To the Editor:
As the Supreme Court listens this week to arguments related to marriage equality in the United States, there are some who wish to come to the defense of marriage. One could imagine such a defense being staged by those worried about the nearly 50% failure rate of marriages in America. Or perhaps some find examples of serial marriages a violation of their sensibilities. But of course, the campaign to defend marriage is actually an effort to exclude an entire class of people from the privileges and responsibilities of matrimony.
The implication – intended or not – is that the interest of some gay and lesbian folks to exercise the right to civil marriage is somehow an attack on the institution itself. As if gays and lesbians will infiltrate the ranks of “the married” and destroy the dignity of such loving bonds from the inside out. It would seem that straight folks have been less than respectful of the institution over time, and yet marriage endures in our culture just the same.
At the outset, as a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister serving congregations for 25 years, I need to make it clear that I am an advocate of civil marriage between two consulting adults of either gender. I support the principle of marriage equality in civil marriages. The State ought not to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, ability, or sexual orientation. That said, I respect and would defend any religious sect or denomination establishing their own parameters for granting or denying access to the rite of marriage (or any other sacrament of that faith tradition). Religions are free to discriminate in whatever form their doctrines determine.
If any given church, temple, mosque or assembly wish to reserve the rites of marriage to heterosexual couples, I stand with them in defending their right to do so. And in return, I would ask them, in all respect, to step aside from obstructing marriage equality, in deference to the civil foundations of law upon which this nation has long labored to create a more perfect union.
When I hear others argue for the preservation of “traditional marriage,” I often wonder which “tradition” they would enshrine as the gold standard? The “tradition” of arranged marriages? The “tradition” of bridal dowries? The “tradition” of women being unable to be protected from sexual assaults by their husbands? The “tradition” of a widow having to marry her husband’s brother? The traditions of marriage have never ceased to change. And somehow, civilization has survived. It will survive marriage equality as well.
If nothing else, human beings are wonderfully adaptive, usually forgiving, and mostly loving. The question of marriage equality puts all those qualities to the test. I can imagine the insults that will be hurled, in both directions, as this debate unfolds. (I could probably predict the tone of how some may choose to respond to this letter.) But I remain optimistic that we are all better than our biases, and that generations to come will wonder what all the fuss was about. I thought just the same thing last October when I officiated at my nieces wedding to an African American man. Only a few decades ago, such a union was illegal in much of our country. Love won. It almost always does. And I believe it will again this time.
Rev. David S. Blanchard, Canton Unitarian Universalist Church