Friday, March 17, 2006

The Case for Marriage: Exploding the Lies of the Religious Right

First off, let’s get one thing straight, if you’ll pardon the pun: there is a fundamental difference between the religious rites of matrimony and the legal right of marriage.

For one thing, the First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The language for this amendment was based in part on Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 “Act for Establishing Religious Freedom” in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which when read in tandem with Jefferson’s famous 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut shows the author’s firm belief that the Amendment builds “a wall of separation between Church and State.” The Supreme Court has upheld this principle in cases such as Lee v. Weisman.

Any suggestion that same-sex marriage ought to be illegal based upon religious objections would constitute a government endorsement of one particular view of marriage to the exclusion of other equally protected points of view, and represents a glaring breach of first amendment principles.

To prove that there is a clear distinction between civil marriage and holy matrimony, one need only look to the law as it applies (or rather, doesn’t) to two of America’s main religious traditions.

In conservative and Orthodox Judaism, divorce can only be granted by the husband (though he can be compelled by a rabbinical court). However, a Jewish woman wishing to dissolve her legal bond with her husband may do so in civil court, even without the consent and recognition of her family and religious community.

The Catholic Church does not allow remarriage for people who have been divorced, however there is no limit to the number of civil marriages and divorces a person can have that will be recognized by the government. Moreover, the government does not in any circumstance require that a marriage be solemnized by a religious official. The plain fact of the matter is, the government already recognizes marriages that are not approved by certain religious organizations. Extending the right of civil marriage to same sex couples changes nothing.

Lie #1: Gays Seek to Re-Define Marriage

The United Church of Christ’s resolution in support of gay marriage (yes, you read that correctly) begins, “Ideas about marriage have shifted and changed dramatically throughout human history,” and notes “the Gospel values of covenant do not come from the practices of marriage, which change and evolve throughout the history of the biblical story.”

Religious conservatives keep telling us that marriage is the basic foundational cornerstone of civilization that has remained unchanged for thousands of years, but this simply doesn’t bear up under historical scrutiny. President Bush has said he supports a “biblical view” of marriage, but the Bible says a man who rapes a single woman must marry her (Deuteronomy 22:28-30). Does he want to go on record supporting that?

In our own country in the last century, the legal understanding of the word “marriage” has changed radically. Courts have established that a married woman may possess property in her own name; courts have ruled that a woman can be raped by her husband; courts and legislatures have legalized “no-fault” divorces; and most notably, bans on interracial marriage were ruled unconstitutional. The religious and moral arguments raised against miscegenation were word for word the same as the arguments against same-sex marriage.

Not only has marriage not remained unchanged for millennia, it wouldn’t matter even if it were true: a court is never going to rule that historical discrimination justifies itself in the present day.

Lie #2: Marriage is Fundamentally about Children and Procreation

That may be true for many religious denominations, but it is irrelevant to civil marriage. Heterosexuals do not have to affirm their intent to procreate in order to obtain a civil marriage license, let alone provide proof of fertility. There is no legal barrier to women who are past childbearing age for getting married. It is also not illegal to be a single parent.

The conservative ideal for child-rearing is a stable, married couple consisting of the biological parents of the children. But how many heterosexuals achieve that ideal? They divorce at a rate of 43-50%. Being married and heterosexual is no guarantee of being a good parent: countless married, heterosexual parents have abused their biological children emotionally, sexually, physically and some have even murdered them.

Being gay doesn’t guarantee you’re a good parent, either, but then gay people don’t tend to have children by accident. Presently there are around 700,000 children in America either waiting to be adopted or in foster care. Conservatives who want to ban adoption by gay people (single or partnered) find themselves forced to argue that it’s better for children “to languish in state custody, or bounce from foster home to foster home, than be raised by gay parents who want them.” Family courts, even in conservative regions of America like Virginia and Indiana, haven’t bought that argument.

Conservatives also like to allege that homosexuals are more likely to abuse children who are in their care, despite a total lack of scientific evidence. But guess what? Convicted heterosexual sex offenders can legally marry and have their own biological children.

Lie #3: There is Religious Consensus that Homosexuality is Immoral

Last month the Supreme Court of New Jersey heard oral arguments over whether same-sex marriage is required by the state constitution. A Friend of the Court brief was filed on behalf of the seven plaintiff couples suing for the right to marry that was signed by over 150 clergymembers and representatives from diverse religious organizations.

The letter states, “A growing number of religious traditions and faith organizations support equal civil marriage rights and regularly perform religious marriages for same-sex couples.” It then goes on to list the Reform Jewish Movement, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalists, the Episcopal Church and the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) as examples of mainstream religions which recognize and solemnize same-sex marriages; further endorsements came from representatives of other traditions currently engaged in their own struggle to define the parameters of sacred matrimony, including the Lutheran, Catholic and Baptist churches, as well as Al-Fatiha, an Islamic foundation.

Right now, the Halakhic (law committee) of the American Conservative Jewish Movement is debating whether to allow same-sex marriages. What’s not on the table? Inter-faith marriages. That’s right: inside the conservative Jewish movement, there is wide support for two people of the same sex to have a religiously recognized marriage, as long as they’re both Jewish.

