Thursday, January 20, 2005

Indiana Court: Once You Wed, Get to Bed!

No surprise, but Indiana's Court of Appeals upheld Indiana's gay marriage ban in a ruling yesterday. But what does the opinion of the court tell us about the nature of the debate?

From the Indianapolis Star

Today's ruling comes 12 months after judges Michael P. Barnes, Ezra H. Friedlander and James S. Kirsch heard final arguments in the case. The lawsuit drew court briefs from organizations ranging from the Indiana General Assembly to the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.

"The key question in our view is whether the recognition of same-sex marriage would promote all of the same state interests that opposite-sex marriage does, including the interest in marital procreation," Judge Barnes wrote for the court. "If it would not, then limiting the institution of marriage to opposite-sex couples is rational and acceptable under Article I, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution."

Okay, first off I have to say "state interests" in "marital procreation" kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies. Is it just me or does it seem kind of creepy to hear judges and politicians talk about the institution of marriage like it is some sort of baby factory? Is Indiana's brain drain so disastrous that the state is worried that married folks won't produce enough children in the future? And don't get me started on the images brought to mind by the "Society of Catholic Social Scientists." These folks should be working over time to protect the children who will be future litigants once they are molested by priests who are shuttled from one church to another in order to hide their shame.

But as long as they brought it up, let's talk about our interest in marital procreation. Yes, I think marital procreation is a good thing. How about marriages where procreation is not possible, but where the home is still open to raising children who do not have families? Does the state not have an interest in supporting non-procreative marriages as well? Yes, and lo and behold, the state, in fact, does support those marriages, unless the couple happens to be of the same sex.

In the Chicago Tribune's article (subscription required) on the story:

The court ruled that the ban did not violate the constitution because ``opposite-sex marriage furthers the legitimate state interest in encouraging opposite-sex couples to procreate responsibly and have and raise children within a stable environment.''

``Regardless of whether recognizing same-sex marriage would harm this interest, neither does it further it,'' said the ruling written by Barnes in which the other two judges concurred.

The court said that the ability of opposite-sex marriages to reproduce distinguishes them from same-sex couples and that the couples who filed the lawsuit did not establish that they had a ``core value'' right to marry and receive the governmental benefits of marriage.

So gay couples do not have a "core value" right to marry and receive the governmental benefits of marriage. The same article goes on to talk about how there are 10,000 gay couples living in Indiana. How does a court determine what "core value" rights are for 20,000 people who are in various stages of committed relationships? Is the right only granted to couples who can procreate? There are married heterosexual couples who cannot, or do not. Are core rights based on who stays together longest in stable relationships? I know lots of same-sex couples who have healthier and longer-lived relationships even by Dr. Phil's standards than some heterosexual people who are Republicans holding seats in the Indiana House of Representatives.

At the end of the day, the conservative argument is not fed by logic or reason. It is about prejudice and exclusion, and maybe fear of not obeying the Bible. Opponents of gay marriage can talk all day about how they "love gays" and how love-based their motivations are, but I don't buy it. What evidence of love is there from these people? And they can talk all day about how they are just following what the Bible says, too. But we are not stupid. I watch as they remain blatently disobedient to texts that receive a lot more real estate and weight in scripture. Texts that offer reason to believe and even anticipate that our "Biblical" understanding of marriage evolves over time. I see them ignore texts that reflect what true, fearless love looks like. I see these people for who they really are. And God does, too. Thankfully people change. I hope my attitude and my own set of prejudices do, since this promises to be an ugly fight.


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