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equality and religion

This has been a bad couple of weeks for gay rights in this country, particularly in the Northeast where most of the movement is. This is, sadly, part of a larger problem with preserving inequality, with the clerical class on top.

I described the problem with abortion rights in the health care bill here, but I want to focus in this post about the same-sex marriage battles going on in New England.

The most egregious example of all of them comes from Rhode Island where the governor has vetoed legislation that did nothing more than allow same-sex couples to retrieve bodies of their dead partners from the morgue. He claimed that this was part of an incremental erosion of traditional heterosexual marriage... even though the legislation has nothing to do with people in traditional marriages.

In New York, where a same-sex marriage bill is being debated in the legislature, the Senate has hit a bit of a roadblock in the process and is seeing delays. Some are concerned that religious conservatives could still derail the bill, even Democrats, who have vowed to vote against it.

In Maine a same-sex bill passed by the legislature was narrowly rejected by the public on last week's ballot. The original debate over the law was deeply religious in nature.

On MSNBC this afternoon, Contessa Brewer and her guest were discussing the topic and mentioned that it was a "moral issue" for some people. But like Contessa, I don't get this.

It is not moral to treat gays differently than straights are treated, no more than it is moral to treat blacks differently than whites. This idea of heterosexual privilege is almost entirely about religious privilege. It lets people claim to be "moral" while still defending their superiour positions in society; it gives them the cover to look down on those gays because they are evil. The same book of the Bible that seems to say that gay sex is bad, also says, in the very next breath, that eating shellfish is bad... and yet you don't see that Rhode Island governor getting bent out of shape over the state's biggest industry, do you? He's not living in Wyoming where he won't have to be exposed to the consumption of shellfish so readily.

The whole moral authority of the Bible must be put into question because it is essentially a litany of reasons to look down on other people. It is merely a means of saying I am better than you because I don't do XXXX. Most of it is insane. Even the justification for producing children in a society struggling to crack 100,000 citizens (in the good days) and constantly on the brink of extinction, no longer applies because the planet is facing a major overpopulation crisis. When the circumstances of a rule/law cease to exist, it must be tossed out. That's why you don't find many laws on the books about hitching horses within 20 feet of an ATM.

Religious believers must be challenged when they make moral claims. Defending traditional marriage by punishing same-sex couples is, in fact, not moral. Nor is forcing gays into unhappy traditional marriages. It is immoral for the individual just from the perspective of the individual. And it is immoral from the standpoint of being bad for society. And there is nothing American about enshrining in law immoral obligations of some religion. The government's job is not support religious principles.

I am confident that in 20 years, this will be an old argument; I am confident, because we are having this debate at all. But in the meantime, I am impatient for that day to come. Injustices are being done every day in the name of religion. Every time a couple is turned away from a marriage license or discriminated against in any way, we are all wounded by it.

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