Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

A couple of years back Californians, with a rather small majority, passed Proposition 8.  It mandated, as a constitutional amendment, that marriage be between a man and a woman,  setting aside a California Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in California.  Now there is a suit in California courts seeking to overturn the ban on gay marriage.  One of the lawyers in this case is Theodore Olson, the former Solicitor General under President George W. Bush.  Olson is a Republican and a conservative, but he recognizes that the current situation for Lesbians and Gays is untenable and unconstitutional.

He has written an excellent piece that appeared earlier in January in Newsweek.  I had heard about it, but hadn't read it until seeing a blurb about it on Jack Rogers' blog.  Jack, by the way, was my philosophy professor in seminary, and is the author of Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality (WJK).

As I read this piece I really don't think you could offer a better argument for why same sex marriage should be legalized.  He offers moral, legal, and societal reasons.  It is a matter of civil rights, fairness, and ultimately honesty.

As for the betterment of society, consider this statement:

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

This is a wonderful argument -- we believe that marriage is foundational to community life and yet by law we forbid some from enjoying it, while allowing the rights to others. But why, if it will better our communities by solidifying relationships?

How can we, deny rights we cherish to a portion of our society?  Surely there is a way, he suggests, that conservatives and liberals can come together on this point.  I do believe that he offers the right framework.  So, consider these words of Ted Olson:

No matter what you think of homosexuality, it is a fact that gays and lesbians are members of our families, clubs, and workplaces. They are our doctors, our teachers, our soldiers (whether we admit it or not), and our friends. They yearn for acceptance, stable relationships, and success in their lives, just like the rest of us.

Conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another. Confining some of our neighbors and friends who share these same values to an outlaw or second-class status undermines their sense of belonging and weakens their ties with the rest of us and what should be our common aspirations. Even those whose religious convictions preclude endorsement of what they may perceive as an unacceptable "lifestyle" should recognize that disapproval should not warrant stigmatization and unequal treatment.

When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.

I heartily agree.  Indeed, this is truly a question of how we support family values!  

24 comments:

Steve said...

Bob, I couldn't agree more. The problem is that this approach has been taken for years and was the cornerstone of the anti Prop 8 drive. It doesn't seem to matter. Homophobia is so entrenched in America that emotions continue to trump logic. The fact of the matter is that virtually every major societal shift was accomplished through the courts, including civil rights and interracial marriage. Although I think gay marriage rights will eventually be achieved in the long run, it will take the courts to make it happen in the short run. I have written a summary statement of why gay marriage is good for America on my blog should anyone wish to take a look.
http://progressivechristianity.typepad.com/open_hearts/2008/10/index.html

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Steve,

Olson makes a point from recent Supreme Court rulings -- even Judge Scalia noted in his dissent that if same sex relations are legal, and the Supreme Court has ruled thusly, then how can you keep marriage from gays and lesbians?

Thus, you really have the answer to the litany of dominoes that would fall should this be legal.

On this logic, already stated in a dissenting opinion, if Prop 8 gets bumped to the US Supreme Court, the Court could end up having to rule for the plaintiffs in this case -- and thus for all in the nation.

You are right here that it will take the courts, as it has in almost every civil rights advance. The legislatures have simply followed up in response.

Gary said...

Homosexuals are cursed and damned by God Almighty. Supporting homosexuals, and "same-sex marriage" is a sin because it is calling good what God has called evil. Those like Ted Olson, Steve and Bob Cornwall are damned as much as the sodomites are.

Anonymous said...

Our laws pertaining to freedom are based more on economics than morality. Just about everything in politics is. David Mc

John said...

When you consider the issue, gay political and civil rights is neither a conservative nor a liberal issue - in fact it is an issue which should galvanize the libertarian more than anyone. Perhaps conservatives have focused on it because the religious right has hijacked their agenda.

John

gracerules said...

Gary - this is not a religious issue but a civil rights issue which should be a religious issue but not because it involves homosexuality.

Gary said...

gracerules,

God has made it both a religious and a moral issue. It also is a civil issue, which means that the government is obligated, by God, to take the same position that God takes, which would make so-called "gay marriage" an absurdity.

John said...

Gary,

The government is not required to take the same position as God takes on any issue.

