Last week President Obama took the historic step of being the first sitting U.S. president to endorse the concept of gay marriage. The national reaction was both predictable and troubling. The right wing of the right wing turned over the engine on the Lie Mobile to claim that this was more evidence that Barack Obama is an enemy of America. Gay Republicans claimed that he didn’t do enough to warrant their support even as Mitt Romney doubled down on his opposition to same sex marriage. The Catholic Church and too many black churches once more revealed that they are mired in loveless opposition thinly disguised as dogma.
A few facts are useful at this point. Same sex marriage is not recognized by the federal government pursuant to the ridiculously entitled Defense of Marriage Act. Same sex marriage is banned by statute in twelve states and banned by the state constitution in 30 states. So it would be a mistake to think that President’s Obama’s announcement was akin to an Emancipation Proclamation for the gay community.
Nevertheless, by affirming the right of American men and women to live and love as they please President Obama articulated what should by now be a basic fact of civil life in this country. Prejudging and confining men and women based upon gender, gender preference, race, religion or physical disability is wrong.
There is no doubt that there remains a major gap between the reality of this country and its stated ideals. Its Declaration of Independence and Constitution proclaimed the rights of all mankind while black people were treated as chattel and women had no rights except those granted to them by their fathers or husbands.
The Constitution (and the Bible) was used to justify genocide against Native Americans and to codify racial segregation. And the Constitution was construed to permit the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II (but not German Americans or Italian Americans).
Nevertheless the Constitution is now seen as the guarantor of basic rights and liberties for all Americans. Race, gender, religion and physical disabilities are no longer seen as justifiable reasons for discrimination. The fact too many Americans are comfortable with discriminating against men and women based upon gender preference says more about their bigotry than it does about their victims.
Mitt Romney and the Teapublicans (and too many Democrats) proclaim that marriage must be between a man and a woman. They refer to the Bible and presumably the Book of Mormon to justify that position.
Assuming that the Biblical and Mormon interpretations are correct, how can religious principles define constitutional and legislative agendas? Freedom of religion means that we are free to practice our religion as we see fit. Freedom of religion also means that we are free from the precepts, practices and mandates of other religions.
Catholics and the Catholic Church have known much bigotry, hate and discrimination in this country. Why the Catholic Church would so vigorously oppose same sex marriage by non-Catholics is baffling. Church prelates can exercise their prerogative to ban same sex marriages within the Catholic Church. But the Catholic Church and the rest of the religious establishment should have no say over the private lives of Americans outside of the church.
And it is worth mentioning that during the past two decades the passion that the Catholic Church expresses in opposing same sex marriage has been notably missing as the thousands of sexual abuse cases have been revealed within the Church. One would think that an institution that has had so many leaders who have enabled, empowered, protected and defended predators of children would be more focused on its own glass house as opposed to the glass houses of others.
The role of the black church in this controversy is particularly troubling. As long as there have been black churches there have been members of the gay community in those churches. Further, black Americans have been the victims of so much state-sponsored suffering, terrorism and legalized discrimination and marginalization that it is truly bizarre for black pastors and ministers to claim that their interpretation of “God’s law” now calls them to discriminate and marginalize.
What is particularly shameful is that too many of these black pastors and ministers have gone so far as to withdraw their support for President Obama. If even a few black parishioners follow their boneheaded example it could result in Barack Obama’s defeat.
This would open the doors for a Romney administration that will inject Tea Party madness throughout the federal government and throughout this country. Black Americans will suffer the brunt of this particularly despicable turn of events.
One wonders what will become of these shepherds who would lead their flocks so far astray on their personal judgment day.