This Marriage Be Saved?
religious right’s stalwart objections to same-sex marriage
beggar not only logic, but also compassion.
short, marriage, when it functions as intended, is good for
everyone — for men, for women, for children, for the community,
for the nation, and for the world.
James Dobson, founder and chairman, Focus on the Family and
author of Marriage Under Fire
me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments . . .
Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
OK, I just really want to make sure I’ve got all this right.
Marriage is under fire. Although as far as I can tell it has
been under fire for the entire length of my life, so this
is not a new thing.
Feminists started it, I’m told. They didn’t like marriage
because marriage subjugated women to men politically, economically,
educationally and socially. Feminists were anti-marriage.
That meant they were anti-family and therefore pretty much
anti-American. After all, a lot of those early feminists were
Frenchwomen! To put it in a nutshell: “Feminism, partnered
with sexual freedom and the homosexual movement, resulted
in the breakdown of families, escalation of sexually-transmitted
diseases and millions of fatherless children.”
That’s Bill Tam, writing in America, Return to God.
Tam is the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area
Traditional Values Coalition. America, Return to God,
is the free book mailed to me at my office just because I
am a pastor and therefore assumed to be an American man of
God which makes it part of my job to help Christianize America.
(Being an American woman, my biological accoutrements make
me a less-than-ideal man of God.)
But enough about me. We’re talking about marriage here.
According to America, Return to God it was the feminists
who launched the first assault on marriage.
You see, we women are fickle, so easily led. For a couple
thousand years we went around stocking hope chests, vowing
to obey and living without property and voting rights. Then
the feminists got hold of our malleable little minds.
First there was Betty Friedan (“she’s had several failed marriages
and problematic children,” Bill Tam notes). Then there was
Patricia Ireland (“she led [NOW] to become a radical, homosexual-dominated
club”). Next thing you know we’ve got Ruth Bader Ginsburg
on the Supreme Court and Hillary Rodham Clinton—no baker of
cookies—in the Senate.
Gone were the days when the peroxided blonde with the big
boobs was the home wrecker. Now it was the feminists.
Because if America, Return to God, and Dr. James Dobson
and other voices on the religious right are reading history
right, it was those harridan feminists who led gullible women
down the garden path, influencing us in such a venal way that
we came to see marriage as a choice and not a duty, a partnership
and not a patriarchy.
Clearly, you can see how that kind of thinking would
So, given the obvious logic, as well as the longevity, of
this theory (feminists have been whipping boys for ages),
it strikes me as odd that those same loud voices are now claiming
that gay and lesbian persons, by virtue of their wanting
to marry, are guilty of undermining the institution of marriage.
Does this make sense? I mean, there are still people out there
who believe in commitment and love and fidelity and family
life—in marriage, for crying out loud. If they are
brave enough to buck the much-ballyhooed, anti-marriage trend,
don’t they deserve as much support from as many different
places as possible? Thanks to a growing number of forward-thinking
gays and lesbians, maybe the institution of marriage could
be saved, strengthened—made kind of stylish, even. It needs
a little panache.
But oh, what fantasy world of logic do I live in?
Gay people can’t strengthen marriage. Feminists can’t strengthen
marriage. Marriage is one thing and one thing only: the commitment
of one man and one woman. One at a time, anyway, since certainly
the divorce and re-marriage rate among Americans, Christian
or not, suggests that very few of us, when we get married,
get life without parole. (That’s a joke—I’m not a very
Still there isn’t really anything funny here. The religious
right’s stalwart objections to same-sex marriage beggar not
only logic, but also compassion. I don’t care if they blame
feminists—by which they are referring to some kind of cartoon
character of misogynist projection, anyway. That’s an old
But when gay and lesbian people seek the right to marry, to
publicly commit their whole lives, to one another,
I cannot fathom the hardness of heart that would deny it.
Nor can I even begin to imagine how such a desire for commitment
does anything other than honor and esteem the institution.
I perform marriages all the time, serving not only as the
minister, but also an agent of the state. The wedding is a
matter of a guest list, a caterer, a minister and some bridesmaids.
And people marry blithely, taking the right—and often the
rite—for granted, as one more option on a menu of options
in their lives. Some people figure they don’t want to bother
with it. Others break their marriage vow with ease.
It is not necessarily something they would break the law for,
though. Or fight for the right to do. Or wait, and wait and
wait to see if the law of the land or the will of the people
will give them their blessing. They don’t have to. They can’t
imagine what it would be like to have neither the right to
marry nor the rite for marriage. For those accustomed to plenty,
it is hard to imagine having a blessing withheld.