Same-Sex Marriage Part I: A Queer History

same sex marriage

Virginia, 1835 – Can it not be said that because Negros are lower forms of being in God’s great plan, that it would be blasphemy to the Lord’s word to allow them liberty the same as Whites?  It is not by man’s fear of the unbiased allocation of power that drives the status of blacks in the South, but that nature of which God has given Blacks and Whites that hold on this Earth.  White men and women were endowed by their creator with large brains, reasoning capabilities, and with the determination it takes to learn, and comprehend.  Negro men and women were created for a more simple life; for a more simple work.  Those Blacks owe their lives to White men and women because without them, Negros would be lost.  Do not let the Negro’s destroy our livelihood.  Together we are strong and will not fail.  –An interpretation of arguments presented by many Southern Slave owners and advocates, included Elisa McCord

Germany, 1939 – Our once great nation of Germany, still in shambles from the Great War two decades ago, is having its rebuilding efforts thwarted by a growing enemy within.  The Jews are destroying any chance we have to make our country great again.  Our economy is struggling, our government is failing, and our livelihood is lost, unless we take action.  The Jews must be erased from Europe. They are pests that mock our savior and jest at our hopes for a future of prosperity.  Join together, people of Germany, and unite against this enemy.  Together we are strong and will not fail.  – An Interpretation of arguments made by German leaders that lead up to the start of World War II

United States, 2010 – A devil has been allowed to rise to prominence in our society.  A deviant and bottom-dwelling lifestyle choice with aims at undermining all of the moral teachings that had been propagated in the last fifty years is spreading.  This disease will take children and destroy the foundation which they need to become great workers and leaders in our country.  It will annihilate the traditional family as we know it.  This unhealthy and unnatural existence is plaguing the overtones of our growing problem of immorality.   The gays must be eradicated.  Remove them and their kind from our churches, communities, and public offices.  Until they decide to live the lifestyle that we live, disallow fundamental rights that we, the majority hold. Together we are strong and will not fail. –An interpretation of arguments that have been made to me while discussing the topic of same-sex marriage with people in my personal life

It would seem that these narratives are obviously facetious and worthy of the ridicule to their represented points of view.  As a society, we observe that blacks are not only three-fifths of a person and that people of all religious upbringings can and should be allowed to be productive members of our society.  However, there is still one battle being fought in our society and legal system.  That which would allow gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender couples to wed and enjoy the same rights that any other couple would.

In the 1950s, American suburban dwellers started to become more aware of homosexuality.  The decade was ripe with propaganda. There was even (mis)information floating around that homosexuality was linked with child-molestation.

The video above speaks of homosexuality as “a sickness of the mind.”  A homosexual is described as “Someone who demands intimate relations with someone of the same sex.”  The view of homosexuality being linked to child-molestation has since been accepted as false by society, but there is still a fear of homosexuality as if it was an intentional obscenity uttered by those that would seek to do harm to the establishment.

Society was not ready to accept gays at that time, and wouldn’t be for decades to come.  Ten years later, however, saw the civil rights movement for African-Americans.  It was a time in which societal standards of acceptance and disallowance of discrimination first came to fruition in America.  This was the ignition of social acceptance movements that many are still fighting for today.

The 1970s and 1980s saw a partial change in social norms.  As the household structure and gender roles of the home had begun shifting because of the rise of women in the workplace, it was also starting to become acceptable to be an openly-gay man or woman to lead more public lives.  While still dangerous and unaccepted by some, prominent figureheads in the LGBT movement showed the masses that homosexuality was not heinous like the previous generation had been led to believe.

Then, in 1981, five gay men were hospitalized with a new disease.  These men had severely-compromised immune systems and all perished.  By the end of 1981, five to six new cases were being reported every week.  In June of 1982, there had been 355 cases isolated.  The next month, the condition was given a name: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS.  AIDS ravished the homosexual community and led to a worldwide change in how sexual relations were practiced.

Many people thought that this disease could only affect homosexual people, but in 1991, NBA player Magic Johnson announced that he had HIV and went on to crusade for the spread of knowledge about the disease.  There is still no definite cure.

Now, we face a new challenge.  The millennium has come and gone and there is still a disconnection between fundamental rights of ‘straight’ couples and that of homosexual couples.  Over the next three parts of this series, I will discuss the arguments on both sides.

I aim to explore the religious and non-religious reasons why same-sex marriage should/should not be allowed; to try and understand the worthiness of any claim that people of any kind are, and can be treated as unequal in liberty or rights.

I will also discuss the common arguments for the acceptance and allowance of same-sex marriage, as well as presenting some of my own, in order to shed light on the growing movement of advocation that is sweeping modern civilization.

This is an issue of equality.  Our aim is to decide how much is too much when it comes to equal rights – or to decide that people are to be allowed the same opportunities across the board.

The next part to my series will discuss the arguments against same-sex marriage. Please continue to follow this page, share with your friends and colleagues, and discuss with each other (in a civil, understanding, and open way) in the comments.  Respect others as you discuss the topic because they likely have just as much reason to feel strongly about their side as you do to yours.

Twitter: @dustin_mcmahon

8 thoughts on “Same-Sex Marriage Part I: A Queer History

  1. I finally got to read this article today. I’m glad the next one is out already, I’ll go read that now. My initial thoughts in response to this article is wondering what defines a right? As you probably would already have guessed I do not support same-sex marriage, but it is not because I view anyone as undeserving of civil liberty or human rights. I don’t see marriage as a right. I think it is a religious ceremony and should be free from the operation of the government, protected under the freedom of religion in the first amendment to the Constitution.

