tml> Is Same-Sex Marriage Good for the Nation?
  [Contents] [About the Participants] [Opening Statement by Arline Isaacson] [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
Thank you, Arline. Is same-sex marriage good for the nation? The responsibility I have this evening is to argue a negative. And yet I do not believe that any negative can be honestly argued unless first the positive is stated. And so I’ll begin there.

My motivation in addressing this issue is to say “yes” to marriage between man and a woman. One man, one woman, one lifetime, as the basis for healthy society beginning with the family unit and moving on outward. I believe there are two choices in life: “give and it shall be given to you,” or “take before you are taken.” As we examine relationships, we give to others because we want to bless them. We also receive from others because they have something unique to give to us. And the nature of male and female from the beginning is complementarity. This is true in terms of our brains, our emotions and our bodies. And so the complementarity of giving to and receiving between a man and a woman is necessary for society, because indeed we are male and female.

Now part of my thesis at Harvard Divinity School dealt with feminist ethics. At the time I headed up New England’s largest pro-life organization here in Boston. And I was seeking to make myself accountable to the toughest questions that I could find. And as I read some of the most competent feminist critics of the Bible, the question was why does the Bible – from their perspective – ordain male chauvinism. I went and looked at that question, gave a detailed answer and I pointed out something very simple. Every pagan religious origin text, indeed every source text back to its origins in all of human history apart from Genesis 1 and 2, treats women as second class: dust, dirt, demons or animals. Read the Babylonian Genesis, read the Greek-Roman mythologies, and so forth. Only Genesis 1 and 2 treats men and women as equal in the sight of God, in the sight of the law. By the same token, men and women are different as well as they are fully human: women bear babies and men don’t. In fact, when a British philosopher pointed that out, it was almost like a revelation back in the 1980s. And the bottom line is that we’re not going to have an honest society unless we understand the complementarity between male and female. And all children, they want to have a mommy and a daddy, regardless of various forms of brokenness, we all need male and female in our lives, and most ideally from mom and dad. And so my argument for marriage is the complementarity, the giving and trust out of mutual need and mutual love, and the need for male and female and their equal influences in the lives of all is the essence of marriage between a man and a woman. So I am defending that positive and therefore I say “no” to this historically recent and unique initiative for same-sex marriage.

The second thing I want to look at is the definition of rights. What is this nation founded upon? What are our civil rights? Where do they come from? And they come from unalienable rights. Unalienable rights are rights that no government can take away. When I was addressing a forum with Nadine Strossen, president of the ACLU, she quoted the language from Thomas Jefferson that he wrote for the committee in the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

In the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, this language is modified from “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to “life, liberty and property.” That goes back to a debate between John Locke and the Founders. And essentially, when it is understood that you give property rights, which is rooted in marriage, the word for economics in the Greek, eukonomos, is where the word for household comes from. The biblical idea is that when a man and a woman join in marriage, they form a household, and that’s the basis for economic productivity. These assumptions were in place in 1776.

And so once you have life as a right that no government or man or woman can take away, you have liberty, then you have property rights, then you have the power to pursue happiness. This has made this a unique nation. What are the sources of these unalienable rights? When Jefferson had to appeal to a higher source than King George III, he went to the Creator. Historically this Creator is the God of the Bible. So in my conversation with Nadine Strossen I said, who is this Creator? And she said, well, you have your creator and other people have their creators. My answer was no, that’s polytheism. And every polytheistic religion in human history, the strong dominate the weak. Even in so-called Greek democracy, that was fifteen percent of wealthy, landed men who ruled over everyone else. There was not unalienable rights where everyone’s life, liberty and property is inviolable in the sight of the law. And the only source for that is the God of Genesis 1 and 2.

So, as we look at the issue of rights, we have to ask ourselves, what is the source of those rights? Every other society in history, it’s the rights of the powerful against the others. There are no unalienable rights given apart from the God of the Bible.

