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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in their consideration of the challenge to overturn California’s Prop 8, and then tomorrow the SC will hear oral arguments in their consideration of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Both of these are a huge deal and have the potential to radically change the legal rights of LGBQ people. We will not know what the SC actually decides until June, but they will be releasing the audio of the oral arguments later in the day after each of them.
In preview of this big news, I thought I would share a few other news topics of interest over the past week in regards to marriage equality.
Firstly, in what I believe might be the most important piece of news from the past few weeks, The American Academy of Pediatrics announced its endorsement of marriage equality. What I find so encouraging about their announcement is their reasoning: it is about the children:
All children need support and nurturing from stable, healthy, and well functioning adults to become resilient and effective adults. On the basis of a review of extensive scientific literature, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) affirms that “children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”
On the topic of popular opinion an ABC News/Washington Post poll found a dramatic rise in support for marriage equality over the past decade with support now reaching 58% of the American populace.
Following in the vein of the over 100 prominent Republicans that submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme court in support of marriage equality, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced his support for marriage equality in an interview with CNN and then published an op-ed further explaining his decision. This is a huge deal because it makes him the second highest ranking Republican to come out in support of it after former Vice President Dick Cheney. He said, “I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years. That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay.”
Senator Portman’s son coming out as gay to he and his wife is what prompted the Senator to really examine what he believed and ultimately what sparked his change. This importance of personal experience with an LGBTQ individual is something that we at QPHC have long believed is so very important in the changing of the hearts and minds of others towards LGBTQ people and issues. And it is not just a theory based on our experiences anymore. CNN reported on a recent national poll that “indicates that the percentage of Americans who say they have a family member or close friend who is gay or lesbian is on the rise. And that increase matches a jump in the percent of the public who support legal same-sex marriages.” They are calling it the “Rob Portman effect.”
Senator Portman’s son, Will, just published his perspective on his dad’s announcement and some of his story about coming out in the Yale Daily News. I highly recommend reading it.
Senator Portman was not the only high profile political individual to come out in support of marriage equality though as Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) did as well in the past week. While their support is not particularly surprising considering they are Democrats, it is notable because they are both from more conservative states.
In addition former Senator and Secretary of State and possible future candidate for US President Hillary Clinton announced her support for marriage equality as well in a very powerful video:
Here is the link to the audio for the oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry.
The Minnesota House and Senate have been having committee hearings on the passage of marriage equality bills. The bills (one in the Senate and one in the House) have now passed all of the committees and will be up for votes on the floor sometime in the future.
Yesterday, there were a couple of particularly powerful testimonies given and I thought I would share them. The first one is from Lynne Osterman (a former Republican member of the Minnesota House) and is in favor of passing marriage equality:
The second one is from Mike Frey and is against passing marriage equality. However, because of the direction he takes, numerous pro-marriage equality advocates have argued that his testimony was so out there that it helped the marriage equality movement because of his shocking lack of medical knowledge (he thinks male sperm causes AIDS) and his identification of AIDs as a gay disease. (Please be warned that he is rather graphic in his word choices, so this is probably NSFW.)
(While Mike’s testimony is absurd, it is important to remember always practice safer sex.)
Since it has been in the news a bit recently and is all the more relevant with the approaching Supreme Court cases–Prop 8 and DOMA–and continued debates in different states towards passing marriage equality, I thought I would share this advertisement from the Respect For Marriage Coalition.
Mrs. Bush has since asked that her picture and quote not be used in the advertisement, but her words still stand and she has long been a supporter of equal rights for LGBTQ people.
But these well know faces are not the only ones expressing their support for marriage equality. So far over 80 well known Republicans have signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court asking them to support marriage equality.
Margaret Hoover, a conservative commentator, author, and granddaughter or President Hoover, recently spoke to The New York Times to present the conservative case for the freedom to marry. Check out her video interview here. It always encourages me to find increasing support for LGBTQ people and rights among conservatives.
