The Hysteria About Gay Marriage: A Minister's Perspective

Roundup: Media's Take

Rev. Mark Gallagher, minister of the Michael Servetus Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Vancouver, WA, in (March 21, 2004):

Two men of my Vancouver congregation recently got a marriage license from Multnomah County, and I traveled to their Portland home to conduct the ceremony. Given their loving and committed relationship of over 13 years, they were perhaps the most deeply ready of any couple I have married.

    I ask,"Why on Earth should these men be excluded?" Objectors answer:"You can't go tampering with an institution like marriage. It has always been this way!"

    Which way would that be?

    In ancient and medieval Europe, marriage was not about love but property. It was arranged by parents, often prior to the bride reaching puberty, with a dowry paid to the husband upon consummation. The overriding concern was economic.

    According to the Bible, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were children of the same father. We call that incest today. Old Testament men routinely took multiple wives. We call that polygamy today. After failing to get pregnant, Sarah offered her slave Hagar for Abraham to have children with. I'm not sure what we'd call that today.

    Marriage has not always been any particular way.

[We hear:] "Change marriage and civilization will collapse!" This hysteria echoes throughout history. From the Boston Quarterly Review in 1859:"The family, in its old sense, is disappearing from our land, and not only our free institutions are threatened but the very existence of our society is endangered."

    The prospect of divorce also spelled society's downfall. In 1816 Timothy Dwight, president of Yale University decried Connecticut's new divorce law:"Within a moderate period, the whole community will be thrown into general prostitution." Horace Greeley suggested that a partnership with the possibility of divorce should be called something other than marriage. ("Civil union" perhaps?)

    The specter of interracial marriage was a grave threat to civilization. At one point, 41 states banned interracial marriage. It was not until 1967 that the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional. At the time of that"activist court" decision, according to one survey 72 percent of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage; 48 percent believed it should be a crime. That is significantly higher disapproval than we see today regarding same-sex relationships.

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