Bender: Same-sex marriage — no one's losing their religion

"You love who you love."

Tony Bender
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I take solace in my unshakable faith that North Dakota politicians will evolve. Eventually. I believe someday hootenannies will be legal. And French kisses. Hickeys, even. And someday, every member of our congressional delegation will support America's constitutional promise of “equal protection” under the law.

I'm referring to Rep. Kelly Armstrong's support of, and Sen. Kevin Cramer and Sen. John Hoeven's opposition to, rolling back the discriminatory “Defense of Marriage Act” that banned same-sex unions in 1996.

The repeal is a backstop should someone accept Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' open invitation to challenge the court's historic 2015 decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex unions. Might I note that Thomas may be the most unethical, dim-witted, soulless justice the court's ever seated? Objectively speaking, I mean.

Cramer argued from the pulpit. “Marriage is instituted by God and enforced by his church, it should have stayed that way,” he said. Spoken like a true mullah. Essentially, he's saying that the law should be based on the wishes of an invisible deity who may not exist. Heck, that's John Hoeven without the miracles.

Blasphemy, you say? Well, if God is real or lacks a sense of humor, may he strike me down this instant.


Still here.

Hoeven, meanwhile, speaking from a burning bush in an undisclosed location, said the bill doesn't “adequately protect religious freedom.” Freedom to do what? Discriminate? When the government forces the archdiocese to ordain women, I suppose we can assume the same jack-booted thugs will mandate gay Catholic unions. Until then, this legislation simply ensures that the LGBTQ community has the same legal rights as anyone else.

We're having a debate, but I'm not sure we're speaking the same language. Lawmakers who oppose this legislation seem to believe the word “marriage” is the strict domain of the church. It's not. Merriam-Webster defines marriage as “a contractual relationship recognized by law.” The issue isn't that complex. It's about treating our brothers, sisters, and children fairly under the law. About upholding the constitution.

I was in a room with a conservative legislator seven years ago when the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ Americans deserved equal treatment under the law. He had a loved one who'd been denied the right to marry, and when the news flashed across his phone, there was joy written on his face. The system had worked, late, yes, but ultimately, it worked.

America worked.

Some years later, I visited with another conservative legislator and discussed his opposition to same-sex marriage. I hope I opened his mind a crack when I summarized the issue as many have: “You love who you love.”

The Defense of Marriage Act will soon be relegated to the trash bin of history, evidence that as a country, we continue to evolve. Despite the well-publicized efforts of the dividers among us, we're becoming a more open minded, more-compassionate nation.

Women's rights ... civil rights … it takes time, but we eventually, historically, get there. Today, according to a recent Gallup poll, 71% of Americans support same-sex marriage. In 1996, that number was 27%.


We've evolved.

Kelly Armstrong got it right. It's not a religious issue, nor should it be if you believe in separation of church and state. It's a constitutional issue.

Equal protection. Equal treatment. Under the law.

Opinion by Tony Bender
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column from North Dakota for Forum News Service.
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