LGBTQ+ and Marriage Inequality: The Role of the Secular State and Religion

Perhaps one of the most pressing issues we face as a modern society is the conflict between traditionalism and conservatism versus modernity and liberalism in regards to culture and religion, and the implications this has on the openness of our expression in gender and sexuality. For decades, the LGBTQ+ community has been condemned throughout societies regardless of culture and religion but today, finally, the 21st century has seen a relatively broader understanding of what it means to be LGBTQ+. Nonetheless, in all countries, there is some form of discrimination which stems from conservative traditional values and, most often, religion. Religion has been the primary obstacle when it comes to the complete integration and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, which prevents them from attaining what many modern youths may consider basic rights such as marriage, civil union and adoption. Religious activists, fundamentalists and other firm believers condemn non-traditional sexuality as a sin, where conservative cultures deem it to be a misrepresentation of conventional gender roles which they are comfortable with. But it is also important to understand the opinion of the opposition so that we can actually mend this stark divide in opinion especially when it comes to religious arguments of marriage.

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Credit: Flickr Commons

It may be appalling to the modern and more open minded youth that members of the LGBTQ+ community are arguably denied what many consider the basic right of marriage/union. It is vital to understand that every member of our communities should be able to partake equally and fairly in social forms of interaction, without some form of distinction that defines them solely on the basis of their sexuality because they are more than that, as are the rest of us. The Religious arguments of the Bible and the Quran according to various interpretations explicitly condemn it as a sin that is unnatural to mankind. As quoted from the Bible: “Leviticus 18:22 – Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.” In Islam, a translated verse goes as follows: “If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and make amendments then leave them alone for Allah is the most merciful.” There are various arguments about the specificity of the degree of sin incurred for enacting same-sex relations and the nature of the punishment to be enforced often relies on the interpretation of these verses. So, if all these religious arguments are thus fluid and “subject to interpretation,” why does it bear such significance, and why does it affect the legalisation of gay marriage so strongly?

One aspect of this whole debate is discrimination, which we will look at separately; the other is the concept of marriage and partnership. Perhaps the reason why some of us cannot fathom inequality in marriage is because the difficulty in relating to marriage as what was initially a religious institution in our society, where two lives were bound for the purpose of procreation. Today, the concept of marriage is centred on the idea of partnership and the desire to be together. It can be argued that religious activists may have a point when refuting same sex “marriage,” given the original importance given to procreation. However, this should not interfere with the legalisation of same-sex unions and marriages as a state or legal institution where the state is secular. Nonetheless, it appears that religious sensitivity trumps various other arguments pro-same sex marriage legalisations, even in such secular states: policy makers thus struggle to balance and “prioritise” the equality and basic rights of the LGBTQ+ community with those of, for instance, religious freedom for devout individuals. Givensuch deeply rooted conservative beliefs, change cannot be immediate but it can be incremental: with this in mind, the first step is for the state to take, particularly those that are secular. They should use the power entrusted to them in a good way, for once, and legally recognise same-sex unions and give non-heterosexual couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. If the state cannot ensure equal rights for all unions, then what purpose do secular laws have and why must they implement “the law of nature” as they are proclaimed to do by religious activists campaigning against same sex unions? Gay and lesbian couples should also have the same rights when it comes to the adoption of children and surrogacy. It is not within the state’s interest to determine “right” from “wrong,” and to proclaim what is in sync vs. against the laws of nature. What the LGBTQ+ community primarily needs is the recognition from what in secular nations is the most powerful body of order i.e. the state. Recognition from the state that non-heterosexual couples have the same rights as heterosexual ones is the best step towards legal equality.

Gay Marriages NYC
Credit: Flickr Commons

Nonetheless, the question then arises, can one be gay and a man or woman of faith? Perhaps if every devoted individual of belief followed their religion to the letter, then maybe the answer would be no. But condemning same sex relations as a sin in the name of god is perhaps one of the most salient instances of modern religious hypocrisy. Even widely popular religious beliefs evolve to become more modern over time, for instance look at the role of women in society. So, why can this not change as well? An argument that often catches LGBTQ+ activists is the case of countries where state law is religious law. Here, the justification is that inequality in marriage is justified under the law as stated in religious practice. Though theoretically, this may true, the same religion is justified in various ways in different countries and thus such arguments cannot be implied due to the fluid interpretation of religion by different people in different countries.

Creating equality is not simply about providing equal rights and opportunities to people of all race, religion and sexuality but rather not distinguishing between people and having the need for a debate where we decide who is entitled to certain rights and who isn’t whether it be under the state, which is meant to maintain order and equality, or in the name of religion which itself is a liquid concept not written in stone and is subject to interpretation. The creation of equality comes from opening the doors of tradition and embracing change, however, such steps are challenging to take unless they are spurred by a strong and arguably legitimate institution: the state.

Anushka Sikka, Staff Editor 

 

References:

Christian Medical Fellowship. “The Science Behind Same-Sex Attraction.” Accessed November 16, 2015. http://www.cmf.org.uk/publications/content.asp?context=article&id=2078.

 

Featured Image – Credit: The Gospel Herald, http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/56272/20150626/john-piper-so-called-same-sex-marriage-lamenting-the-new-calamity.htm.

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