Regarding Same-Sex Marriage
March 2013

by John Herring

This Essay Rated CT
Credit / Blame John
Essay # 0000002
Last Edited 2013-03-27

The arguments for prohibiting same-sex marriage often include the following. Such arguments are often offered by people who believe that homosexuality is wrong in the first place, so I’m going to deal with that first.

“Homosexuality is not natural.”

Sorry, but everything we do is natural, by definition. It is not possible to do anything that is unnatural.

Perhaps a better construction, from their point of view, would be:

“Homosexuality is not common.”

But it can hardly be called “uncommon” when it has been practiced in all societies, throughout history.

What they might really mean is:

“Homosexuality is not what the majority do.”

But the majority of people do not have heterosexual sex outdoors, in the rain, at midnight. Does this mean that it’s wrong to do so?

“But if homosexuality were natural, you’d see evidence of homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom as well.”

There is overwhelming evidence that animals engage in homosexual behavior, that it is entirely natural to them. See, for example . . . .

Lacking evidence from nature, many people resort to the Bible. (I use the King James Version for all Biblical quotations, fully aware of its scholarly shortcomings and numerous translation errors. I do so precisely because so many of those who object to homosexuality are also adamant that the KJV is the only inspired word of God, tolerating no questioning of its primacy, inerrancy, and perfection.)

“Homosexuality is proscribed by the Bible.”

Let’s see . . . yes, the Old Testament does forbid homosexuality. But it also forbids the eating of pork and shellfish.

In Leviticus 11 we read that certain foods are off limits . . . .

6 And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. 8 Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you. 9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. 10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: 11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.

And as far as homosexuality goes, the Old Testament seems fairly clear. Leviticus 18 says:

22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

And Leviticus 20 says:

13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

(Oddly, many people in the Western world condemn homosexuality based on this passage, but do NOT advocate the death sentence for homosexual behavior — clearly mandated in this same verse! It is telling that countries like the Sudan and Saudi Arabia allow the death sentence as punishment for homosexual activity, and others, like Malaysia, impose lengthy prison terms. I suggest that we don’t want to be like these Third World countries.)

But most people in the Christian church (where the most vociferous objections to homosexuality and same-sex marriage usually arise) believe today that it’s OK to ignore the prohibition on eating pork and shellfish, and the old law in general. This is usually justified using various New Testament passages, including the following.

Romans 7, for instance, says that the old law is no longer binding:

6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

In Romans 6, we read:

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

And in Galatians 5:

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

If this is true, why can’t we just ignore whatever Old Testament teachings we want?

“Homosexuality is also proscribed in the New Testament.”

Yes, Paul does condemn homosexuality (Jesus does not). But Paul also teaches that women must remain silent in church, and must not wear gold or pearls. Many self-described Christian women feel that these teachings are simply not relevant, and ignore them. If we can ignore these teachings of Paul’s, why can’t we ignore his teachings about homosexuality?

Paul said in Romans 1:

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Are we to regard Paul’s writings as being equal in importance to the teachings of Jesus, or equal in authority to Mosaic Law? If so, how can we ignore things like Paul’s injunction prohibiting women from speaking in church? Or his teaching that women should not wear gold or pearls?

1 Corinthians 14:

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

1 Timothy 2:

9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

As long as we’re just picking and choosing which Bible verses we’re going to abide by, and which ones we can ignore, why not ignore the teachings against homosexuality?

As to same-sex marriage itself, the objections often include the following.

“Same-sex couplings are unnatural because they cannot produce children.”

Neither can a heterosexual marriage of an impotent man, or a heterosexual marriage of an infertile woman. And marriages between heterosexual people where the woman is past childbearing age aren’t going to produce children, either. Should we prevent these kinds of people from marrying?

“Same-sex marriage undermines traditional, heterosexual marriage.”

How? In what way is heterosexual marriage harmed or weakened by allowing same-sex couples to marry? What aspects of heterosexual marriage will be made less effective or less important or less useful if same-sex couples can marry? If the practice of homosexual sex does not “undermine” the practice of heterosexual sex, how does the institutionalization of homosexual marriage undermine the institution of heterosexual marriage?

