welfare of the nation’s citizenry. These contracts would be governed by the secular laws of the nation, and would not tolerate any civil rights preferences or violations. Anyone and everyone who wishes to be considered legally joined to one another in America, whether hetero- or homosexual, would need to register their civil union accordingly. And with universal civil unions, the State can get out of the marriage business, leaving it to religious institutions to include in their roster of meaningful but legally irrelevant activities. I contend there is no need for a broader definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, or for the creation of a separate but equal civil union alternative aimed solely at same-sex couples. I believe the need is for marriage to become a separate and unequal religious event, and secular civil unions to become the standard by which inheritance, taxation, insurance, custody, visitation, and the entire menu of items impacted by marital status is considered.
And then if Roman Catholics wish to exclude homosexuals from marrying, frankly that’s their business. If Mormons wish to allow marriage to multiple wives, similarly, that’s their business. Neither of those unions should have any more significance legally than my bar mitzvah, and if any particular demographic feels aggrieved, they should feel free to take it up with their religious leadership rather than the President. It is no more appropriate for the State to force a civil definition of marriage on Roman Catholics than it is for Roman Catholics to force their religious definition on our secular authority.
The fight for same sex couples to achieve marriage equality via having their marriages recognized is a symbolic, but Pyrrhic victory. The true civil rights victory would be the disenfranchisement of religious authorities of their ability to confer or withhold preferred status on American citizens based on a particular interpretation of a particular mythology.
Now, you may argue that my idea would then require an effort to ensure our civil authorities will universally recognize sexual orientation as a protected-class, which is not presently the case. Yet I would counter that same-sex marriage is already covered under gender-discrimination laws, though for the life of me I can’t fathom why it isn’t being argued that way. I don’t know about you, but if I were a woman and was being actively barred from legally receiving the same rights and privileges that a similarly qualified man was able to enjoy, I’d frickin’ sue.