tml> Is Same-Sex Marriage Good for the Nation?
  [Contents] [About the Participants] [Opening Statement by Norm Allen] [Opening Statement by John Rankin][Dialog] [Questions from the Audience] [Closing Statements]
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Is Same-Sex Marriage Good for the Nation?
Opening Statement by Norm Allen
Is same-sex marriage good for the nation? Implicit in this question is the assumption that marriage between man and woman is necessarily good for the nation. I contend, however, that good marriages are good for the nation, and bad marriages are bad for the nation, regardless of the sexual orientation of the married persons. For example, are marriages in which spousal abuse occurs good for the nation? Are marriages in which spouses are killed good for the nation? Are marriages in which couples are unhappy good for the nation? The obvious answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. Unhappy individuals make for unhappy marriages, unhappy families, and an increasingly unhappy nation.

I have longed tried to understand the reasons why so many people are adamantly opposed to homosexuality. I understand many of the major causes of racism: fear of competition for jobs, housing and other resources; fear of competition in search for suitable mates; unpleasant experiences with members of a particular group; the need to dominate others and to feel superior to them; greed and selfishness, envy, ignorance and fear of other cultures; and so forth. I understand many of the reasons for sexism: fear of competition from women; male pride, arrogance and ignorance; the male will to dominate; and so forth. I understand many of the reasons for intolerance of other religions: unwillingness to examine one's own religion and to respect the rights of those embracing other religions; absolute certainty that one has the only good and true religion; desire for cultural supremacy and domination; the will to enforce one's religious beliefs on the entire world; and so forth. I understand many of the reasons for xenophobia: fear of cultural, social, political and economic disruption; failure to appreciate the historical importance of cultural interaction; will to political power and domination; and so forth. I understand many of the causes of most forms of bigotry and intolerance.

But I do not understand the causes of antipathy toward homosexuals, or strong opposition to same-sex physical relationships. I have heard the objections, but they do not stand up to critical examination. Some say they object to homosexuals because homosexuality is "unnatural." But surely there must be more to it than this. After all, throughout most of Christian history, oral sex has been considered unnatural. Most Christians have considered any deviation from the missionary position to be unnatural. Anal sex between men and women is still considered to be unnatural by most Christians, and is regarded as sodomy. Yet most conservative Christians are not politically involved in trying to persecute heterosexuals for indulging in supposedly unnatural sex acts. Moreover, simply because something might be unnatural, does not necessarily mean that it is evil or even undesirable. For example, it is not natural for human beings to walk on two legs. Yet conservative Christians voice no objection to bipedal locomotion on our part. Furthermore, just because a form of behavior is deemed natural, does not necessarily mean that the behavior is good. For example, selfishness, greed and violence are natural, but most progressive people are not trying to turn these traits into virtues.

Many Christians say they object to homosexuality because it is sinful. Indeed, contrary to the vociferous objections of gay Christian apologists, the Bible forcefully condemns homosexuality. Speaking of those who did not honor God, Paul says in Romans 1:26-27:
"God gave them over to degrading passions, for the woman exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural; and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman, and burned with desire toward one another; men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."

And in Leviticus 18:22 we read: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It is an abomination." But wait, it gets worse. In Leviticus 20:13 we read: "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act. They surely shall be put to death. Their bloodguiltyness is upon them."

It is clear, then, that the Bible regards homosexuality as a sin deserving of death. It is no wonder that religious extremists in the United States have attacked and killed gays, the most glaring example being the murder of Wyoming student Matthew Shepherd. According to a recent study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, 83% of gay high school and college students report being harassed, while 41% report physical harassment, and 21% report physical assault. (That's from USA Today April 10th, 2002, page 7d.) Moreover, Alabama State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore has condemned homosexuality, and stated that the Bible deems it deserving of death. It is not absurd to suggest that there might be cause to implement the death penalty for gays in the United States by Christian extremists other than those in the Rushdoony movement. After all, there are some nations that still impose the death penalty for homosexuality, as did the Taliban when they were in power. Again, the acknowledgment that the Bible recognizes homosexuality as a sin deserving of death does not suffice to explain the antipathy toward gays. The Bible also advocates the death penalty for anyone who curses his mother or father in Leviticus 20:9; for adultery in Leviticus 20:10; for those that work on the Sabbath in Exodus 31:14-15; for astrologers and others. Yet, where is the conservative Christian movement calling for the death penalty in these cases?

