Thursday, January 25, 2007

First Letter to the Purdue Paper

I picked up the Purdue Exponent for the first time the other day and found some of the typical hot-button topics on the opinion page. In particular, there was a letter that stated (among other things):

Marriage is a religious institution first. Every major religion has some variant of it. It just so happens that for reasons of inheritance, taxes and custody, the government keeps a tab on it. Let's just keep in mind that real marriage is a religious thing.

The "marriage" found in government hardly rises above the level of other government controlled entities. For instance, to get a driver's license you must meet a certain set of criteria[...] Few would call their license a "right." To call the legal status of "marriage" provided by the government a human right is probably giving it a little too much credit.

Here is my response:

Steven O'Keefe's letter regarding the gay marriage debate was perhaps the most arrogant and flawed argument regarding the topic that I have read. In Mr. O'Keefe's words, “real marriage is a religious thing.” According to his letter, since every major religion has a form of marriage, then every marriage must be religious. This argument assumes the converse of the original statement, which is logically unsound.

Mr. O'Keefe also inaptly compares civil marriage to a driver's license, which requires demonstration of ability and knowledge concerning driving. What unique skills must one show to get a marriage license? None.

Even more to the point, why does Mr. O'Keefe think he can be the arbiter regarding what qualifies as a “real marriage?” I have friends who were married by a justice of the peace in a secular ceremony. Would Mr. O'Keefe argue for denying them civil recognition since their marriage is not religious and, therefore, not real? I consider my own marriage to be an emotional, moral, and loving union, not a religious one. Mr. O'Keefe has absolutely no right to speak about what my marriage is and is not.

The point is that marriage means different things to different people. My Unitarian Universalist church performs religious marriage for gays and lesbians. The fact that federal and state governments decide which of these marriages qualify as authentic seems to be an encroachment of our right to freely exercise our religion.

Civil marriage offers many protections that help to strengthen a couple's bond. Denying these benefits to same-sex couples implies that their relationships are not worth preserving. Mr. O'Keefe needs to realize that his edict that all real marriages must be religious is inaccurate, arrogant, and very insulting to this married, spiritual person.

As a side note, I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the quality of writing in the Purdue paper. From what I've seen, both IU's and Michigan State's papers were better.


At 6:04 PM, Blogger the fiddlin' fool said...

Perhaps it's not the best article ever written, but don't you think you're reading into his writing a little too much?

I essentially got the impression from what you quoted that he was advocating that the government gets out of the marriage business for all people (gay/straight/etc.) and simply does "civil unions" for all with all legal rights therein... which, frankly, is something I think we should do. I doubt it will ever actually happen, but hey... we can always dream.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Christina said...

Gee, I wonder who that lovely couple married by the JP could be? ;)

I got married because I love my husband and want to be his partner forever...I don't recall any religious figure or institution instructing who and when and where I should marry. I certainly didn't do it for the government since they slapped us silly with taxes that first year and they are still punishing us for not having dependents yet. I also didn't do it to please any one other than my spouse...not even my parents (my dad was quoted as saying "at least they aren't living in sin anymore"...I love my dad, but since when is loving someone and wanting to be with them all the time a sin?).

Glad to see you are livening up the Purdue campus. You really expected Purdue to have a quality paper? Come on! It's Purdue! LOL!

At 11:36 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I don't think I was reading into his letter too much. I only excerpted some stuff here. His point was that government's involvement in marriage is solely to regulate a religious institution. He argued that gay marriage cannot exist because the only real marriages are heterosexual unions that are blessed by a religious figure. He went on to state that it is reasonable for people to argue about whether or not government can grant some benefits to gay couples, but those couples certainly have no definite right to those benefits. It was more of his arrogant tone that pissed me off and made me respond...

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I was a bit tired and rushed with my previous response, so let me clarify here. The letter I referenced made it very clear that the writer considered the debate over marriage closed beyond consideration. Marriage is a religious institution. The only "reasonable" compromise on the issue would be for gay couples to be granted some of the benefits the government grants as people like him see fit. But those couples certainly have no right to any of it because they are not really married. It's kind of a nice slight of hand. Deny marriage as an option, then deny the benefits based on the lack of a marriage license.

Regarding my own marriage, I agree with everything Christina said. To me, marriage has always been about love. You find the person that you cannot live without, and you commit your life to theirs.

I remember attending a relative's wedding. The ceremony pointed out that the purpose of marriage is to fulfill God's will by finding someone with whom to have children in order to expand his church. Happiness? Love? Those things are nice, but the only thing that matters is pleasing God. That is a vision of marriage that I cannot share.

Speaking of happy marriage, though, my wife is upstairs and I would rather be up there with her than down here on the couch. So time to go up there to study and spend some quality time.


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