Debate over gay marriage has become staple headline news. Recent endorsements for gay marriage from the Obama administration were followed by a same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent. A new Gallup poll shows a first-time slight majority support for gay marriage. Last week it was a refusal from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear arguments over the California ban on gay marriage and, locally, Lancaster Newspapers Inc. announced a policy change to begin running engagement announcements of same-sex couples.
I firmly believe that those who want gay marriage should be free to make a case for why they want the same rights that come with heterosexual marriage. Yet they should also respectfully acknowledge that (to accommodate their sexual preferences), they’re asking the majority of Americans for significant changes to the way things have been for centuries.
I am not suggesting that history trumps all arguments, but it’s no small matter to demand a change to the institution of marriage from the Creator’s design for male and female. A greater burden of defense is on those asking for such a change. They must make a case for why it is in the best interest of society to expand the definition of marriage (not just for 2-3 percent of society). And those making this request must not disrespect other voices at the table. Labeling opponents as hateful and homophobic is childish, manipulative behavior.
As I have tried to listen to the case for gay marriage, I’ve found some of the main arguments difficult to validate. I can neither rationally nor pastorally accept the notion that homosexuality is an unalterable condition of birth along the lines of race or gender. This argument is without scientific evidence, and contradicts the testimony of many who have left the homosexual lifestyle.
A better case can be made to treat sexuality of any kind in a context of choice. When resolving ethical and legal questions about expressions of sexuality, individual choice must be a primary consideration. A society that condemns some forms of sexual conduct as illegal must treat sexuality in general in a context of human choosing — not as a predetermined condition.
Even if one is physiologically inclined toward certain behaviors such impulses do not always justify behavior. The same is true of painful circumstances that lead to moral choices. One might rightly feel compassion toward an adulterous woman who complained that her adultery (i.e., her wrongful heterosexual behavior) was because of her distant and uncaring husband. Yet compassion for her difficult marriage doesn’t demand validation of her act of adultery.
What should be said to those who (on principle) left a homosexual lifestyle? If these individuals have chosen to see their former way of life as wrong and immoral (as many have), how should they articulate their choice? Should society respect their decision? Are they free to oppose homosexual behavior?
If being gay is an unalterable condition of birth equal with race or gender, opposition will not be permitted. But there is simply no conclusive evidence that supports this comparison.
Further, many citizens do not believe that anti-discrimination laws should be used to assign special status to homosexual conduct. The push on the part of activists to widen laws and ordinances to include their sexual orientation is perceived as an effort to force a lifestyle of a few on everyone.
Consenting adults are free to live in homosexual relationships in this nation. Although I oppose homosexual relationships both morally and as a pastor, it’s not my place to force that opinion on those who choose them. I have no interest in imposing a Christian worldview on the state. In a pluralistic nation, differences must be respected within lawful boundaries. As a citizen, however, I am committed to pursuing what is best for society as a whole, and engaging in robust discourse about it.
Yet I strongly oppose acts of hate toward people for choosing a gay lifestyle. Existing laws for restraining and punishing such wrongful treatment are sufficient to protect those who exercise their lawful freedom to practice same-sex behavior. If we worked harder to promote the true virtue of tolerance, we would see less hate from both sides.
If the state chooses to give gay couples the same benefits and rights of marriage as heterosexuals, how would it protect the freedoms of those who morally oppose homosexuality? If the state exalts the sexual choices of those who want gay marriage to civil-rights status (comparable to race and gender), it will open a social and legal Pandora’s box. Citizens will not be permitted to morally oppose homosexual behavior without risking accusations of discrimination and racism.
Teaching people to treat each other with respect is a much better alternative to forced affirmation of the sexual preferences of a few.
Steve Cornell is senior pastor of Millersville Bible Church. He is also a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excellent points from Rod Dreher:
“There is zero chance that anything that reflects negatively on gay culture or the gay experience will be aired in the mainstream news media. Ten years ago, at the height of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, a liberal journalist friend and I were talking about what people would not allow themselves to think or to say about the scandal’s roots. I told him that among the Catholic right, it was impermissible to say that the culture of celibacy might have something to do with it. He told me that among liberal Catholics, it was not permitted to talk about the role of gay male cliques in the priesthood in perpetuating the scandal. Of course we both knew that in the mainstream media, it was common — and, let me say, appropriate — to critically examine the institution of celibacy, and how it may or may not have helped to create a culture of sex and secrecy. But among the media, you were not to discuss homosexuality in relation to the scandal, except to point out that it had nothing at all to do with the molestation, and those who said that it did were just outright bigots.”
“As I have repeatedly contended here, gay marriage may be a radical innovation, but it is the logical next — and final — step in the sexual revolution. Society would not be prepared to accept SSM so readily if the groundwork hadn’t been laid by 50 years of redefining the meaning of marriage.”
“Let us not fail to understand, though, that by changing the law to reflect that there is no meaningful difference between same-sex marital pairings (and, in turn, parenting) and the standard, which is rooted in biology, theology, and long historical experience, is a very big deal. If marriage can mean anything, it means nothing. This, I believe, is the reality we will all be living with for generations, because we have been slip-sliding there for at least two generations already.”