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 John Rankin
Well Norm, thank you so much. I'm going to do something a little different than I normally do. Normally I speak extemporaneously, but I'm going to read some things I've written in the last several years to give a foundation for my thinking on this issue. And I find it interesting that we have an open forum tonight where both sides are heard equally. I think you'll find that to be the case. And yet there's a concern that somehow "debate space" is not safe. And I will address that concern as I go along. It is remarkable, though, I never have walked into a forum before to be greeted with such graffiti. And so we have to ask ourselves: the graffiti out there, how safe is that? How gracious, how intelligent is that?

The first thing I want to read is something I wrote about seven, eight years ago called "Human Sexuality and Civil Rights." I wrote this quite a bit prior to the debate over same-sex marriage. And it's a non-binding resolution that I desire to see politically debated. And again, it's entitled "Human Sexuality and Civil Rights." And it goes accordingly.


All persons hold the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, and therefore they hold equal dignity and protection under due process of law; [all people]

And whereas:

The historic family unit, rooted in heterosexual faithful monogamous marriage and the raising of children is the basic institution in society;

And whereas:

There are those who by choice, circumstance, or the brokenness of adversity who are unable to participate fully or partly as members of the historic family unit;

We affirm: [and there are three points of affirmation]

1. Marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman in mutual

2. No punitive laws shall exist to restrict private association, whether heterosexual or homosexual; [And there are people on the conservative Christian right that Norm's been talking about tonight who disagree with me on that. You'll find a very strong libertarian ethic, but it's based on a prior definition of equal life for all.] and;

3. All persons shall accept accountability for the public consequences of their private associations and actions, and they shall in no way deprive others of life, liberty, or property.

What I'm saying here is that I disagree with same-sex marriage. I disagree with homosexual relationships. Nonetheless, all people are free to disagree with me as I am with them, so long as we have an understanding of unalienable rights, that everyone has life, liberty and property, free not to be violated by other people. So the real debate comes down to those boundaries. And many acts of a homosexual or heterosexual nature, or other forms of sexuality, do violate life, liberty and property. And I'm equally opposed to all of those because I'm in favor of life, liberty and property. But for those acts of any nature that do not violate them, then people have that freedom in a civil society. And you will not see me pursuing those matters.

The second thing that I want to share with you is a petition that I've circulated around the state. I led off the testimony this year in the statehouse February 11th saying "no" to same-sex marriage. I was part of the same panel last year. And this is actually the summation of my testimony one year ago. And I'll walk through the definition of terms as I go. It's entitled, "Petition to Members of the Connecticut General Assembly."

Yes to man and woman in marriage.

No to same-sex marriage.

[Now an important predicate is, I don't say "no" to anything unless I first say "yes" to something. I think you will find that my agenda is a positive one, and my only concern is to protect life, liberty and property, or should I say, to affirm a government that protects life, liberty and property. I seek to do that myself to begin with. And so the real question is, can we honor these unalienable rights while also coming to a place of difference of interpretation. So my "no" is predicated on a prior "yes."]

As a resident of Connecticut I affirm the following: [and there are four affirmations]

1. In the United States, the civil rights which we all enjoy are rooted in the laws of nature and of nature's God, in the unalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. [I have been in contact with all 187 legislators on this matter, at least five to eight times. I've heard back from 48 of them, and none of them will dispute the statement I just gave to you.]

2. The only source for unalienable rights in all human history is the Creator, the God of the Bible. [I've had a couple of people try to dispute me on this. And some years ago one was Nadine Strossen, who is president of the ACLU. And I said that the only source is the God of the Bible, and she started off that evening, and the topic was homosexuality and civil rights that evening. And she quoted the language from Jefferson, that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And as she quoted that, I said you started at the same source that I started: unalienable rights. And so I just have one simple question. Who is the Creator that Thomas Jefferson was referring to? And Jefferson was a rationalist. He was not by any stretch an evangelical Christian as myself, and yet he and those with him who were from an orthodox Christian background in a Protestant context, appealed to a source higher than King George III. They appealed to the Creator. So I asked Nadine Strossen, who is the Creator? She looked at me and said well, you have your Creator and other people have their Creators. I said no, you've just described polytheism. In other words, that's not the context to which Jefferson was referring to. And if you look at every polytheistic culture in all of human history, they have no concept of unalienable rights. Rights go to those who are in power, whereas the concept of unalienable rights upon which this nation is founded, are rooted in the biblical understanding of the Creator, that says that all people deserve the same rights because they are people, and not because of any other secondary reason.]

