Re: Power to Speak, 11/26

In this corner, Pastor Rick Wood (PRW), and in this corner, wife and mother, J.D. Smith (JDS). Two members of the same community with opposing views.

The Pastor voted for Prop. 8 last year; but due to a backlash against the church, he doesn’t feel as if he has won anything. J.D. Smith voted against Prop. 8, and even though the proposition passed, she is confident that equality for all is the direction the evolutionary flow of life is headed in.

PRW defines marriage based on the Bible as a covenant between a man and a woman. Only.

JDS consulted as many dictionaries as possible for the definition of marriage. She discovered that the word “marriage” was surprisingly not once referenced as being created by the Bible but rather comes from the Anglo-French, from “marier” — to marry — dating back to the 14th century. JDS does not use the religious definition of a marriage to describe a state institution. Several different dictionaries actually define marriage in much the same way — the state of being united to a person, of the same or opposite sex.

PRW asks, “Has the definition of marriage for the entire history of humanity been wrong until now?”

JDS asks, does the opening of the Declaration of Independence — written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, that states, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’ — only intend to mean men? Or does it also include women? What about homosexuals?

If women are considered to be included in the statement, “all men are created equal” without changing the wording to the Declaration of Independence to include the word “women,”  then why shouldn’t same-sex couples be able to marry without amending the Christian church’s definition of marriage to include same sex in addition to opposite sex?

PRW asks, “Who gets the right to define marriage?”

JDS responds, not the church. The church has a right to its beliefs and values. Any church and/or religion should have the right to say who it will and will not sanction in marriage. But it does not have the right to define marriage for the state, country or world at large.

Defining marriage for a state law based on a church definition is the beginning, middle and end of this entire debate, making the whole point moot, as we do still have a separation of church and state, regardless of whether or not people choose to believe it.

The state governs marriage; our hearts govern who we love; and in America land of the free, religion only governs those who allow it to. With one God and many religions, God is not religion. The Bible is the law of the Christian church, not of our glorious, melting-pot country as a whole.

Not all married heterosexuals were married in a church. I, myself, a woman, was married to my husband, a man, in 1990, in a park, by a justice of the peace. Does that mean we have a civil union, or a marriage, or both? Under PRW’s definitions, does that mean that all heterosexuals who are not married in a church only have civil unions and not marriages?

My marriage was not sanctioned by the church; but it was sanctioned by God, in nature (our definition of church), and how my husband and I know and define God — as love. I had a civil union; but because I married someone of the opposite sex, my union is granted the privilege of being defined as a marriage. The gender of the person with whom I choose to have a civil union should not determine whether that union is deemed a marriage or not. The state law is responsible to protect the rights of all its people. Marriage and who we marry are two separate things.

PRW states, “I believe that ‘two flesh’ becoming ‘one’ is only possible through the joining of ‘parts’ that were made to fit together.”

JDS responds, interesting. I know a lot of women who are married to men with parts that don’t work and, therefore, no longer fit. In fact, I think men with broken parts would be an epidemic if it weren’t for pharmaceuticals like Viagra and Cialis, which is a billion-dollar business. I think a lot of heterosexuals would be offended by the notion that only men with working parts ‘fit’ their spouses and therefore earn the right to marry or be considered married.

For that matter, it seems to me that two men can fit their ‘parts’ together just as well as a man and a woman can. If the right to be married is based on making ‘parts’ fit, I think that would include same-sex couples as well as exclude some married couples of opposite sex with broken ‘parts.’

PRW states, “Only the male/female bond brings forth physical and spiritual children.”

