I’m a regional thinker, as my recent book Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South attests. And though that book focuses especially on the South, much of my work is Western, since I study Buddhism, and Buddhism has especially been a religion of the American West. So last year when I started working on uncovering the earliest documentable history of same-sex marriage in America, I thought that I was taking a break from regional, especially Western, studies.
|Same-sex marriage status in the United States, July 2012, by Greg Stoll. |
Click on the image for a larger view, or go to Greg Stoll's website for the animated version.
|This map of same-sex marriage rights in Canada is interactive at CBC News.|
|Main worship hall at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, site of history's first Buddhist same-sex wedding. Photo by Jeff Wilson.|
There are exceptions, but the pattern seems to be that the West has produced the earliest religious recognitions of same-sex partnerships, while the East has most consistently produced legal enfranchisement for such couples. Is there something about the West, or at least parts of the West, that allows for greater cultural openness to homosexuality, while failing to support legal equality? Like I said, I didn’t expect to be pursuing a regional project when I got started—but like Michael Corleone in the Godfather series, even when I think I’ve gotten out, somehow I get pulled back in.