© Brian Alarid. All rights reserved. September 8, 2012
One of the major issues of our day is whether or not same-sex marriage should be legalized. For the first time in American history, a slim majority of people now favor gay marriage. And yet popular opinion has never been a good indicator of whether something is ethical or biblical. While I realize that emotions run deep on both sides of this issue, I believe it is possible to examine gay marriage in a rational and civil manner. What are the civil rights, constitutional, historical, religious, and biblical arguments for or against same-sex marriage, and what are their implications for people of faith?
Is same-sex marriage a civil right?
To answer that question, we must first come to agreement on what defines a civil right. The World English Dictionary defines civil rights as “the personal rights of the individual citizen, in most countries upheld by law, as in the US.”1 Thus civil rights are the rights that belong to people by virtue of their status as citizens of a civil society like the United States.
The US Constitution2 and the Bill of Rights3 guarantee every American certain civil rights, including the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, due process of law, and the right to bear firearms. They also protect Americans against unreasonable search and seizure, double jeopardy, and self-incrimination. Certainly, every American also has the right to vote, work, and have access to public education and health care.
The Civil Rights Acts passed by Congress in 1964 spells out the five categories which are protected against discrimination.4 It is against the law to discriminate against a person on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” Notice that sexual orientation is not included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In terms of their civil rights, gays are currently afforded the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. The only issue being debated is whether they should have the legal right to marry.
Do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry?
Same-sex marriage has never been a constitutional right in America. In fact, homosexuality was illegal in every state in America until 1962. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriages. Therefore, it is a stretch to suggest that the framers of our Constitution in 1776 intended for gay marriage to be one of the ‘unalienable rights’ protected by government.
Now, our Constitution is not perfect by any means. It has been necessary to amend it along our journey toward a more perfect republic where you are not judged by the color of your skin or your gender, but by the content of your character. African-Americans and women have since been guaranteed the same rights and privileges they should have had all along.
Our founding fathers were wise enough to foresee that as our nation evolved, it would be necessary to amend the Constitution, and in Article V, they spelled out the process of amending the Constitution. An amendment proposal must pass both houses of Congress with a two-thirds majority vote and then be ratified by 75% of the states.5 There are twenty-seven amendments to the US Constitution. The first ten, ratified in 1791, are known as the Bill of Rights. The other seventeen have been ratified over the past two centuries.
The only way to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right would be to amend the Constitution. Nonetheless, I recognize that it is likely that the US Supreme Court at some point will rule in favor of same-sex marriage, bypassing the Constitutional Amendment process. This would be a grave mistake because it undermines the authority of our Constitution, which is the bedrock of our society. The role of the Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution, not revise it.
Is there a historical argument for same-sex marriage?
Historically, gay marriage has been rejected by most nations, cultures, and world religions. Same-sex marriage has only been legal for about 380 years out of 6000 years of recorded human history. The first recorded gay marriages took place in the Roman Empire during the reign of Caesar Augustus (27 BC). In 342 AD, emperor Constantius II made same-sex marriage illegal.
From 342 until 2001, same-sex marriage was illegal in every nation in the world. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation in modern history to legalize gay marriage. Today there are only 11 nations that have legalized same-sex marriage: the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Argentina, Canada, and South Africa. In America, six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages: New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, and Iowa. 7
Is there a religious argument for same-sex marriage?
Nearly all of the world’s major world religions condemn homosexuality and gay marriage on moral grounds, including Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, Mormonism, and Judaism. Buddhism’s five main tenets are called the Five Precepts. The third one is “to refrain from committing sexual misconduct.”8 Many have debated if this includes homosexuality, but the Dalai Lama, for one, believes that it does.9 Hinduism is an open religious system without a central governing body, but in a 2004 survey, the majority of Hindu swamis opposed same-sex marriage.10 It is difficult, therefore, to make a historical or religious argument in favor of same-sex marriage.
Are there any biblical grounds for same-sex marriage?
Marriage is consistently portrayed in the Bible as an exclusive, conjugal union between one man and one woman. When Jesus was asked about marriage, he pointed back to God’s original plan for marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24). Jesus said in Matthew 19:5, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”11 Undeniably, Jesus was stating that marriage is a relationship reserved for a man and a woman.
You can disagree with the Bible’s stance against homosexuality, but you cannot make an honest argument in favor of homosexuality from the Bible. The Bible unequivocally condemns and forbids homosexuality, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Homosexuality first appears in the Bible in Genesis 19, when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God because of their corruption and immorality, including homosexuality. Jude 7 states emphatically that Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example of the kind of eternal punishment that awaits people who commit sexual immorality.