Lie #4: Same-Sex Marriage is Being Forced on People

Despite the sheer nonsense of the claim that marriage for heterosexuals would be affected in any way by the legalization of same-sex marriage, some conservatives are launching a Constitutional complaint that their right to the free exercise of their religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment is violated by government recognition of gay marriage. As has already been plainly illustrated, the law already allows marriages that are not recognized by some religious traditions. Furthermore, given that in fact many religious groups do support the full inclusion of gay people in civil marriage, the free exercise clause is actually enhanced by the expansion of this right.

Ultimately, as the Amici wrote in their New Jersey brief, “Different religious faiths will continue to come to various conclusions on the issue of religious marriage for same-sex couples, but this has no bearing on the issue of the right to civil marriage for these couples.”


Jade said...

Andy I love this post! I've been discussing gay marriage rights for years and have never managed to put together such a concise case.

The conservative ideal for child-rearing is a stable, married couple consisting of the biological parents of the children. But how many heterosexuals achieve that ideal?

I think the most frustrating thing for me is to know that there are loving, stable homosexual couples out there wanting to raise kids, and yet by some bizzare twist of logic people like my sister are given free license to breed.

As a side question to this, do you think lesbian couples have it a little easier in this regard? Because, should they want to, they at least have the option of getting pregnant to have kids. Not to say that going through artificial insemination and a pregnancy is easy, but it seems they have more options at their disposal than gay couples.

Mari said...

Amen, Brother!

Seriously this was really well put together and I can only hope and wish that someday soon, the courts and the people of the US will finally get it...

You're one of my new favorite Thingies :) (Thingie is Mari-speak for a webjournal or *shudder* blog)

Trickish Knave said...

I've never been opposed to gay marriage and I think they should be albe to get married. Why should hetero couples be the only ones who are miserable.

I don't think you should use the 'Some hetero couples can't raise children and are horrible parents so why can't we give it a try?' argument. It is a weak argument in my opinion, when someone promotes their case on the fact that Group A sucks at something so why can't Group B suck too or at least give it a try.

Andy said...

TK, you're missing the point. The conservative argument is that biological, heterosexual parents are by definition better. That is insupportable.

Jarred said...

Knave: I agree that "some heterosexual people are bad parents" is a lousy argument for saying that gay people should be parents. But bear in mind that Andy isn't offering arguments for homosexual parents -- or even homosexual marriage. He's pointing out why the arguments against it are lame. He's basically pointing out that as a whole, heterosexuals don't have a "moral high ground" for commenting on who would or wouldn't make good parents. That's a valid argument for saying why that particular argument against the issue is lame.

On the other hand, arguments for gay marriage would look completely different. Or at least I'd expect them too. For example, I'd expect arguments for same-sex marriage to focus on what the exact implications of entering into legally binding marriage contract implies and what benefits and responsibilities it infers. Unfortunately, these are things that too many people on both sides of the issue are mostly unaware of or at least rarely talk about.

Andy: Overall, you make your points well. Some things I would add:

1. The "definition of marriage" argument gets even more weak when you consider that post-industrial societies don't have a monopoly on marriages. If you consider the various forms that marriages take in pre-industrial societies -- most notably tribal cultures in various parts of the world (both past and present) -- you find that there are many more forms of marriage, including numerous forms of same-sex marriage. (For more examples of this, you might want to look for a used/library copy of an out of print book, "Blossom of Bone," which discusses gay male spirituality and views of gay men in various societies, cultures, and religions.)

2. As I mentioned to Knave, most of the arguments against same-sex marriages aren't only lies, but there smoke screens designed so that those involved in the debate can ignore the central issues. None of that matters. The bottom line is that allowing certain couples to marry while prohibiting others to do so creates a "priveleged class" of relationships where those relationships are offered numerous legal protections that are unavailable to the "unpriveleged" relationships.

kr pdx said...

As Andy knows, I agree overall that legal and religious marriage are two different creatures, and that the churches and the government, having different interests in them and different purposes regarding them, should properly be dissociated in their application. And I have though about the ramifications, a little. I suspect a good civic solution would be to have "civic partnerships" for those people (including things like spinster sisters) who need medical and inheritance rights and "civic unions" for people who need societal support for a family (for instance, tax advantages and medical coverage that would encourage one parent to stay home, or the two parents to share that duty by both working part-time ... those are pretty initial thoughts, but kids definitely need their parents, as well as their "village" ;) ).


I think this is specious: “the Gospel values of covenant do not come from the practices of marriage, which change and evolve throughout the history of the biblical story.”

Oh, holy crap, United Church of Christ. Hello, Adam and Eve and all the attendant "male and female" stuff (even, yes, the animals). And God continually bitching at all of the major OT males who had harems. And bizarrely rejecting the child Abraham had with not-his-covenant-wife. Just because WE (in OT days and right on until our present day divorce rate ("Moses gave you divorce because your hearts were too hard," to paraphrase Christ)) have continually bucked his rules doesn't mean the rules changed. The Judeo-Christian marriage "ideal" is pretty fundamental. I apologize if I get this part wrong, it might be extra-Gospels, but isn't there also a hella lot of NT language about God's relationship with his people/his church being "a marriage covenant"? (My Bible and Catechism are buried in furniture-moving detrius right now, sorry.)

