- Paperback: 294 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (February 27, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521672511
- ISBN-13: 978-0521672511
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,793,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Same-Sex Marriage: The Cultural Politics of Love and Law 1st Edition
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"Kathleen Hull's study of the commitment and spousal practices of same-sex couples in the United States is a welcome addition to the general field of socio-legal studies and, specifically, to the development of a comparative political sociology of lesbian and gay life... [T]his is a well written, well researched and provocative study of the culture, law and politics of same-sex marriage in the U.S. It will stand as a benchmark for future research in this area."
Miriam Smith, Canadian Journal of Sociology Online
Fierce and sometimes ugly battles are being waged, especially in America, over who is allowed to marry, and what marriage signifies. By examining these debates and the data from over seventy interviews, Kathleen Hull explores the cultural practices around same-sex marriage as well as the legal battles for recognition.
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My main focus in this paper will be on chapter three `How do I love thee? Questioning the marriage model.' The reason for a singular focus comes from two experiences I had as a pastor that involved both homosexual and lesbian love / relationships. The first experience was during a worship service at City Church Kennewick where I had been the founding and Lead Pastor for ten years. After preaching a clear and concise message of God's love towards us compared to our love towards Him, I invited those who wanted to receive prayer to come forward. About twenty-five people came forward. In that group was a young man called Joe. The way he walked, talked and presented himself left me with absolutely no doubt he was homosexual. Added to this was the foreknowledge of Joe's lifestyle from his heterosexual (and happily married) brother. In a sensitive moment of God's presence with us (his love towards us) I felt a strong compulsion to kiss Joe as a brother would kiss his sibling or a father would kiss his son. I am not a mystic or what some call a `super spiritual' pastor, but I sensed this was the leading of the Holy Spirit. I was a sworn-in police chaplain and known for a `male' emphasis in ministry. This compelling from the Holy Spirit challenged my reputation. Nevertheless I went to Joe and prayed for him by placing my hand on his shoulder. I then took his head in my hands and tilted it down and kissed his forehead as an expression on man-to-man non-sexual love. The liability could have been sexual harassment from me to Joe but what followed was a wave of `grace' through the congregation.
The other experience I had that interacts with chapter three of Hull's work occurred in my office at City Church with two twenty-something lesbians. They had been court ordered to go through Anger Management that we were approved for in the county judicial system. The reason for their arrest and following Anger Management quickly revealed they were in a sexual relationship with each other. What followed after they had completed the court ordered requirement over spilled into pastoral counsel in their relationship with each other. They asked to see me again as a pastor of City Church. They wanted guidance on whether or not to have a child together by inviting a one-night-stand to their home to conceive. I was thrilled that they came to a church for advice but utterly flawed in how to answer in that moment. I did consult another pastor without mentioning who they were and got back to them with an answer that respected them but did not condone their thoughts on how to have a child together, or to have a child at all.
With both experiences in mind, I read chapter three with a fresh pair of eyes that partially understood the `love' and `commitment' aspect of a same-sex marriage. Hull states that it can be easily assumed that all homosexuals and lesbians are proponents of marriage. But this particular chapter reveals that they are not. Dates and locations are mentioned throughout as examples with the strong undertone that the greater tension is not with the media, heterosexual community or religious belief but with the homosexual and lesbian community itself. This is where my eyes were opened to a greater narrative than I have understood before. Hull refers to this as the `fault' line within the gay and lesbian activists and commentators. She describes it as the intercommunity debate examining and interviewing real-time same-sex couples on their views of marriage. She compares those who chose not to embrace the cultural model of marriage with those who do. Surprisingly (opposed to media coverage) Hull concludes that the majority of same-sex couples do not want the cultural model of marriage but have chosen other means of ceremony or rite of passage from a private or public ring exchange to a house warming party where they decide to move in together.
This intercommunity debate has found its way into academic forums and the popular gay press. It is an argument within the community itself. It is greater than the one-dimension approach the heterosexual community has. Hull quotes Stoddard (1992) asserting that same-sex marriage is a worthwhile movement for practical, political and philosophical reasons. It is practical for tax benefits, social security, legal protection, medical benefits (and decisions) and Veteran's benefits. It is political because it is the one way to end discrimination against the homosexual and lesbian community. It is philosophical because the right to marry should be made available to homosexual and lesbian as well as heterosexual couples. This three leveled argument that Hull quotes makes sense. This is where my understanding is opened up.
