What About Our Faiths?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 15, 2008 — 3 Comments

“In Paganism, there is no sense of a norm in terms of a handfasted relationship. While the Church, and others keen to hold to a status quo, have been fearing for the future of marriage and the family with gay weddings and extended legal rights for couples cohabiting, the Pagan perspective is quite different. Tribe and family are of paramount importance, yet far more worrying than the increase in ‘different’ household arrangements is the ongoing decline in people’s ability to craft intimate relationships at all.”Emma Restall Orr, “Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics”

As a recently re-galvanized LGBT community and their allies take to the streets protesting the passage of California’s discriminatory Proposition 8 (which bans same-sex marriage), editor Japhy Grant at the prominent gay blog Queerty asks an important question.

“I personally understand that for many Prop. 8 supporters, their beliefs are the most important thing in the world to them, that the idea of living without those beliefs would be too much to bear. Well, that’s how we feel about our equal rights. We are not asking you to abandon your faith, just stop making the rest of the country bow before your altar. What of the faiths which bless same-sex unions? Are you not denying them their freedom? Freedom from religion means freedom for all religions (even the absence of it), not just freedom for your religion. Keep your beliefs, but leave our rights alone.”

This very point is one I, and other prominent Pagans, have brought up at length. Proclaimed caretakers of “traditional” marriage are quick to raise the flag of “religious freedom”, while completely ignoring the fact that numerous faiths are denied the right to legal recognition of their own holy unions. Nor are “separate but equal” civil unions sufficient, as former Icelandic Asatruar high chieftain Jörmundur Ingi Hansen recently pointed out.

“Various people have claimed they give the same rights as marriage, but that is unfortunately not true. They do not include a reversionary right and do not provide the kind of safety that marriage is supposed to provide”

We are quickly approaching a tipping point. It is only a matter of time before a perfect storm of litigation, activism, and generational shifts in attitudes result in a nationwide reversal of draconian laws that seek to ban holy unions performed for same-sex couples, and the disgustingly discriminatory laws that build on them. The more “traditional” marriage proponents try to cling to their exclusive claim on what can be a legally valid marriage, the harder the subsequent fall will be when same-sex couples and their religious allies finally win this struggle.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Garan du

    Jason, you are absolutely correct on this matter. As a leader of a gay Pagan spiritual community (the Between the World’s Men’s Gathering), I have assisted in the handfastings of several gay Pagan couples here in Ohio, where the State Constitution has a “Defense of Marriage” amendment. This issue is very real, not just in California, but across the country where U.S. citizens whose faith communities recognize same-sex marriage are held to Abrahamist codes and thereby discriminated against by the state in the exercise of their own faiths. Religions have always had, and will always have, the right to discriminate against the members of their own faith communities. That being said, Constitutionally, they do not have the right to use the apparatus of the state to enforce their religious convictions on others. And that, simply put, is the crux of the matter before us. Why does one religioos viewpoint, even a “majority” one receive an elevated standing in the law when the Constitution clearly abdjures the promotion of a state religion? The US Supreme Court has, with occasional backsliding, gradually worked towards the conclusion that the Judeo-Christian faith community may not enforce its views on the entire country. In Abington Township School District v. Schempp (1963), which eliminated forced prayer in the public schools, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark wrote, “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to … freedom of worship … and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” I am reminded of the fateful words of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his disserting opinion on the Supreme Court ruling that tossed the nation’s sodomy laws onto the trash heap of history (Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003)), State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding. See ante, at 11 (noting “an emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex”). The impossibility of distinguishing homosexuality from other traditional “morals” offenses is precisely why Bowers rejected the rational-basis challenge. “The law,” it said, “is constantly based on notions of morality, and if all laws representing essentially moral choices are to be invalidated under the Due Process Clause, the courts will be very busy indeed.”I would agree that it is now time for the courts to get very busy indeed.Blessings,Garan duColumbus, Ohio

  • Riverwolf,

    Had never considered your point about pagan faiths that bless same-sex unions. Another arrow for my arsenal! And there was great energy at work this past Saturday!

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