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Making an effort to Navigate the Morass of Gay Marriage
I’m straight. I am a Christian. I believe that, in the eyes of God, it is impossible for a person to actually marry another person of the same gender. I further believe that the ultimate in reality is what God says to be real. Men may ordain this or that to be true, but what men say is not true just because they say so; what God says is true per se, and incontestably. These form the core of my personal beliefs.
Now in this country and others, there is an outcry for the government to solemnize same-sex marriages. In California last week, a Federal court in San Francisco concluded a trial to decide whether a voter-enacted amendment to California’s Constitution is invalid under the United States Constitution. A careful reading of the United States Constitution makes it clear that such a holding is impossible There is no equal protection clause for homosexual conduct. If you are of a minority race, you have protection. Therefore, if a black and white couple, of different genders, wish to marry, there is no lawful way to bar such a marriage. As an aside, God opposes barring interracial marriage; when Moses was widowed and married a black woman, his sister complained, God struck her with leprosy to punish her bigotry.
Does a man’s First Amendment freedom of religion grant him the right to marry his male lover? Only if that freedom of religion does not permit a pastor preaching that the Bible does not permit homosexuality to be charged with a “hate crime!” That has happened in Canada and Europe, and pastors have been fined and imprisoned for simply preaching the truth of Scripture. Now, I am not referring to that sickening place that pickets soldiers’ funerals with “God hates [epithet for gay people]” and declaring that the death of our heroic troops is Divine judgment for failing to adequately criminalize homosexuality.
We live in a Republic and not a theocracy. Do I therefore have the right to stand in judgment of those who do not believe as I do and force those people to live by my standards? The First Amendment would appear to say that I do not. Furthermore, the Bible definitely says that I do not in I Corinthians 5:10-12. I further believe that we should not amend the Constitution in order to codify a code of conduct intended for Christian believers onto non-believers. First, it won’t work. The “temperance” movement won prohibition by Constitutional amendment; it resulted in the rise of large-scale organized crime, which rose to serve the demand for alcohol. The repeal of the amendment did not kill that monster, which remains to this day.
Admittedly, an amendment that restricts the government’s ability to solemnize homosexual or plural marriages (the language of the amendment – one man and one woman – would also prohibit the recognition of polygamy) is different than an amendment that purported to outlaw a class of merchandise. There’s no black market to be had in marriages. However, a backlash would certainly ensue.
So homosexuals want to marry. But, they also want never to be criticized for their choice of lifestyle. They have pushed for the very hate-crime legislation that has resulted in other countries criminalizing the preaching of Christian tenets – banning free speech. Is it any wonder why we who are conservatives are reticent to act? It is not a good tactic to push to both enfranchise yourself and criminalize those who disagree with you.
Thus, Conservativity is in a quandary. Conservative principles would dictate that the government not constrain liberty by compelling the people to adhere to religious tenets not their own. I enjoy shellfish; my faith permits me to eat the same (Acts 11:7-9); being compelled by law instigated by orthodox Jews or Muslims to abstain would certainly offend my sense of American liberty. On the other hand, I know that the Bible is true by innumerable convincing proofs, and it states that homosexual conduct is forbidden by God.
Furthermore, the Scripture commands me to love my neighbor as myself – it’s the second half of the Greatest Commandment. It may seem loving – as in tough love – to compel people to act a certain way that superficially adheres to Scripture. However, isn’t that counterproductive? First, the forced parties might think themselves righteous by their forced deeds. Second, the forced parties might attribute to God the hurt caused by being forced to act according to beliefs they do not hold, and thus render them more resentful and hostile to Him. Such resentfulness might not only result in ongoing hostility to God, but if the winds of politics change and the forced people throw off the law in question and gain power, it might result in retaliation. Third, it may placate those who impose the forced behavior into thinking that they have acted sufficiently to advance God’s cause, when in reality they may have done the opposite. Finally, the fundamental question is whether it is loving to tell the people the truth while not acting to force them to behave according to my tenets, or to force them. The answer, upon a careful reading of Scripture, is clear.
There are further complications. Assume for argument that a “married” gay man comes to faith in Jesus Christ. What of his “spouse?” Can the pastor who advises him that the “marriage” is nothing in God’s eyes, advise him to adhere to the law and “divorce” the “spouse?” If he does so, does he incur civil liability for alienation of affection? What about criminal liability for a “hate crime?” What if one Evangelical Lutheran church will perform gay marriages but another will not? Does the latter incur the same civil and/or criminal liability? How about entire denominations that will not perform gay marriages? Will it be illegal in the United States of America to be Baptist or Catholic? This is why there exists a need to protect preaching from hate crime laws.
Now, however, what do we do? The electorate in California and other places has decisively spoken to bar marriage to homosexuals and polygamists. What if Oregon codifies the right? What if two women marry in Oregon and move to California and then divorce? Does California recognize the marriage from the other state according to the full faith and credit clause, and them host the divorce proceeding? Under what law – Oregon or California?
What about the children adopted into such a union, and custody rights? What if one “spouse” is a biological parent (the other won’t be unless there is some laboratory mischief)? Am I the only one who sees a legal and practical morass caused by the demands of homosexuals to marry?
The creation, however, of a legal and political morass does not constitute a valid moral reason to deny a civil right. Is marriage a civil right? Jefferson wrote of our unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our Declaration of independence. He also wrote that those rights are endowed by God. Clearly, marriage is a civil right. It’s even a fundamental right.
Here is my proposed solution. First, we allow gay people to marry with impunity as a national civil right. Enshrine it in the Constitution with a comprehensive amendment. However, the amendment must also enshrine the following: (i) No person may be charged with a crime for speaking openly about the tenets of his or her faith, even if those tenets run contrary to someone else’s civil rights; (ii) No person may be charged with a crime or a civil offense for proselytizing any person, or advising them on how to act in accordance with that church’s doctrines; (iii) No church may be forced to perform any ceremony that runs contrary to its doctrines, nor may it be held liable for damages for such a refusal; (iv) No church may be forced to hire or accept into membership someone whose practices run contrary to its doctrines, or prohibited from firing or ejecting from membership someone whose practices run contrary to its doctrines; (v) No church may be subjected to income or property taxes, nor may any “civil rights” test be used to condition the exemption; (vi) no church may be outlawed; (vii) Neither any unit of government nor any private employer that is not a church may discriminate against anyone because of his or her practices or beliefs.
This proposal has an outside shot at letting Christians and others speak the truth in love as well as giving those who hold different views freedom to live by those views.