Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Proposition 8

Aside from Obama’s historic and exciting win last week, the other big issue from the election is the fallout from the passage of Proposition 8 in California which calls for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in the state.

In light of the massive funding provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, protesters have been picketing Mormon churches and calling for boycotts of the state of Utah whose population is 67% Mormon.

But put aside for a moment the issue of using tax-exempt church funds to discriminate against U.S. citizens.

Are there any non-religious reasons to ban same-sex marriages? Protecting the sanctity of the institution of marriage is an easily refuted argument. Protecting society from moral decay turns on religious conviction itself. In the run-up to last weeks election, it was argued by religious supporters of Proposition 8 that churches would be forced to marry same-sex couples, a dishonest claim in the first place and clearly a religious objection anyway. I have yet to hear a non-religious argument that is realistic and logical.

(If you can think of one, please post it in the comments section. I am always willing to change my mind in the face of good evidence.)

The only reason to ban same-sex marriage is religious conviction.

On November 4, Michael Shermer, in his post on Skepticblog explored the single biblical passage that forms the foundation of the religious case against homosexuality and also illuminated several other prohibitions of behavioral “abominations.” (All biblical passages cited within are from the Revised Standard Version.)

The crucial passage regarding homosexuality is Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

If you’re going to be using the bible to establish what is right and just and what the law of the land will be, that’s pretty clear. Shermer points out however that “tucked into in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are several other passages that we rightly ignore as pre-civil rights, pre-enlightenment and pre-scientific medieval thinking.” For example:

Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
Wear a suit and be an abomination.

Deuteronomy 21:18–21: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
Get lippy with your parents? Death penalty.

Deuteronomy 22:13–21: “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and then spurns her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings an evil name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her the tokens of virginity,’ then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the tokens of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate.”
This means that in the event that a guy gets married, has sex with his new wife and claims that she is not a virgin, then the wife’s mother and father should present to the elders of the city proof of her virginity – the hymen and the blood on the sheet from her sexual encounter with her husband. If the father and mother are able to provide this proof, then they

“…shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take the man [the husband] and whip him; and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought an evil name upon a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife.”
But if the father and mother can not offer the elders of the city proof of their daughter’s virginity…

“But if the thing is true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has wrought folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.”
There are many more examples throughout the bible including Exodus 21, which outlines the rules for the proper handling of slaves. Of course, not every ethical concept in the bible is quite so antiquated and violent – “Thou shalt not kill” seems like a good guideline - but the question becomes which dictates to adhere to? Which ones to incorporate into the law of our land? Which ones to use to deny freedom and rights to others?

Clearly, we ignore many rules laid out in the bible. We no longer endorse slavery, or the death penalty for disobedient children, non-virginal women, and adulterers. So why the obsession with Leviticus 18:22?

Ultimately, no one should be required to hold anything sacred. I am not required to hold sacred the idea that Muhammad is God’s messenger. I am not beholden to maintain a kosher diet or keep holy the Sabbath.

You are free to hold the Lord’s name sacred and not to take it in vain. But god damn it, I am not required to do the same.

Proposition 8 however, requires all Californian’s to hold sacred this biblical tenet – that homosexuality is an abomination.

And so Californians have agreed to live under biblical law and deny civil rights and liberties to a minority. Way to go California, way to go.

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