I never put that all together before, in case you're wondering (Andy) why I didn't tell you in the last bunch of emails. That "covenant" thing tipped me off, though. A very active Catholic scholar right now on "covenant": Scott Hahn. The concept of "covenant" is incredibly deeply embedded in the OT and all of the major steps in the Judeo-Christian relationship with God, and also deeply intertwined with the concept of marriage.

#2: Yes, heterosexuals should take the planks out of their own eyes first, because how the heck else can we see anything? (Some Fundamentalist leaders (James Dobson is one) sometimes remember this, and have delivered blistering sermons on divorce and especially on abuse.)

I suspect that American civil marriage was originally about children (clear inheritance concerns then, now adding tax advantages, etc.) as well as about imposing religious morality on the civil system. Certainly Christian marriage was traditionally predicated on childbearing (or inheritances ... sigh ... did I mention we don't carry out biblical teachings so well?). (Abraham's wife Sarah is, by the way, sometimes cited as proof that even older couples need to marry "whole-heartedly." I'm not sure what I think about that, but certainly older marriage wasn't such an issue before Romantic Marriage and Modern Medicine--both since 1800-ish.)

#3: "other traditions currently engaged in their own struggle to define the parameters of sacred matrimony:" I don't know that this really describes the state of the Catholic Church so much, although certainly a great number of Catholics. Unlike other Christian denominations and to many people's great frustration, the Catholic Church is not democratic. We are in a struggle to _maintain_ the parameters, while acknowledging faulty past applications. Which doesn't negate your overall point about most mainstream denominations; and the Church, after a massive theological struggle, gave up trying to make America a Catholic nation about 100 years ago. (No, it did not give up defending justice within the secular structure, so don't jump on me about abortion. Being secular doesn't excuse us from arguments about justice and humanity. Obviously.)

However, this argument speaks not even vaguely to fundamentalists, who tend to believe their own particular congregation has the only true understanding of the Bible (so who cares what history or other denominations say)? People who claim homosexuality is moral would then be "not religious." So this isn't a "lie" per se, just a deeply believed untruth.

#4: Yes and no. Their legal argument is absolutely ridiculous, and as far as I can tell is a very unsuccessful extension of the concept of corporate or societal sin into the legal language of today. Societal sin, clearly seen in the OT (the sins of the people, not the individual moral standings, are what generally calls down God's wrath), is also found early in Christian teachings (I think Augustine is one of the first major writers on it). The concept that another person's "sins" affect you and me is illustratable non-religiously, though. I will argue it secularly here, so at least maybe you will stop screaming that Fundamentalists are being totally illogical. (You won't obviously agree with their conclusion, since you don't agree with their premises.)

Here restating the Christian concept of "a sin" to be "a less healthy life choice" (which is, as far as I have been able to develop, what sin more or less means, with a spiritual dimension with which our secular society is legitimately uncomfortable): any time one chooses to be less healthy (from my own life: giving in to an addiction, which makes me physically less healthy and usually more depressed), that choice affects not only them but the people who love them and the people who interact with them. And, like ripples from a pebble, those people, having been brought down a little, will bring down the folks they interact with as well (albeit to a smaller extent).

Now, if our entire society says, hey, that unhealthy choice is really pretty acceptable, then fewer folks like me will have impetus to stop (or, as in my case, support: noone takes sugar addiction seriously, but it is based on the same neurochemicals as alcohol addiction). The more people expect their particular unhealthy choice to be accepted, the more other people will open their lives to it instead of fighting to find other choices. There will be a whole lot more pebbles, and bigger ones, falling into our shared lake, and our society, the sum of our lives together, will be dragged down. Another, more controversial, example is pornography. I have yet to meet one person who can argue that pornography does any good, although many insist that it does "no harm," no matter how much I argue that objectifying people is inherently evil. (Oh, wait, there's LC's "virtue of profit"--LC, puh-LEEEEZ don't go there today.)

Now, obviously, I have chosen a particular example, addiction, that we can all see is damaging to self, family, and society, and a second that many but maybe not most Americans will agree is damaging. Homosexual activity is clearly NOT something that everyone here will consider damaging. I recognize that. I am trying to give background on why fundamentalist Christians make what seems to be such an outlandish claim, that what you do in your life affects them in their marriages/lives. IF homosexual activity is a sin/is a health-damaging choice, then they have a point. Obviously, they firmly believe it to be a Very Serious Sin Indeed, so their fighting tooth and nail against the legal acceptance of homosexual activity makes internal logical sense, given this additional logic that noone bothers to state, as if calling something "a sin" is persuasive in itself nowadays. (Actually, I doubt many have thought it out, since "A Sin!" seems often enough for them.)

Andy said...

