Jimmy Kimmel did an excellent segment critiquing Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart who claimed that straight people would enter into fraudulent gay marriages to obtain benefits. “There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.” She also couldn’t understand how gay people can have sex: “If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.”
At QueerPHC, we welcome guest posts that are affirming and relevant to LGBTQ students and graduates of Patrick Henry College. To submit your own guest post, email email@example.com.
Last week we received the following in an email from a PHC student and with the author’s permission have decided to share it anonymously. In the email the author told us, “I wanted to make available to you the attached document detailing how I came to embrace same-sex marriage. … I didn’t always take this position, but the testimony of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Christ and in the human race have forced me to reconsider my views.”
Same-Sex Marriage, Christianity, and Civil Government – A Discussion
I didn’t always hold the position I currently do. There was a time when I denounced those who embraced such a view as “culture destroyers” who wanted to remake America into some sort of libertine dystopia. But over the course of the past year, I have changed my views after much thought, prayer, and reflection.
I support same-sex marriage.
Here’s why: I believe that a distinction exists between sacred and secular spheres of
This principle has its roots in the Lutheran “two kingdoms” doctrine. Essentially, the doctrine stipulates that individuals enjoy liberty of conscience, and that civil government
should not be employed as an instrument to coerce the soul. In some sense, it foreshadows Thomas Jefferson’s notion of the “separation of church and state.”
This need not open the doors to rampant anti-religious sentiment. Traditional Christianity teaches that all men may apprehend a civil morality stemming from the aforementioned principles of freedom, dignity, and rights, without offering endorsement to a particular sectarian framework (general revelation vs. special revelation).
Arguments against same-sex marriage fall into two categories: moral and pragmatic.
Each deserves consideration.
The Moral Arguments
It is generally agreed (as it should be) that the torture and murder of a child is flagrantly wrong; though people may disagree as to the source of and motivations underlying such a moral proposition, its facial validity is rarely questioned. This proposition, however, may be reasonably affirmed by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and others alike. Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that “civil morality” may exist outside a uniquely sectarian framework.
To anticipate a potential objection: this in no way diminishes the veracity of specific Christian truths; it simply notes that a civil society may be governed outside of principles requiring support for a given religious system. This is implicit in the New Testament: no doubt the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day enforced some God-honoring standards of “morality” through its legal codes (do not steal, do not murder, etc.), though this in no way constituted propagation of Christianity per se.
Not once did Jesus instruct His followers to occupy the institutions of civil governance and remake them in the image of an Old Testament society. Given the immense amount of time He spent expositing His kingdom, this is a notable exclusion. Rather, Jesus spent much of his time challenging the sacred authorities of His day – many of whom sought to impose Old Testament religious standards through law (witness the role of the Pharisees in handing down legal sentences).
America was not founded to be a theocratic society; quite the opposite. Freedom of conscience, emerging from this conception of civil morality, undergirds the First Amendment and much of American public life. Due to this, the law may reasonably permit certain interactions to occur, for the sake of strengthening civil society at large, without the necessity of deriving sanction from a particular religious system.
Most American Christians would be outraged – and rightly so – if a Muslim majority attempted to legislate shari’a law as a binding standard for civil governance, or if a Scientologist majority sought to require engrammatic audits for all Americans. This is likely because all Americans, deep down, recognize the necessity of this sacred/secular distinction: though some may desire that their personal convictions become law, they would resent another individual attempting to do the same. True religious freedom, paradoxically, calls for a secularized view of civil morality (though one that respects the necessity of the transcendent, which offers a grounding for the aforementioned freedoms, rights, and dignity inherent to man).
This might manifest pragmatically in the following example: though the Bible expressly forbids the marital union of a believer with a nonbeliever, civil society does not. I know of no individuals who would seriously advocate that the government prohibit interfaith marriages from occurring, despite the fact that such marriages directly conflict with the teachings of biblical Christianity.
I believe same-sex marriage should be viewed in the same light.
The pragmatic benefits of same-sex marriage will be discussed in subsequent paragraphs; this speaks solely to the moral question. I believe it is illegitimate for a secular civil government, purporting to espouse religious freedom for all, to hand down legislation based on specific sectarian tenets. It is because of my commitment to defending the rights of religious believers in a pluralistic society, and the concomitant value of freedom of conscience, that I reject the morally-rooted argument against same-sex marriage.
On to the practical arguments – which are manifold, and deserve thorough consideration.
The Pragmatic Arguments
Bad For Children: This, in my mind, comes closest to a compelling argument against the legalization of same-sex marriage. After all, I’m inclined to favor the research indicating that children probably do best when raised by a married mother and father.
The arguments raised by LGBTQ advocates against the extensive work of Mark Regnerus are, frankly, unconvincing; I find it reasonable to hold that the lack of data on stable two-parent same-sex households is more likely to suggest a lack of such households than a serious research flaw.
That said, I still support same-sex marriage, and here is why: if the “children’s best interest” criterion is employed as a justification for disallowing LGBTQ persons to marry one another, this criterion would have far-reaching implications for the existing heterosexual marriage framework.