It’s also the God of the Bible who defines marriage as one man, one woman, one lifetime. Now I am a pro-life libertarian in my politics. If I lose on this debate politically, I lose on this debate. God is my Judge and God is my Savior. I don’t have temporal energy invested. But what I do seek to do is reflect the nature of our Creator, because we’ll all stand before God one day. The reason that male and female are given and made equally in his image is because of the complementarity that we need in marriage. Therefore, the God of the Bible, who gives the only source for unalienable rights, is also the one who defines marriage as one woman, one man, one lifetime, in the order of creation before sin comes in. And the Bible shows a whole lot of sin. But that begins in Genesis 3. I’m talking about the order of creation in Genesis 1 and 2.

Another element about unalienable rights is that no society in all of human history which has affirmed homosexuality in any form, has ever had a concept of unalienable rights. And therefore we have to ask ourselves the following question. If we affirm homosexuality in some legal status, does that threaten the basis for unalienable rights? And if the question is that it doesn’t, then the fair question on my part is, what alternative source is there?

Now I have written a resolution I want to bring to the U.S. Congress someday. And I just want to read it to you. I wrote this about eight or nine years ago before the debate on same-sex marriage. And this will give you an idea of my view of rights in this contentious debate. It goes like this, and there’s three whereas’s in there because someone told me to put whereas’s in there.


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

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; [and notice I haven’t talked about homosexuality yet]

We affirm:

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

2. No punitive laws shall exist to restrict private association, whether heterosexual or homosexual; [I actually oppose anti-sodomy laws] 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.

This is a positive affirmation that all people as people -- and it doesn’t matter to me their sexuality, their gender, their color, their religion, their race, their background – all people are made in God’s image and deserve the same rights. Their life, their liberty, and their property are inviolable and may not be assaulted by anyone else, unless first we have assaulted someone else’s rights. And then and only then the government has right to hold us accountable.

What I’m saying here is radically libertarian. We reap what we sow. What we’re doing at this point is saying that people are free to live sexually outside of marriage, heterosexually or homosexually, but they along with those of us who believe in marriage, will be accountable for the consequences of our actions. And one way this resolution works itself out is the following statement: I do not desire one inch of greater liberty to say what I believe than I first commend to those who disagree with me. In other words, the highest command of Scripture is to love the Lord my God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. And I do this on a radical presupposition in Genesis, that God set before us good and evil, he defined both, and did not force either upon us. And therefore I seek to define the good, and I seek to commend the good. I do not seek to force that or any other definition on people. But we do have a question of how we as a society organize and decide what is true and what is false, what is bad and what is good. Hopefully we’re in agreement tonight that rape is evil. Therefore we have laws that are intolerant of rape. So what we have to understand is where is the demarcation, how do we as a free society determine these issues.

Now, same-sex marriage in my mind will destroy true marriage down the line, because it defines it downward. It makes marriage syncretistic. That is to say that all forms of sexual commitment are equal to all others. Now what you will find among homosexual activists is that very few of them historically have wanted marriage. It is only a few that now want it. But to do so, if you change marriage between one man and one woman, one lifetime, and you make it same-sex partners, what other possibilities are there to change to. Do we go back to polygamy that was outlawed in Utah over one hundred twenty-five years ago? Do we go to other arrangements? Some people may think that’s hyperbolic, but I just talked about real history. And so the question is, if we open the door for different definitions, there is one central fact we must consider. Will this help or will this hinder unalienable rights for all people?

Marriage never has been a right. A right is not something we define and grab from the government unless we live in pagan societies. The rights upon which this nation is founded are rights to life, liberty and property. Is it a liberty to have same-sex marriage? That’s part of the risk of our free society. If Arline and those with her can argue and pass that, they have proven that as part of their right of liberty. I have the equal liberty to say “no,” and in particular to make my argument that it will ultimately undercut the definition and source for unalienable rights.

Now I will make the argument that same-sex marriage and the homosexual rights movement out of which it springs, assaults religious liberty, and indeed the whole First Amendment. Now what of the First Amendment? The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. This is a simple statement. We will have no national church, and by prohibiting a national church we do not prohibit the free exercise thereof. This is designed for the free exercise of religion, equally mine as anyone else’s. And the free exercise of religion, which is to say you can believe what you want to believe, so long as we abide by the rule of law, therefore gives us a gateway to the following four freedoms listed in the First Amendment: the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and redress of grievance. Unless we’re free to believe what we believe, we can’t speak it, we can’t publish it, we can’t assemble on its basis, nor can we challenge the government based on what we believe.