KR, to my mind, everything you point to only underlines the importance and sanctity of covenant relationships; I'm not convinced you've necessarily thrown up any real reason why such a covenant cannot exist between two people of the same gender. Do you believe that God is at work in our lives and that to some extent he brings the people we fall in love with into our lives for a reason? Are your husband and children part of God's divine plan for you, or are they random accidents in a Darwinian universe? If not, why is it not possible that God could bless two people of the same gender He chose to bring together to serve his mysterious purpose?

kr pdx said...

well, everything except that #1 thing, maybe

several points as per my first long comment in the killer long string from last weekend:

I don't think that two people of the same gender can't have a long term love (or love+sex) relationship; that's observably ridiculous; I have tried to work out how to think about that in a Christian context and come up with 'For some reason which remains beyond my comprehension, God said that's not an option he would endorse.' God often does things that make no "sense" to us. Again, my Bible is AWOL at the moment, but I'm pretty sure Jesus confirms that--"not as the world sees does the Father in Heaven see" would be the big one. I use the term "mystery," because that is what my faith tradition calls things like that.

Why can't He bring two same-gender people together to serve His mysterious purpose? No reason, except that I believe the Bible is the primary source for understanding Him and as previously stated I cannot find this allowance in the Bible. Am I God? No. Can I be wrong? You betcha. Also previously stated, we are all learning. But this is my best reading at this point.

I acknowledge that homosexual couples can be as good of couples, in all the worldly-available ways of judging, than heterosexual, and that both sides, being human, will show a spectrum from very good to very bad, both as partners and potential parents.

Since lots of Americans aren't Christian and the Constitution does prohibit the federal government from imposing religion (which is I think a good choice), I do think the federal government can't legitimately use any of my Christian arguments, and I doubt they'll come up with secular ones. A secular government should work with "how the world sees," by definition, and I can't see anything "worldly" that should stand in your way.

A good discussion of why the government cares about marriage at all would be useful someday.

(And I do think God had a hand in bringing D and I together, and part of that is our kids, yes. Any further comment there seems highly tangential?)

Nick said...

Personally, I don't care if gays get married. However, NO church should be forced to marry them. Separation of Church and State, if the church doesn't believe in gay marriage, then they can refuse the couple.

There is one issue that needs to be resolved first. I recall reading last fall about 2 lesbian couples who had a daughter getting a divorce. When that happened, the mother, who had been impregnated by a sperm donor, tried to demand that the donor all of a sudden start paying child support. In no way should that man, who volunteered to be a donor so the couple could have a child, be forced to start paying child support just because the couple broke up. Resolve that issue the right way and gay marriage can exist for all I care.

Andy said...

Nick, that's one of the best reasons right there for legalizing same-sex marriage, and that is to standardize the rights and responsibilities of parents (biological or adoptive) nationally. Unscrupulous people can be found in all sexual orientations.

Recently there was a case where a lesbian adopted the biological child of her partner in a Vermont civil union. The relationship went bad, the biological mother sued for child support, and the adoptive mother fled to Virginia and claimed that since Virginia does not recognize civil unions that she had no obligation to the child. (Heartless, I know.) The court didn't buy it, as the adoption papers were still valid.

And that is another problem with these kinds of patchwork civil rights across the country: people will exploit the loopholes. Ohio passed legislation that barred the state from recognizing any relationship other than marriage. What's happening? Men accused of domestic violence are claiming in court that they can't be prosecuted for domestic violence because they weren't married to the women they beat, and charging them with domestic violence would violate the state law prohibiting recognition of any kind of relationship outside of marriage.

Robert Bayn said...

I support Civil Unions, in that Marriage for the most part has been a religious strong hold, and most religions beleive that homosexuality is a sin, so i say, that is fine, you guys have marriage, we have civil unions (as long as the same rights are involved).

The federal ban on gay marriage is actually rewriting the law, furthermore it takes away the rights to the state.

Gays can be just as good and bad with parenting as heterosexuals. The problem is you still have a percentage of people who beleive the religious right's hog wash that gays molest children, last i checked more little girls get molested by straight men than gay men do to little boys.

In the end we are America, land of the free, and the fact we even have to debate weather a group of people deserve the same rights as others, is almost insane.

Jade said...

Nick - I didn't see any suggestion that a church should be forced to marry gay couples. I think the whole point here is that civil unions don't need to be recognized by any church to be legal. As far as sperm donors go, the situation could be easily resolved by signing some sort of waiver releasing the donor of any child support obligations. A sperm donor prenup, of sorts.

Robert - The same rights are there for civil unions as they are for religious unions. In fact, from my point of view it seems everyone gets a sort of civil union anyway. When I got married our marriage license came from the state - the paper we signed at the ceremony was just a pretty document and holds no legal weight.

little-cicero said...

1) "Any suggestion that same-sex marriage ought to be illegal based upon religious objections..." I agree entirely, but the religious nature of marriage over so many years is important to consider in the context of a philosophical (not political) approach to this issue, as well as any consideration of compromise that may enter your mind.

2) Lie #1, I fear that you have misunderstood me on this issue. It is not the age old definition that has evolved universally for marriage that is being changed; it is the civil definition as specified in the State Constitutions. Whether it's right or wrong, we must be honest in our approach and agree that that definition IS being changed.

3)Lie #2: Right on brother, but I happen to believe that, even if same sex marriage is deemed legal, adoption priority should be set on heterosexual couples, for reasons having nothing to do with abuse.

