Things to think about as you prepare to vote on gay marriage

Next week, voters in four states (Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington) will vote on whether civil marriage should be made available to same-sex couples. Here is some material to reflect on as you prepare to cast your vote. Whether you are concerned with the arguments from the bible, philosophy, religious liberty, or compassion, there is something here for you to think about.

Biblical arguments:

Matthew Vines, a student on leave from Harvard, has done a comprehensive study of the relevant passages from the Christian bible. If what the bible says about homosexuality is important to your thinking on this issue, please take the time to watch this video (about an hour long) or read the transcript.

Philosophical arguments:

In this ten-minute video, John Corvino addresses some common non-biblical arguments about the morality of homosexuality, including some arguments from natural law, on which a good part of Catholic moral theology is primarily based:

His style is irreverent, which is entertaining to some but may be offensive to others; but even if you are offended, please consider watching the entire thing. (Sorry, I don’t have a transcript for this one.)

Religious liberty arguments:

If religious liberty is important to you, consider that a number of Christian and Jewish denominations celebrate same-sex marriages, but their clergy are, by civil law, unable to treat these couples in exactly the same way as heterosexual couples, whose religious marriage ceremonies are also recognized as civil marriage ceremonies. In this letter, a Lutheran bishop from Minnesota engages with his Roman Catholic brother bishop on the subject.

Anti-bullying arguments:

These arguments pertain more to attitudes towards gay and lesbian people in general, than to samesex marriage specifically. I know that not everyone who opposes samesex marriage is motivated by hatred of gay and lesbian persons. However, I believe that when a class of persons is treated by civil law as second-class citizens, this tends to, at best, give cover to, and at worst, support such hatred. The following links illustrate the grave harm that is perpetrated by such hateful words and actions:

– a tweet counter counts up the use of homophobic slurs

– a blogger interviews her younger brother about the level of bullying around perceived homosexuality in his middle school. Please, if you click through on nothing else on this page, click through on this one.

Often, the discussions about samesex marriage get stuck in the abstract, in metaphysics and principles. We aren’t voting on a principle or a theory. We’re voting on whether real people, who are in real, loving, committed relationships, will be allowed to have the same legal and economic advantages that millions of other people who are in loving committed relationships already have.

These real people are our neighbors.

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12 Responses to Things to think about as you prepare to vote on gay marriage

  1. Chris says:

    These real people are our neighbors, and we are indeed to love them, in real ways, as Christ taught us. But since we are being real, let’s ask – is it really sin?

    Remember that we don’t make the rules, and we don’t decide what is right in God’s eyes.

    • Is it really sin? The links I posted address that question from a variety of perspectives.

      Why, and how, does it matter if it’s really sin? There is plenty of law in this country that confers benefits on people even though they sin.

      ….actually, that would be every single benefit that is conferred by law. But sticking to marriage, consider the case of divorced and remarried couples. Many people believe that such behavior is really sin. Nevertheless, we don’t deny the benefits of civil marriage to those couples. Is it just, then, to deny them to samesex couples?

      • Chris says:

        I think the only question which matters is “Is it sin?”. If it is not, then this is a totally different discussion. If it is, then what will God say of our condoning it?

        I sin (regularly), but I don’t want laws to be put in place to enable me.

        • Mark S. says:

          No, the real question for you is this: Do you want to live in a place where the government decides what is a sin?

          I’m not asking you to condone gay marriage. I’m asking you to refrain from using the power of the government to impose your religious views. My religious view is that gay marriage is not just acceptable, but also laudable. If you want to ban gay marriage because God says so, how is that different from a Muslim asking the government to force *you* to live by the rules of Sharia?

          Here is how we pretend that freedom of religion works in the US: We all agree to have freedom of religion, and we refrain from asking the government to impose our religion on others. In real life, it is not so clear cut (we have lots of laws based on religious beliefs), but isn’t it a laudable goal?

          b.t.w. According to the Christian bible, the sin is not for homosexuals to marry. The sin is for them to have sex, and I assure you that they do that anyway, whether you condone it or not, whether they are married or not. The current ballot measures are really just about whether the government should make their lives more unpleasant and difficult.

