|Same Sex Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Of course, there is also an important difference between my support for same-sex marriage and my atheism. With same-sex marriage, we are talking about people legally prohibiting something in such a manner as to deprive others of equal rights. In this sense, same-sex marriage is a matter of equality and a civil rights issue. Same-sex couples are being denied the right to do something that opposite-sex couples take for granted. While atheism can certainly be a civil rights issue too, it becomes one when atheists face discrimination and bigotry. The fact of being an atheist, all by itself, does not automatically raise such issues.
Same-Sex Marriage as a Church-State Issue
I support same-sex marriage not only because I see no valid reason not to and because I recognize it as a matter of equality; I also support it because I am adamantly opposed to efforts to legislate restrictive religiously-based morality. You have seen the bumper stickers:
Against same-sex marriage? Don't have one!Why can't that be the end of the debate? If someone wishes to oppose same-sex marriage, they are free to do so. But why impose this on others through government action? Why take away the rights of others? And why is it that those who howl the loudest about keeping their own rights free from government constraint seem so eager to take rights away from others? The answer, of course, is Jesus. Those who seek to deprive same-sex couples of the right to marry have convinced themselves that "gay marriage makes baby Jesus cry."
To the extent that the reasons for demanding governmental prohibitions on same-sex marriage are based in religion, same-sex marriage is a church-state issue. One group is seeking to impose its religiously-motivated values on another through government intervention. They want to deny rights to same-sex couples because they think their particular religion says they should.
Same-Sex Marriage as a Civil Rights Issue
Same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue in much the same way interracial marriage was once blocked by anti-miscegenation laws. We recognize those laws as wrong-headed today, and the time is approaching when an overwhelming majority of the U.S. population will feel the same about bans on same-sex marriage. While it is appalling that it has taken us this long to see the similarity, the tide is starting to turn. Same-sex marriage is increasingly being recognized as a matter of equality, especially by young adults. Moreover, the vocal opponents of same-sex marriage are increasingly being recognized as bigots.
The legal prohibitions against same-sex marriage could fall within my lifetime, and I find that incredibly encouraging. It feels like a tipping point has been passed and real change is now inevitable. I know that atheist equality is going to take much longer, but I believe it too will happen, although I don't expect to live long enough to see it.
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