Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Homosexual Unions

This is a difficult topic. I recently responded to a friend's via email on this topic and this was a part of the response, now edited for this blog.

While I am personally opposed to homosexual marriage, if the state, through legislative means, rules in favor of a union for homosexual partners, what arguments do I have left other than religious? I believer it is completely appropriate for a religious body to not perform or support homosexual unions based on their interpretation of the scriptures. However, it is not appropriate for religious bodies to insist on state legislation based on a scriptural basis by which only they agree. In other words, all citizens have as a basis the common text of the constitution and law, however not all citizens consider the Bible as a common text. Therefore, any argument that we have against homosexual marriage, abortion, or any other ‘hot button’ issue that is based entirely on scripture will only be effective to those who consider the Bible as common text.

My point is that preaching that homosexual lifestyles go against Christ’s teachings is like preaching to the choir. I think most in the evangelical church would agree (though other liberal interpretations of Christ's teachings would not agree). So then, how does the evangelical church effectively reach a community with Christ's teachings when we often start by essentially saying, “If you’re gay or approve of homosexual unions, you have a distinctive disadvantage in getting to heaven” (… at least that’s how many people hear our opposition to homosexuality). I’d say that cuts us off from reaching about 40% of the community … maybe much more here in New England.

As a church in the modern world, I believe we need to focus on the universal truths in scripture, equip our congregations in a way that they can live it out in the real world, and educate them in such a way that they do not just ‘regurgitate’ scriptural references that will fall flat in a world that does not consider the Bible as common text.

Let me give you my favorite example. Abortion has long been opposed by religious organizations. Those who consider themselves to be Pro-Choice are most adamant that the government or a religious body not tell them what a mother can and cannot do with her body. If we resort to an argument stating that the Bible says 'killing a baby is wrong' and here is the scripture from Isaiah to prove our point, the argument then hits a wall. However, if we look at the universal truth of the matter that killing a baby is wrong and then attack the science behind the Row vs. Wade decision, we can begin to engage someone who does not acknowledge the Bible. I won’t spell out my entire abortion argument other than to say that our level of scientific understanding in 1972 when Row vs. Wade was handed down is easily debunked with modern science.

When it comes to homosexual unions, I have a more difficult time with the argument. I'm solid on the religious arguments, but in terms of matters of the state, I'm not sure there is a good reason to oppose unions. The one thing I know is that I don't approve of a court that creates common law in matters like this. Massachusetts is an example as our legislator did not pass a new law approving legal unions, but that the courts decided that the state constitution already provides for homosexual unions based on discrimination. That's not how our government was designed to work. However, if the state legislator does pass a law or an amendment to our constitution that provides for homosexual unions, then I have limited options for which to oppose it.

At that point I have a few options: 1) run for state representative and work toward repealing the law, 2) protest and take part in civil disobedience demonstrations, or 3) move back to South Carolina. I don't see that legislator changing this law anytime soon; plus I still have a house there that no one else seems to want... anybody.... anybody want it? It's nice... I promise!

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

If this is the case Jason we elevate the law and government to the place of truth determiner and we elevate relativism and make truth subjective. For example one day abortion is murder (when it was illegal) and the next day it is legal (Roe vs. Wade). Excellent point in that these laws were not legislated according to the steps of our government. If we make right or wrong based on what the law happens to be we are at the mercy of the whims of those in power. There are arguments that can be made apart from religion that are pretty good. Homosexuality is a behavior, a passion so to speak. What distinguishes it from other behaviors such as anger, violence, beastiality, ect. Where do we draw the lines where behavior is restricted by law and who draws the lines? Historically pretty much all societies considered homosexuality as something bad. We don't observe it in the animal world. things are male and female, even plumbing parts. It hinders procreation ect. This is the Big problem without an objective basis for truth and morality all arguments fall short. Leave God out and you end up in relativism. This country was founded on the idea that there is an unbreakable bond between civl government and the principles of Christianity. Without both pillars the foundation crumbles. Nothing short of a complete return to the Bible as a guide will end in disaster. With relativism taken to its logical end one finds nothing is wrong.

Jason said...


I applaud Jay for acknowledging that society doesn’t proclaim the Bible as the be all and end all. There are scriptures that may be adverse to modern day Christian beliefs:

“the slave is the owner's property. (Exod. 21:21)”; “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, (Eph. 6:5-6)”; “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity. (Titus 2:9-10)”

You will note that these verses come from BOTH the new and old testament. Slave owners often quoted the Bible for their authority in terms of slave ownership.

While modern Christian’s recognizes the fault of pro-slavery teachings, some “Christian” groups like the Christian Identity movement, the Ku Klux Klan and the Christian Reconstructionists still argue that slavery is justified by Christian doctrine.