JDS responds, really? I’ve been exposed to many a gay family with both spiritual and physical children, including those they actually procreated themselves. Just ask Barbara Walters. She recently did a story on transgender couples who were able to procreate before and after various degrees of sex changes. Likewise, there are many heterosexual couples who are not able to procreate. Furthermore, when heterosexuals use assistive reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization and they are successful, Christians deem the results to be a “miracle.” Yet, when homosexuals use the same resources to create a family, Christians claim that it’s unnatural and against God’s will. Under that philosophy, either it’s as unnatural and against God’s will for heterosexuals to use science to make babies as it is for homosexuals, or it’s a miracle of life for both groups. Scientific results are not based on sexual orientation, and neither should our judgments of them be. Based on PRW’s logic, are we to conclude that only men and women who can procreate naturally are truly married?

In conclusion, PRW states, “I am not asking those who disagree with me to agree, only to allow me to believe what I believe and realize that my belief isn’t arbitrary or held because of fear and/or hatred.”

JDS replies, dear Pastor, with all due respect, your belief is arbitrary as it’s a religious belief regarding a matter of state concern. I will not ascribe a motive of fear and/or hatred to your belief; but I will state with confidence that it is a belief born of judgment, religious judgment. And religious judgment that leads to exclusion of certain people or groups from the rights of other people or groups is the very definition of intolerance.

Without a doubt, the Prop. 8 ads were based on fear. As a mother, what disgusted me the most about the negative ads promoting Prop. 8 were the fear tactics behind educating children that men can marry men. I want my child to know about all the religions of the world, even if we don’t practice any of them. Likewise, I want my child to know about all the ways people form relationships, including homosexuality.

Knowing that gay is an option doesn’t make it a forgone conclusion, and even if it did, it would not matter to me. I prefer that my child be gay and stand for equality rather than to be a Christian who is against it. There are some Christians who are nonjudgmental; but for the most part, Christianity — especially in relation to politics — has become synonymous with judgment, fear and intolerance, aspects I want to protect my child from, not encourage him or her toward.

I married my husband because he is my soul mate. I married him for what’s between his ears, not for what’s between his legs. If he had been a woman, I would still have fallen in love. If I fall in love with someone because of the heart instead of the genitalia, does that make me gay and unworthy of marriage? Am I just luckier than those who are gay because the person I love happens to be of the opposite sex? It harkens back to days of slavery, when a light-skinned black person could pass for white and was therefore granted the same rights as those who were white.

I was raised knowing that some kids had two mommies, and I still married a man. But what that early exposure to homosexuality taught me was acceptance for myself and others and the differences we all have. For example, I do not share your beliefs; but I respect them, so much so, that I allow you to have them without creating a state proposition to take them away from you. I wish you did the same for those who differ from you.

Those who voted yes for Prop. 8 but don’t feel as if they have won are correct, because they didn’t. This was a proposition intended not to save the institution or definition of marriage, but to try to prevent the expansion of it.

If the main concern for Prop. 8 supporters was truly about the sanctity of marriage between heterosexuals, Prop. 8 would have been about reforming divorce, not narrowly defining marriage. 

Prop. 8 was and is about discrimination, plain and simple. To cloak it in any other garment of disguise is insulting the intelligence of everyone for or against it.

Trust me, pastor; I’m psychic. Homosexuals will have equality. There is no point in trying to strip them of that. And when it’s all said and done, I predict it will happen within our lifetime. Which side of the fence do you want your legacy to have fallen on — the one that is grouped in with slavery of those who are black and discrimination of women, or the side of history that supported and promoted equality for all?

I just saw the movie MILK. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the film was made and released during the year of Prop 8. The movie does an excellent job of recreating the social scene of 30 years ago, when a very similar proposition, Prop. 6 came about. Just as the old axiom, the more things change, the more they stay the same, is true, we are seeing history repeat itself in some respects. An equal axiom of truth is that the only constant thing in life is change. It may be two steps forward, one step back, but in the end, it is still a solid step forward when those who stand for something keep standing.   

J.D. Smith is a writer/performer and an advocate for equality. She writes a monthly parenting series at entitled Letters to Our Children, and has a writing blog at Ms. Smith has been married for nearly two decades, is the mother of a toddler and a Ventura County resident.