Are you there, God? It’s me, Dwight

Carly Besser Opinion Editor

As many human rights supporters know, Illinois legislature passed a bill to become the 15th state to legalize gay marriage. While I’m elated that a state so close to us made the decision to support equality, I still had to do a double take at Illinois Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Edwardsville) and his complaints about the lack of acknowledgement toward biblical scripture.

He was quoted saying all he heard was debate on human rights and absolutely nothing on the scripture. My first reaction, of course, was “duh.”

I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not going to go into some pro-atheist diatribe about how it is wrong to be a Christian.

The problem here is that Kay is using his faith as a base for political decisions and claiming that stories in the Bible about God punishing the prideful were “real stories.”

One hot button phrase that seems to be so neglected, especially in the midst of debate about gay marriage is the separation of church and state. How can a politician be baffled that scripture wasn’t mentioned once in a debate to pass a bill?

Marriage, as a state-sanctioned institution, is not the same as its religious counterpart.

A religious basis is simply not rational when debating the issue in politics, and it never should be.

One thing that we as Americans are inherently guilty of is confusing marriages with weddings. A marriage is simply a union that is recognized by state and federal law. Weddings are the elaborate, Euro-Christian ceremonies in churches that are plastered all over your Facebook feed every spring.

I promise there is a difference.

Kay is also privileging Christianity over the many other faiths that Illinois residents, and even members of Illinois General Assembly, practice.

That’s right. There are Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and atheists living in Illinois, much to the surprise of Kay.

To try and use Christianity as the moral compass and backbone of Illinois law is outwardly neglecting other faiths (even though they should not be involved in political decision making, either).

If scripture was in harmony with human rights, this would not even be worth discussing. Unfortunately, there will be cultural and legal discrepancies when using a book written 2,000 years ago as a foundation for modern law.

Kay was quoted saying marriage equality is “harmful,” but I want to hear how marriage equality damages the economy or how it defies the Constitution. Only then, would I think twice about supporting my gay classmates, teachers, family members and friends. The great (and stale) debate of Atheism vs. Christianity already finds its way at the dinner table. There is no need to exercise it in politics.

It is people like Dwight Kay who inspired separation of church and state. People who use religious justification to support the prejudice of others do not deserve to decide the fate of our laws.


Column by Carly Besser, Opinion Editor


5 Comments on "Are you there, God? It’s me, Dwight"

  1. Evan Hannan | December 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm |

    Wonderful column, I never really thought of the distinction between marriage and a wedding before, very insightful.

  2. Melissa Engleman | December 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm |

    Agree with Evan. Never thought about the marriage vs wedding thing before, even though it should be obvious. Great article!

  3. Thomas Shiroma | December 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

    I've tried to explain this to people before, but it always ends up being a kind of tangled and convoluted explanation. Well done on a very good, clear explanation! =D

  4. Yep. We're supposed to have separation of church and state, and yet here we have a religious ceremony that changes your legal status …

  5. From one ally to another: I agree with the overall message you are conveying that people who mix scripture with politics do not deserve to be a part of the ruling body of America. I also agree with your analysis on how mixing religion and matters of state is problematic. However, I don't agree with your analysis that the main problem 'Americans' have is mixing up a 'wedding' and a 'marriage'. (In a case like this semantics determine how the issue is perceived.) The semantics are all wrong for a couple of reasons: first, you're painting all Americans in the role of the aggressor and I think that dismisses religious fanatics/'traditionalists' from accepting accountability for their zealotry and second, I think that it misidentifies the struggle. I think the struggle is that marriage is so embedded in religious connotations that the more radical religious people feel compelled to protect the meaning marriage has to them. The religious connotations of 'marriage' cannot be ignored. The problem isn't with 'traditionalists' mixing up a marriage and a wedding, the problem lies in making current day marriage synonymous with the euro-christian foundation of 'marriage', the position where the more liberal marriage practices have arisen. So, really, the problem is that a marriage = a marriage. I think to make things truly fair, we need to let ago of the last stronghold of religious elements in politics, and change a marriage to a 'union', still allowing people to have their religious interpretations of religious matters, while leaving the religious connotations behind.

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