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It turns out that two -- not one -- is really the smallest divisible unit.
Ask any longstanding loving couple, or ask America's social psychologists. Being in a relationship is good for your mental health, your emotional well being and your bank balance (even if they seem to do the opposite sometimes).
No wonder so many people feel the urge to find and foster longstanding relationships, through all the good times and bad. At heart we know they're profoundly valuable.
I bring all this up because, of course, there are many organizations and religions in the world who want to limit or even prevent many of us from ever knowing the joys of a longstanding partnership.
I wish I could say that the value of two adults forming a long and stable loving relationship is evident to everyone, but that's not the case is it?
On Monday I was startled, and that's not too strong a word, to read that Pope Benedict just told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that marriage equality for gays actually threatens the future of humanity.
“This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” he said.
Strong words from the leader of the largest religion on earth, those. In fact they're the strongest words a sitting Pope has ever uttered on same sex marriage to the 1.3 billion Catholics he leads.
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What are major threats to humanity after all? They're things like war, disease, famine, terrorism, natural disasters -- and now the gays. Growing up in Ireland
, I was not made aware that being gay was anything other than an embarrassing social gaffe. Most Irish people didn't see it as a sinister global threat, in fact the bullies I knew just saw it as a really helpful handicap that made it easier to target you.
Thanks to the Pope's clarifying statement on Monday, those days are now over. Now gay relationships constitute a clear danger to the world which is only matched by world war. Or so he says.
He knows a bit about the effects of war, Pope Benedict. As a boy he was forced to become a member of the Hitler Youth in Germany, where he had his first unforgettable glimpses of what a real threat to the future of humanity looked like.
I don't know how he has subsequently come to see same sex marriage as threatening humanity in a similar way, but I'll trust his sincerity, even if I obviously don't share it.
But in Canada, Spain, and indeed in New York state and elsewhere, we have full civil marriage for gay couples, and to date not one heterosexual marriage has been attacked or destroyed by the fact.
No bands of militant gay people are marauding about policing churches or city halls to tear up marriage certificates on unsuspecting heterosexuals. On the contrary, it's as if most people haven't even noticed.
That’s probably why the church is ratcheting up the rhetoric. They want to scare us all. Frightened people are easier to manipulate.
Here in New York the Pope just announced that our Archbishop Timothy Dolan will next month become a cardinal, doubtless in part due to approval of his non-stop attacks on the personhood and dignity of gay couples.
By not supporting a federal ban on same sex marriage, Dolan recently announced, President Obama could “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions.”
Oh the drama. A new civil war fought over gay people? I don't really see it happening.
But Dolan was rewarded for keeping the pressure on, wasn't he? And that pressure is still building because he’s unlikely to ever let it ease.
But might this level of operatic anti-gay rhetoric and frank intolerance pose the real threat, I wonder? Because gay people aren't a “threat” to humanity, they're an important part of humanity, even if the pope and archbishop Dolan spend the rest of their lives working to exclude them from the dignity of love and commitment.