We might want to take a look at other countries, where same-sex marriage is legal. These countries include Spain, Denmark, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, and Sweden. Has the institution of marriage been undermined in these countries? If so, how? What quality of marriage has been measurably damaged in these societies?

One way to measure the health of the institution of marriage is by the divorce rate. By that standard, things already look bleak. If the divorce rate among heterosexual couples is already at 50% (and has been for years, even while homosexual marriages have not been allowed), how much worse off can the institution of marriage get by allowing homosexuals to marry? Do we really imagine that this statistic will somehow get worse if gays can marry? Is there some reason to suppose that homosexual marriages will end in divorce more frequently than heterosexual marriages do? Or that the fact of having allowed homosexuals to marry will somehow cause a further deterioration in the institution of heterosexual marriage?

Fortunately, there’s a simple way out of all this. It’s easy. Here it is: (1) Let’s put a stop to the state recognition of ANY kind of religious ceremony. The state takes no legal cognizance now of baptism, confirmation, ordination, last rites, bris, or bar mitzvah. So why recognize church-performed marriages legally? There’s an easy alternative. (2) Require all couples who want to have their marriage recognized by the state, and to enjoy the benefits of a state-sanctioned marriage, to obtain a civil union. Just get a blood test, pop down to the courthouse, sign a piece of paper, and speak a few words. Done. (All of this is already required anyway, to get a marriage license from the state, without which a religious marriage ceremony is without legal effect.) ONLY such civil unions would be recognized by the state, and ONLY such civil unions would have any legal effect. (Divorces, in order to have any legal effect, are already strictly civil proceedings, taking no account of whether the couple was married in a church or “merely” joined civilly.) (3) Couples who wish the blessings of a church on their union are also free, of course, to go through a religious ceremony of their choice. Couples who believe that only heterosexuals should be allowed to marry can go to a church that subscribes to this belief; couples who believe that any committed adults should be allowed to marry can go to a church that supports this belief. Everyone wins.

Some people who object to this scheme have been heard to say that there’s no reason they should have to get married twice. What they’re really arguing is that the religious ceremony of marriage is somehow privileged, and should be recognized by the state. (“It’s the way we’ve always done things, so it must be the right way to do things.”) But if we remove that state recognition from the religious ceremony, and require a civil union in order for a marriage to have legal effect, then they’re really only getting married once, as far as the state is concerned.

Many people who oppose same-sex marriage hide behind the smokescreen that the federal government must not be allowed to encroach upon the states’ rights to define things like marriage, or force states to recognize homosexual marriages performed in other states. Their real agenda, often, is to keep homosexuals on the defensive, even to stamp out homosexuality altogether, if possible. They claim that they’re not against gay people, or the right of adults to have homosexual relationships, but they secretly (some of them not so secretly) wish that all gay people would just go away. They cling to the states’ rights arguments so they won’t be called out for their bigotry against gays, in just the same way that many conservatives fought the repeal of miscegenation laws in the 1940s and 1950s, using similar arguments. Those people were convinced that it was morally wrong to allow blacks and whites to intermarry, and that individual states should be allowed to have laws to prevent such marriages. (There are plenty of people today, sad to say, who STILL believe that blacks and whites should not be allowed to intermarry. These people have no problems with a white cat mating with a black cat, or a gray tabby mating with an orange tabby — pairings that produce normal, healthy kittens. They apparently don’t see that so-called “mixed marriages” in humans also produce normal, healthy babies.) They knew they wouldn’t win by preaching their hatred and fear of black people, so they resorted to a tortured interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit clause (Article IV of the Constitution) instead.

The Full Faith and Credit clause reads:

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

This seems unambiguously to require states to recognize each other’s public acts and judicial proceedings (which can be understood to include things like marriage). But it’s the second sentence these people cling to, which, if read a certain way, seems to indicate that Congress can make such recognition null and void (this interpretation doesn’t even make sense within itself — if this were true, the two sentences of the clause would contradict each other). But the reverse is actually the case — the second sentence gives Congress the power to determine exactly HOW the validity of the acts and proceedings should be authenticated, and HOW they are to be implemented. HOW, not WHETHER.