It appears that the fuss over gay marriage has arrived in New Mexico, in the same way that Rome became an empire — in a fit of inadvertence. Before I offer my comments, let me state that I have been married (to the same woman) for going on 47 years, and am a father, so I have no personal stake in this issue one way or the other. I am also a citizen of the United States, however, so I have an interest in seeing this nation fulfill its ambition to guarantee liberty and justice to all its people, regardless of characteristics.
To begin with, if a man chooses to marry a man, or a woman a woman, where is the harm, to anyone or to the society? We are told that this would be a threat to “traditional” marriage, but nobody states any evidence for that. Where is the evidence? So-called traditional, man-woman marriage could use some support, given this society’s 50 percent divorce rate. But that is something that developed long before anybody heard of gay marriage, so it is not likely that forbidding same-sex unions would do it any good. Moreover, the definition of marriage as one man and one woman can scarcely be described as “traditional” when in fact the variety of forms of marriage in societies around the world, including Western civilization, is simply amazing; idealized monogamy is just one among many.
The most noise made in objecting to same-sex marriage is clearly based on religion. It is worth remembering that we live under a Constitution that clearly forbids using the power of government to force anyone’s religious beliefs on anyone else. The religion in question is one that claims the power of its arguments as vested in the Bible, which it is said limits marriage to one man and one woman. That is a weak position to take, leaving aside other religions, because the Old Testament offers many examples of important figures who kept harems, and in the New Testament the Apostle Paul seemingly denies the equality of men and women, even telling the latter to keep their mouths shut in church, hardly a formula for monogamy based on equal partnership.
The Bible as arbiter of social justice also has a miserable track record, even after the days when it justified the burning of heretics. In this country it has been offered as the excuse or justification for the near extermination of the Indians; for slavery and Jim Crow and disfranchisement of African-Americans; for the oppression, exclusion, even massacres of Asian Americans; for denying women the right to vote, own property, pursue careers of their choice, even to wear long pants in public; and many other sorry examples of how the book allegedly justifies injustice. In contrast to those who so noisily stand behind the Bible as a license to oppress, there are many other believers in the same book who use it to justify resistance to every form of tyranny over the minds of people. I, for one, find them more persuasive than those who treat it as a fount of bigotry against any group.
In short, there is no justification, in our constitutional system, for denying to one category of people the privileges and immunities otherwise accorded to all citizens. Let gay people marry.