4) Lie #3: Granted, there are "progressive" religious denominations that grant equal marriage rights to homosexuals, but that does not mean that it is not immoral. I love my fellow man as much if he is gay as if he is straight, but that does not mean I believe he is not immoral in his actions (assuming he is sexually active). Stealing is immoral, but those of us (Catholics) who steal are given equal communion and marriage rights to other Catholics. Any honest theological observer who actually gives validity to Leviticus would agree that God disapproves of homosexuality.

5) Lie #4, Right On Brother! I've never heard such nonsensical arguments from conservatives, but then I try to avoid irrational conservatives.

Andy said...

Well, as the last line of this post indicates, I fully recognize that there is never going to be complete theological agreement on this issue, but the thrust of this post is that the religious arguments leveled against same-sex marriage are emphatically not only not universally accepted by people of faith, they are absolutely irrelevant to the law.

Well, okay, sure, yes, we want the "legal" definition of marriage changed, but only so that it accurately reflects what marriage is. It's like the zebra analogy I used earlier: if the encyclopedia says a zebra is a large rainbow colored flying mammal related to the horse found in the jungles of Utah and Wyoming, we know that's not true. Changing what the encyclopedia says so that it accurately represents what a zebra really is is not even remotely the same thing as proposing fundamental changes to the zebra.

As for the theological significance of Leviticus, that's a subject for an upcoming post, so I'd like to defer response to that just now.

Jeff said...

I still don't understand why someone would think homosexuality is immoral. It causes no harm to anyone. Frankly, if God thinks homosexuality is immoral, He needs to get with the 21st century and realize that there are six billion people on this planet, and humanity isn't in danger of extinction through underbirth like He used to think it was.

Andy said...

Jeff, tell me that wasn't a serious comment. People think homosexuality is immoral because they think everyone is actually heterosexual, just some people choose to be gay because they enjoy the perversity of it. It also has to do with cultural attitudes, which change over time. The reason people think God thinks homosexuality is immoral is because the Bible says so, though these are people who fail to take into account the historical and cultural contexts of the passages to which they refer.

kr pdx said...

Robert: "In the end we are America, land of the free, and the fact we even have to debate weather a group of people deserve the same rights as others, is almost insane." Yep--and yet we still run polls asking if a woman can be President. I'm sorry, this is still a QUESTION? I thought Americans at least stopped believing women were inherently immoral like 100 years ago ...

Andy: "People think homosexuality is immoral because they think everyone is actually heterosexual, just some people choose to be gay because they enjoy the perversity of it."
Oh good grief. I think a lot of accepted sexual behavior is perverse, in the psychological sense which is whayyyy less judgemental than the popular sense (read "The Drama of the Gifted Child" by Alice Miller--hint, we are all gifted), but I don't think you choose to be gay for the perversity of it.

"It also has to do with cultural attitudes, which change over time."
I'm all with you there.

"The reason people think God thinks homosexuality is immoral is because the Bible says so, though these are people who fail to take into account the historical and cultural contexts of the passages to which they refer." "As for the theological significance of Leviticus, that's a subject for an upcoming post, so I'd like to defer response to that just now."
Ooo! I totally look forward to this one ... bring it on!

This is all such a personally difficult area to deal with, for everyone; I appreciate that you put up with me, because here I have folks who "agree" but haven't thought it through (grrr), or folks who won't argue with me.

Andy: "that's one of the best reasons right there for legalizing same-sex marriage, and that is to standardize the rights and responsibilities of parents (biological or adoptive) nationally." This standardization could easily happen without legalizing same-sex marriage (not that I think it will or should, per first statement in this string). You are definitely putting the cart before the horse here, because of your particular interest. Not to argue, just to point out the logical fallacy.

PS I thought Jeff's last comment was pretty hilarious ...

little-cicero said...

Aww, kr pdx didn't address me! Oh well, better that he participates without addressing me than not participate at all.

As far as the immorality of homosexuality, I base it mostly on the words of God, not on personal sensibilities, but have attempted to rationalize this immorality, objective though it may be.

Promiscuity, Masturbation, Polygamy, Adultery, Pre-Marital Sex, Homosexuality, these things are all considered "sexual sins" because they seek the pleasure of sex without concern for other consequencial aspects (procreation being the ultimate goal of sex as designed by God, as well as perhaps the sealing of a matrimonious relationship). Along with that, there very well may be an aspect of perversity to homosexuality, and the impurity of anal/oral sex altogether. By that analysis, a homosexual in Hollywood may be no more immoral in action than most of the other residents of Hollywood, but their actions are immoral nonetheless. That being said, we should not treat immoral actions differently- a promiscuous celebrity (if we are to condemn people for immorality) should be as much scrutinized for their actions as a homosexual. Of course I put no more stock into what I just said than you do, because I am simply speculating the reason behind God's objective moral code, but hopefully this is not a meaningless speculation.

Nick said...


As long as government stays out of the rights of churches on the marriage issue, and as long as the sticky issues, such as the one with the lesbian couple, is hashed out properly, then I have no real problem. I consider myself a conservative, but gay marriage, in my opinion, is not one of the major issues facing out country. I think the Religious Conservative should concentrate their efforts on partial birth abortion. Gay marriage doesn't kill an innocent human life.

