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February 28, 2004

That Marriage Bidness

The other day Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott (WA) made a short, 1-minute speech about the definition of marriage and the proposed amendment to the Constitution. Below is a slightly more extensive version of McDermott's remarks that arrived in my inbox, thanks to some crazy married kids (with kids!) currently lost in the cornfields of the midwest. McDermott said:

The Presidential Prayer Team is currently urging us to: "Pray for the President as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. Pray that it will be according to Biblical principles. With any forces insisting on variant definitions of marriage, pray that God's Word and His standards will be honored by our government." This is true.

Any good religious person believes prayer should be balanced by action. So here, in support of the Prayer Team's admirable goals, is a proposed Constitutional Amendment codifying marriage entirely on biblical principles:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

So um, yeah. Marriage is sacred and very clearly defined. The Bible says so, and that's "a god-breathed book!" Come to think of it, we should just do everything just like the Bible says! Otherwise we'll go straight to hayell. That silly Constitution thinks it's so darned smart with its separation of church and state and all that nonsense. Well we'll show the Constitution who's boss. Why stop at amendments? Let's just throw the whole thing out and let the Bible tell us what to do! Paradise, here we come!

Posted February 28, 2004 09:29 AM | general politics

Genius! I already live my life according to the Bible. As such, I've never masturbated... kill me. Please kill me. Also, I've stoned some nonvirgin girls.

To quote a conservative friend of mine:

"Gays can marry, just not each other."

If not for Americans like these, we'd be in Hell already.

Posted by: Dave at February 28, 2004 01:59 PM

Y'know, AI, I really like you, and I really despise it when you post something this trivial.

Question 1: With the exception of one citation--one of them in E--what is the salient characteristic of each of the citations listed? (The fact that I've given you the one odd-man out should make this easy.)

Question 2: Why is this relevant? (Hint: think 'difference between a guy in a pointy hat in Rome and a yet-to-be-rebuilt temple in the Middle East.)

Question 3: Do you really think that it's appropriate to mock a religious belief in a way that shows not only a lack of respect for it, but a lack of knowledge of it?

Posted by: A. Rickey at February 29, 2004 12:00 AM

In response to question 3 above, do YOU think it's appropriate for a president to mock an American's life that shows not only a lack of respect for it, but a lack of knowledge of it?

Posted by: Anonymous at February 29, 2004 01:15 AM

Rhetorical, yes, but not particularly astute, AI. Simply put, you're posted a dreadfully bad argument. The president may disagree with you, yes, but he's hardly mocked anyone's way of life. Nor has he said, "Gay rights activists say X" where X shows a disrepect, if not an ignorance, of their argument.

There's nothing wrong with disagreement, but citing random biblical passages is not how anyone interprets scripture. Again, care to answer questions 1 and 2?

Posted by: A. Rickey at February 29, 2004 02:14 AM

Whoa there. I really like you, too, Anthony, and I didn't post any of the above comments. The first response to your first comment came from an anonymous poster, although I do agree that Bush and those supporting an amendment to the Constitution do show a lack of understanding and respect for homosexuals. How can anyone argue they don't?

But that's not really the point. I'm not sure there is a point, except that it seems to me the state has no business saying anything about marriage. That means the DOMA was wrong, and so are any laws that actually give U.S. gov'ts (either federal, state, or local) any authority over "marriage." It seems to me the state has the authority to regulate civil unions, by which I mean the legal status of those who wish to be treated as a single unit for purposes of taxes, medical and insurance issues, children, and survivorship rights (and maybe other things I'm forgetting). The state has called these unions "marriages," which has allowed a lot of slipperyness in what laws related to "marriage" ought to do. Bottom line: I don't care about marriage. I care about civil rights and making sure those rights are as equal as possible. No one in government, acting in any official capacity, should care about marriage either. What Bush et al do on their own time with their own religious beliefs is up to them. When they start trying to codify those beliefs into law -- and into the Constitution! -- I certainly take exception to that.