"God said it. I believe it. That settles it." That might be a cute slogan for a bumper sticker, but it is devoid of any serious thought. Most thoughtful Christians understand that even spiritual faith must rest upon some evidence. I hope that John tonight will give us some good, sound reasons for his opposition to same-sex marriages in particular, and to homosexuality in general.

On the other hand, some nations have fair humane and reasonable laws regarding homosexuality. In 1998, Dutch law embraced the right of same-sex couples to register as partners. On this point, they joined with France and Scandinavian nations in recognizing a major right of same-sex couples. In the year 2000, the Netherlands legalized marriages between same-sex couples. They have full tax, pension, inheritance and other legal rights. In the same year, Canada passed an equality law for gays. There is no consensus that same-sex marriage or other legally recognized unions are threatening heterosexual marriages. In matter of fact, according to a poll taken in 2000, 62% of Dutch people had no objection to same-sex marriages.

I favor same-sex marriages for many reasons. The American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Counseling Association, and other influential organizations, are in support of gay and lesbian parents. In February, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that no data had pointed to any risk for children as a result of growing up in a family of one or more gay parents. Furthermore, the group concluded that parents' sexual orientation is not an important factor in how children grow up. Researchers have conducted over twenty studies on about 300 children of gay and lesbian parents. According to the research, children of these parents do well in every imaginable category. Moreover, the children of gay parents grow up to be heterosexual in the same vast proportions as children of heterosexual parents. Because I am not a paranoid conspiracy theorist, and because I understand that we have to go with the best data available, I see no good reason to reject these findings. In the United States laws discriminate against gay parents. For example, in families headed by lesbians, only the biological mother is allowed to claim the children as exemptions on her taxes, include them in her health plans, pass on pensions and social security benefits, and so forth. Why should children have to suffer because of outdated legislation and widespread homophobia? One would think that a compassionate Christian would want what is best for all children, regardless of the sexual orientation of their parents. What is worse, without legislation, a gay parent may shirk her financial responsibilities to her children, leaving the biological parent to struggle with the cost of raising the children. Again, all children deserve the full support of both of their parents, whether gay or straight.

There are those that argue that children raised by gays will have more problems than those raised by straight parents. Even if one is inclined to reject the scholarship that counters this claim, there is still no good reason to deny gays the legal right to marry and raise families. We should not require that all parents raise their children under ideal conditions. Indeed, most children throughout the history of the world were not raised in ideal circumstances. Millions had raised children under chattel slavery, and some continue to do so in other parts of the world. In the United States, millions of black parents raised their children and grandchildren under apartheid in the American south. Millions of parents in the United States struggle heroically to raise their children in poverty. Yet life goes on, conditions improve, society mores and morals change, and future generations often receive benefits that were denied their ancestors. Rather than complaining about the trials and tribulations that we should expect from children raised by gay parents, we should be trying to make a more family friendly and homophobia free society for the benefit of all. Until 1967, interracial marriages were legally banned in the United States. Similarly, until the end of apartheid, South Africa disallowed interracial marriages. Powerful white males felt threatened by blacks and wanted to preserve what they believed to be the purity of their race. Many argued that the Bible prohibited such marriages. Many people argued and continue to argue that the children of interracial parents will grow up and experience many problems because of their mixed heritage. These critics would much rather try to prevent mixed marriages than to fight for a world in which such marriages are accepted and respected. Despite their strongest efforts, however, blacks and whites continue to mix. Likewise, despite the best efforts of today's conservative Christians, gays will continue to form unions, seek to marry, and raise their children. All of the homophobic legislation and activism in the world will not change this fact, nor should it. On January 21st , 1993, Pat Robertson had this to say on his television program, The 700 Club: "When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany. Many of those people involved in Adolph Hitler were Satanists. Many of them were homosexual. The two things seem to go together." Robertson, like many conservative Christians, demonizes gays and equates them with Hitler, the man that sent many of them to their deaths during his reign of terror.

