An Argument that Christians Ought Not Make Against Same-Sex Marriage

Given recent cases before the United States Supreme Court (USSC), I have experienced a resurgence of arguments from well meaning Christians who reason that same-sex marriage is ridiculous because we do not allow (at least not legally) sex with minors or sex with animals. I understand why some Christians make this parallel. They start with the presupposition that each of these types of behaviors (homosexuality, statutory rape and bestiality) are wrong / immoral and that, as such, our legal system ought not recognize any of them as valid, much less grant legal status to any of them.

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This argument suffers from several problems and is little more than a confusion on the issues being considered by the USSC. For starters, the Court is not talking about sex at all. It is talking about the constitutionality of bans against same-sex marriage. Yes, we may accurately presume that sex is part of marriage, but that issue is completely secondary to the legal status of marriage itself. In most states there is nothing illegal about sex between consenting adults, be they heterosexual or homosexual, and this is not what the USSC is talking about in the least. This also highlights the hurt and offensive nature of painting homosexuals with the same brush as rapists and those who purposefully abuse animals.

To put statutory rape and bestiality issues on the same page as current discussions on same-sex marriage would require that sex with minors and sex with animals were made legal for some people but not others. Nobody is arguing for this. Sex with animals and minors is illegal for everyone in all times and all places. This is not an issue of equality because no one is granted special rights and privileges to engage in these types of behavior while others cannot. Unfortunately, this is not the case with marriage. Presently, states are allowed to declare marriage acceptable for some consenting, monogamous adults while simultaneously denying it to others. THIS is an issue of equality (violated) and thus has nothing in common with laws against statutory rape and bestiality.

So please, as a person who is passionate about his faith in Jesus and who deeply values equality and mutual respect among people who may have irreconcilable beliefs and doctrines, I beg my fellow Christians to stop making this hurtful and plainly ignorant argument against same-sex marriage. I recognize that we live in a representative democracy which entails the right to free speech, and I would not revoke that privilege from anyone, but this is simply an argument that Christians ought not make for the sake of their own credibility. Not only does it fail to connect with the issues; it also fails to promote genuine dialog between heterosexual Christians and just about everybody else. If we really think that people will care about our all-loving Jesus when we start by claiming they’re just like rapists and abusers of animals, then God have mercy on us (because no one else will).

Thanks for reading me,

-CL

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About C_Lambeth

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's of Science and from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) with a Master's of Divinity. In addition to knowing Christ and helping others know him, I am passionate about peace, the environment, Christian feminism, justice for all (not just the wealthy) and being a lifelong learner. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts here or to suggest new posts altogether. Thank you for reading me! -CL
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16 Responses to An Argument that Christians Ought Not Make Against Same-Sex Marriage

  1. Hello again Corbin. I hope you are well. I agree with you about the kind of argument many people bring who oppose redefining marriage. I will also point out that people on the other side of the debate can be just as silly in their own logic. Many people often leave only two options: agree with redefining marriage, or consider yourself a hate-filled bigot. There are well-informed, rational people of sound mind who do not hate anyone, who also believe redefining marriage is a serious issue.

    I believe redefining marriage is one more step further down the road in the direction America took with no-fault divorce laws. That is, redefining marriage is not good for society because, on a national scale, it makes children more vulnerable. I realize you won’t take me at my word on this, and the claim deserves support. Like most other social political situations, it can be a complex argument. Therefore, for those interested in a scholarly, reputable argument, based on social political science (and not religion) I recommend the following brief book (about 100 pages): “What is Marriage: Man and Woman: A Defense

