Let me say first, that I know intimately, the fear that arises when my foundations of truth and understanding are at risk. I can imagine what it is like to be sure of what is moral and see the world around me begin to change in ways that make me uncomfortable. I can imagine the gnawing in my stomach at the thought of what other people are doing. I can imagine what it is like to be overwhelmed by the diversity of humanity and find comfort in applying the simpler one-size-fits-all approach.
I can also imagine what it is like to be blamed by another for the discomfort they feel. I can imagine what it feels like to be treated without the dignity and acceptance that all human beings hope for. I can imagine what it would be like to love someone, be attracted to someone, and not have the blessing and respect of society.
I am a Dharma Teacher at Dharma Field, a religious community in Minneapolis. I have, until now, resisted any public comment on the proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the definition of marriage to one man and one woman. By posting this, I violate what I consider to be the logical separation of church and state. This agreed upon separation is what allows religious organizations to claim tax-exempt status. It is also what keeps our government from being controlled by religion. It is what keeps our government from becoming a theocracy. If one religion, or category of religions, is successful at controlling government, religion becomes government. I suspect that if we look into our hearts, we can see that this is not really what we want. We can imagine a religious organization that is different from our own gaining control of our lives. No one would consider it “freedom of religion,” if their own religion has been limited by the powerful influences of another’s religion on government. I don’t have to imagine it.
I find that I must speak out because there are religious organizations spending large sums of money and organizing voting campaigns to push this amendment through, and no one seems to be crying foul. I maintain that the freedom of any and all religions to express their teachings is at risk if this trend continues. If this amendment passes, my ability to carry out the teachings of my religion through the expression of ceremony and sanctity will be permanently limited.
The religion that my community practices, invites us to see the equality of all human beings. We are accustomed the inverse golden rule: Do not do unto others, as you would not have them do unto you. This inverse version is extremely valuable and equitable, for it doesn’t force anyone to act upon another. It asks us to be considerate of others. For instance, if I would not like government to dictate to whom I can or cannot be married, I would not enact laws that would make that the situation for others. What we do unto others is what we do to ourselves, and to society.
Our sexual drives are very strong. I think we can all imagine what it would be like to be told to stop being attracted to the gender we yearn to be with. Some of us don’t need to imagine this.
Having been ordained in my tradition, I am able to legally perform marriage ceremonies. I would be honored to conduct a marriage ceremony for any two people who are associated with our religious institution. Minnesota law prevents this, but I can hope that continued conversations can bring all of us to appreciate the societal benefits of including same-gender loving couples, and families with two moms or two dads. I can hope that clergy of other religions would see this way too, but it would be inappropriate to force my view and practices upon another institution. If the law were respectful to all religions, we could again be a society that appreciates “freedom of religion.”
We are all responsible for our actions. As humans we have been given the ability to think, and respond to the cries of the world. Everyone cries at some point. We all hope to be heard when we do.
On Tuesday, I will be voting “no” on the amendment. I value highly, the dignity of a committed, loving relationship that has developed within and amongst two people no matter their gender. Let’s let the conversation run its course naturally, rather than shut it down with an amendment to the constitution. Mutual respect is our best hope for humanity.
© Bev Forsman and Letters from Emptiness, 2010–2013. If you share this material, please include direction to the original content. Thank you.