And actually, contrary to the opinion of many conservatives, I think a good, loving gay couple should be given a priority in adoption procedings over a dead beat straight couple.

kr pdx said...

LC, you're doing better today, so I didn't need to :).

Misc, I am a "she" (gender and biological) but I'll assume that was a typo :).

"procreation being the ultimate goal of sex as designed by God, as well as perhaps the sealing of a matrimonious relationship"
If you go with the Bible as justifying your non-support of homosexuals, you might as well go with the "unity" being an inherent part of the Biblical marriage concept as well as procreation, right from the helpmeet stuff in Genesis. Again, you state things as "facts" that you should admit aren't proven or even agreed upon. Add "I here assume" or "if one assumes" to "'procreation being the ultimate goal of sex as designed by God" and your argument will be cleaner.

little-cicero said...

To the ongoing assumption that all that is immoral is subjected to others (or hurts others) you should note this verse from 1 Corinthians 6:18 : Flee from sexual immorality! "Every sin a person can commit is outside the body," but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.

This is New Testament mind you. I cannot at the moment rationalize this as I did the others because it is new to me, but it did seem that Jeff's understanding of sin was a bit too simple. If one believes in Objective Moral Values, to be immoral is not simply to hurt others, but to disobey the Creator.

Andy said...

Nick, First Amendment? The government can't compel a church to do anything. If it ever tried, the ACLU would be there on behalf of the church (or other religious organization) in half a heartbeat. The whole point of this is that there is that fundamental wall of separation; churches can't dictate federal law and vice versa.

Andy said...

Yes, but there's no legislation banning the promiscuity of celebrities, let alone the matrimony of celebrities. Are you proposing, LC, that we ban irresponsible behavior like Britney's infamous 55 hour Vegas marriage? Which was, by the way, COMPLETELY LEGAL?

I think a lot of people -- religious folks, as well -- would disagree that procreation is the "ultimate" point of sex; if that were so, we'd just rut in mechanical manner during the right season of the year like so many animal species. Even the Bible, if you look at Song of Songs, praises the sensual and erotic joys of physical intimacy and celebrates the beauty of the physical human body. (Also of interest is that several passages are written by Solomon from the woman's perspective...or at least, that's the assumption that's been made...) There is Biblical justification for saying sex is the ultimate physical expression of romantic love, quite apart from any procreative responsibilities. Again, your assertion that procreation is the point leaves infertile married heterosexual couples out of the equation. And as I said earlier, civil marriage does not require mixed-gender couples to affirm their intent to procreate. We have no law saying married couples must produce children. It's fine to debate the theological points of sex if you're having a theological discussion, but we're not, we're having a legal discussion pertinent to the United States of America, so one religious viewpoint cannot be legislated to the extent of crushing others.

As far as my personal beliefs about sex go, I think the best analogy is with fire: it's one of God's most precious gifts to mankind. It's not only life-sustaining (and by that I mean not only in a procreative way but in a kind of new-agey, spiritual mind-meld, emotional intimacy sort of way that can be very, very healing), but beautiful and fun...but also potentially VERY dangerous. Sex and fire must both be treated with respect and caution. But to say sex is only for procreation is the same as saying fire is only for burning garbage.

Andy said...

Jesus confirms that--"not as the world sees does the Father in Heaven see"

But given that much of the world "sees" that homosexuality is wrong, is it not also possible that that is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of God's will that surpasses human conception?

Jeff said...

Promiscuity, Masturbation, Polygamy, Adultery, Pre-Marital Sex, Homosexuality, these things are all considered "sexual sins" because they seek the pleasure of sex without concern for other consequencial aspects

I guess I just don't see a problem with pleasure for pleasure's sake. Yes, adultery is bad because it hurts someone else, and polygamy has its own host of social issues, but the other things aren't bad in my view.

Then again, I'm not religious. But I think someone can hold my views and still believe in a Creator.

"I still don't understand why someone would think homosexuality is immoral." "Jeff, tell me that wasn't a serious comment."

I should have said, "I don't understand why, after learning more about homosexuality than he or she previously knew, partly by hearing some gay people's stories about how they came to realize they were gay and eventually came to accept themselves as such, someone could continue to think homosexuality is immoral." Yeah, I cognitively understand it, because preconceptions are hard to break, but I still find it very frustrating.

Then again, the concept of morality is fraught with baggage. My sense of morality can be pretty much summed up as "Don't hurt others." Defining morality as "whatever God tells us it is" is just a non-starter for me, even though for some people it's the very definition of morality, a tautology. We're speaking completely different languages.

Andy said...

Oooh, Jeff, this last question requires not a blogpost but a few years in seminary to explain. I find immorality in those things -- specifically in "pleasure for pleasure's sake" -- because of the inherent selfishness of that assumption; actually, my guess is that as you study Parsifal, you'll begin to understand what I mean about how putting your own pleasure-seeking goals ahead of other things not only doesn't satisfy those hungers, it feeds them and constitutes an affront against charity and compassion.

If you'd really like to know why those things are immoral, I might suggest to you C.S. Lewis' book The Screwtape Letters. There you will begin to understand the way the human mind deceives itself into sinful thought beginning with the idea of, "It doesn't hurt anyone else, so..."

Jeff said...