    The state has an interest in strong, exclusive and permanent marriages because children are created from them — and all the best social political science demonstrates children develop exceptionally better in every educational and social category when they have both biological parents raising them. Not every couple has children, but every child has a biological mother and father. To support redefining marriage makes it easy for men to become absentee fathers. It is to the state’s, and all of society’s benefit to have a system in place that encourages and guards the rights of all children to be united to their biological parents. This system is called marriage — and nothing can replace it. Redefining this institution as nothing more than an intense romantic relationship removes incentive for permanency and exclusivity – and this is not only bad for people who would benefit from learning relational virtues of commitment, but it would be bad for any child, biological or adopted who suffers under family disunity. I’m sure you will agree Corbin, that marriage is more than an intense romantic relationship between two people. It is not a hyper-friendship, but something different altogether – in kind and not degree, (i.e. my friend can have more intense pathos for me than his spouse, but this doesn’t mean our relationship could be a marriage).

    • C_L says:

      Russell,
      Thank you for your comments. Your particular perspective, criticism and Christian tradition are always welcome here.

      You are right to point out that hate and bigotry can flow both ways, and that those who advocate for heterosexual marriage only are often insulted and mocked merely for expressing themselves. This should not be, and it only creates division, not changed minds.

      However, I take issue with the implication that attempts to grant marriage equality to same-sex couples is merely an attempt to define marriage “as nothing more than an intense romantic relationship.” I don’t know of any same-sex marriage supporters who define it that way. While there are probably some people somewhere who do, this is largely a caricature and thus inapplicable. But before I get too far down this road, it must be pointed out that, like sex, the subject of raising children is somewhat secondary to the issue of marriage equality before the courts at the moment. As you pointed out, many spouses (heterosexual or otherwise) choose not to have children, and this simply cannot be the grounds for access to marriage rights across the board.

      I understand your feeling that children are best raised with both parents, male and female, and presumably in a committed, monogamous marriage. There is little doubt that this model can be good and even be “best” in a variety of contexts with a variety of people. There is also little doubt that this is the model of marriage advocated by the New Testament (even if not the Old Testament), and indeed it is the one I strive for myself. That being said, it seems that your argument focuses more on the quality of parents involved rather than their respective genders or sexual orientation, for merely having heterosexual parents has never been a guaranty of quality parental care. In fact, there is undeniable evidence that untold numbers of children suffer and are abused in homes that have heterosexual parents, and I don’t think anyone disputes this. Similarly, there is evidence of healthy and well-adjusted children who come from same-sex parental situations. Clearly there must be more in play than just the sexual orientation of marriage partners that determines the rearing of healthy and well-adjusted children, and I must maintain that this be assessed on a case by case basis that includes character qualities well beyond sexual attraction. It is simply as unfitting to declare that all homosexual parents are “bad” as it is to say that all heterosexual parents are “good.”

      It must also be asked how a homosexual marriage receives its children in the first place. We don’t generally need a biology lesson on the need for sexual reproduction of some sort to produce children. Married gay men can’t do this at all, so they must adopt if they are to have children. Even if we assume that homosexual marriage partners are inherently inferior parents when compared to their heterosexual counterparts (a position that I challenge and am uncomfortable making broad, sweeping generalizations about), are we really suggesting that children are better off not being adopted at all than being adopted by homosexual parents? Would we rather children never be accepted into any kind of family than to let them be raised by homosexuals? It is difficult for me to even type such a question without somehow feeling tainted by its distastefulness.

      For these reasons and others, I must confess that I have trouble with the protest you have raised. It seems to me that the best argument that the U.S. Supreme Court can make against same-sex marriage is not on the grounds of sexual contact, raising children or the offense it causes to many religious folks. Each of these three arguments either fail to understand the issue, are completely secondary, inconclusive or simply unconstitutional to begin with. Rather, the best argument the USSC can enlist to maintain the present, heterogeneous definition of marriage is to rely on the well-established rationale of precedent. Court cases often hinge on what previous courts have decided and, failing to have applicable, prior judicial rulings to reference, an equally well-established pattern is to allow the status quo to remain in place. Even if we rightly acknowledge that marriage has never been a uniquely Christian (or Jewish or Islamic, etc.) practice, its history has nevertheless always been defined as a unique contractual arrangement of sorts between members of the opposite sex, and this has been true even if we make allowances for the archaic practice of polygamy. On this firmly established precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court may simply be unwilling to challenge a tradition that is as old as human civilization itself. The question before the court then becomes: “Is defining marriage as only between a man and a woman one of those upstream, universal truths that our legal code merely gives expression to, or is it a subjective arrangement downstream from the establishment of our unique location in time and space?

