This week, the Stockton-Area Atheists and Freethinkers gathered at University of the Pacific for a live reading of "8 — The Play." We joined with those of other worldviews and faiths to listen to a dramatic, emotional and sometimes comical portrayal of the trial that turned the tides toward marriage equality.
Wearing an "atheist" label has little to do with someone's position on equality, but it's no secret that an overwhelming majority of atheists are in support of it. Without religious dogma holding us back, we've been consistent supporters of equality. Through our volunteering and our checkbooks, we fight just as much for marriage equality and women's rights as we do to preserve the separation of church and state.
Some proponents of "traditional marriage" have claimed that the purpose of marriage is to raise a family. But reason shows us the fallacy in this argument.
If we are to base marriage on the ability to procreate, we would have to deny marriage to millions who suffer from reproductive limitations or choose not to have children. Further, it has been demonstrated that same-sex parents are just as likely to provide a healthy, loving home.
Many of our religious brothers and sisters claim that marriage is a biblical construct, one deeply rooted in our origins when Eve was created for Adam. Even if we ignore that marriage existed prior to religion, we can consider the legal implications to this argument.
Simply put, if marriage is strictly in the realm of religion, it has no place in the state. If we are to take that position, we must do away with the tax benefits that married couples enjoy, the health-care benefits for married partners and even the benefits awarded to widows, benefits that, today, are generally unavailable to the lesser equivalent of a marriage, the civil union.
But the arguments don't matter. Nor does it matter what religion you follow, nor your race, nor your sexual orientation. If two people love each other enough to tie their lives together — their families, their finances, their futures — why should their orientation matter? Why stand in their way?
As we learned at the "8 — The Play" performance, marriage is even more than love: it's a legal contract, it's protection for child custody, it's tax benefits, it's health care, it's end-of-life rights, it's hospital visitation, it's workplace benefits and so much more. It's about being able to refer to someone as — not your "domestic partner" — but as your husband or wife.
In a country that has prided itself on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, who are we to tell a couple in love that they are not entitled to the social and legal benefits of marriage?