This Tuesday Minnesotans will vote on two proposals that will inflict historic damage our state and our fellow citizens if they are passed as constitutional amendments. One is the voter ID amendment, and the other builds inequality into our constitution by forever denying the right to marry anyone other than one man or one woman.
Most of my energies thus far have been devoted to the voter ID amendment because a lot of very eloquent people have been arguing against the Marriage Amendment and frankly, the marriage amendment is so absurd I have trouble confronting it.
As an Existential Atheist I realize that the only important question anyone faces in life is: “How does one respond to the absurd?” It is therefore unbecoming that any Existentialist with any self-respect would dodge the most absurd question to appear on the ballot in the history of Minnesota. The universe has presented its gauntlet and I must rise to face it or renounce my credentials as a meaningful human being.
The proposition that we should prohibit consenting adults from declaring their intention to make a life together in a legally and culturally recognized way is indeed absurd. This is after all supposed to be a free country, a country that guarantees our rite to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. We know that for all its faults and despite its extremely high failure rate, marriage is one of our most powerful avenues in the pursuit of human happiness. My marriage has been the most fantastic experience of my life.
The thing I’ve always liked about Existentialism is it cuts through distractions and get us to the really important questions. An Existential consideration of the marriage amendment yields the following question:
How can we as moral agents deny the pursuit of happiness to anyone amongst us?
Amendment supporters have offered answers to this question, but they when they do so they merely ratchet up the absurdity. We are told that marriage protects children as if incest, child abuse, and poverty only occur outside of marriage. We are told that marriage is some kind of institution that is somehow threatened as if all marriages are healthy, happy, and successful. As if 50% of marriages didn’t end in divorce. We are told that marriage has always represented a “traditional” value as if the nuclear family of the 1950s is the ultimate family template. The nuclear family of the 50s was a unique family structure that filled all of its members with levels of anxiety and despair never before seen in the history of families. Teen pregnancy, alcoholism, and suicides all spiked in the 50s as people cracked under the pressure of cramming their families into the “Father Knows Best” template of “tradition”. The notion that this family structure deserves constitutional protection is fantasy pretending to be nostalgia pretending to be tradition.
The truth is that our families are our families and people always try to do the best they can. Who amongst us came from a “perfect” family? The idea that a family with two moms is less healthy or legitimate than a family with a mom and an abusive father is simply absurd. The idea that a family without children is not a legitimate family is also absurd. Are we to believe that a husband and wife who have no children are not “married”?
Perhaps the most absurd aspect of the entire marriage debate is the theological demand that marriage must be defined in “Christian” terms. As the clock winds down we see all of the other absurdities fade away leaving us with this religious absurdity. In these last few days we find that almost all of the arguments in favor of the marriage amendment are now Christian arguments based entirely on interpretations of the Bible.
This isn’t absurd because Christianity is absurd; it’s absurd because this amendment turns our constitution into an absurd document.
A pro amendment TV ad tells us that no one has the right to redefine “marriage”. Obviously we most certainly do have the right to redefine “marriage” and we’ve done so constantly for thousands of years. Americans have this right because we live in a free country where people are entitled to change the way they live. We’re not required to live the way any previous generation lived and any such requirement would be absurd. In fact we’ve changed the definition of marriage several times already. Fifty years ago people of different “races” were prohibited from marrying. The constitution is not an indelible dictionary; it’s an guarantor of our freedoms. People who say we must chisel their definition of marriage into the constitution can’t argue that we don’t have the right to change the way we live (as married couples). The truth is that they’re afraid we’ll exercise our rights someday and they want to take those rights away- forever. This is an absurd thing to do with a constitution, to obliterate the right to change way we live as free people.
I’ve seen several articles now that pretend to represent “people of faith”. This is little more than intolerance pretending to be religion. The people making these arguments obviously feel entitled to disregard any “faith” that doesn’t conform to their own and they don’t understand how that makes them agents of oppression. Such people act as if they would somehow be victimized by gay marriage, when in fact they would merely be required to display some small degree of tolerance for diversity. Since no one anywhere is suggesting we force gay or lesbian marriage on anyone, this is absurd hysteria.
The irony of the whole “people of faith” argument is that it is typically issued by people with little if any faith at all. Is your God governed by our constitution? Is your Bible meaningless if it’s not duplicated by our secular laws? Is your religion so precarious and weak that it will fail and collapse unless it’s given special recognition by the government? Is your “truth” not strong enough to prevail on its own merit, it needs to be enforced by the constitution? How can anyone with real faith think that God needs a constitutional amendment in order to express his or her will? How can anyone with real faith think that God’s plan will fail without a constitutional amendment? Such people have no faith and worse, they don’t recognize the fact that the rest of do have faith. We all (even Atheist) live with faith, we just don’t all have faith in the same things. Are we who live with faith to allow this travesty of intolerance on our behalf?
So now we arrive back at my existential question:
“How can we as moral agents deny the pursuit of happiness to anyone amongst us”?
Typically we only deny such freedoms to people who have harmed or attacked us in some way. Since gay couples are not attacking us or harming us in any way there is but one response to this absurd proposition.
Do not pretend that your faithless bigotry and intolerance represents God. Do not pretend your faithless intolerance represents ME. Do not pretend your faithless bigotry is defending our freedoms or our religions. Do not pretend your attack on human dignity is an act of compassion. My response to your faithless attack on my friends and family is to shout “NO” in your face and oppose you with every fiber of my being! No matter how the vote goes this bigotry shall not pass and your perverse attack on human dignity will not prevail. Love isn’t just stronger than the government, it’s stronger than YOU.
Keep Minnesota nice. Vote “no” twice.