      Maybe there is more than one way to answer this question, each of which are equally right pending the perspective of those who express them. Either way, there are serious consequences and implications. In the meantime, I remain thankful that no one is trying to define my marriage for me. If the tables were turned, I can only hope that others would not deny me this.

      Sincerely,
      -Corbin

  2. Catherine Lambeth says:

    Okay, I can understand what you’re saying. Can and shouldn’t you add whether you think God approves same-sex “marriages?”

    • C_L says:

      Can” I say what I think God approves? Of course I am able to express my opinion on the issue, but it must be pointed out that humans aren’t very reliable in their attempts to speak for God or say what he does and does not approve. The better question perhaps is, “Should I express my opinion on God’s approval (or disapproval) of same-sex marriage?”

      I don’t know; maybe I should. But then again maybe I shouldn’t. Does the world really need another Christian spitting out a list of what is sinful and saintly? Is that really our best message to the world? Lists, pronouncements and judgments? I tend to think the answer is “no,” at least not amongst friends and acquaintances who aren’t church geeks and Jesus freaks. As Paul says in 1Corinthians 5.12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?

      I’m pretty sure people outside our church communities aren’t looking for Christians to come and tell them what they ought and ought-not be doing. Regrettably, we have conditioned folks to expect this from us, but our mission should reflect Jesus’ message (that the kingdom of heaven has come near/ is in our midst). Stated another way, Jesus didn’t come to indoctrinate people with rules on how to avoid hell down the road; he came to express unfailing love so that people might choose to be part of what God is doing right here and now. Until we get that message right, our pronouncements on sin and holiness are irrelevant and can even make it more difficult for people to see who Jesus really is. Or so it seems to me.

  3. Catherine Lambeth says:

    Well, then, can you read or at least tell others where to find it in the Bible that it discusses “lovers of one’s own kind,” what happened at Sodom (sp?) and Gomorrah (sp?) and the result?

    • C_L says:

      I thought we were talking about same-sex marriage.

    • Catherine Lambeth says:

      Well, then, can you read or at least tell others where to find it in the Bible that it discusses “lovers of one’s own kind,” what happened at Sodom (sp?) and Gomorrah (sp?) and the result?

      • C_L says:

        1. Sodom and Gomorrah has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

        2. Non Christians don’t need people to quote Bible verses at them.

  4. Pryor says:

    Irony. You don’t support polygamy or incest. You cannot support gay marriage without being a hypocrite.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Your argument fails, Pryor. Nobody has the right to be polygamous or engage in incest, so those aren’t issues of equality (allowed for some, but not others). It is not hypocritical to be for equal rights to marry among mutually consenting, monogamous adults and to be against polygamy and incest.

  5. Pryor says:

    How does my argument fail? Nobody has a right to gay marriage either. Why is comparing the right for a polygamous couple to get married to the right of a homosexual couple to get married so offensive to the latter? Disguised bigotry is what it sounds like. I would ask that you be more honest in your response.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Your argument fails because you are confusing advocacy for marriage equality among same-sex couples with polygamy and incest. Contra your assertion, advocating for such marriage equality is neither “irony” nor “hypocritical.” Honest.