Now look at the history of the homosexual rights movement in terms of religious liberty. Levi Strauss going back fifteen years lobbied the United Way to deny funding to the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America, as a narrowly divided U.S. Supreme court has ruled, is a private organization. And they were trying to prohibit them from having their rights to United Way funds. Look at the recent law in Vermont civil unions. If you are a town clerk, you have no right to dissent from issuing a civil union application. And yet, every person in this room has the right, on religious objection, to refuse military service. So the question is this: is there an exception clause to religious dissent? Vermont civil unions say no.

Now look at what’s happening up north in Canada. Recently a printer was fined $5000 because he refused to publish, as a private entrepreneur, it was some type of thing by a homosexual organization. He said no, I don’t wish to do this. So he was not given liberty of religious dissent. And that proof could have gone to another printer. They could have found many printers that would have done the work for them. So what this does is it militates against private contract, which is against property rights. It’s not allowing religious liberty.

More recently, a man took out a newspaper ad in Canada. He quoted parts of the Bible against homosexuality. He was fined. And he was not allowed to do that. And then the most radical initiative recently, and I have the details on this, is a homosexual legislator in the Parliament in Ottawa, has introduced a bill that will call the Bible, or portions thereof, as hate literature, because it says that homosexuality is wrong. Now, earlier Arline mentioned the phrase, “God hates fags.” There is a man named Fred Phelps, a self-appointed minister in Kansas who has a website called . He protested Matthew Shepard’s death, and he’s in your face everywhere across this country. I debated him five weeks ago in Casper, Wyoming. [click here for transcript] And I said that this man is a hypocrite. In fact, I don’t think I’ve met a person closer to being a son of hell than I found this man. And I will disagree with homosexuality. But the answer is not hate, the answer is love. And love gives freedom for people to dissent. And God gave me that freedom, I give all people freedom. Then we have the honest debate.

Let me mention two things by way of conclusion. In September 1990 I guest hosted on WEZE radio (I lived in Boston thirteen years) with an attorney who, I forget his name, Arline may know him, who was involved very deeply in the 1989 gay rights bill. It was a year after it had been passed. We were having an honest conversation. He was knowingly on a Christian radio station. And he talked about how he won the compromise of Catholic legislators by giving them a religious exemption clause. In the course of our dialog, I posed him a question. I said, what would happen if Gordon-Conwell Seminary on the North shore, one of my alma maters. Now, you can’t force them to hire homosexual professors of theology. But what happens if a janitor was homosexual. Could they refuse to hire him under this religious exemption clause? He said no. I said, even if the religious organization requires all of its employees to be religious? And he said no. And as we continued, just in dialog and I wasn’t searching for anything, basically I said, so what you’re saying is, that you compromised with the Catholic legislators only for pragmatic purposes. Really you don’t want religious organizations to have the freedom to say no. And he admitted it. And then he got upset with himself, because I don’t know if he had ever admitted it before. In other words, his argument was, I don’t want any religious freedom to say “no” to homosexuality.

Final observation. When I was studying at Harvard there were three women who approached me from my feminist ethics class. They told me they were lesbian. And they gave me a testimony which is not statistical, but which was their testimony fourteen, fifteen years ago. They said every lesbian they knew had been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused in her early years. [scattered groans from audience] And I run into this all over the place. Again, I said it was not statistical. But let me give you my response at that point. Silently in prayer I said dear God above, has the church heard this, or do we merely condemn. Now I think if you examine this question you’re going to find a lot of people who will go into heterosexual promiscuity or into forms of homosexuality, have not had the presence of a loving and stable mother and father at home. Again, this is not a statistical claim. This is based off a powerful anecdote of women with whom I was studying who knew hundreds of fellow lesbians. [scattered laughter from audience]

And so my question is this. What are the motivations for same-sex marriage? Is it because of a definition of rights? If so, what is the source for those rights. Or is it an honest attempt, or a broken attempt, to try and get some stability into lives that did not have that stability? And so if we are honest, those of us who are Christian, we’re going to listen to the testimony of those who disagree with us. We’re going to give the liberty, and as we give the liberty, we will make our argument. The central question is this: if same-sex marriage is good for the nation, it will articulate, promote, and defend an equal or superior definition of unalienable rights. Thank you. [audience applause]

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