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Sylvia Rhue, Ph.D. Headshot

The Arc of the Moral Universe Bends Toward Marriage Equality: The Conference of Moral Citizenship

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"The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice" -- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

President Obama is morally right in affirming marriage equality for gay men and lesbians. The NAACP is morally right when it voted on the support of marriage equality. People of faith are morally right in affirming marriage equality.

The long and winding road to marriage equality is finding symbolic, historic destinations, in churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, the halls of justice, across the dinner table, in hearts and minds. We know that people seeking equality will walk the far distance on a rocky terrain, or traverse a parched desert to find just a patch of promise, a nugget of justice, a sip of equality.

The gains we are witnessing are about a true moral victory, because for gay men and lesbians,
marriage equality confers full moral citizenship. That is why the opposition to marriage equality has been so fierce. Marriage takes away arguments of moral failings as marriage is intrinsically imbued with notions of fidelity, love, caring companionship, responsibility, nurturing, maturity, dedication, devotion, child rearing, protection and all of the family values that valued families seek.

And that is what the quest for marriage equality has been all along. The right to love a beloved and to have that dearly beloved be protected. This is what interracial couples sought when it was illegal in America for them to be married. They sought a parcel of protection and to live in peace, to be able to marry the one you love and not be coerced into other arrangements. America grows up a little more when we extend equality to all citizens. America gets better as we expand equality to all citizens.

Let's review. In the Declaration of Independence we find these words: "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."

Marriage equality is part of the Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness that is so casually extended to heterosexual couples. Marriage Equality is embedded in the DNA of Justice and fulfills the promise of equality promised by the hallowed texts of the founding of America. Anti-marriage equality people who believe that the Bible trumps the Constitution, that the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence are wrong. Our founding texts are the time-tested creeds of America and they supersede St. Paul and the authors of Leviticus in the context of a civil society.

To my anti-marriage equality Christian brothers and sisters, with whom I have prayed and broken bread, and who want America to be ruled by biblical laws, consider this fact: According to Christianity Today, there about 38,000 Christian denominations in the world. Each of these denominations has its own unique and specific interpretations of biblical texts. Which is the one true denomination? Which denomination's interpretation of biblical texts would be the law of the land? Which bible would we use? The King James Version (KJV)? Revised Standard Version? The Vulgate? The Septuagint? The New Revised Standard Version? The Jerusalem Bible? The Lamsa Pehshetta Bible (my favorite, along with the KJV). There are many, many more.

Let's pick a denomination that would govern and see how it works. Let's try the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. My family was in the Adventist church through four generations, so I know a lot about the doctrines. According to Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine, all Sunday church-going denominations are breaking the Fourth Commandment (remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy -- Saturday being the biblical Sabbath) and therefore everyone else is a hell-bound, commandment-breaking, future resident of the Lake of Fire. That means that Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Assemblies of God -- 37,992 to go -- are all sinners doomed to perdition. The odds of picking the "One True Church/Denomination" to rule over us are 38,000 to one.

We cannot rotate different denominations to govern America, saying one week were all Lutherans, next week we are Southern Baptists, the next week goes with the Unitarians, etc. So, which one will it be? And will that "one true church/denomination" hold sway over Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Native American theologies, etc.? That's not workable either. This is why we have the separation of Church and State. President Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which states: "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." President James Madison: "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

This is why our founding documents protect both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Otherwise, those who do not comply with the designated denominations doctrines would be determined to be heretics. We've tried this before and you know how well that worked out.

So here we lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our friends, family and allies stand, nailing the "divinely inspired" (to quote Willard "Mitt" Romney) words of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights as THE LAW of the land, to your church door, your mosque, your synagogue, your temple...

Here we stand with President Obama, with the NAACP, with all of the believers in basic human rights on the right side of love, the right side of history, the right side of justice, because marriage equality is about equal justice for equal souls, for equal human beings.

Here we stand when people of any faith denigrate the mystic chords of love that bind the hearts of two gay men or two lesbians and call it less than lovely, less than loving, less worthy of unalienable rights.

Here we stand when that love calls us, woos us, compels us to the altar to wed with hearts flying in full regalia, two souls sailing on the wings of love, relying on that bend of the moral arc of the universe.

America cannot be ruled by biblical law, or else it is not America.