Why You Should Give a Damn About Gay Marriage
(Product Details: Paperback, 202 pages, Alyson Publications, April 2004)
A witty, down-to-earth, and valuable new resource …
The intricate system of laws that protects heterosexual privilege while denying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) persons the responsibilities, privileges, and benefits of civil marriage is another form of segregation, but it is made all the more insidious by its apparent invisibility. In her new book, Dr. Davina Kotulski, Ph.D., attempts to persuade us why civil marriage equality is an issue we should all “give a damn about.” This task would challenge any writer, given the immense scope of the subject and the skepticism with which this issue is still met by many well-meaning LGBT activists – it is one thing to say “1,349 rights, benefits, and protections” but another entirely more daunting task to list and describe them while also developing a cohesive argument in less than 200 pages.
Fortunately, Dr. Kotulski begins with the most important point of all. Second-class citizenship demeans our integrity; it assaults the liberty guaranteed us by the U.S. Constitution – and the U.S. Supreme Court, it would seem, now agrees with us (just read the fine print of the Lawrence v. Texas ruling). In Dr. Kotulski’s words, “The language of love has power, and we have been given a very slim piece of the pie and asked to stay in our corner of the room and eat it quietly … we live a half-existence compared to our heterosexual friends.”
Dr. Kotulski is at her best when arguing that “Marriage Lite” (domestic partnerships, civil unions, reciprocal beneficiaries, etc.) is LGBT “Fool’s Gold”. These legal arrangements are only valid in their native states and most of the responsibilities, privileges, and benefits to which we have been denied access are enshrined in FEDERAL marriage, tax, social security, and inheritance laws anyway (for this reason, incidentally, the argument presented by many of our so-called political allies that this is a “states’ rights” issue is a deceptive way of avoiding taking a position at all). And didn’t the U.S. Supreme Court already determine in 1954 that “separate was not equal”? Dr. Kotulski offers her most compelling evidence when describing the process same-sex couples must endure to register a domestic partnership in California. The process, much more difficult to traverse than obtaining a simple marriage license, is itself demeaning because it reminds the same-sex couple of their second-class status.
The reader should be careful to avoid missing the forest while wandering amongst the 1,349 trees. This book is best read in small portions; the dry subject matter is monotonous and tedious. But Dr. Kotulski has made a cohesive argument, and has given us all many compelling reasons to “give a damn” about civil marriage equality.
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“In the Bible I don’t know what verse but I’m for sure that it does state that ‘man shall not lay with another man like he lay with female’ so how would u be able to explain that to me. P.S. please don’t think that I’m trying to be rude I just really want to know.” Lisa, the internet.
Thank you for writing. I don’t think you’re trying to be rude. There are many who remain unconvinced that the Bible doesn’t really condemn sexual minorities. We are all trying to reconcile what we intuitively sense is right and just with what we have been incorrectly taught the Bible condemns. Like many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons, I have also struggled with these questions. It wasn’t easy for me to come to terms with my sexual orientation; to accept and love myself exactly as God created me. Reexamining Leviticus is a good place to start so let me offer a short summary of a sampling from the last thirty years’ scholarship on Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.
You are correct. Leviticus 20:13 does state “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.” Leviticus 18:22 does state “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”
But, Lisa, did you realize there are many Levitical requirements that most of us no longer adhere to? Leviticus also says that children who curse their parents should be put to death (Lev. 20:9). Adulterers, mediums, and those who curse God, according to Leviticus, should also suffer the same fate (Lev. 20:10, 20:27, and 24:16). We’re instructed never to eat any kind of seafood other than fish (Lev. 11:10), not to wear tattoos (Lev. 19:28), not to eat pork (Lev. 11:7), and not to wear clothing made of mixed fibers (Lev. 19:19). Why, when most of us ignore all these proscriptions, do so many focus so obsessively on the two proscriptions that seem to condemn homosexuality? Isn’t it possible that these proscriptions are as absurd and nonsensical as executing rude children or abstaining from eating lobster?
We should avoid interpreting biblical verses literally and try to understand their linguistic, historic, and cultural contexts.
For example, “tô‛êbah” really means “unclean”. The negative connotations associated with its most common translations, “detestable act” and “abomination”, are foreign to the biblical concept of “ritual impurity”.
The ancient Israelites considered themselves a people “set apart” for their God. Leviticus was part of their religious Law, the first five books of Hebrew scripture also known as the Torah. The Law required that the Israelites avoid the lifestyle and worship practices of the tribes and cultures with whom they coexisted. The ancient Israelites considered participation in foreign religious practices “unclean”. Most of the proscriptions found in Leviticus were concerned with defining which ritual acts the Israelites were required to avoid.
For example, the Canaanites practiced fertility cult worship. Worshippers often engaged in sexual relations with both male and female sacred functionaries during their rituals. They believed this would give them plentiful harvests. But the Israelites considered this practice “unclean”: “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God … for both of these are an abomination [unclean, ritually impure] to the LORD your God,” (Deut. 23:17-18). The sexual proscriptions referred in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 had everything to do with abstaining from these worship practices and absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with the ethical or moral behavior of persons engaged in same-sex intimate relationships.
To fellow Christians who still cling to the old Law, I offer Jesus’ example. He frequently flouted the Sabbath laws, saying “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). Paul also questioned the old Law, writing “You … who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace … For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love,” (Gal. 5:4-6). And Peter’s rooftop vision in Joppa is most instructive: after Peter refused three times to eat anything unclean (ritually impure), God spoke to him, saying “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy,” (Acts 10:1-15). Peter later restated this message for Cornelius and his friends, saying “God has shown me that I should not call any [person] unholy or unclean,” (Acts 10:28).
Lisa, as a Christian, I am not called to adhere to the old Law – but to follow Christ’s law, which is summarized best with the statement: “the whole Law is fulfilled in one word … ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,’” (Gal. 5:14).
-What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality (Millennium Edition). Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D. (2000) Alamo Square Press.
-Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times. Dr. Tom Horner, Ph.D. (1978) Westminster John Knox Press.
-Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse. Dr. Rembert Truluck. (2000) Chi Rho Press, Inc.
-The Bible and Homosexuality, Fifth Edition. Rev. Michael E. England. (1998) Chi Rho Press, Inc.
-Gay Theology Without Apology. Gary David Comstock. (1994) Pilgrim Press.
-Openly Gay, Openly Christian: How the Bible Really Is Gay Friendly. Rev. Samuel Kader. (1999) Leyland Publications.
-The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships. Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley. (2002) Jesus Metropolitan Community Church.
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