Fear is something I have been observing for quite some time among my fellow conservative Christians, but it became especially noticeable in the past two weeks as the Boy Scouts of America contemplated removing their national ban on gay scouts and scoutmasters.
I am not talking about the primal fear that a person gets when confronted by a rabid dog or a mountain lion. Nor am I talking about the fear that a person gets when someone breaks into their house wielding a knife or a gun.
No. I am talking about fear of the boogeyman. Fear of the unknown. Fear of ‘the other.’ Fear of ‘the enemy.’ Fear of those who are different. Fear based on lies, half-truths, and ignorance.
This is the fear that pervades the conservative Christian community, though it is by no means unique to conservative Christians. Such fear is a far too common dark side to human nature and society.
Being a fairly, though not entirely, conservative Christian myself, I obviously notice it most among those that are my friends and connections.
Libby Anne, the blogger at Love, Joy, Feminism, talks about some of her fears in a post about Fear and the Fundamentalist Child. Now that I am older, the fears–and lies–that I notice are things like fearing that Obama is a Muslim Marxist, that liberals hate America and are secretly socialist or even communist out to destroy our nation, that gays are out to molest and recruit children, that marriage equality will destroy our society and nation, that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has “a deliberate strategy to marginalize, stigmatize, and repress the speech and democratic rights of conservative Christians.“
The fear is everywhere, even Patrick Henry College’s existence is wrapped up in this fear: the fear of secular colleges indoctrinating children (who are really adults at that point) away from the faith.
As I said before, this is not something unique to conservative Christians, but I believe it is especially heinous that it is basically preached by so called Christian leaders almost like dogma.
Why so heinous? Because the Bible everywhere speaks against fear.
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.””
Hebrews 2:14-15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
1 Peter 3:14 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.”
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Does the Bible not contain promises about these things?
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Why then do parents fear to send their children off to a secular college? Their fear causes them to not trust the promise of God. Or perhaps it is that they know in their hearts that some or even much of what they have taught their child is not really of God.
Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
If you are a girl and listen to many of those that preach about modesty it would be easy to think that indeed clothes–the right ones–are indeed what it is all about.
Romans 8:31, 38-39 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Hebrews 13:5b “…for He has said,”I will never leave you nor forsake you.””
1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
If nothing can separate us from the love of God–and indeed God is love–and perfect love casts out fear, then why do Christians fear so much?
Perhaps most well know of all:
Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Fear cripples. Fear destroys. Fear is the enemy of love. So when Christians preach fear and go around spreading lies to reinforce the fear, they are working against everything they claim to stand for by calling themselves followers of Jesus Christ.
Love is the antidote and vaccine to fear.
Love, don’t fear.
Update: Stephen Colbert interviewed Sir Ian McKellen on Monday, and it was just too funny not to share. Go watch it. “You know we’re making a sequel. In Middle Earth. Ah, perhaps I shouldn’t say. [Looks over his shoulder.] It’s going to star Gandalf the Gay.”
Yesterday I posted about how Morgan Freeman has endorsed marriage equality. Today I get to deliver the exciting news of another endorser of marriage equality: Gandalf! (a.k.a. Sir Ian McKellen)
And there was a great disturbance, as if millions of homeschooler voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced when Gandalf said, “It shall pass!”
Seeing as how it’s the dawn of a new month (the last one ever, if you believe the Mayans), I thought it apropos to share this video from the Human Rights Campaign narrated by the ever epic Morgan Freeman:
“Freedom, justice, and human dignity have always guided our journey for a more perfect union. With historic victories for marriage, we’ve delivered a mandate for full equality.
The wind is at our back, but the journey has just begun.”
Saw this over at Good As You and thought it was too great not to share:
David Blankenhorn is one of the most famous ‘traditional’ marriage supporters–he even testified as an expert witness at the Prop 8 trial–or at least he was. He’s experienced quite the turn around. First he published an op-ed in The New York Times, and now he’s made a video urging Minnesotans to vote no on the constitutional amendment that would ban marriage equality.
I encourage everyone to both read his op-ed and watch the video.