The Manhattan Declaration is the 4,700-word manifesto signed by scores of Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders as a public reminder of the importance in protecting their religious ideology, no matter how discriminatory it may be. Supposedly, it’s a way to cue believers that human life must be protected above all else, but also that gay marriage is not something this national can tolerate. But of course, as one Declaration signatory tells it, that doesn’t mean the document is anti-gay!
Dr. Ronald Sider, the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action and a theology professor at a Pennsylvania seminary, signed the document, but he doesn’t denounce the meaningfulness of gay relationships. He tells the Village Voice:
It’s better for the people involved, and better for the culture, if a gay person has one longer-term relationship than a whole bunch of temporary ones and promiscuity. It’s pretty clear that that’s a destructive way to live. I’m glad if a gay person has one longer term relationship, rather than a bunch of relationships.
[...] The constitutional protection of minorities is enormously important. Religious freedom is important, but they are all important. I want gay Americans to be protected by the law. I want an end to gay bashing. I want them to have jobs, and have housing. I want them to visit their partner in the hospital, and to inherit property and pay taxes [together] legally. Those are all proper things a good society does to establish equality. Even though gay people are not practicing what I believe is the proper sexual relationship, I think they should be protected by the constitution and have all of their civil rights.
But of course, there’s a major caveat:
I don’t think the culture needs to say that partnership is marriage. I think it would be entirely appropriate and there is a range of views on this in the evangelical community but I would be open to a legal category of civil partnership. Gay people could have a specified number of legal rights that would encourage their ongoing commitment. But what really matters, and what’s really decisive, is what marriage means.
And not even what religion says marriage means. But what society needs it to mean!
This is precisely not a religious argument. It’s an argument about what a society needs, to preserve itself, to preserve what is wholesome from generation to generation. The core of that argument is historic, from every civilization.
[...] My argument was not a religious argument. It is about what marriage means. It’s true, a lot of contemporaries have redefined marriage. Marriage now means an emotional, romantic relationship between people. If that is what marriage is, then it should ought to be available to gays or lesbians. But if marriage is what every culture has always said it was, then it makes no sense to offer it to everyone, and [Prop 8 attorney Ted] Olsen’s argument doesn’t hold.
And don’t even try to compare a ban on interracial marriage with a ban on gay marriage. Dr. Sider has you beat!
[The ban on interracial marriage] was wrong, and racism is wrong, and I am glad that was overturned. But that doesn’t follow that every case in analogous.
The only analogous cases, of course, are the ones that treated marriage contracts as property transfers. That, too, was wrong. Marriage is about so much more, especially in the Catholic Church, which has yet to come out swinging for a ban on divorce.