    I would personally like to see marriages performed by religious ministers and then recognized by the government, not the other way around (meaning I had to go to the state to get a marriage license before I could be married in a religious institution).

    I’ll probably comment more throughout your series. Thanks for the safe forum to discuss it.

  2. Succinct review. I am reminded there’s a sweep through the long arc of human history, as well. Times and cultures wherein difference was honored and celebrated, ages and people groups when/where aberration was squelched and those outside the pale treated abominably. How grateful I am to live in the upswing.

  3. Thanks for your post Dustin.

    Your three descriptions make a strong rhetorical point. I would observe, however, that the White Supremacists and the Nazis both viewed their opponents as subhuman (i.e. another category of mankind). However proponents of marriage (a.k.a. opponents of same sex marriage) have not made this kind of argument. They have argued that homosexuals are equal humans who are unethical/sick.

    So the problem with claiming this is an equality issue is that opponents of gay marriage do not object on the basis of perceived inequality between the parties. They are objecting on the basis of an unethical behavior that is not good for individuals or society.

    Of course, that’s why homosexuals must argue that their sexual orientation is innate and unchanging (like race). If they are born that way and cannot change, then they are a separate category of humanity. Now you have a fork in the road, do you believe gays are different in essence (not deserving equality) or are the identical in essence (and subject to ethical norms)?

    • Hey Rev. Brown,

      Your reply asks some good questions. I know that members of the queer community argue that their sexuality is something they didn’t choose but I’m not sure they’d ever suggest that this makes them “different in essence.” I think they would say that like straight people, gay people want love, security, comfort – i.e. essential human needs – and it just so happens they want all of this with someone of the same sex. That’s one way of defining essence, isn’t it?

      So I guess, following your framework, they would classify themselves as “identical in essence.” Though I’m not sure why being identical in essence necessitates being “subject to ethical norms.” Which norms? Those decided by politics? Media? Religion? Or, more specifically, Christianity? Hmm… It’s difficult to negotiate essence with norms because while one is arguably natural (or innate as you would say), the latter is decided by an institution or group of individuals. If norms were natural we’d all share the same ones, wouldn’t we? Put simply, I think that while gays recognize that they’re essentially the same as straights, they’re not necessarily going to recognize norms – specifically religious norms – that do not appear to be essential, or objectively true: norms that have, in their own way, traditionally made gays feel “different in essence” in the first place. It all just seems pretty counter-productive. In my mind, at least.

      Peace, bro

  4. paulbrodie, I would like to point out that the law is the law regardless of what you would like it to be.

    > I don’t see marriage as a right. I think it is a religious ceremony and should be free from the operation of the government, protected under the freedom of religion in the first amendment to the Constitution.

    No church or religious representative can perform a marriage that is recognized by the law. Without a valid marriage license, issued by the state, there is no legal contract and it’s just a ceremony for show that leaves the participants as unrelated legally as if they were complete strangers to each other (just like the “commitment ceremonies” a lot of gay couples have to settle for now, in fact). If you think marriages should only be ordained by God in a house of worship, then do you also advocate for the repeal of the right of atheists and other non-religious people to marry? Should every existing civil marriage that was performed without benefit of clergy be summarily annulled?

    > I would personally like to see marriages performed by religious ministers and then recognized by the government, not the other way around

    But it ISN’T the other way around, and every single person who does not share your precise religious beliefs can be grateful for that. A marriage is a legal contract governed by state and federal law, not by religious belief or sanction. Those who choose not to be married in the church don’t have to be, and no church will ever be forced to marry any couple it chooses not to.

    Extending rights to all takes away rights from none. Civil marriage is a civil right. =

  5. This is a tough conversation for me, as a recently reverted Christian and aspiring Catholic. As an American, I agree that this is a question of civil marriage and therefore of civil rights. But as a Christian, I think it’s just the latest violence being done to the idea of marriage. I’m sure you’ve all heard, but we consider it to be more than a set of tax breaks.

    One point that gets lost in this conversation is that Catholics, for example, consistently oppose what have become standard practices in civil marriage: such as prenups, divorce, and contraception. The Church teaches that even masturbation is a mortal sin. This means that whenever I touch myself in bed at night, God not only kills a kitten, but I am every bit as sinful as if I committed the most violent and shocking act of God-hating sodomy.

    As far as homosexuality goes, the Church demands celibacy of its gay adherents. It also demands celibacy of its unmarried, heterosexual adherents. The point is, Christian teaching doesn’t say that homosexual *attraction* is immoral — only homosexual *acts*. And this isn’t a special prohibition levied against gays. The same goes for all unmarried, heterosexual acts. Whether you’re Christian or not, I think we can agree that the faith demands a pretty rigorous level of sexual ethics.

    True, those ethics shouldn’t be foisted on the culture at large. They’re usually too stringent for those of us who even *want* to follow them, much less those who don’t. (Sorry, dead kitties…) Theologically, free will stands at the center of Christian doctrine. If God permits us to sin however we please, who are we to stop gay people from sinning?

    But we’re still going to call it sin. Don’t expect Catholic teaching to cave on this point. It hasn’t changed in two thousand years, and it isn’t going to. It doesn’t mean we hate gays or want to exterminate them. It doesn’t mean we’re bigots. Well, it doesn’t *necessarily* mean we’re bigots. Because a lot of us are. Yeah. Sorry about that.


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