Gay marriage a heated issue on both sides

2010-09-05T00:00:00Z Gay marriage a heated issue on both sidesBy Pete Nickeas pete.nickeas@nwi.com, (219) 933-4183 nwitimes.com
September 05, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Joshua Van Tuyl and Jose Patlan are getting married in May at the Beverly Unitarian Church in Chicago, where the two men will profess their love for each other before friends and family.

The Lansing residents, who decided in August 2009 to get married, chose a caterer, picked a DJ and know which minister will marry them.

But they won't sign a marriage certificate after the ceremony because Illinois and most other states don't recognize gay marriage. That could change, though, with a federal judge's recent declaration that California's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

"Whether it's legal or not, we're still going through with the ceremony," Van Tuyl said. "That's what's important. Getting married in front of relatives in a church and stuff."

In 2008, voters in California approved a change to the state's constitution stating that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized."

Two gay couples filed a lawsuit challenging the ban, and a federal judge found that it violated the Constitution's due process and equal protection clauses while failing "to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."

An appeals court will hear arguments later this year and gay couples won't be allowed to marry in California until after that court makes a decision.

Both sides expect the matter to land before the United States Supreme Court.

Though debate between the two sides is often contentious, common ground exists between gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry and religious and conservative groups aiming to block those efforts: the importance of marriage.

Elder Charles Burns, an associate pastor of Christ Temple Apostolic Church in Gary, was one of many to disagree with the judge's decision to overturn the ban.

Burns' definition of marriage draws from his faith, and he believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. He emphasized the importance of procreation in a marriage, and pointed out that sex between two men or two women cannot produce a child.

"The pretentious petition for 'same-sex marriage' is an attempt to make a mockery of faith and of its essence is to edge God out," Burns said. "I firmly believe that those for same-sex marriage have set out to destigmatize homosexuality and are on a quest to normalize its lifestyle."

Van Tuyl said the push for same-sex marriage is driven by principle and practical reasons -- being afforded the legal recognition 'that's on the books' for heterosexual couples while sharing the rights and responsibilities that come with a marriage.

"It's not about getting some new special right; it's about having what everyone else has," he said. "No matter what minority you speak of, you should have the same rights."

Reducing the idea of marriage to a contract between two adults that creates legal and financial benefits and responsibilities minimizes the importance of marriage, Burns said.

"If you're only looking at the financial benefits, why call it marriage?" Burns said. "It shouldn't be looked at as something for the economic benefit. That's the byproduct."

But for Van Tuyl, the legal and spiritual issues are connected.

"You don't enter a contract lightly. You do it with consent of family and friends, make your vows in front of everybody. It's a contract that's not supposed to be broken," Van Tuyl said. "It's more than a business deal, it's a lifelong contract which puts marriage in a different category of regular legal contracts. It supersedes them."

Van Tuyl said he and Patlan would seek a marriage license if gay marriage were legalized but the wedding date, and not the paperwork date, would be celebrated as their anniversary.

"Our actual marriage -- the one in church -- would be the significant date," he said.

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