I find it inconceivable that two married lesbians or gay men would automatically constitute an inferior parenting arrangement when weighted against the heterosexually inclined households that are currently permitted to rear children – an alcoholic single parent in an impoverished community, bad foster parents who show little love and concern for their temporary progeny, and any number of others.
Somehow, participation in the LGBTQ community is automatically more of a disqualifying factor for child-rearing than these? I cannot fathom how two married, monogamous LGBTQ partners are automatically inferior to any other arrangement, and are accordingly disallowed from adoption, etc.
Unless conservatives favor a centralized administration that determines who is and who is not qualified to have and raise children, this argument is deficient.
Bad for Heterosexual Marriage: I have never understood the merits of this argument. If marriage is beneficial for heterosexual couples (due to its promotion of stable, monogamous relationships for the rearing of children), there is no logical reason why expanding marriage to encompass LGBTQ persons would harm this objective.
This is a poor argument, at best.
Procreative Function of Marriage: This is the new defense being offered by supporters of traditional marriage – that male/female sexual relationships, in the context of marriage, have a uniquely procreative context.
As has been noted at length by various commentators on the topic, this fails to include the infertile and the elderly within the definitional penumbra of “marriage.” Unless it is believed desirable to disallow heterosexual marriage to those incapable of procreation, this argument does not hold water.
Redefining Marriage: This argument stems from the belief that a fundamental social institution should not be redefined for political purposes. Even a cursory look at the history of human civilization, however, indicates a patchwork of cultural traditions respecting marriage (concubinage, polygamy, polyandry, and any number of others).
This in no way implicates the sacred or sacramental dimensions of marriage in a transcendent sense: I believe that marriage is a unique conjunction of souls that was originally ordained by God Himself. But this does not constitute a basis for civil government policymaking, as exposited at length above. My argument solely speaks to the question of whether or not the civil government may define the character of a marital relationship as it exists in the secular sphere. There is little doubt that it may; in America, marriage requires the consent of both parties who have reached the age of majority or received parental permission, and the signature of said parties on a marriage certificate. “Redefinition of marriage” is a scary but ill-thought-out concept – civil governments often establish varying definitions as to what constitutes “marriage” in the eyes of the law. (Consider the case of British common-law marriages).
“It’s Unnatural”: A virtually identical argument was raised during the miscegenation controversies of the 20th century. Respecting that debate, history speaks for itself. Moral disapprobation of a policy, by a group of individuals operating from a specific sectarian mentality, does not constitute a basis for its legal-political disallowance.
Religious Freedom Undermined: Religious institutions should certainly not be compelled to perform same-sex marriages, nor should private organizations be required to embrace a specific political stance on the issue.
Regarding the resulting legal quandaries stemming from anti-discrimination issues, I am inclined to consider LGBTQ rights as paralleling the rights of religious liberty, rather than those of race and gender; race and gender are immutable and immediately identifiable characteristics, whereas religion and sexual orientation are usually fixed and are not immediately identifiable. Generally, institutions are accorded a higher level of discretion in selecting their associates on the basis of shared religious beliefs, rather than shared race or gender; I would propose that a similar standard be employed in the case of sexual orientation. Thus, a Christian business opposed to LGBTQ practices would not be legally compelled to hire LGBTQ individuals, but the government itself would be forbidden from engaging in such discrimination. This seems to be a reasonable compromise that respects the rights of all parties involved.
Slippery Slope: As previously noted, monogamous same-sex relationships may be reasonably integrated into the current definitional framework of marriage. This does not automatically trigger a downward decline toward polygamy, bestiality, and incest; the issue of same-sex marriage should be considered on its own merits. And, as previously mentioned, this was an argument raised against miscegenation…and the promised apocalypse failed to materialize in that case.
I offer no condemnation of those fellow Christians who do not share these views. This is a challenging topic dealing with the intersection of morality and civil governance, about which I believe individuals may reasonably disagree. I ask only that grace be shown in the dialogue process.
If, in our haste to defend that which we hold as truth, we become the Westboro Baptist Church…we have lost far more than just the culture war.
March 27, 2013
We’ve had quite a spike in reader traffic lately, so we thought our new readers might appreciate a quick tour of the site.
Queer at Patrick Henry College (also known as QueerPHC or QPHC) is a community of LGBTQ and allied students and alumni of Patrick Henry College, a small private Christian fundamentalist college in Virginia. We exist to provide encouragement and a sense of solidarity to those LGBTQ students and alumni in the Patrick Henry College community.
This blog has already seen its share of controversy in its short lifetime. After we created QueerPHC, school chancellor Michael Farris threatened to sue us for copyright infringement. After some media attention and a call from an attorney acting on our behalf, he withdrew his threat. A few weeks later, President Graham Walker alluded to a possible LGBTQ conspiracy targeting Christian college and university campuses.
