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New York's Gay Marriage Debate Exposes Moral and Intellectual Bankruptcy of Old-Time Religion

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Success has a thousand fathers, the old saw goes, but failure is an orphan. Not this time. There is one and only one big loser in the New York's long overdue decision to legalize gay marriage: old-time religion. Rather than retreat in shame the self-anointed defenders of God's law continue to snort and stamp their feet in indignation.

But, while a new day has dawned in New York, the fight now moves to other states, so it's important to consider the arguments offered against gay marriage. Let's take a look.

In their desperate effort to block marriage equality, they pulled out all the rhetorical stops. If gay marriage becomes legal, argued Upstate New York Republican pol Sam Trombley, "we are going to have an HIV epidemic." You got that? 'Cause no way gay guys would ever have unprotected sex outside the bounds of holy matrimony.

At least Trombley offered straight-ahead absurdity.

Pentacostal preacher Ruben Diaz -- the only Democratic Senator to oppose the marriage equality bill -- having failed to persuade his fellow party members by invoking God and biblical morality, resorted to rent control. "I am calling upon my colleagues in the Senate," he declared in a press release, "to withhold their votes on gay marriage until New York's Rent Regulation laws .. are in place" Yeah, and maybe they shoulda also waited until we secured peace in the Middle East and ended poverty in Africa. There's about as much connection.

Did I mention hypocrisy? Rev. Diaz has a granddaughter who is openly gay -- for which she was drummed out of the armed forces. Erica Diaz spoke out at one of his anti-gay rallies. She offered a simple, moving plea: "I am not asking to be married in church, I am simply asking to reinforce my right to marry in a consensual manner with the woman who I love and who I want to spend the rest of my life with." Senator Rev. Diaz declared that he loves her, but went right on railing against same-sex unions, and remained mute when appearing with another minister who declared that gays deserve death.

In their long march against gay marriage, exponents of old-time religion have lobbed countless rhetorical grenades. They've used the "What next? Marriage with animals?" tactic. They've cried, "No special rights!" (As if legal equality were somehow 'special.') Yet, few outbursts have been as vile or absurd as Archbishop Dolan's frantic attempt to hold Republicans in New York State Senate fast to their opposition to justice.

In his official blog Dolan suggested that to grant marriage equality would be to turn America into a totalitarian state:

...[S]houldn't we be more upset - and worried - about this perilous presumption of the state to re-invent the very definition of an undeniable truth - one man, one woman, united in lifelong love and fidelity, hoping for children - that has served as the very cornerstone of civilization and culture from the start? Last time I consulted an atlas, it is [sic] clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America - not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to "redefine" rights, relationships, values, and natural law.

Really, Archbish? North Korea? Letting same-sex couples obtain a marriage license would be equivalent to a gulag state where all but the military are on starvation rations?

As for natural law, the facts are entirely against you. But let us offer a little sympathy here. History shows that every time some blowhard pounds the podium in defense of "natural law," he is in fact defending brute religious bigotry. "Natural law" has been the cry against the abolition of slavery, the end of aristocracy, and equal rights for women. So, welcome, Archbishop, to the wrong side of history.

Before the sun sets on this piece, however, we must give equal time to evangelicals. The Christian Post, which, if memory serves, was founded by Billy Graham, carries a timely "story" headlined "Documentary Shows the Harms of Same-Sex Marriage." The "documentary" in question is produced by the Family Research Council, a Bible-thumping propaganda mill created by a radio preacher with pretensions to being a psychologist.

The reason for all the bluster should be made plain: old-time religion, be it Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, is authoritarian, and its authority derives from a simple claim: "We have God's Word, and we'll tell you exactly how to obey it, or else." To accept same-sex marriage is to reject that claim. It's not society that's undermined, but these ancient, authoritarian structures. Don't take my word for it, though. Listen to the Family Research Council.

According to the Christian Post's puff-piece, the FRC sees it this way: "Some immediate harms involve a loss of freedom for people who disapprove of homosexuality, and the threat to religious liberty for religious nonprofit groups, such as Christian adoption agencies."

In other words? Old-time religion is the biggest loser.