I'm not saying pleasure should be put ahead of other things, I just don't think pleasure always has to have some additional goal other than pleasure itself.

kr said...

Andy: "But given that much of the world "sees" that homosexuality is wrong, is it not also possible that that is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of God's will that surpasses human conception?"
yep, absolutely. But if the Bible is supposed to be our primary source for finding God's revelations about himself (revelations being those things we won't learn--or won't learn soon enough--via natural observation), I don't see that. So I eagerly await previously mentioned forthcoming post ;).

Jeff: "the other things aren't bad in my view." Yep, without some religious "revelation" (per above), pretty hard (but not impossible, I think) to argue those are bad. (If they are "bad," my argument on social sin would apply ;). ) GooooOOO ANDY :)! (Pleasure for pleasure's sake is, to me, fundamentally narcissistic, and ignores the fundamental constant connection we should live as humans. But Andy's stuff is probably better.)

"why ... someone could continue to think homosexuality is immoral": I struggle with the competing understandings (if that makes you feel any better). 'S why I took up reading this blog finally.

"Defining morality as "whatever God tells us it is" is just a non-starter for me, even though for some people it's the very definition of morality, a tautology. We're speaking completely different languages." No, we're not--or at least, not that simply. We will note that my earlier deconstruction of "sin" into secular terms was "a less healthy choice." I'm already on board with you on the basic definition of immoral. But yes, if you can't speak to what I and many others perceive to be "mysterious revealed truths," then yes, your arguments won't be as effective. Again, I'm here because Andy (and others here) will take up that challenge, and do so intelligently.

Nick said...


The ACLU comming to the aid of a church's First Amendment rights would only begin to attone for: suing the U.S. government b/c our interragators "torture" war prisoners, suspected terrorists, by playing loud rap music (hell, I used to pay a $5 cover charge in college for that), defending NAMBLA's right to distribute material encouraging man-boy love and info. on how for a man to get a boy to trust him, suing state and local governments for publishing in public print the names of convicted child rapists and where they live, and suing Janet Reno for passing a ban on internet child porn.

Andy said...

Okay, that was a bit tangential, but let me just say we DO torture people and it's reprehensible, and here's why.

Andy said...

Oh, and furthermore, the ACLU regularly sues on behalf of religious people and religious organizations.

Anthony said...

Little Cicero, you've raised the point again: I happen to believe that [...] adoption priority should be set on heterosexual couples, for reasons having nothing to do with abuse.

Now that it is relevant to the post, would you please substantiate this belief. Saying abuse doesn't come into it is not enough to appease me.

Nick said...

Wow Andy, you gave me a link that produced articles where the ACLU sued AGAINST religious groups and causes. Regardless, the point of my comment was to say that I don't care if the ACLU would defend a church. They, more the most part, defend the rights of fringe groups that cause harm to America, the KKK, NAMBLA, child preditors, child pronography, etc.

Andy said...

Yeah, sometimes they sue religious groups, too, but not entirely. A close look at the cases they take on reveals their objectivity. Their principle focus is freedom of speech, and unfortunately some people lack the capacity to understand that supporting someone's right to say they think sex with children should be legal is not even remotely the same thing as endorsing the position, which the ACLU adamantly has not done. They have also, among other things, intervened on behalf of Rush Limbaugh on the assertion that the government illegally obtained evidence about his Oxy-Contin deals. Nick, I fear you haven't thought this through. Freedom of Speech applies to everyone, not just select groups who meet with your personal approval.

Nick said...

Andy, again, the ACLU's defending of Rush Limbaugh is not something I care about. There defending of organizations such as NAMBLA, whose publications have found to lead to the rape of young boys, advocating that child porn be displayed on the internet, and suing to keep the names of CONVICTED child rapists off of neighborhood watchlists is what tells me that the ACLU is a POS organization. Yes, the idea of an American Civil Liberties Union sounds great and is great in theory. However, the ACLU has become an organizations known for supporting scum of the earth, so forgive me for not accepting them as something good for our country.

little-cicero said...

Ha! I have unleashed the Cajun upon you!

I should have clarified that the question of immorality to me is impertinent in the legal discussion, but since you brought up morality, I thought it would at least be pertinent. No, I did not mean to say that we should legislate morality as a rule, but if religions do find it to be immoral as a rule, our perception of the religious nature of homosexuality should change accordingly.

Nick said...

The Cajun has been let out of his cage. All should fear, especially dumbass politicians and ACLU loving Leftists.

Nick said...

Oh, and I love to get drunk with Dick Cheney and torture hippies, so all hippies should live in fear.

little-cicero said...

I don't use "torture" in the traditional sense. I usually just give hippies a lecture on Objective Moral Values and Government and Man's Inherent Needs, then sing Danny Boy. Of course, if the McCain Amendment is passed, that will be considered torture, but as of now I'm free to do so.

Nick said...

Also Andy, I believe that speech that calls for violent crime, such as NAMBLA, should not be free speech. Do you believe that KKK members should be able to promote speech that calls for all blacks to be hung? Do you support the free speech of some lunatic preacher who calls for his church to go out and murder all gay people?

Free speech has a limit, and the ACLU has failed to recognize that in defending those who promote child rape.

