I live in Minnesota. On Tuesday we will be voting on (among other things) whether or not to amend our State Constitution to include the following: Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.
There is already a law that makes gay marriage illegal in Minnesota, so this seems like mean-spirited overkill. If the Constitutional Amendment does not pass, gays will still not have the right to marry. If it does pass, it will add another layer of injustice that we will have to undo when we are, hopefully, restored to sanity.
Imagine this: I am 22, freshly escaped from an abusive relationship, emotionally vulnerable, partying heavily, and I just got engaged. My family and friends thought it was a terrible idea for me to get married. It probably was. But you know what? They didn’t get to decide. As concerned as they were, it didn’t occur to anyone to propose a law that prevented young, emotionally messed-up people from marrying each other.
If I had been born a few decades earlier, a few hundred miles away, there would have been other laws preventing our marriage. My fiancé was white. I am not.
But that’s not what this is about.
I’m both a Hindu priestess and a Vodou priestess. When these two religions come up in conversation here in the USA, there are a few predictable reactions and concerns. Regarding Hinduism, most non-Hindus ask me about the caste system. When I write about Hinduism over at Huffington Post, there are numerous comments objecting to Hinduism solely based on the caste system, regardless of what my article is actually about. People–both Hindu and non-Hindu–object to the caste system because it creates a society where there are social strata based on perceived spiritual worthiness: those on top are invested with a moral authority that puts them in a position to control, exploit and oppress those on the bottom. The lower castes are less able to exercise or access basic social, civil and human rights. Those on top control access to these rights. Does this sound familiar? Suppose that Brahmins (the top-tier, priestly caste) got to decide that the lower tier castes were not able to marry (which is not the case). It’s hard to imagine that anyone in the USA would find this desirable.
I’m not even going to get started on arranged marriage. My non-Hindu friends ask: Is it true that people can’t marry who they want? Arranged marriage is more complex than that, but, yeah, it sounds terrible. I’m so glad we have American culture around to set a good example. Are you kidding me?
In my home state in American’s heartland, a law forbidding some people to marry isn’t enough, so every registered voter in the state gets to have their opinion counted. But OMG, in India they do what? Quick, make a donation to help Indian girls overcome a system that we only see as oppressive when someone else is doing it.
Now, on to Vodou. One of the many misconceptions about Vodou is that is a magical system that gives practitioners the ability to control others through spells and whatnot. Imagine that this was in fact the case (it is not), and part of that system of control was control people’s ability to express love and marry. That sounds horrible to me, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone with a functioning moral compass would think otherwise.
We see things (real or imagined) in other, less familiar, cultures that disturb us. But we are not able to see that the things that disturb us not only exist, but are being nurtured, in our own nation. The hypocrisy takes my breath away.
But that’s different, people say to me. Homosexuality is wrong, corrupt, damaging to society. Well, I’ve yet to see evidence of that, and even if it were true, I’d argue that many people think that young, emotionally messed-up people are also potentially wrong, corrupt and damaging to society. But noone votes on their marriages.
When two straight people get engaged, it’s all about the ring, the wedding, the excitement of seeing such brilliant optimism not only expressed, but doubled. Who can resist people in love?
Our attitude towards homosexuality is troubling. First of all, the entire emphasis seems to be on the second half of the word: sexuality. Sex! Gay sex! Gays having gay sex with other gays! Come on. Grow up. When two straight people want to get married, I doubt anyone spends much time considering what kind of sex they are into. Why? Because marriage is not about sex. Physical expressions of love and lust are a part of it, but if you are only interested in sex, you don’t need to get married in order to have it: gay, straight or any combination thereof. Gay people don’t want to get married so they can have lots of gay sex, and, frankly, if they do, that’s their business. The problem is: we sexualize gay folks. We don’t see them as whole people.
One example of this is girl-on-girl porn. There is a great deal of it. While I haven’t conducted a scientific survey, it seems that this is not actually aimed at lesbians. Girl-on-girl porn is somewhat popular with heterosexual men; it’s acceptable for straight people to watch women stimulate each other’s genitalia. Those women are whole people. Should we vote on whether they get to have sex when no-one is recording it? Should they be allowed to cuddle afterwards? Have breakfast together? Get married and raise a family?
Are we really investing ourselves with the moral authority to decide that for other people?
Yes, it seems that we are. By the way, If you’re a straight man who has ever enjoyed watching women make out or have sex, I sincerely hope you support their right to have a full relationship.If you don’t, I’d love to hear why.
American is not a religion, it is a nation. We claim to hold certain truths to be self-evident. That means some truths should be a given: not debated, not voted on. Given. By virtue of being a citizen of this country, each American should have access to the same rights.
Instead, we have created, in America, in the year 2012, a priestly caste of people who believe that their interpretation of certain scriptures should be used to decide others’ fates. We are asking the larger community to take part in deciding who marries whom. We aren’t practicing magic but we are using means acceptable in our society to control the lives of other adults. We are reducing erotic homosexual expression to either a bogeyman or a means of entertainment for heterosexuals. We are in a position of power over our country-men and -women, and we are fully willing to use that power to decide how they may live their lives. Not who (we can’t stop that), but how, they may love.
We are perverting our precious and useful system of democracy to invest ourselves with unearned and tyrannical power over the lives of other Americans.
Today, I will go out with my husband and we will cast our vote on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, which aims to further exclude gay couples from the civil right that we stumbled into, ill-advised and clueless, but have enjoyed for seventeen years. The ballot will ask me if I wish for “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman.”
I will vote NO. I will encourage everyone I know to do the same. But it makes me feel ashamed of myself, of all of us, that our vote counts.
This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post.
Image from the League of Women Voters, California, via Flickr Creative Commons.