3. The God of the Bible defines true marriage as one man, one woman, one lifetime. [This is the order of creation, the image of God.] The health of society is rooted in this foundation.

4. In human history, no society has ever affirmed both homosexuality and unalienable rights. [So here is an intellectual challenge, to track out history, to find out where unalienable rights are affirmed. And if you can find any society that ever has affirmed homosexuality and unalienable rights together, you won't find it.]

Therefore, in order for any member of the Connecticut General Assembly to support legislation that even incrementally moves in the direction of same-sex marriage, he or she must answer these questions.

1. Are civil rights being redefined?
2. If so, why?
3. If so, what is the new basis for these rights?
4. What are the consequences?

Let me just walk through that again real briefly. The argument I'm making is that all of us deserve the same unalienable rights of life, liberty and property. These come from the God of the Bible, the Jewish and Christian Bible. Jews and Christians and others have violated these principles many times in history. We've seen that all over the place. But the Bible is based on these assumptions, and when Jefferson et al. appealed to a higher source than King George III they went back to this source. And so even though they did not emancipate blacks at the time, and Jefferson was conflicted, he knew, a rationalist before he died, he was going to face God's judgment because he had not released his slaves and not treated them equally. Women's suffrage had not yet come into place. And yet, both the equality of all people regardless of races, and the equality of male and female are rooted in Genesis 1 and 2, the God of creation. This is my thesis at Harvard University, where my focus was on feminist ethics. And so, they appealed to the right source even if they didn't get it correct. And so despite all the violations of which there are many, we have to ask ourselves this question. If we are going to redefine marriage in a way inconsistent with the author of unalienable rights, then some other source for rights in the civil order must be produced.

The final thing I want to share with you, and I will read this to you, is an article that I wrote, oh, maybe a month ago. And it will explain itself as I go along. It's entitled "A Painful Silence on the Matter of Same-Sex Marriage."

When the debate concerning same-sex marriage is embraced, there is a painful silence at certain key junctures. Or to put it another way, the issue is advanced politically by certain advocates, who then do not want a full, intelligent, gracious and honest dialogue. On February 11, before the Judiciary Committee at the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut, I led off a panel that opposed two bills then being considered to advance same-sex marriage or facsimile. These bills have been conceived in the direct shadow of the "civil union" legislation already enacted in Vermont.

As part of my testimony I told a story concerning my postgraduate studies at Harvard Divinity School. I was taking a class in feminist ethics. During lunch one day, three women from my class sat down with me. One said, "You know, John, for an evangelical, you're a nice guy." She then continued, with an unsolicited and previously untouched subject. She said that she and her two friends were lesbian, and that every lesbian they knew had been physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused by some man in her youth, usually a live-in boyfriend to mom, a stepfather or some other adult male who had access to the household.

I remember praying in my spirit at that exact moment, "Dear God above, has the church heard this testimony, or do we merely condemn?" Now, the statement of these lesbians at Harvard is not a statistical claim for all lesbians. But they lived in an academic and social milieu in which they knew very many lesbians from around the country. Thus, it was an honest anecdote, the substance of which is known to many male and female homosexuals alike.

I believe the desire for same-sex marriage is often rooted in the partial or total loss of a childhood in which a married father and mother loved and respected each other as complements and equals, and accordingly, loved their children. The answer to such loss or abuse is not to redefine marriage downward, but to strengthen marriage to its best possibilities, to a mutual fidelity between a man and a woman that lasts a lifetime. What child does not naturally want a loving mommy and a loving daddy at home?