      PS: The majority of states have ruled against your claim: Most of the nation does indeed have the right to be in a same-sex marriage if they so choose, and I am guessing that it is only a matter of time before the U.S. supreme court rules that bans against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

  6. Pryor says:

    It doesn’t fail at all. What is it about incest and polygamy that you object to? Marriage equality should apply to homosexual couples but not polygamous couples? You cannot support homosexual marriage without supporting marriage equality.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Pryor,
      Trying to read between the lines, it seems that what you are essentially arguing is that a certain class of individuals (heterosexuals in this case) should be allowed to enter into an arrangement where two, committed, mutually consenting, monogamous adults representing that class form a marriage but nobody else. For as soon as it comes to homosexuals, you would deny them the right to enter into the same type of arrangement among mutually consenting, monogamous adults. THIS is bigotry.

      Arguing for special rights that discriminate against a certain class, and against equal rights for those created with a different sexual orientation clearly falls within the purview of the “equal protection under the law” language of the U.S. Constitution. Bans on same-sex marriage are simply not constitutional, and this is precisely why the majority of states and federal courts have sided with those for marriage equality.

      Furthermore, polygamy and incest are not sexual orientations, and hence, not a class similar to same or alternate-sex attraction. And yet, somehow, you have convinced yourself that folks who advocate for equal rights are the “bigots,” and “hypocrites,” etc. That, my friend, is the only “irony” here.

      • Pryor says:

        Calling me a bigot, eh? How original. You are unbelievably ignorant and arrogant. I don’t know how many times I have to say it before you’ll finally get it but I’ll try one more time.

        If you support marriage equality and think that the gays should have that right, but not polygamists, pedophiles and bestiality sexual “preferences,” then you are a hypocrite and not *really* in favor of equality. You can’t have it both ways, you know. The logic is undeniable. I didn’t think you would be so in favor of special rights that are denied to others. YOU ARE THE BIGOT.

        • C_Lambeth says:

          Facepalm. You seem to be the one interested in polygamy and incest here, not me. If you want to assert that marriage should not be limited to committed, mutually consenting, monogamous adults, then that is your argument to make, but I don’t think it will help your agenda. In fact, I suspect your infatuation with incest and polygamy is merely a trope that you’ve been led to believe is a valid argument against same-sex marriage, and you don’t really support either of them. Then again, maybe I’m giving you too much credit, but I get the feeling we’re about to find out.

          As for your latest entry, I wouldn’t normally allow it to be published because it’s in violation of the rules for comments. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to let it play just for the fun I’m about to have at your expense.

          I have already explained that the issue is about attaining equal marriage-rights for committed, monogamous, mutually consenting adults created as either heterosexuals or homosexuals, and NOT about legalizing anything that is presently illegal for everyone (like incest). You are trying to force an apples to apples comparison into an apples to festering cottage-cheese diaper comparison, and if you are too stupid to tell the difference, then that’s your problem, not mine.

          Be that as it may, I am going to suspend further criticism of your inane comparison and pretend that I agree with the premise of your argument. So, let’s make believe that being for marriage equality requires (as you assert) that a person must advocate for any type of marriage arrangement at all, including incest, polygamy, bestiality, necrophilia, whatever. Anything goes, and if a person draws a line anywhere, then he or she is clearly an ignorant, arrogant, hypocritical bigot.

          That’s fine as far as it goes, and this brings us back to your initial entry and assertion addressed to me in this thread: “You don’t support polygamy or incest. [Therefore] You cannot support gay marriage without being a hypocrite.

          But, this begs the question: “Do you, Pryor, support incest and polygamy, or just straight marriage?”

          If you are only in support of monogamous, straight marriage then you will have fallen victim to your own argument and revealed yourself to be the bigot. If you are truly pro marriage equality (as you have defined it for us), then you simply cannot support heterosexual marriage without supporting incest, polygamy and… and… wait for it… homosexual marriage as well. Unless, that is, you are a hypocrite.

          You cannot have it both ways, you know. The logic is undeniable.

          So… tell us, Pryor, do you support same-sex marriage as much as you support monogamous, heterosexual marriage? Or are you the ignorant, arrogant, hypocritical bigot here?

          Looking forward to your reply (if you have the guts).
          -CL

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