Normally I avoid public discussions of politics. This country is so divided on so many issues right now that even seemingly innocuous topics tend to result in screaming matches rather than and sort of reasoned discourse. Yet there are times when I need to speak up.
The citizens of North Carolina have voted to create a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as one man and one woman, precluding any future efforts to create any sort of marriage equality legislation or even civil unions for LGBT people in that state. This is something that I find disturbing, for a number of reasons.
On the secular level, I think any legislation that specifically prevents groups of people from having rights to be on shaky ground, and the product of dangerous motives. On a purely legal level, marriage is nothing more than the right of two people to make a contract. It defines how property is shared, it defines power of attorney and guardianship, it defines tax rates, it does many, many things that have nothing to do with religion or personal relationships. This sort of contract, in North Carolina and many other places, can only be entered into by one man and one woman. This, in and of itself, is discriminatory. The same sorts of legal contracts can be created between two people of any gender, but not as quickly, easily, and inexpensively as getting a single marriage license. Civil unions have been a workaround in many places. In North Carolina, two men or two women will need to spend more time, and more money, to make legal contracts of a similar nature, and that is unfair.
In terms of “defending marriage”, I can only repeat what I have said many times: if the people trying to preclude same-sex couples from getting married were also demanding legislation that heterosexual couples must get pre-marriage counseling, so they they are not entering a legal contract or a sacred covenant frivolously, I might take the “definding marriage” claim seriously. If they were demanding legislation requiring heterosexual couples seeking divorce to go through counseling first, or to tighten the requirement to break this type of legal contract and/or sacred covenant, I might take their claims that they are defending marriage with fewer grains of salt. If they were spending as much time and money on aiding single-parent families, victims of domestic violence, and orphaned children as they do on campaigning against LGBT people gaining the right to marriage, I might see their point. That’s not what’s happening, though. They have a tight, laser-precise focus on homosexuals and in the absence of other aspects of “defending marriage” can only be seen by me as blatant homophobia.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I find their theological grounds for barring same-sex couples from marriage to be extremely dubious. My atheist friends are quick to point out that there is no Biblical definition of “traditional marriage” that matches anything like what these “marriage defenders” claim. There’s a lot of polygamy, for a start. There are also a lot of less savory ways men claimed women as wives described. Because I am not a believer in Biblical inerrancy, that the Bible is absolutely literal at all times and in all places, I can reconcile that. Leviticus and Romans and every other book that contains a pull quote used to condemn homosexuals were written by men who were struggling to know God’s will and trying to do what they thought God wanted. Sometimes, they got it wrong. That doesn’t mean the Bible is invalid as a teaching tool; the ability to learn from other peoples’ mistakes is a great way to learn how to avoid the same mistakes.
Everything in the Bible, to me, needs to be run through two filters. The first is the Ten Commandments, and there’s not a single mention of homosexuality in there. Yes, there’s mention of adultery, yet again I must point out that if the “marriage defenders” were going after heterosexual adulterers as strongly as they are going after homosexuals, I might take them seriously. There’s no clear definition of marriage in the Ten Commandments and, as I pointed out above, a lot of different marriage situations in the Old Testament. I won’t push the idea that by allowing LGBT people to marry and sustain committed relationships, you’re giving them the option to avoid committing adultery. I won’t point out that unmarried couples of any gender combination who are in loving, long-term committed relationships are probably in stronger “marriages” than many heterosexual couples in “traditional” covenants marred by infidelity, domestic violence, and other issues.
The second filter I use for all things Biblical are the words of Christ himself. He never said a word about homosexuality, but he did give us two new commandments. First, to love God with all our heart and second, to love one another as Christ loved us. Here we run into people who define “one another” only as fellow Christians or fellow members of their particular denomination, but John 3:16 begins with “For God so loved the world“, so I have to believe that Christ’s command was to be inclusive, not exclusive. He was giving us reasons to love, not excuses to hate. As a disciple of Christ, I have to ask how North Carolina’s Proposition 1 is an expression of love for one another. I have to ask how this brings people closer to Christ, or makes new disciples, or even how this paints a positive picture of Christ’s unconditional love for the world.