All three QueerPHC bloggers have attended PHC, and we know the isolation, shame, and fear often associated with being LGBTQ in the PHC environment. The prevailing voice in the PHC community is one of condemnation. But we don’t think you should have to be ashamed of who you are and the way you love. We don’t think you should be forced to choose between your faith and your sexual orientation or gender identity.
We saw the artificial boundary lines that had been set, and we decided to camp out here in the middle and chat with those who walked by. We’re building a community with other wanderers. We all have a story to tell, and we’re only just learning how to tell it.
We welcome all new readers. We moderate our comments, so please keep your comments civil. And if you have a guest post idea that is both relevant and affirming to LGBTQ students and alumni of Patrick Henry College, send it our way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you’ll stay for awhile!
At QueerPHC, we welcome guest posts that are affirming and relevant to LGBTQ students and graduates of Patrick Henry College. To submit your own guest post, email email@example.com.
I’m an alumna of PHC, and I’m going to tell you how I – finally – came out of the closet. If you are at PHC, you probably haven’t heard a lot of narratives from people in the LGBTQ community, let alone happy ones, let alone from someone who shares your background.
I was home-schooled overseas; the fundamentalist, non-denominational Bible church that my grandfather founded was the locus of my social life. I never fit in with the girls at youth group and preferred to shoot hoops with the guys. Boys were my pals, not my crushes. I pushed down any inklings that I was gay. I told myself that I had more important things to think about than love, like college admissions. I remember catching myself staring at bikini-clad women on the beach. This is wrong, I told myself. Not only is it a sin, but if I tell anyone of these inclinations, even my parents, I will be seen as an abomination. And so I didn’t. I didn’t even fully admit these tendencies to myself.
By R.L. Stollar
“This is great silliness of course, but it is the great silliness of highly intelligent and perceptive people.”
~ Alasdair MacIntyre
I committed a decade of my life to the HSLDA-sponsored homeschool debate league, NCFCA. This league was started by Michael Farris’ daughter, Christy Shipe. During that decade, I learned the importance of approaching controversies with a rational, balanced perspective. I was taught to respect opposing viewpoints and that giving viewpoints the freedom to exist was essential to both the American political experiment as well as Christian morality.
Update, Dec. 7, 11:35 p.m.:
Libby Anne of the Patheos blog Love, Joy, Feminism has made a post about us and the recent happenings.
Update, Dec. 5, 7:32 a.m.:
Hemant Mehta of Patheos blog has run a piece on the recent lawsuit threat.
Update, Dec. 3, 6:52 p.m.:
Michael Farris commented on a link on the Queer at Patrick Henry College Facebook page shortly before 5 p.m. this afternoon:
For those who cannot read the text on the jpeg, it says, “After further consultation, I withdraw my note from yesterday. While we believe in the inappropriate nature of the use of our trademarked name, we believe that litigation is not appropriate.”
While we believe our use of “Patrick Henry College” to be legal and appropriate, we are happy to hear that Farris will not be suing his own students.
Update, Dec. 3, 5:55 p.m.:
Over the weekend, we received this message on our Facebook page:
For those who can’t load the screenshot jpeg above, the message is from Michael Farris’ official Facebook page, and it reads:
“This page is in violation of our copyright of the name Patrick Henry College. You are hereby notified that you must remove this page at once. On Monday we will began [sic] the legal steps to seek removal from Facebook and from the courts if necessary. In this process of this matter we can seek discovery from Facebook to learn your identity and seek damages from you as permitted by law. The best thing for all concerned is for you to simply remove this page.
Find another way to communicate your message without using the term ‘Patrick Henry College’ in any manner.”
There’s not much to add, except that our message is intrinsically tied to the name Patrick Henry College. We are students of Patrick Henry College. We share about our experiences at Patrick Henry College. We reach out to other students at Patrick Henry College. The demand that we stop using the school’s name is really a thinly disguised demand that we shut up.
By Alan Scott
This weekend I had the pleasure of getting to know an awesome gay couple–R and B–much better (I’d met them a couple of weeks ago). I’ve known numerous gay couples over the years, but what made these guys special is that they’ve been together longer than just about any others that I know.
Happy Friday, baby queermos!
Since we’re all new to this site this week, let’s start with a few basics.
Sam at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual created the adorable Genderbread Person to help people grasp the nuances of attraction, biological sex, gender expression, and gender identity.
For any of you who have been hiding under a rock inside your closet, Anderson Cooper came out publicly this week.
Frank Ocean of hip-hop collective Odd Future came out as bisexual in a post on his Tumblr.
And our favorite blonde soccer player Megan Rapinoe came out to OUT Magazine, only weeks before heading to the London Olympics. Though she hinted in May that she considered herself part of the LGBTQ spectrum, it’s nice to have it confirmed. Plus, she’s obsessed with Tilda Swinton.
Tumblr of the Week
FemmeDandy – Dapper cross-dressing ladies.
Song of the Week
Let Patrick Wolf take you into this weekend with “Together,” a track from his 2011 album Lupercalia.
Each week, Fabulous Friday will feature relevant links and a song by an LGBTQ artist. Have a suggestion? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.