As for McDermott's statements about what the Bible says about marriage, you got me. I don't know much about these passages. I can't tell you what the salient characteristic of each of the passages is; I haven't read them. I was just reprinting something that came to me via email, which is just a slightly longer version of remarks McDermott actually made on the House floor.

Why are these passages relevant? I would say they suggest the silliness of using the Bible as anything more than a very general guide to life. I'm not claiming that Bush or all others who support a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage are reading the Bible literally, but many people do, and that just seems like a great big mistake. The Bible says all sorts of crazy things, and yes, I find it hard not to mock those who take any of those crazy things literally. You're right, such mockery is not nice or respectful of those beliefs, but it's hard to respect beliefs that have become so toxic to American society.

I haven't studied in detail any of the arguments in favor of a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage. I really don't know, in detail, how people are trying to justify this. I haven't studied it closely because I haven't had time and because I don't think this is ever going to get beyond an abundance of political posturing. Civil unions are here, they're real, they're Constitutional, they're the right thing to do, and they're going to be part of American life and law. I'm optimistic that the Supreme Court will back that position if the issue gets that far, or that a majority of Americans will stand up against an amendment if the question ever goes to the states (which I don't think it will).

As for the post that started this, McDermott's comments were a response to a request from "the Presidential Prayer Team" to "legally codify the definition of marriage ... according to Biblical principles." What does that mean? I think McDermott was tossing out some Biblical principles in response to the Prayer Team's request, and I thought it was funny. I have a feeling the Prayer Team didn't have these particular principles in mind (at least not all of them), but hey, perhaps the Prayer Team should be more specific. At any rate, I'm sorry if you were offended.

Posted by: ambimb at February 29, 2004 06:24 AM

First, sorry about the confusion. On my monitor, your text comes out so small that "posted by at" looked like "posted by ai." Forgot that you always post as ambimb. :) My mistake.

However, I'm still going to excoriate you for deciding the list is cute without having a clue about the list. (You also didn't pick up on the rather huge hint.) All of the elements of the list, except the one on divorce, are Old Testament passages. Only the one quote from Mark on divorce is a New Testament passage. Since you've just admitted to not knowing this, let's take if from Christianity put it into Con Law terms: you just cited Lochner as good law.

(Sure, if the U.S. were a Jewish state, the argument might be tenable to the brain dead, if they forgot several hundred years of Jewish history and the interpretation that went with it. Amazingly, however, those who are willing to find rights akimbo through exegesis of Constitutional text seem the dullest of literalists when it comes to much more demanding interpretation. And much less willing to read about it.)

Nor indeed do they bother with any theological knowledge. If Deut 22:19 were a solid ban upon divorce (as opposed to a penalty for calumny upon a woman's virginity) then divorce law in Jewish society would have to be much different than it is.

You and I agree on 'marriages': I'm all for making all current civil marriages into civil unions and getting out of the marriage business. That's not what my complaint is about. The only way to think the above is 'cute' is to not know the most elementary things about the document you're mocking. (In the case of Deut 22:19, it's to not even have cite-checked.) It's sloppy, trivial, disrespectful, and should be beneath you, Ambimb. What the Congressman did was read a strikingly unoriginal piece of internet folklore into the Legislative record without bothering to fact check--and you just printed it approvingly.

Posted by: A. Rickey at February 29, 2004 09:37 AM

Oh, incidentally, another hint that the list is pathetically ridiculous should have come from the structure of item E itself. Even supposing that Deut 22:19 was support for such an anti-divorce amendment, the fact that there's a citation of Mark suggests that the Old and New Testament rules might be different. (The fact that Jews and Catholics, let alone other Christians, handle these things differently might be a clue to an Old/New Testament distinction. The stunning lack of New Testament citation except for in the one arena quoted where New Testament (or at least Catholic) interpretation might be considered more strict than Jewish (in that some types of Judaism do allow divorce for various reasons, while Catholicism in general doesn't) would have been a good hint that this thing is bunk.

Posted by: A. Rickey at February 29, 2004 09:43 AM

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