Sunday, February 14, 2010

What better gift for Valentine’s Day than support for freedom to marry

For years, Valentine’s Day held little to no interest for me. In fact, I viewed this holiday with outright antipathy.

My dislike for the holiday began in school, when students sent each other Valentines. The teachers embraced a tenuous theory that every student in the class would give every other student a Valentine. But it didn’t work out like that. Some children ended up with a brimming heap of Valentines while others ended up with far less. And the visual proof that some students were adored while others were if not despised then at least ignored by their classmates was on everybody’s desks for the entire class to see.

As I grew older, the people around me began to group in romantic pairs. That nearly every other person on the planet had at least one other person with whom to form this unique connection seemed an alien mystery to me. Valentine’s Day embodied, for me, a significant part of human existence that I was cut off from.

The sappy romanticism of the holiday also seemed entirely pointless.

I disliked the holiday so intensely that I postponed by two days my husband’s and my first date. I didn’t want our first date to fall upon a day that, for me, held such negative connotations.

In intervening years my dislike has lessened, tempered by positive experience.

This year, I view the holiday through the lens of an opportunity to advocate for freedom to love and the freedom of a religious faith to offer the sacrament of marriage to all of its adherents equally.

A case before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in the San Francisco U.S. District Court, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, is intended to overturn Proposition 8.

A group of faith-based organizations has submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiff in the case. Authored by attorney Eric Isaccson, it makes the case that Prop. 8, by restricting which relationships a church can solemnize, poses a threat to religious liberty.

Under current law, no church can be forced to sanctify a union that its religious doctrines oppose. This protection will not go away when same-sex marriage is once again legalized in the state of California.

As the amicus brief explains, “Allowing same-sex couples to marry threatens religious liberty of Catholics no more than does allowing civilly divorced citizens to marry in contravention of Catholic doctrine.

“Allowing same-sex couples to marry no more threatens the religious liberty of those who oppose such unions in their churches and synagogues than permitting interfaith marriage threatens religious liberty of synagogues and rabbis who interpret their scripture and tradition to prohibit such unions ...

“The real threat to religious liberty comes from enforcing as law religious doctrines of society’s most powerful sects, to outlaw marriages that others both recognize and sanctify.”

I belong to a religious faith that recognizes same-sex marriages. Until this law is overturned, any same-sex marriage ceremony performed by clergy who are of my faith will not be recognized under California law. This is a direct violation of my faith’s religious freedom.

What does all of this have to do with Valentine’s Day? Everything, if you look at history.

According to History.com, the original Saint Valentine was a priest who performed illegal wedding ceremonies after a Roman emperor outlawed marriage for young men. When the emperor discovered what Valentine was doing, he had him put to death.

So what better gift for you to have given your Valentine than to support religious liberty and the right to marry the person you want to?

The Prop. 8 Trial Tracker is reporting that the case has been suspended while Walker goes through mountains of evidence and testimony. The organization anticipates that it will be several weeks before Walker calls the lawyers back to make their closing arguments.

To read more about Perry v. Schwarzenegger, visit http://prop8trialtracker.com/. To sign up for e-mail alerts, visit www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/Prop8TrialUpdate.

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