Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

November 18, 2012

Voters recognized civil rights of all citizens

One of the nice things resulting from our recent election is that fairness and tolerance were given a positive outcome by passage of the Marriage Equality Bill, giving gays the legal right to marry.

The basis for the decision of voters was clearly one that rejected the claim of opponents that our laws should be based on religious beliefs. Instead, ballots were cast in favor of recognizing the civil rights of all our citizens.

Maryland joins the ranks of states that have bestowed upon gays the right to exchange wedding vows. Unique was the fact that there was no judicial or legislative edict bringing about this momentous change. Rather, it was the will of the majority of citizens to change a culture of intolerance and inequality. Starting Jan. 1, citizens of our state can wed, no matter what their sexual orientation might be. To this I shout out three cheers of approval for those gays who want to let the wedding bells chime in honor of their love for each other.

Throughout the contentious months leading up to the referendum on gay marriage, it was obvious that virtually all objections were based on a Christian fundamentalist reading of the Bible. The problem with using this as a foundation of discrimination is that it ignores the fact that our Constitution is a secular document to its core, and equal rights have nothing to do with what any religious doctrine claims as being the truth. Christianity is not singled out in this regard, for our Constitution is beholden to no religion. It matters not whether you refer to Islam and Sharia-based law, or Christianity and Bible-based law; neither has legal standing in trying to impose their beliefs when it comes to equal rights and the law, as enumerated in our secular document of governance.

I have a neighbor who is wont to display Bible quotes on the post of his mailbox. The current ones state, “Abhor those who are evil,” and “Cleave to that which is good.” Not being a Christian, it made me wonder how one knows who is evil and who is good. The reference to Romans 12:9, the source of these quotes, sent me once again “searching for answers to life’s perplexing questions.”

I found a reference to a noted Christian theologian by the name of Thomas Barnes, who was widely read in the 1830s through his Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: “The word ‘evil’ here has reference to malice, or unkindness, rather than to evil in general.” Cleave to that which is good “means that Christians should be firmly attached to what is good, and not separate or part from it. The good here referred to is particularly what pertains to benevolence — to all people, and especially to Christians.” It sounds pretty straight-forward. Don’t support malice and be kind to all people. A splendid philosophy, but totally opposite compared to how fundamentalist Christians rant against homosexuals.

Maybe, just maybe, those who are so adamantly intolerant of gays have been misled by Satanic verses found in the Bible. The precedent for this is well established, given that the Bible has been used to justify slavery, segregation, and the prohibition against interracial marriage. Remarkably, it was only recently that the Mormon Church came to the realization that God had changed his mind about African-Americans being allowed in their church. If centuries ago Satanic verses were included in the Koran, it’s certainly feasible that the same thing could have happened in the Bible. Thankfully, our secular Constitution protects us from such follies, and thus Maryland citizens welcome gays to full equality.

Jeffrey Davis

Swanton

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