The Intersection of Faith and Freedom

October 5, 2012

By Frank Radosevich II

For an issue that has sparked national debates and protracted legal battles, same-sex marriage is a subject that Dr. Emily Gill, Caterpillar professor of political science, has not shied away from.

Her latest book, “An Argument for Same-Sex Marriage,” published last month by Georgetown University Press, examines the intersection of religious, sexual and civic freedoms that surround same-sex marriage and explains why she feels it should be legal.

Dr. Gill argues that couples wanting to marry deserve to even if their union is an unconventional one, much as citizens can practice an unconventional or unpopular religion. She said allowing only one particular kind of marriage in America is akin to allowing only one brand of organized religion.

“Just the way we do not have an established religion in this country, according to the first amendment, I think that we ought not to have just one type of marriage as the standard in this country,” Dr. Gill said. “By confining marriage to opposite-sex couples, that is establishing a particular kind of marriage.”

The idea for the book sprang from articles and books Dr. Gill read about the freedom of religion in the United States. In her reading she began to draw comparisons between how unconventional religious views can be disregarded as moral values and how same-sex relationships can go unrecognized as possessing value.

Dr. Gill noted, however, that she is writing about marriage as a civic institution and not as a religious ceremony. She said religions should not be obliged to wed same-sex couples if their religious rituals or beliefs disagree.

“Civil marriage is a public institution. I think churches, synagogues and mosques should be able to do what they want,” she stressed. “Nobody should be forced to marry a couple that that religion thinks should not be married.”

Dr. Gill said some of the opposition to same-sex marriage comes from a traditional view of the institution: that marriage is between a man and a woman and that having a same-sex marriage constitutes a threat to traditional unions.

She added that many have also believed homosexuals were promiscuous and therefore undeserving of marriage. But, Dr. Gill argued, the charge of promiscuousness might stem in part from the fact that there were no legal institutions that fostered stable, conventional relationships.

Overall, the book concedes that same-sex marriage will one day be legally recognized.

“I think eventually people will look back and say, ‘What was all the fuss about?’” she said. “It’s amazing how much progress has been made in the last decade in respect to gay rights.”

The book was published in September and is available at the Bradley Bookstore, BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.