Published Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 6:03 pm
MIDLANDS VOICES
Midlands Voices: Should Nebraska legalize same-sex marriage?

Editor's note: The World-Herald asked several Nebraskans to share a short essay about their views on gay marriage.

THE REV. SCOTT JONES:

Jones is pastor of First Central Congregational Church in Omaha.

The more I pondered this essay, the stranger it seemed — writing to a public audience arguing for recognition of my marriage. It is not an assignment most of you reading this have ever had to contemplate. Just imagine if you had to argue for why your love and your family mattered.

For we all understand why people fall in love and want to make a lasting commitment to each other. We understand why a couple invites their relatives and friends to their wedding, in order to recognize and bless that public commitment. We understand why two people want to form a family, letting their love overflow to their children. We understand that raising children well takes an entire community working together — that parents need the help and support of a society that values and strengthens families.

We also understand why society encourages people to make these commitments to one another. Loving marriages and healthy families strengthen the community.

My husband Michael and I wed in a religious ceremony in Oklahoma in 2009 (our denomination sanctifies marriages between people of the same gender). In attendance were 200 of our family, friends and fellow church members. They came to bless and support us in the loving commitment we were making to one another. At that time, we did not receive the legal benefits by which a society supports and strengthens marital commitment.

After moving to Omaha, we were preparing for children and were optimistic about the impending court rulings, so we had a legal ceremony in Iowa. Currently 13 states recognize our commitment and value our family. With the U.S. Supreme Court rulings, we will receive some federal benefits. But the State of Nebraska continues to deny our family the support, encouragement and help that comes with legal recognition of our marriage vows.

Our family is more valued and better protected by the law when we cross the river to shop at Menards than it is when we are in our own home. This bizarre situation is unsustainable.

Legal recognition of same-sex couples strengthens the loving commitments we make at our weddings. It supports us in raising our children. It values our families. Encouraging loving marriages and healthy families improves society.

Why did you get married? Why was it important to have that legal recognition of your loving commitment? How has it helped your family? Your answers are the same as mine.

AL RISKOWSKI

Riskowski is executive director of the Nebraska Family Council, one of the organizations that led the charge for Nebraska's marriage amendment in 2000.

Why is the government involved in marriage? It isn't because we need the state to hand out tax breaks or to validate romantic love between adults. In fact, the government has no interest in how much couples love each other. Marriage policy isn't about love, it's about children.

Government is involved in marriage because it is concerned about children, the next generation of taxpayers.

Changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would drastically shift the purpose of marriage; instead of focusing on what is best for children, it would focus on the romantic desires of adults.

All people are capable of loving children, but all the love in the world can't turn a mother into a father, or a father into a mother. A child needs a mom and a dad.

President Obama has said that there are “too many fathers missing from too many homes, missing from too many lives. We know that when fathers abandon their responsibilities, there's harm done to those kids.”

Last January in France, approximately 1 million people marched against legalizing same-sex marriage. Surprisingly, LGBT people have joined pro-family leaders in the campaign for traditional marriage. “The rights of children trump the right to children,” stressed protesters like Jean-Marc, a French mayor who is also homosexual.

Same-sex marriage supporters believe that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is discriminatory. Yet they also believe that some groups, such as adults and children, close relatives or polygamists, should not be allowed to marry. Both same-sex marriage advocates and traditional marriage supporters agree that marriage should be “discriminatory” and exclude some groups. We are debating which definition of marriage is better, not which side is discriminatory.

All in Nebraska have the right to love whom they choose, but no one has the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us. Changing the definition of marriage in Nebraska is the wrong decision for our state, our children and our families.

PAT TETREAULT

Tetreault is director of the LGBTQA Resource Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Marriage is a fundamental human right (United Nations Human Rights Declaration Article 16 and the U.S. Supreme Court), and everyone deserves the same human rights regardless of which state we live in. Marriage equality is about equality under the law and following the Golden Rule in civic life. It is not about our government supporting and imposing a particular religious viewpoint on the public.

The federal and Nebraska constitutions provide for equality under the law, which is why Nebraska amended its constitution to ensure same-sex couples' relationships were not legally recognized. ;The Defense of Marriage Act is federal legislation signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, with Section 3 ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The federal government will now extend the 1,138 benefits available to legally married couples to legally married same-sex couples in states with marriage equality.

The recent ruling on DOMA did not address the section that allows states to deny recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. This lack of legal recognition and inequitable rights creates dilemmas that will need to be dealt with regarding residents of states and countries recognizing same-sex marriage. Children being raised in same-sex households are also disenfranchised by the denial of these rights.

The distinction between civil and religious marriages is important. Some faith communities perform same-sex marriages not recognized by the government. Other faith communities are strongly opposed to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The fact that the federal government and 37 state governments have amended their constitutions or passed laws to limit marriage equality is primarily based on a particular religious perspective and is a form of religious discrimination. Our right to religious freedom is meant to keep the government out of religion; and the establishment clause prohibits the government from encouraging or promoting established religion in any way. When our government supports or allows discrimination, equality becomes privilege — a matter of who has power.

This is why equality under the law is so important. If we want rights, we need to allow others to have them as well.

Families are the basic social unit of society. Undermining families weakens society, impacting the community and optimal functioning. Not everyone, LGBTQ or not, wants to get married. Those who do should have the right, and our rights should not be up for popular vote. When we use or allow our government to restrict rights, it becomes all about who is in power rather than our being a united nation striving for liberty and justice for all.

SHARON DORAN

Doran, a married mother of five sons, is teaching director of an Omaha-based Roman Catholic Bible study, “Seeking Truth.”

In a dictatorship of moral relativism, leaders change the meanings of words to promote their own agendas. Definitions are broadened or redefined all together.

No, Nebraska should not legalize same-sex marriage because same-sex unions are not “marriage.” Marriage is defined not by political legalization but by a loving Father who desires His children's truest happiness. Marriage is the primordial sacrament as described in the poetic account of Genesis, containing inexhaustible truths for humankind's ultimate happiness.

God used plural tense when creating: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness (Genesis 1:26).” The Triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — created us in a manner that reflects His very nature. God is love, and love always gives itself to another.

The perfection of love between the Father and Son proceeds as the life giver, the Holy Spirit, just as the marital embrace of man and woman produces life. “Male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27)” and the love between spouses images the love and life of the Trinity.

After the fall, man and woman were banished from gazing on God, yet in His great mercy, God allowed them to cling to one another in a one-flesh union so they could retain a glimpse of His reflection and never forget the perfect union they had once experienced. God designed their bodies intentionally to fit together in the marital embrace, like a lock and key. The male by his very nature would self-donate, while the female was blessed with the anatomy of reception, able to accept her husband's gift with openness to life's potential.

This marital unity reflected God's own love and resulted in the procession of new life, namely children, who flowed from their marital union. Man and woman became privileged co-creators with God. They imaged God in His familial, life-giving love.

This mystery of marital love would ultimately aid our understanding of Christ (male) taking His own bride, the church (female) in a mystical marriage. Christ would self-donate every drop of his own blood in order to cleanse His bride, making her blemish free and open to reception of Him. Christ and His Bride have birthed countless baptized, spiritual children, because life flows from marriage.

Two locks don't produce life, two keys don't produce life. But a lock and key fit perfectly together to perform their created function, unlocking the great mystery of marital love and the life that proceeds from it.

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