Homosexuality is certainly not the only sin or even the worst sin, but the Bible clearly calls it a moral offense against God. What other possible conclusion can be derived from 1 Corinthians 6:10-11? “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”12
God created men and women to enjoy sex inside the confines of a marriage relationship. Homosexuality violates God’s plan for mankind. That is the truth of God’s Word, not an antiquated puritan concept. Romans 1:24-28 should remove any doubt as to whether or not the Bible opposes homosexuality and gay marriage. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”13
Now, it is true that Jesus did not mention homosexuality specifically, but he routinely warned people to avoid sexual immorality. Homosexuality is described as an act of immorality every time it is mentioned in the Bible. So when Jesus spoke against sexual immorality, it is only logical to conclude that his listeners understood that homosexuality was included in his warnings.
Is it intolerance to oppose same-sex marriage?
Probably the biggest myth being propagated today is that opposing same-sex marriage is intolerance, bigotry, and discrimination. When did intolerance come to mean that you cannot publicly disagree with someone else’s views or lifestyle? That is not intolerance—that is freedom of speech, and it is still protected by the First Amendment.
Opposing gay marriage does not make me a bigot. A bigot is a person who is intolerant of other people’s beliefs, race or politics. Not only am I tolerant of homosexuals, I love them and value them as human beings, just as God does. Sadly, in America today, people who oppose gay marriage are being viciously attacked and maligned. Secularists are trying to force them to support a lifestyle that violates their moral conscience and religious beliefs. This is the real travesty of justice.
What should Christians’ attitude be toward homosexuals?
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus loves everyone and died for the sins of the whole world. Jesus loves gay people the same as He loves heterosexual people. Heterosexuals don’t get a free pass into heaven. Everyone gets to heaven the same way—through faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross and repentance of sin. The good news of the Gospel is that God’s grace is bigger and more powerful than our sin.
Let me be clear—there is absolutely no place for homophobia and bigotry in our society. I completely oppose and reject the homophobic attitudes that have been prevalent in the American church. That has done tremendous harm and damage. I deeply regret that gays have been mistreated in the name of Christ. Every person should be treated with love and dignity because every human life has intrinsic value. However, I still maintain the constitutional right to disagree with their lifestyle and publicly voice my disapproval, just as they have the right to disagree with me.
I believe we should love homosexuals, pray for them, share the Gospel with them, and treat them with dignity. They should not be treated as second class citizens. Mercy and I have always welcomed gays into our home and church, and tried to show them God’s unconditional love. Nonetheless, we must not confuse Jesus’ command to love everyone to mean that we must support or embrace unbiblical lifestyles. I can love homosexuals and disagree with gay marriage being legalized at the same time. These actions are not mutually exclusive.
In the 400 years since the pilgrims first landed on America’s shores, same-sex marriage has never been a civil or constitutional right protected by the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence, either explicitly or implicitly. Historically, the vast majority of nations, cultures, and world religions have rejected homosexuality and gay marriage. And they are strictly forbidden by the Bible. For these reasons and many more, I believe that same-sex marriage should not be legalized.
My sincere prayer for people who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is that they will embrace a biblical worldview and have the courage to take a loving but firm stand for biblical morality, regardless of the consequences. We should follow Jesus’ example of uncompromisingly speaking the truth, and yet at the same time, love everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or religious persuasion.
My hope is that Americans can learn to treat each other with dignity regardless of their differences, debate the important issues in a civil manner, and disagree with one another respectfully. I know many of you reading this article will vehemently disagree with me and the millions of people who do not approve of same-sex marriage. I honor your First Amendment right to voice your opinion and disagree with me, but the real question is this—do you honor mine?
Celebrating freedom of speech,
1 Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009. Online. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/civil+rights?s=t [8 September 2012].
2 National Archives. The US Constitution. Online. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html [8 September 2012].
3 National Archives. The Bill of Rights. Online.
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights.html [8 September 2012].
4 National Archives. Teaching With Documents: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Online. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/civil-rights-act/ [8 September 2012].
5 National Archives. The Constitution of the United States.
http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/article-v.html [8 September 2012].
6 Govtrack.us. H.R. 3396 (104th): Defense of Marriage Act.. Online. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/104/hr3396[8 September 2012].
7 Infoplease. The American Gay Rights Movement: A Timeline. Online. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0761909.html [8 September 2012].
8 Higgins, Winton. Buddhist Sexual Ethics. BuddhaNet Magazine. Online http://www.buddhanet.net/winton_s.htm. [10 September 2012].
9 Badpuppy Gay Today. Buddhists Agonize Over an Apparent Reversal of Non-Judgmental Attitudes; Apologists Say Leader’s Statement Applies to Heterosexuals As Well. http://badpuppy.com/gaytoday/garchive/events/051397ev.htm. [10 September 2012].
10 Hinduism Today Magazine. Discussions on Dharma.
http://web.archive.org/web/20110726045115/http://www.faithandthecity.org/issues/social/articles/Discussions_on_Dharma%20.shtml. [10 September 2012].
11 The Holy Bible. New International Version. Matthew 19:5. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
12 Ibid. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
13 Ibid. Romans 1:24-28.