Commentary Religion

Archbishop of New York Compares Marriage Equality Law to China’s One-Child Policy and Other “Communiques”

Jodi Jacobson

I am always struck by how those who seek and work actively to limit the rights and freedoms of groups of people based on race, class, sex, gender or sexual orientation somehow always see themselves as the victims. 

I am always struck by how those who seek and work actively to limit the rights and freedoms of groups of people based on race, class, sex, gender or sexual orientation somehow always see themselves as the victims. 

You know the drill: If we say religious symbols don’t belong on government property because our country was founded on separation of church and state, fundamentalist Christians claim we are discriminating against them by not forcing a uniform religious standard on everyone in the public square.  If we insist that pharmacists actually do the job for which they are trained and dispense medications according to prescriptions written by actual doctors, we are discriminating against their “rights” to deny women access to contraception, irrespective of whether medical priorities, and family and religious values (of other origins!) suggest otherwise. If we strive to ensure that each person in this society can exercise their rights to marriage irrespective of sex or sexual orientation, we are forcing religious institutions to act against their beliefs, even though no law insists that religious institutions be forced to marry anyone, as evidenced by the fact, for example, that both priests and rabbis can still refuse to marry interfaith couples and Catholic priests can refuse to marry those who’ve been divorced.

Apparently its not enough to live in a free society in which people of different religious and moral traditions can practice their faith, and people with intelligence, ethics and morals can make decisions different from their neighbors. Nope: There is a primal need apparently to impose your own “right way” on everyone else.

Now, as efforts to pass a marriage equality law in New York continue, Archbishop Timothy Dolan has come up with a new twist on the argument. According to Dolan, ensuring that all people can legally marry irrespective of sexual orientation is tantamount to efforts by dictators in China and North Korea to “dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of “family” and “marriage” means.””

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This is yet another stealth argument. Because, in fact, it is the Archbishop and the institutional Catholic Church hierarchy (and the fundamentalist religious right of every persuasion) that seeks to dictate who can marry whom, the definition of marriage and family, and the size of families.  They are discriminating against other people, but claim to be “discriminated against.” By opposing marriage equality, for example, the religious right seeks to dictate–and yes I mean dictate–who can and can not marry. It’s not about who is married in a religious ceremony–which is optional in any case–it is about who can get married legally, period.

Similarly, the religious right seeks to dictate the size of families, using natural fertility as a yardstick, because in the absence of modern forms of birth control it is natural fertility which would prevail.  Of course, the Catholic Church and much of the religious right opposes birth control quite openly, not just for their own adherents, but for the entire population.  The so-called personhood movement, for example, is an effort to outlaw contraception, and thereby rely on natural fertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and the death of women in pregnancy and childbirth to shape the size of families and the population at large.

Similarly, in seeking growing market share in hospitals and fighting efforts to allow individuals and families to make medical decisions at the end of life, the religious right wants to be the arbiter of when you live and when you die. Your wishes, your family’s emotional well-being and your economic resources are, of course, irrelevant.

One one hand a country like China tells couples they can only have one child.  On the other hand, the Vatican and the religious right seek to tell you you are not allowed to plan how many children you have or whether you have children at all, and it also seeks to tell you whom you may or may not love and share your life with legally. Its out of your hands.  You have no rights. 

I fail to see the difference.

So let’s talk about dictatorships. Let’s talk about religious dictatorships and theocracies in which the power lies in the hands of ayatollahs U.S religious leaders who proclaim to know God so well, the rest of us don’t need any rights, don’t need to think and can’t stray from the “natural law” they espouse.  And those of us who disagree can be quickly sent off to re-education camps, like those programs to “make” gay people straight.

It’s sounding a lot like North Korea to me.

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