I participated in a civil email exchange over the gay marriage issue and my recent blog entry on the subject. I think it is worthy of note, so I am posting my response and the initial questions. In my view, the gay marriage issue need not be religious or partisan political. The issue for our country is constitutional, and Prop 8 is prima facie unconstitutional.
[The person I was emailing with] said, as it relates to the 14th amendment: “How does allowing someone to pursue life, liberty and freedom relate to the State changing a definition of marriage being between a man and woman to a man and man or woman and woman. Would that mean that anything anybody wants even it is morally wrong can be granted because we need to protect people’s rights. What if the granting of those rights sends down society down a path where there is confusion about what a family is, what a man and woman are.”
To answer your first question as to how “life, liberty,and freedom” relate to changing the definition of marriage as between a man and woman only, this is not the issue. The issue is the equal protection of the laws for all citizens of the United States. If marriage exists only as a sanctioned-U.S.-GOVERNMENT element of our society, then “equal protection” must apply. So, the issue is not “life, liberty, and freedom,” per se, but “equal protection” that directly relates to changing the legal definition, much like it did for interracial marriage.
You see, when you were married to your wife and I was married to my wife, we were both married in a church (sorry if I am being presumptuous here… you’re a Pastor so I’m presuming you were married in a church). But, that wasn’t enough. In my case (which I am sure applied in your case, as well), the presiding clergyman would NOT have continued with the ceremony unless we could present him with a certified marriage license from the government.
In sum, freedom of marriage in the United States is only free if the government says so. Sure, we could get married without the marriage license, if we could find a preacher so inclined, but in the eyes of the government — in the eyes of the law — the marriage is no marriage at all.
In the eyes of God, however, I think we would agree that the government need not be involved… but that’s not what we’re discussing here. Prop 8 does not speak to a biblical (or Godly) view of homosexuality or marriage. It speaks only of the government’s view. The Proposition does not speak to Leviticus 20, Matthew 19, etc. It speaks only to the California Constitution and, because of its attempt to infringe upon the rights of a specific class of citizens, it also speaks to the U.S. Constitution.
This discussion reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all time — “The Contender.” In the film, Laina Hanson — an atheist politician — is in proceedings to determine whether she will be the new replacement after the sudden death of the then vice-president.
“And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism.”
“Principles only mean something when you stick to them when its inconvenient.”
Now, you and I would agree that her interpretation of “religious fanaticism” is going to be vastly different than ours. Our Christian opinion that gay marriage, as a biblical issue, is morally wrong would be viewed as fanatical by the fictional character of Ms. Hanson (no relation to my favorite Pastor, of course).
But, here is where the second quote kicks in.
The beauty of the first amendment’s establishment clause is that laws should not be on the books with the sole moral basis being religious. This is wonderfully crafted because when the law being written is crafted by a non-Christian religion in power (Sharia law, anyone?) which only affects a certain class of citizens (say, Christians?), then it is equally unconstitutional.
Our country’s principal of “equal protection,” therefore, only means something when we adhere to it even when our religious doctrine disagrees with it.
So, to your second question: “Would that mean that anything anybody wants even if it is morally wrong can be granted because we need to protect people’s rights?” Yes, BUT only when that “immoral” right is freely allowed for other citizens. So, when a “moral wrong” is disallowed across the board, well, then, with all apologies to “people’s rights,” it is illegal.
Therefore, if the country/state makes it legal to murder freely — but only if you are heterosexual — this is a violation of equal protection. Let’s pray that never happens. 🙂
To your third question: “What if the granting of those rights sends society down a path where there is confusion about what a family is, what a man and woman are?”
Is confusion a reason to violate the equal protection clause? Even further, is confusion a reason to make something illegal?
Certainly, we agree that this will cause confusion of the family structure — among children specifically.
But, what about divorce? What about adulterous parents? What about single mothers? What about children born to unmarried parents just living together? What about children who spend most of their time during the day with non-familial caretakers? Plenty of confusion here, too.
So, do we make divorce illegal? Do we make adultery illegal? Do we make single motherhood illegal? Do we make living together illegal? Do we make daycare illegal?
I see the beauty of our Constitution in much the same way that I see God’s gift of free will. We can choose to live our own lives with or without God. The Constitution, like God Himself, does not require that people adhere to the principals expounded in the Bible or any other religious text.
So, in my view, our job as American Christians is to spread the word of God’s love and God’s bridge to Him through His death on the cross for all of our failures in adhering to His law… not to pass laws that do all of that difficult work for us in one fell swoop.
God Bless and Happy Election Day, where I will be voting AND celebrating that we live in a country where we can vote our opinions, consciences, and beliefs freely!