More on topic is the issue of anti-miscegenation laws which were on the books until the late 1960’s. Anti-miscegenation laws prohibited interracial marriages. In 1958, Jerry Falwell preached against integration warning that it would lead to miscegenation, and "destroy our white race eventually." In 1973, President Richard Nixon suggested that "there are times when an abortion is necessary. When you have a black and a white."

Do these statements sound like something “modern” Christian’s would support?

Bringing this back to the topic of this blog post, the question of “Court made law” seems to be an issue regarding current same sex marriage issues in Mass. The Court has never “made law” rather they interpret the laws. The Court, just like the rest of society, is influenced by the ever changing world around them. Some of you may have heard of these cases:

Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) held that "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." This holding found that blacks had NO rights at all.

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) held that “We consider the underlying fallacy of the … argument (is) that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it” This holding found that segregation is not only legal – it is moral. It’s the blacks’ fault that they feel inferior.

Do any of you feel these rulings were correct? How about these ones?

In Brown v. Board of Education (1954) the Court held that “separate is inherently in equal” and threw out all notions of segregation being legal.

In holding that interracial marriages were constitutionally protected the Court held in Loving v. Virginia (1967) that “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications … so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, … resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

I think you will find some strong arguments in the Loving decision. Not new law, but rather the interpretation of existing law. Do any of you argue against this holding?

Jason said...

The outright bigotry in Dred Scott and Plessy have little legal rational. In the Brown and Loving cases the Court relies on the interpretation of laws in their holdings.

Why then, is the holding in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (the 2003 Mass case allowing same sex marriage) so much different. The Courts rational and holding continuously sites current laws and the State’s constitution. At no point are they “creating law”. To quote from the opinion the:

“state's constitution ‘affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens,’ the state had no ‘constitutionally adequate reason for denying marriage to same-sex couples,’ and ‘The right to marry is not a privilege conferred by the State, but a fundamental right that is protected against unwarranted State interference.’”

Interestingly, Mass was the first state to rule that slavery was illegal and used this same argument then.

Instead of creating a new fundamental right to marry, or more accurately the right to choose to marry, the Court held that the State does not have a rational basis to deny same-sex couples marriage on the ground of due process and equal protection. This is not unlike the Court’s holding in Loving and Brown.

We don’t live in a fundamentalist state. We pride ourselves on our constitutionally protected separation of church and state. We criticize nations (like Iran) that restrict their citizens on the basis of religious teachings. Are we so blind to our own shortcomings to say that any of the issues mentioned here are not within that scope? Do we really believe that our restriction of same sex marriage based on a moral ground is not discriminatory and based on religion?

I have never heard an anti-same sex argument that was not based on religious morals.

In the Anonymous reply already posted here, it is said that homosexuality is not unlike “other behaviors such as anger, violence, bestiality, ect.”


That rational would lead to the conclusion that heterosexuality is a “behavior” too. Is that your argument?

Bestiality? WHAT? Two consenting adults engaging in a PRIVATE consensual act is the same as having sex with an animal?

And you wonder why the church is losing its members!

The argument that it “hinders procreation” is ludicrous. So, a heterosexual couple who doesn’t or can’t procreate is worthless and should not be allowed under the laws of man and God?

“Nothing short of a complete return to the Bible as a guide will end in disaster” Which Bible are we returning to, the slavery version? Who are you and on what religious authority do you speak?

Our laws are a contract amongst the people who live under them. It is not intended to be God’s law. They are all relative to those who right them. There is no black and white – only grey.

This is not a Church / secular argument. This is an argument of the American people. Including Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, republics, democrats, black, white, gay, straight, and all others who live under our laws. We are not a perfect society and we legislate in an effort to protect ALL members while not infringing on the rights and safety of others.

Tell me, what harm befalls you when two individuals of the same sex are allowed to marry? Other than your personal bigotry being offended, I trust there is no real harm to you.

One more thing Mr. or Mrs. “Anonymous” if you can not state your name then you should not leave a comment. Man up and stand by your words!

For the record, I’m a married, straight man and have a young child. I’m honored to be from the first state in the union to have allowed same sex marriage. I’m proud that my child will grow up in an America that will never again be able to say no black has ever been president and look forward to an America where the moral beliefs of a group are not allowed to prohibit the rights of another.

Jason said...

I'm deeply saddened that Maine voters have overturned their same-sex marriage laws. It’s a blow to all our rights, gay or straight.

This is not a religious issue. They will not "teach" our children how to be gay. In fact, in what class are they teaching them, to be straight?

They will not “overrun” our system and cause problems in our society. It works in Mass, it works, in 4 other states and in numerous other country’s. It can work across the US too.

No one is saying that individuals need to "accept" same sex relationships or "lifestyles". There are those who still are very vocal about their dislike for interracial marriage. Just this week a justice of the piece in Texas resigned his post because he did not want to perform such wedding ceremonies. He did not need to resign; he could have just chosen not to do those weddings. That’s fine. But he can’t tell interracial couple they can not wed at all.

And no one should be able to tell a same sex couple they can’t either.