What About Our Faiths?

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“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.