The following op-ed by Rev. Robin Hoover and Scott Morris appeared in this morning’s Arizona Daily Star:
History is filled with examples of religious and civil leaders taking on the “responsibility” of defining marriage. The endorsement of the mean-spirited Proposition 102 by Catholic bishops earlier this month is yet another attempt to do this.
Probably the oldest restrictions were against marriages between people of different religions or tribes. In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron criticize Moses for marrying a Cushite woman. In Ezra 9, the writer denounces those who have married people from other tribes. He makes it clear that God does not approve of this practice.
Other marriage rules were based on societal standing and race.
In the 1700s and 1800s, slaves in the United States could not legally marry. This situation only changed as the institution of slavery was itself made illegal at the end of a bloody civil war. Many argued that it was God who had established and supported the institution of slavery in the first place.
After it became legal for former slaves to marry, there were still laws being created to “protect” the institution of marriage in other ways. Forty-one U.S. states and territories at some time have had laws preventing white people from marrying African-Americans or people of mixed-race parents, and some states have prohibited whites from marrying Native Americans or Asians of certain descriptions.
These laws were justified as enacting what nature or God dictated. The Bible was often quoted to “prove” that such marriages went against the will of God.
Some current members of our congregations participated in the lawsuits that finally served to overturn the last of these “protections.”
This fall, those who would stand in judgment of our relationships are working to again “protect” the institution of marriage from change. Again, they use God’s will, nature itself and the Bible to justify their actions.
They have already gotten the laws in place, but change is coming too fast. Again, our youth, progressive citizens and faith leaders are calling for an end to the practice of marginalizing portions of our society. Again, people of good will are saying that each person should be able to marry the person that he or she loves.
Again, people who believe in a free society are saying that people should not be able to force their will and beliefs on other people. Again, people of faith are saying that true marriage does not need “protection.”