The March 29 column by the Rev. Alexis Fuller-Wright asserts that the Defense of Marriage Act “threatens” her religious freedom, asking her to discriminate against certain people while favoring others.

Fuller-Wright describes the marriage ceremony as the “most sacred day” of people’s lives, thus implying that marriage is a highly venerable and hallowed institution, imbued with a spiritual or religious essence that is absent in other unions.

Because of the governmental role in the recognition of marriage as different from and superior to other types of relationships — gay couples, unmarried heterosexual couples, cohabitating siblings and other alliances — the act of marriage hardly seems sacred; rather, its function appears to be solely secular.

Married couples receive myriad benefits that are denied other couples or groups — the sharing of Social Security benefits and health insurance, special tax rates and deductions, benefits associated with co-ownership of real property and finances, hospital visitation rights, to name a few.

From the time we are very young, we are indoctrinated into believing that marriage is an essential part of becoming a responsible, productive, normal citizen. To be unmarried is to be abnormal and deviant, and although a person may choose a life partner and enter into a spiritual and meaningful relationship, they will not receive the same rewards as those who fit the societal definition of “normal.” This cultural bias persists, despite the overwhelmingly high rates of divorce and domestic abuse.

Fuller-Wright’s assertion that one group is valued over others is true implicitly through the conservative message and societal pressures, and is true explicitly through federal and state laws that favor married couples.

Perhaps it’s time to closely investigate, not only our definition of marriage, but also our definitions of equality and democracy.

 

Susan E. Melcher, Mount Vernon