Only a small portion of avowed homosexuals favor same-sex marriage. This according to their own research. Yet for those who do, I believe they are often seeking some sort of family structure in which they are safe from abuse, an ersatz replacement for the family they lost, or never had, in part or in whole. And I can only respect the desire for such safety. Nonetheless, we are male and female, and all children need a father and a mother to ensure their healthiest development. It is not right to change our laws to suit the real pain of adults who suffered such a deprivation as children. The proper course is to strengthen true marriage. The research is clear: Children without a married mother and father at home fare more poorly than children from intact families. And it is hard enough to address the many needs here, especially when single parent households are so often a result of male irresponsibility and/or promiscuous lifestyles.

What this means is that same-sex marriage, and the raising of children in such households, only perpetuates a cycle of brokenness. Thus, for the sake of all people, marriage between a man and a woman in mutual fidelity is the goal at which society should aim. To lower our sights and legally codify same-sex relationships is to redefine marriage downward in a cycle of multiplying pain across the generations.

I gave my testimony in a packed hearing room, and there were two overflow rooms utilized as well. Most of the main hearing room was filled with same-sex "marriage" advocates (they had their identifying stickers), and most of these advocates were women. I faced the Judiciary Committee, seated at a desk, with the audience behind me. When I mentioned the testimony of the three Harvard lesbians, there was an audible gasp across the whole room. Friends of mine in the audience later told me that the gasp was visibly registered on the faces of these women advocates, women who then literally held their breath until I moved on to the next portion of my remarks.

What does this say? It points out to me the deep pain that so many homosexuals deal with, and I had dared to touch that pain. The lesbians in the hearing room were caught off guard with such an accurate diagnosis, at least in testimonial context, and fearful of its further exploration. And why do I risk the touching of such pain? Because this is the nature of love, of loving God and loving my neighbor as myself. Biblical ethics celebrate unalienable rights for all people -- life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. Biblical ethics celebrate the image of God in all people -- the universal pursuit of peace, order, stability and hope; to live, to love, to laugh and to learn. But these ethics also root the fulfillment of the image of God in the nature of marriage as one man and one woman in mutual fidelity, from the order of creation -- given by the same Creator in whom unalienable rights are uniquely located. Thus, to touch such pain, is to identify reality and to encourage true healing.

None of the media, which gave extensive coverage to this hearing, quoted this portion of my testimony. So I composed an op-ed piece for the Hartford Courant. They accepted it, even offered to pay me for it, but at the last moment pulled it. Well, that is their prerogative -- they can publish what they please. The real issue is much deeper: Why the silence on this matter? What is the depth of the painful gasps unearthed by the public recognition of such abuse? I have addressed forums on controversial subjects on many university campuses. Yet homosexual advocates are the least likely to embrace any sort of public dialogue.

For those of us who affirm the positive social good of man and woman in marriage, and thus say no to homosexuality, how do we conduct ourselves in the face of such a debate? We must genuinely desire not one inch of greater liberty to speak what we believe than we first commend to those who disagree with us. This is the Golden Rule in political context. And if we are met with a wall of silence, what does that tell us? In 18 years of public policy ministry, I have directly communicated with very many avowed homosexuals. Many of them struggle with and would like to overcome such a propensity, and for those homosexuals who are not public about it, I believe the ratio is higher yet. When silence by homosexual advocates is the response, we know that the soul has been deeply touched, and it shows the rest of society, and especially closeted homosexuals, that the pain is at least reasonably understood. And from there, a shared humanity can be better embraced in pursuit of the common good.

To sum up, three points from my testimony this evening. Ah, I'm not before the Judiciary Committee, so it's not a testimony -- it's my statement. Why do I believe same-sex marriage is not good for the nation? Three reasons.

Number 1. It codifies and does not deal with a cycle of human pain.

Number 2. It de facto opposes the unique basis for unalienable rights upon which this nation is founded. Destroy unalienable rights and the whole nation is destroyed as well.

Number 3. Children suffer the most.

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]