Professor Carol Lawson
March 25, 2013
GAY MARRIAGE ISSUES
Gay Marriage is a controversial topic both in society and in churches in the United States today. Proponents for gay marriage believe that same sex couples are entitled to all the rights and benefits bestowed on traditional couples allowed by law and church to marry. Today, more states and churches are agreeing with this position and allowing civil unions between same gender couples; however, the federal government soon will decide important issues relating to this.
Usually, Bible verses are offered to argue against gay marriage, but that there are some verses in the Bible that do just the opposite and support it. One such verse is Ruth 1: 16-17 and often read at marriage ceremonies of heterosexual couples: “But Ruth said, do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!" (NRSV Bible, 1989). As Mary Tolbert makes clear in her article, “Same Gender Marriage and the Bible” (transcript published in the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, Pacific School of Religion, December 4, 2004), this passage emphasizes the intimacy, fidelity, commitment, and loving connection that should be present between partners in any marriage. These amazing words from the Book of Ruth embodying affection, faithfulness, and commitment until death are
from one woman to another woman. It is noteworthy to realize that this passage is quoted often at heterosexual weddings. I would submit that this passage could be offered to support same sex marriage.
Another beautiful passage from the Bible expounds on the love David and Jonathan had for one another. Their relationship contained the joining of two souls in love and in fact, the Bible states that “ the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:1 (NKJV, 1982). A mutual exchange of vows was made, a covenant, to be joined together in love. They believed they were made part of each other’s families by their commitment. I Samuel 20:17 and 20:42(NKJV, 1982). God validated the union of David and Jonathan according to David’s belief because David “prospered” and their covenant was made before the Lord. 1 Samuel 20:23(NKJV, 1982). It is clear that David and Jonathan lived their commitment openly and Saul did not like it. The relationship between David and Jonathan is one of the great stories of commitment and love in the Bible, and it is heralded as the first gay relationship between men in the Bible that supports gay marriage today.
Another relationship in the Bible that supports gay marriage is found in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 where Jesus is asked by a centurion in the Roman army to heal his sick servant, his “pais.” This word “pais” was used to refer to the younger partner in a gay relationship. The great loving concern Jesus showed in healing this servant was indicative of his lack of negative judgment of gay committed relationships.
Committed gay relationships were not the subject of criticism or any real comment in the early Church. All of the scripture used to criticize or condemn gay marriage relates, not to loving and committed partnerships, but instead to abusive or harmful practices between members of the same sex. Some of these are found in Genesis 19 and Jude 6-7, referring to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where inhospitality, not homosexuality was the sin. Also, of primary objection, was the idea that the citizens of Sodom wanted to rape and sexually abuse angels. (The Bible and Homosexual Practice by Robert Gagnon). Other passages used to condemn gay relationships and marriage are found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27 and I Corinthians 6:9 (NKJV, 1982). Practices being criticized in these passages relate to idolatry, worship of fertility goddesses, use of shrine prostitutes and abusive rape of younger males by older males (pederasty). Loving, committed relationships between same-sex partners are never condemned in the Bible. Clearly, these relationships existed and were accepted, although, during Biblical times, the main goal of the institution of marriage was not love and mutuality between men and women but it was to join families and produce male heirs, thus increasing the power of males. Rarely do we see these as primary goals in today’s marriages. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that this ancient view cited by opponents of gay marriage in Churches is, not only not supported by Biblical scholarship, but is as unreasonable as the idea of not having tattoos or putting divorced women into the street to starve.
Some Churches/Synagogues today that bless same sex unions or conduct marriage ceremonies are: the United Church of Christ, the Reformed Jewish Synagogue, Quaker, Metropolitan Community Church, Unitarian Universalist Church, some Episcopal Churches and some Lutheran Churches. Remaining opposed to same-sex unions or marriage are the Baptist Churches, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church. The laws in the states in which any of these affirming churches perform same gender ceremonies govern what type of authority they have to either marry or bless same-sex couples. The following states allow gay marriage: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, DC, Washington, Iowa. New Mexico, New Jersey and Rhode Island neither allow nor disallow and the remaining states do not allow gay marriage. Interesting developments are looming this week as our United States Supreme Court hears arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, a challenge to Proposition 8 in California. This is an argument, which will decide whether all Americans have the right to marry the one they love and whether this right can be denied based on sexual orientation. Also, Windsor v. United States will be argued. This is a case trying to overturn Section 3 of DOMA which denied many federal rights, protections and benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples such as social security benefits, tax benefits, FMLA leave, immigration rights and federal health coverage. This case encompasses concerns for children of these same gender married couples.
Young 5In conclusion, the majority of Americans now agree that same-sex couples should have the right to civil unions if not marriage and all benefits that male-female married people have. This is commonly reported in the News. Societal trends as well as Church’s acceptance levels show that it is time to give gay marriage full support. As stated above, the Bible supports gay marriage and those verses used to oppose it are interpreted by many Biblical scholars to not relate to loving, committed relationships between same gender couples, but rather to relate to abusive and irresponsible behavior of ancient times. As we move into this week where our Supreme Court will hear arguments working toward appropriate rights and recognition for all married couples, gay or straight, let our prayer and hope is that “justice will run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Amos 5:24 (NKJV, 1982).