Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned that state's ban on same sex marriage. The unanimous decision was based on fact and reason, as the court spelled out in their ruling. "The statute at issue in this case does not prescribe a definition of marriage for religious institutions. Instead, the statute declares, 'Marriage is a civil contract' and then regulates that civil contract," the ruling reads. "Thus, in pursuing our task in this case, we proceed as civil judges, far removed from the theological debate of religious clerics, and focus only on the concept of civil marriage and the state licensing system that identifies a limited class of persons entitled to secular rights and benefits associated with civil marriage."
In other words, marriage as a contract is the state's business, while marriage as a religious ceremony is religion's business -- and the state of Iowa isn't in the religion business. When two people can go to a Justice of the Peace and have themselves declared married, marriage stops being solely a religious institution. And, following that reasoning, marriage stopped being solely a religious institution a long time ago. The state has no more reason to care if you're upholding your religious traditions in the ceremony than they do whether you're upholding your family's traditions. Your religion is your business, not the state's. Iowa has no reason to care if you're being a good Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, etc. It's not the state's job.
If marriage were nothing but a religious ceremony, then it would be impossible for atheists to marry. In fact, it would be just as much of an offense for two atheists to marry as two people of the same gender. After all, a purely religious ceremony without any of the religious trappings and hoodoo would practically be the definition of a "mockery" -- like an atheist baptism. Oddly, few (I won't say none, because there's always someone) get all freaked out when two non-believers tie the knot, even though it obviously happens all the time, in every state.
In Iowa, the state Supreme Court used the laws of the land, not the laws of some randomly chosen religion, to reach their decision. As a result, the ruling is entirely rational. The problem is that many people reacting to the ruling are not.
For example, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins. "Same-sex 'marriage' continues to be a movement driven by a liberal judicial elite determined to destroy not only the institution of marriage, but democracy as well," he said. "The casual dismissal of the facts of human biology and thousands of years of human history, simply to pander to a small band of social radicals, is bizarre and indefensible."
That's right, the Iowa Supreme Court is trying to "destroy democracy." It's not extremely clear how they'll destroy it or why they want to, but it is clear that the nation is doomed to fall under the heel of the Homosexual Menace. Which is exactly what a press release from the Traditional Values Coalition warns of.
If this ruling is permitted to stand without challenge, it will result in the persecution of Christians and anyone else who criticizes homosexual conduct.
This ruling will mean that schools will be forced to teach that homosexual marriage is normal – and parents who object will face ridicule and possible criminal penalties against them.
This ruling will be used to force pastors to conduct same-sex ceremonies or face penalties.
Religious groups could lose government funding, tax exempt status or other benefits if they openly oppose same-sex marriage.
Religious employers could face penalties for refusing to provide spousal benefits to same-sex couples.
Religious colleges could be forced to extend housing benefits to same-sex couples.
Needless to say, almost none of that is true. These nuts read a decision that says religion is none of the state's business and come to the conclusion that the state is getting into the religion business. It's insane.
This isn't an extremist position, beliefnet's Rod Dreher shares these concerns and worries he won't be allowed to be a "public Christian." By "public Christian," he seems to mean "a jerk," since he thinks that he'll suffer "all the legal sanctions that now apply to people who openly express racist views." When the closest parallel to your situation that you yourself can come up with is the plight of the American racist, it might be a good time to stop and re-evaluate your beliefs.
It might also be a good time to check your hyperbole. When you're running around warning of the end of democracy, the oppression of Christians, and the end of freedom of speech, people are going to do something crazy like take you seriously. There are three groups who make up a large percentage of the far right -- the stupid, the gullible, and the gullible who are stupid. These people are going to buy this crap. That hasn't turned out so well in the past.
[Associated Press, March 2009:]
An unemployed truck driver seething over liberalism told police he opened fire in a church last year because it harbored gays and multiracial families and he hoped others would follow his example.
Prosecutors opened their case file Thursday on Jim David Adkisson, 58, who pleaded guilty a month ago to killing two people and wounding six others at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. The file includes interviews with investigators and a suicide note Adkisson left in his car...
"They just glory (in) these weirdos and sickos and homos," he said in an interview recorded by investigators...
Adkisson concluded, "I'd like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I've done. If life ain't worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. Do something for your country before you go. Go kill liberals."...
And, of course, we've recently been reminded just how dangerous a panic-stricken gullible ass can be. Richard Poplawski shot and killed three Pittsburgh police officers and wounded two others over the weekend. Poplawski was "convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry... He appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country." Apparently, he was a chump who believed everything he read. Of course, stupid people do stupid things -- often with terrible consequences. Many times, "gullible" and "dangerous" are synonymous.
Am I saying that people should be stopped from saying this hyperbolic BS? No, not by law anyway. But they should be held responsible in the court of public opinion whenever they open their mouths and this crap spills out. When you tell people the nazis are right around the corner, a'comin' to get them, you really shouldn't be surprised when some idiot believes it, panics, and strikes a blow for "the good guys."
As I said, the Iowa decision was rational. That's not the problem. The reaction to it on the right is irrational and irresponsible. The country has a lot more to fear from a bunch of wingnuts, terrified by right wing propaganda, who think they're only thing that stands between freedom and totalitarianism.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, James Blow tells us that "the unrelenting meme being pushed by the right that Obama will mount an assault on the Second Amendment has helped fuel the panic buying of firearms. According to the F.B.I., there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there were in the same four months last year."
And I'm supposed to be afraid of marriage equality in Iowa? I'm afraid of the idiots who think they're "defending my freedoms." Now might be a good time to dial back the fearmongering a bit, don't you think?
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