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Faith in Lodi and the region Gays are devoted citizens as much as straight people

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AmyJo Mattheis, master of divinity and former Lutheran pastor

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Posted: Saturday, April 13, 2013 12:00 am

The question of whether gay and lesbian people ought to be able to marry in the same manner and institution as heterosexuals is about one thing and one thing only: civil rights. No other argument is before us other than whether U.S. citizens will be granted equal protection under the law, as guaranteed in the 14th Amendment.

Consider the facts. Men and women who are gay or lesbian have jobs, pay taxes, vote and are consumers. They are full-fledged members of society in every way except for one thing: They cannot legally marry the person they love and are, therefore, denied the protection and benefits that come with it.

Marriage, as governed and directed by the state and federal government, provides more protection for married couples than other forms of partnerships. Married couples receive tax benefits, medical and death benefits, they are allowed to file a myriad of law suits as spouses and can adopt children together, receive veteran benefits and move freely from state to state without jeopardizing their marital status.

What are we even arguing about?

The real issue holding us back is religion. The idea that God brought marriage into existence and defined it as between one man and one woman is the stumbling block as well as the key to allowing us to let it go.

First, we can't ask God directly what was intended or meant by the idea of marriage. For those who do believe in God (which is another problem; not everyone does, also a right protected under our Constitution) is to look to the Bible.

Genesis 2:24 is the scriptural reference from which all other biblical marriage references come from and point back to. Here's what it states: Men and women will leave their homes and join together to make another one.

Think about what it doesn't say: it makes no mention of a ceremony or vows; it does not include special exemptions, benefits and credits to married couples. Oops, guess God left all that out, which for us living in 2013, is the great omission.

God left out the governmental protections of marriage, so we as a society can leave out God when we define what marriage means today. Individuals can marry and receive all the benefits of marriage, whether they subscribe to a religious belief or not. Churches, temples, mosques and other religious entities can choose not to perform religious marriages for LGBT couples. What they do not get to do is deny the protections granted by the government in marriage.

God doesn't get to decide for us, which is good news. We all want that to be true. The other scenario would catapult our society into the realm of arbitrarily deciding what God commands and which God from which religion commanded it. There is no agreed upon criteria for assessing God's commands, making such assertions dependent on the one interpreting it and their particular agenda.

God commanding legal definitions for a diverse society that has progressed in self-understanding and maturity (remember when we thought God deemed slavery as the right definition of humanity?), leaves us without just protection under the law, and that is the most sacred right we, as Americans, all ought to hold as hallowed.

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