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How Does Marriage Equality Threaten Marriage?

On March 24, 2009, the Vermont Senate passed the marriage equality bill 26-4 and it is likely to be approved in the House as well. It remains to be seen whether Governor James Douglas will sign it. To date, Governor Douglas has criticized the legislature for the time spent on this bill when he feels the economy should take precedence. Governor Douglas has said that he opposes marriage equality but has not indicated whether or not he will veto the bill when it reaches his office.

If this bill passes, Vermont will join Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing LGBT couples to legally marry.

As always, though, there are opponents of the bill. Any marriage equality bill receives criticism along the same lines: allowing marriage equality would threaten male-female marriage and, if we allow marriage equality, then soon we’ll have people marrying their St. Bernard or we’ll have polygamy.

How can allowing people to marry threaten marriage? Threaten it with what? What will happen if people of the same sex are allowed to marry? Will women stop marrying men if they have an option? I’m fairly certain that a heterosexual woman is going to stay a heterosexual woman and choose to marry a man. The same can be said for a heterosexual man. Now tell me, what is it that is threatened?

The St. Bernard argument is preposterous. A dog does not have the legal right to enter a contract, thus this is just a “sound bite” argument that has no weight. It should be noted that these same arguments were used by opponents of interracial marriage and there hasn’t been a push for the legalization of canine-human marriage or polygamy. Further, there are countries who have marriage equality and there has been no mad dash for incestuous relationships or bestiality.

Though the conservatives among us like to refer to heterosexual marriage as “traditional” and Biblically-based, it should be noted that our version of marriage doesn’t mirror a number of the marriages of the Bible. Many Biblical stories involve marriages that don’t fit our idea of marriage at all.

Did you know that Abraham and Sarah were half-siblings? They would not be allowed to be married under American laws today. Jacob had several wives – Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. While slightly off the subject, many people know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but few realize that Lot offered up his virgin daughter to be raped. She was. Then she was killed.

The early Christian church considered marriage an “earthly” institution, tainted by human law and didn’t make marriage a sacrament until 1215. Considering that was more than 1,000 years after the beginning of the church, it does make the religious argument less effective. The American Family Association talks about 5,000 years of tradition with regard to heterosexual marriage, but there isn't really 5,000 years of tradition at all.

Aside from that, marriage is not solely a religious act, it’s also a civil one. There are arguments that allowing marriage equality will force churches to perform marriages that go against their beliefs. In a nutshell, that is pure nonsense. A minister can marry – or not marry – whomever they choose. Churches can decide not to marry a mixed-faith couple. It’s perfectly legal for them to do so. There are churches who still refuse to marry interracial couples and ministers who choose not to marry individual couples for any number of reasons. I cannot imagine that it will be different for marrying people of the same sex.

It is perfectly okay with me if you do not prefer to marry a person of the same sex. Despite the abysmal divorce rates in this country, the domestic violence and the host of other problems that plague married heterosexuals, I fully support your right to marry whomever you’d like. All I ask is that I am given the same regard.

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