Updated: August 7, 2014 6:38AM
Welcome to Indiana, where some days you’re married, and other days you’re not.
It all depends on which religious or political group (if that distinction still means anything) has most recently persuaded a judge to issue a ruling that upholds, overturns or stays another judge’s decision concerning marriage rights and whether everyone, or only the heterosexual majority, should enjoy them.
A wave of recent rulings around the nation suggests that the tide of public opinion and our communal sense of morality have changed significantly in recent decades on the subject of same-sex marriage.
Our forebears once deemed human trafficking and slavery natural, moral and legal but eventually came to believe differently and to order society accordingly. Now, another ancient unquestioned assumption about human nature, rights and destinies has lately failed to hold sway.
Hopefully, we can avoid another war between the majority and those who use “states rights” as a cover for clinging to an old code, but changes of this magnitude rarely occur without bitter struggles and desperate last stands.
An analogous battle, although with lower stakes, played out in my community years ago when fathers-to-be were no longer content to pace anxiously in waiting rooms while their wives gave birth. Fathers wanted to accompany and support their wives. Many attended birthing classes in which they learned breathing techniques (for moms) and how to avoid fainting (for dads).
The hospital in my town steadfastly refused to grant fathers access, so my firstborn entered the world in another community, where dads were welcome participants in the birthing drama.
Another expectant father in town, more bold than most, handcuffed himself to his wife when her water broke so the hospital had no choice but to let him witness the birth. Afterward, the hospital sued the father, and eventually a judge ruled in the hospital’s favor.
The day after they won the case, however, the hospital administrators announced that henceforth fathers could join their partners in the delivery room.
Apparently, some folks have a need to make everyone aware of the powers they hold over others’ lives — including the capacity to prevent, or at least make very difficult for others, the most intimate moments that human beings experience. When they must, these authorities cede their powers grudgingly, sometimes with a last lick of punishment upon those over whom they have ruled.
Numerous readers have let the editors of this newspaper know they have tired of reading about the issue of same-sex marriage. How might we get this matter out of the news?
Give everyone in the society equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including when it comes to choosing a life partner and enjoying the legal protections and financial benefits that accompany marriage.
Normal people rarely make the news, and the exceptional who become normal disappear rapidly from the public eye. All the same-sex couples I know are normal, ordinary folks merely trying to live meaningful lives.
Moreover, I have yet to hear a convincing argument that we have anything to lose as a society or nation by recognizing as sacred every couple’s oath of lifelong love and faithfulness.
Ten or 20 years from now, when same-sex marriages have become as ordinary as male nurses and female soldiers, we’ll likely see a wave of studies on the long-term, societal effects of this change.
Should we discover that same-sex couples have wrecked the world or cost us proportionally more than the toll that matrimonial malfeasance among heterosexuals already exacts, we can rethink and retool accordingly. In the meantime, Indiana, give people a chance.
Fred Niedner is a professor of theology at Valparaiso University.