As protests against the passage of Proposition 8 continue, broadening from rallies and demonstrations to boycotts of companies that opposed marriage equality, it is worth considering the argument of the opposition. Religious opponents of same-sex marriage rights (including the Catholic and Mormon churches heavily funding political opposition to marriage equality in California) assert that marriage for everyone should be defined according to their parochial religious standards. When leaders of religious organizations say they are “defending marriage“, they’re really talking about using their religious power to force people into the kinds of marriages they mandate:
Christian leaders coming together in future conference calls in order to activate (along with others) 8 million men and women to vote for marriage, as God ordained it.
Do we really want an America in which religions exploit their power to force people into marriages they like — and out of marriages they don’t like?
Consider the recent example of the Salvation Army. We already know that the Salvation Army takes your taxpayer funds to hire people, engaging in hiring discrimination against Gays, non-Christians and even Christians whose denomination it doesn’t like. And we already know that the Salvation Army, after taking taxpayer funds, has hired lobbyists to try to get laws passed that restrict the rights of gay and lesbian people to get married. All this behavior was supported by $332 million of your federal taxpayer dollars last year alone.
The Salvation Army is part of the fundamentalist proselytizing religious network that is already receiving your tax money and is simultaneously pushing to make its parochial marriage standards mandatory for everybody. But do you know what the marriage standards of the Salvation Army really are?
Take the case of Johnny Harsh, an officer in the Salvation Army who recently lost his spouse of many years. After his wife’s death, he fell in love with someone else and wanted to get married. The Salvation Army said no.
Why wouldn’t the Salvation Army let Johnny Harsh get married?
Is it because Johnny Harsh fell in love with another man? No, Johnny Harsh is heterosexual, and he fell in love with a woman.
Is it because Johnny Harsh fell in love with a woman under the legal age of marriage? No, Johnny Harsh is not a pedophile; he fell in love with a grown woman.
Is it because Johnny Harsh fell in love with a woman who was already married to someone else? No, Johnny Harsh fell in love with a single woman of legal age.
The Salvation Army wouldn’t let Johnny Harsh get married because his bride-to-be is not an officer of the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army requires its officers to marry only each other, to sleep only with each other, to have sex only with each other.
Because Johnny Harsh is following the dictates of love over the dictates of the Salvation Army, he is being kicked out. Fortunately, the Salvation Army does not have the power to dictate the legal standards of marriages in America… yet. But that’s just the power the Salvation Army has been trying to get. In some places such as California, the Salvation Army has partially succeeded.
You see, even if you’re not gay, even if you don’t care about the rights of gay and lesbian people, there’s still reason to be concerned. Fundamentalist religious organizations like the Salvation Army aren’t just interested in stopping gay marriage. They want to impose discrimination in straight marriages, too.