Nick said...


Your singing of Danny Boy was torture for me, and I'm not a terrorist nor a hippie.

Time said...

Newbie jumping in. Just started my first blog today. Surfed to this site.

I believe the government should change its laws to accept and protect same sex marriage.

At the same TIME, once the government has done that; the government should not be able to force any church to perform such a service if that church finds such a union immoral.

This is only a civil process we are talking about.

Just after President Bush took office a reporter asked him if one of his goals was to try to overturn Roe/Wade? The Presidents response was "I don't think the American public is ready to accept
Roe/Wade being overturned, a majority of Americans still agree with Roe/Wade."

I believe this applies to same sex marriage. The public is not yet ready to accept same sex marriage.

Unfortunately, we have to take in to account the political realities. To change civil law, we need a majority. I don't see a majority to change marriage laws anytime soon.

What I can do is to continue to support candidates that support same sex marriage.

Would you all accept including other unions such as inter-family marriage (incest) to be protected also? Should the government inject any moral values on marriage?

At some point our government has to inject moral values into the law, or what would we have? And in this country it is the majority that will decide where that line is. We need to educate the majority to change the laws.

Andy said...

Couple of things: Nick, these are great points, but I worry we're wandering far from the present topic at hand. I, too, actually share the same concerns about free speech, but my question is, where do we draw the line? If we agree and legislate that you can't say gays should be murdered, etc., what's to stop any majority from passing legislation preventing a minority to share its thoughts?

Hi Time, and welcome! Hope you come back. Sorry to disagree with you right off the bat, but the question of whether a majority of Americans supports same-sex marriage is historically irrelevant, and this is the base for another post that's coming up sometime. The advancement of civil rights that we all now take for granted, such as interracial marriage and desegregated schools, etc., etc., etc., were ALL advanced by courts acting against intense public majority opposition. Far from being "activist judges," courts are constitutionally compelled to act to protect the rights of minorities when the legislature fails to do so. And, show me a single instance in American history where a voting majority gave rights to an oppressed minority? Ummm, that would be oxymoronic.

As far as approving incest goes, I think the answer is that there are legitimate public interests there (health concerns) that do not exist in the issue of same-sex marriage. People said interracial marriage would lead to incest, polygamy and the general collapse of civilization, but it hasn't happened.

It's not really the government's job to "inject morality" into anything. In order to make laws, the government needs to have a rational basis and/or compelling state interest; most things we hold to be moral, such as "murder is bad," are easily supportable in terms of state interest. But the Supreme Court ruled in 2003's Lawrence v. Texas that moral objection without rational basis or state interest is insufficient.

Time said...

Andy, thanks for your response. I have put a link on my new blog to your blog, ok?

You are smarter than I and really good at this debate thing. I hope to learn from you, so educate me.

The civil rights laws passed in the 1960's; were they not an example of the majority giving an oppressed minority rights that the majority had earlier denied them?

When the country voted for A. Lincoln; were they not expressing an evolution to get away from slavery, that it was wrong?

Lincoln never promised to end slavery when he was running for office, but he did say that he would oppose expansion of slavery to the new states.

This gave hope to the anti-slavery crowd that given the right situation he might back an end to slavery.

My point was that the majority's thinking has to evolve to change the laws.

I see no rational or health reasons to deny Mormans the right to have multiple wives.

When a judge says something is legal that the community feels is immoral; that's when we get a situation like Roe/Wade.

A legal fight that goes on for decades and divides the electorate. In the last 40 years abortion has been a deciding factor in almost all federal elections.

I see that as distracting from solving other issues in our country.

Andy said...

I'm really not that smart, as my regular readers will, I'm sure, happily attest. It's just that I work for a civil rights organization, so I am familiar with the arguments.

Thank you for the link!

were they not an example of the majority giving an oppressed minority rights that the majority had earlier denied them? Well, as far as the examples I gave that relate to marriage, no, those were all done by the courts.

Now, Congress did approve the voting rights bill of 1965 largely as a result of Lyndon Johnson's impassioned speech on its behalf. A lot of people credit this act with transforming the South from a Democratic stronghold to Republican bastion, because southern Democrats were so opposed to racial equality that they abandoned the party.

I can't really speak to what the country was thinking when they voted for Lincoln, I'm not as familiar with that part of American history as I ought to will require some research. But if anyone else can speak confidently about it, they're more than welcome.

Anyway, I'm certainly not saying a majority CAN'T support minority rights, just pointing out that historically it has been, shall we say, rare. It shouldn't be necessary to wait until public opinion has shifted over to being mostly pro-gay; gay people deserve their full recognition under the law NOW, not when Alabama is ready to give it to them.

Still, it's worth pointing out that public sentiment is shifting. I saw a poll on CNN yesterday following the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade fracas: 54% of respondents believe the organizers are wrong to exclude the LGBT community.

Time said...

Amen, to not waiting for the majority to "come around", to protect peoples rights.

I believe and I'm glad that public opinion is changing, just not fast enough for me.

It's sad that so many (blacks, gays, women, ect...) have had to suffer and die waiting for the majority to make up their minds.

Thank god for the courts.

kr said...

"I'm really not that smart"