Hull then quotes Ettelbrick (1992) who warns that marriage will not liberate the homosexual and lesbian community. It will force them into the mainstream of a heterosexual status therefore undermining the most cherished goals of the gay community that include recognition and respect for a diversity of relationships. The homosexual and lesbian difference will be classed as the heterosexual norm.
By comparing to Stoddard (1992) to Ettelbrick (1992) I can see a deeper fault line (as Hull calls it) within the gay community that I had not seen before. Hull goes further by quoting attorney Evan Wolfson saying that marriage is a path to full social equality. "Inclusion at the level of marriage is uniquely revolutionary, conservatively subvertive, singularly faithful to true American family values in a way that few, if any, other gay and lesbian victories would be." (1994) Wolfson makes further statements ten years later that have the same tone. "...our country's promise to be a place where people don't have to give up their differences or hide them in order to be treated equally." (2004) I would disagree that our country does not hide the gay and lesbian community at large. Journalist Andrew Sullivan states that if homosexual and lesbian marriage was legalized it would 95% of the political work necessary to achieve gay and lesbian equality would have been accomplished. He concludes that same-sex marriage is the only true form of equality (1996). This was a rude awakening for me as I envisioned the gay rights movement to be far more complex than one issue covering 95% of all their issues.
Historian George Chauncey states that several changes have been made to the cultural model of marriage to make it far more possible and imaginable for same-sex couples. Those changes include marriage as a fundamental and legal right and egalitarianism within marriage that increase public and private benefits. The alarming fact Chauncey states is that there is a declining influence in religious authorities on the marriage policy (2004). Are we not speaking up and speaking out for what we believe to be right according to the Scriptures? This is a huge challenge to me - Chauncey is right - when was the last time I spoke up about same-sex marriage not being right? I have accepted gay and lesbian people to pray for them and counsel them (as stated) but I have not be appropriately active to promote what Scripture says.
Hull quotes a list of same-sex marriage advocates in this third chapter with an alarming thought. The institution of marriage as Scripture states will be utterly changed fundamentally and foundationally. It will be transformed for what it is to something far removed from Scripture destabilizing gender roles in society and completely destroying the connection of marriage and reproduction. Lifestream Publications in Nottingham England (my home town) cited several reasons that ministers should strongly outline in the wedding ceremony. "...it is more than a civil contract, social convention, or religious ceremony. It was ordained by God from the beginning as the sacrament of human society for the mutual fellowship, help and comfort of husband and wife in prosperity and adversity, for the honorable procreation of children, and for their training in love and obedience to the Lord. Marriage is declared by God to be honorable in all, so we must conclude that it must not be regarded in a light manner, but must be undertaken and entered into with all solemnity, with wisdom and forethought, recently and in the fear of God." (1994)
For me, this is a challenge to the Christian community to hold fast to what we believe and practice it. I am convinced that the more we practice it and promote it; the Scriptural institution of marriage will not only be preserved but grow as we correctly practice it. For instance, going to a judge to be married as a Christian couple with a few people as witnesses takes away the public witness of `what marriage is all about and who ordained it.' It was not the State or Federal Government but God himself. The impact of seeing a man and woman enter a church as single people and leave as married couple legally and spiritually cannot be underestimated.
Second marriages where a couple asks their minister to marry them must be received with open arms in principle and case-by-case for each couple. The reason for a second marriage could be death, desertion, violence and adultery just to name a few. We must not send such heterosexual couples off to the judge but embrace them. This is out Christian witness to the community of faith and to the community we are located in. I would take it further to say that the whole service must glorify the Lord and recognize His central place in the wedding ceremony.
I would therefore agree with Hull's quotation of gay and lesbian advocates that the cost of pursuing same-sex marriage far outweighs the benefits (practical, political and philosophical). But the conclusion I agree with is not motivated by the weighing of benefits but the weighing of what was ordained by God from the beginning.
By Andrew Fox author of Change Through Challenge