Is homosexuality the result of sin? Do homosexuals necessarily choose to be attracted to members of the same sex? The mammalian embryo goes through a hermaphroditic development stage. Prior to birth, our hormones largely, thought not entirely determine our sexual orientation. During infancy and early childhood, our senses largely influence our sexual orientation. Heredity, early childhood development and environment, all determine our sexual orientation. The interplay between nature and nurture is very complex. Moreover, the theological concept of sin cannot help us in understanding the extent to which each is important. Still, some maintain homosexuality can be cured, as though it is a disease. Incidentally, the American Psychiatric Association dropped homosexuality from its diagnostic manual of disorders in 1974. As a result, conservative Christians have formed such organizations as Exodus International and the reparative therapists. Such groups are dedicated to deprogramming homosexuals into what they consider to be true sexuality. The failure rate of such groups, however, is high. Indeed, according to Ralph Blair, editor of Review, a quarterly of Evangelicals Concerned, Inc., a group and newsletter that supports the rights of homosexuals, this kind of therapy has been a complete waste of time. Because conservative Christians and others have failed miserably in converting gays to heterosexuality, it seems that it would be reasonable to defend same-sex marriages. After all, marriage seems to discourage promiscuity and adultery, and it rules out fornication by definition. Moreover, contrary to popular opinion, the Bible does not consistently teach that God is perfect and immutable. In Genesis 6:6 we read: "And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart." Obviously God thought that he had made a mistake by creating man. In Exodus 32:14, after Moses' conversation with God, we read: "So the Lord changed his mind about the harm which he said he would do to his people." Perhaps God has also changed his mind on the homosexuality question and would today condone same-sex marriages.

Some Christian conservatives have complained that the term marriage must exclusively refer to a legal arrangement between a man and a woman. Now why must this be the case? Word definitions are always changing and many words have multiple meanings. Why should marriage be any different? People must learn to adapt their worldviews to inevitable changes in society. Many conservative Christians sincerely believe that homosexuality and same-sex marriages undermine the nuclear family. It is not clear why this should be the case. Researchers are generally agreed that the homosexual population does not exceed 10%. According to the latest research, only about 5% to 6% of public school students are gay, lesbian or bisexual. (This in USA Today, April 10th, 2002.) Furthermore, it is not clear that most homosexuals in the United States want to be legally married. The alleged homosexual threat to the nuclear family seems to be based on irrational fears. In any case, family structures do not have to be static. In many cultures throughout the world, polygamy has been the foundation of many family arrangements. Others have depended upon the extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. According to a well-known African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." There are blended families and adopted families. There is no guarantee that society will crumble because family structures change. Wise people learn to learn to adapt to inevitable societal changes. They do not fear them.

Last, but certainly not least, I favor same-sex marriages because consenting adults should be allowed to do as they please, as long as they are doing no harm to anyone else. If one believes that homosexuality is immoral, that is her right. She should not, however, try to make her personal religious beliefs a matter of public policy. To do so is clearly undemocratic. Indeed, many Americans are learning to understand this point. For example, according to a survey conducted by Who's Who Among American High School Students, 74% said they were offended by depictions of homosexual relationships on television and the movies. Moreover, 38% said they were prejudiced against homosexuals. The majority, however, said that it is wrong to discriminate against gays. Most of the students in the survey were white Christians. Other polls have revealed similar findings. Increasing numbers of Americans understand the importance of respecting the legitimate rights of others, even when those rights clash with long-held and deeply cherished religious beliefs. If everyone learns to promote their belief system while respecting their neighbor's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we can get along just fine. Thank you. [audience applause]

  [Contents] [About the Participants] [Opening Statement by Norm Allen] [Opening Statement by John Rankin][Dialog] [Questions from the Audience] [Closing Statements]
[Return to Mars Hill Forum]