June 18, 2018
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The Denial of Marriage Act

By Mark Worth, Special to the BDN

My wife and I have been married for 32 years, but the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, has never done anything to defend our marriage. The two of us already had the freedom to marry and didn’t need DOMA. DOMA has never defended anyone’s freedom to marry.

But for 15, DOMA has denied millions of American adults the freedom to marry because of their sexual orientation. We should call it what it really is. DOMA really is a Denial of Marriage Act.

The Obama administration says it will no longer defend the constitutionality of this piece of discriminatory legislation. A White House memo in February said that President Obama has concluded that DOMA violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, suggests that the House of Representatives should step in and defend DOMA in the courts. I really don’t understand why he wants to defend a law that denies basic freedoms to so many Americans.

Brown seems to say that granting gays and lesbians the same freedoms that I already have would be a threat to my marriage. I don’t see how someone else’s marriage threatens mine.

In Massachusetts, the state with the longest experience with marriage equality, marriage hasn’t exactly fallen apart. If gay marriage destroyed straight marriages, we would have seen the divorce rate go up in Massachusetts. Instead, the divorce rate went down when gays got the freedom to marry. Massachusetts now has the lowest divorce rate in the United States. So it turns out that gay marriage is the real Defense of Marriage Act. Who expected that?

How does getting married threaten marriage? Does Mr. Brown think that after 32 years of marriage my wife and I would get divorced simply because our neighbors or relatives were finally granted the same freedom we already have?

I’m a strong supporter of marriage. I think that marriage is good for society. It promotes family stability, loyalty and fidelity. Marriage is about caring for families and each other. Marriage is good for society. If it is good for straight couples, it is also good for gay couples. And because I support marriage, I also support the freedom to marry.

Perhaps Mr. Brown and his organization, who want to prevent people from getting married, are not as confident as I am that marriage is a good thing.

I believe in what the Declaration of Independence calls for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Surely the freedom to marry falls under the categories of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom to marry the adult person you love is part of our basic human rights and freedoms. Gays and lesbians aren’t asking for anything different. They don’t want special treatment. They just want the same freedom I already have.

Not long ago it was illegal for whites and blacks to marry each other. But we’ve redefined marriage since then, and it’s time for us to do it again.

Yes, some will make a biblical argument against the freedom to marry. Well, it depends what you go looking for in the Bible, doesn’t it? The Bible says a lot more in favor of slavery than it says against homosexuality. And it tells us that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Mr. Brown may promote biblical family values, but I’m not sure he would want a real biblical family living next door.

Jesus didn’t go around preaching against sexual practices. Nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus himself spoke out against same-sex love. But he did tell us to take the log out of our own eye before we try to take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye.

I am very happy that President Obama has decided that his administration will not defend a law that discriminates unfairly against my friends, relatives, neighbors and church members. All people should be treated equally and fairly under the law.

I know we’re not going to get anywhere with Maine’s current Legislature and governor. But I’m still standing on the side of love. I’m not afraid of letting people get married, I still trust the value of marriage, and I’m still standing for the freedom to marry. And some day we will look back and say, like we say now about interracial marriage, what was all the fuss about?

The Rev. Mark Worth serves the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine. He lives in Penobscot.

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