Sunday, November 9, 2008

Secular Weddings, Secular Rituals

Like many of you, I was transfixed by the events on November 4th, during the elections across this great country. I was also glad to see that someone who is articulate, and skilled at speaking well was the one elected to be our next President. But, while I cheered the idea that we are now electing a man who would not even be able to vote, due to his race, less than 100 years ago, I mourned the idea that the trade off, for some, was to exclude those who love someone of the same sex, and those who are Atheist, are still pariahs.

National Public Radio posted several conversations regarding the recent Bills that were up on ballot boxes, asking if the public would approve the rights for a same sex couple to:
  • Adopt a child;

  • Marry;

  • Have family rights in case one is placed on life support;

  • Have the right to have a school dance include same-sex couples;

  • Have the ability to handle the final arrangements for a domestic partner of the same sex.

The arguments against "Gay Marriage" tend to come from those who believe that religious thought has a place in legal contracts. Aside from having church or chapel weddings, the idea of marriage has been historically of a way to build land, add new family members, and promote a growing community.

Increased land offers increased taxation. Land is built for industry, farming, and services, which is directly used to increase jobs promote increased market and products. The legality of marriage has far more to do with Taxation than religion, and therefore having the argument that "God doesn't recognize marriage between Sam and Dan" doesn't hold water. In fact, many church parishes grew from the addition of families and the land held by these families. Churches exempt from taxation benefit from the land growth, and those who are members, using their property for religious ritual, assist in the avoidance of taxation.

Atheists are often subject to the same arguments of not being able to wed in a church or chapel. Wedding Chapels in Las Vegas do perform rituals for those who are Atheist, and you can request the removal of biblical phrases from the ceremony. Yet, we are told that since we do not hold the tenets of the belief system of this institution, then we are doing nothing more than mocking those who are more pious. This comes from a city that has drive-through chapels, men in capes performing services, and yes, even Elvis as the celebrant.

If we changed the laws to exclude those who do not want to be part of a church, then we exclude homosexual couples who do have a religion belief system in place. If we change the laws to exclude Atheist couples from marrying because their beliefs aren't in tune with those held by the chapels, then we are saying "Take our money, but not our thoughts".

But, both non-wedded domestic partners, who are either gay, or Atheist, or even combination of both, are losing rights by the laws that allow:

  • Insurance for blood related or marriage related relatives;

  • Medical proxy during crucial hospital events;

  • Ownership, property rights, and probate rights- including the dispensing of children after a long term relationship ends, or during a medical crises, or even death;

  • A partner to incriminate another even though married couples don't have that same caveat.

Probate rights are in play most prominently after a loved one dies. The way most Probate laws are written, only couples sanctioned by a religious ceremony, who have their licenses from states supporting the union, are considered "married". But, there is a strong movement towards Secular Ceremony. Whether gay, or straight, the Secular Celebrations community offers the rite of passage from single-hood to wedded bliss. Another Secular Celebration site, done by Humanist Alita Ledendecker is in Tennessee. And, Mel Lipman, the man who helped power up the Freethought Movement everwhere he has ever lived, is finally moving back to Las Vegas to continue his work in providing both wedding and funeral rituals to those who prefer to halt the religious chatter. His work is primarily through the LVFT and HALVOSON movements.

While many people in our country proudly stand against the status quo, and vote for the idea that a black man can lead us, there is still fear over the idea that family, as defined in a religous book, (Torah, Quaran, Bible, etc), will no longer stand as the "right" way to live. In fact, in the last forty years, more divorced couples have raised children than those who have stayed together. More couples who are domestic, and "common-law", as determined by the laws of the states in which they live, end up lasting in their relationships far longer than those who are considered "regular" wedded couples.

The idea that an Atheist can raise a child as a single parent is scary to many people. Yet, when adoption agencies withhold children from these families, they are also teaching a child that being different and thinking differently will only get you punished by the world around them. If we decide, as a country, to unite people in Secular ceremony, rather than religious rite, we are opening the idea that living without the rules of a storybook god won't change that people will love each other, no matter what the sexual orientation, the color of the skin, the accent of their voice- and dedication to that love is what is important.

The government makes money from Wedding Licensing. It loses money from property taxes on churches. It gains money by not recognizing the rights of those who have no legal binding marriage, absorbing property for sale for profit. It gains money from sales taxes relating to the cost of a wedding, and it gains money from the use of permits, and all other expenses relating to weddings. It even has a cut in the cost of plane tickets for the honeymoon. Rather than telling a group or groups of people "we cannot recognize your love for each other", it would be a smart business move to say, "We must recognize the financial contribution you have made because of this union." By removing a church from this equation, it could also gain property taxes from the ritual sites. It is just good business to allow same-sex couples, and Atheist couples to maintain their right to pursuit of happiness by promoting the options for these rituals.

Obama chorused his speech with "Yes We Can". As he did, the numbers fell for those four states who were struggling with rights for homosexual people. The key point people made was "Gay people choose to be gay". Just like that cow that chooses to be a source of milk, it simply is what it is. There are those genetically, and certainly hormonally, different enough to disprove the "choice" theory. The fact is we CHOOSE to be Atheists, whether we're born straight, or not.

The fight is now on, and the world is now ready to battle the next round of human rights. The rights of gay people to be family, and the rights of Atheists to become family without the sanctioning of a religious organization. Can we win this fight despite all of the walls of hate ahead of us? "Yes We Can"


writerdd said...

"The fact is we CHOOSE to be Atheists, whether we're born straight, or not."

I don't believe that at all. I NEVER in a million years would have chosen to be an atheist. One day I examined myself and realized that I no longer believed in God.

Belief is not voluntary. We believe things based on different knowledge that we accumulate throughout life. That's why education is so important.

But to say that we choose to be atheists is, in my opinion, just ridiculous.

People might say they chose to be Christian, but from my experience it doesn't work that way. You realized that you believe and THEN you choose to join a church or say the sinner's prayer or whatever.

writerdd said...

But I agree with the rest, yes we can!

Justin said...

I certainly didn't choose to be an atheist. I realized I was one.

But, yeah, Gay marriage and all: bigotry is wicked and must stop. But how?

writerdd said...

Keep talking about it, keep having positive gay characters in books, TV shows and movies, etc. More of what we've been doing. I believe as the generation turns over and more of the older voters die, this won't even be an issue.

The thing is, many Christians who are against gay marriage do not realize it is bigotry. We see them as being immoral but they think they are the ones being moral because "The Bible (or my pastor) says so." We have to keep pressing that this is not true morality. We have to change the moral zeitgeist, and that takes time. But it is happening.

Justin said...

"I believe as the generation turns over and more of the older voters die, this won't even be an issue."

Isn't it sad that this is the correct response? I wish they could understand.

We do evolve, progress is made, and it's always made very slowly. This is why I will live for a very long time. I wish to see the difference.