          • Chris says:

            Ah I see! – you’re asking me to refrain from using the power of the government to impose my religious views. Yet you yourself are using the same power of government to impose your own religious views! (you admitted them above, see “laudable”). It is the exact same thing, just that we have opposite “religious” views…

            And I don’t have a problem with that – this is a democracy – you vote your way, I vote mine. If I don’t like it, I can live somewhere else. And so can you. If democracy brings us Sharia law someday, then the system is still working perfectly (though I will move).

            However, your “they are just going to do it anyway” argument falls down in general. There will always be theft and murder and whatever else anyway. But that doesn’t mean we don’t stop making laws concerning them just because they will happen anyway. We vote our conscience and hope the laws created match that.

            However, all of this is a digression. Since this is a Christian blog, the question *here*, on *this* blog, gets back to whether it is sin.

            • Mark S. says:

              I see a substantial difference in our positions. I am not asking you to marry another man, just like I am not asking you to drink coffee, view pornography, or get a tattoo. All of these things are sins according to some religions, and not sins according to others. I am asking you not to ban these things for other people who want them.

              The gay marriage referendum doesn’t affect your freedom in any way. It allows you to marry someone of the same sex, but since you would never want to do that, it is a distinction without a difference. It makes no difference to your freedom, except that it limits your right to tell somebody else what to do.

              My “they will do it anyway” argument is not as simplistic as you make it out to be. Your counter-argument would make sense if we were considering re-enacting the sodomy laws. If I remember correctly, the biblical penalty for homo-sex between males is death; if we were debating that as a possible secular law, then certainly it would not make sense to argue that they are going to do it anyway.

              But whether to criminalize gay sex isn’t the question, is it? The referendum on gay marriage has *nothing* to do with whether gay people have sex or not. It doesn’t even affect whether they get married. Right now, there are gay couples out there who describe themselves as married and are recognized by their friends as married. The question is only: Will the secular government also recognize the marriage?

              In the context of this Christian blog, I am making the bigger point that *for the purpose of discussing this referendum*, it should not matter to Chrisitians whether gay sex is a sin. The Christian view on religious freedom matters more.

              American Christians have to deal with a basic conflict between their Christian principles and their American principles. The bible is always right, but a basic American principle is that we want the government to stay out of religion. We just don’t want other people telling us what God wants. But the cost of me not trying to tell you what God wants is high: You should not try to tell me either. It’s a small price to pay to avoid having a self-proclaimed “theocracy” like Saudi Arabia or Iran.

              And that is what this referendum is about. Not sin. Not gay sex. Can you tolerate other religious views that are different from your own?

        • Chris, I disagree that this is the only question that matters, but I thank you for your comment, as it prompted me to clarify my thinking in another post.

          I also think that the language of “condoning” is in the realm of abstract theory, rather than the complexity of lived reality.

  2. Pingback: Why Christians might support marriage equality | Gaudete Theology

  3. Chris says:

    Replying to Mark (gaudetetheology I will follow to the other post). In answer to “Can you tolerate other religious views that are different from your own?” – yes, I chose to continue to live in this country of varied religious views. Can you tolerate mine?

    Look, we may never agree. I believe that I am the child of a God which watches and pays attention to the choices I make, such as re-defining marriage. For you this is not true (or at least you think not), so you will consider this topic differently. For me, it is important to consider sin – see other post.

    • Mark S. says:

      To answer your question: Yes, with one caveat: my tolerance ends when you expect me to live by the rules of your religion.

      • Chris says:

        And now, in MD, we will all lives by the rules of your religion, where marriage is something different. Our tolerance continues where you said yours would end.

  4. Pingback: a blt Biblical Studies Carnival « BLT

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