If the state legislates that its citizens must obey the laws of one religion or another or face state punishments, then we might as well adopt the Sharia Law followed by fundamentalist Muslims. This is especially true since Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, the day is likely to come when there are more Muslims in America than Christians.

On a less alarmist note, if some Christians are allowed to hijack the state to enforce their interpretation of God's law, what's to stop another group of Christians from hijacking the state and forcing their interpretation on the public.

And then we have the problem of which Old Testament Laws are is the state going to enforce? Alternatively, which New Testament laws is the State going to enforce? Or perhaps you favor the law as set forth by Paul in 1 Cor 6:12: "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything."

It is a terrible idea to have the state enforce religious laws.

There is another reason: God wants Christians to be different and God wants his people to respond to him out of love for him. I believe that God holds Christians to a higher law - the law of love; God is not content that we merely comply with what the state permits or prohibits. If the laws of God were enforced by the state then when we obey the state out of fear of going to jail, we are not obeying God out of love and reverence for God.

I do not live under Sharia, and I want no part of a country that does. I love my God because God loves me, not because the state tells me to.

John

Gary said...

John,

It has nothing to do with the state trying to make you love God, or attend church, or anything of the sort. It has to do with whether the government is going to have laws and policies that violate God's laws.

If the state legalizes and endorses "same-sex marriage", they will violate God's moral law. And God will hold the state(the USA) accountable, as well as the individual people(Congress, judges, etc) who make the decision.

John said...

God will deal with each of us, and hopefully with all the mercy Jesus promised, and likely with the same degree of mercy we showed during our lifetimes.

John

Gary said...

John,

Jesus promised mercy only for believers. For most people, there will be no mercy, only wrath. That is what the New Testament teaches. I realize that is not a view that is popular amoung unbelievers.

John said...

Gary,

Then what do you make of the woman caught in adultery? She was not a believer, and yet Jesus showed her mercy and in truth called upon the crowd of unbelievers who sought to stone her to have mercy on her as well.

And what do you make of his forgiving words for his murderers on the cross, "father forgive them" - surely his murderers were not believers?

And what do you make of his command to love your enemies and to forgive them?

No, I disagree; I think Jesus teaches (by his own example) that we are to show mercy to everyone, not just to believers.

John

Gary said...

I thought we were talking about after this life. My mistake.

Yes, Jesus often had mercy on people in this life; sometimes even for those who would never believe. But it will be different in the next life.

Loving your enemies does not equate to accepting the wrong they do. Jesus didn't accept the adultery of the woman about to be stoned. In refusing to accept sin, Jesus set an example for us to follow in things like "gay marriage".

John said...

In loving and forgiving, Jesus set the example for us. Judgment is reserved to God.

Gary, it seems as if you are a Pharisee:

Matt 23:2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

Jesus calls on us to love our neighbors and enemies, not to burden them and not to judge them.

But I really didn't want to go down this road, I just wanted to suggest that there is, and there should be, a disconnect between what the state legislates and what God legislates.

John

Gary said...

God doesn't allow a disconnect between what He legislates and what the government legislates. The government is under God's authority, just as individuals are. A lot of people want God to bless America while America ignores God's laws. But God isn't stupid.

John said...

Gary,

Then you are back to having the government legislating and enforcing Biblical morality. If that is so, then you must also agree that the government cannot crack down on just those sins you find especially abhorrent but on all sins.

Should the government not be enforcing Biblically mandated dietary laws? You know the government doesn't just turn a blind eye to the consumption of pork, but actually regulates its production and sale!!

You may think the government must uphold New Testament laws only. Then as Jesus did not protest the stoning of the adulterous woman but only the authority of those who would stone her, you must acknowledge that our government should mandate the stoning of adulterers. And there can be no debating the point that our government must outlaw remarriage after divorce - Jesus explicitly said it was against God's law.

Perhaps most important, anyone who denies the truth of, or otherwise blasphemes the Christian God (as defined by the government, which as you know depends on whether liberals or conservatives are in control of the Supreme Court), is guilty of a capital crime for the Bible says that is the only truly unforgivable sin.

For the government to ignore such crimes, and in the case of remarriage after divorce to actually legalize such sins must be unacceptable for you.

Moreover, you must also be demanding the removal from the Constitution several clauses, specifically those clauses which prevent the government from sanctioning or sponsoring Christian religious beliefs. After all how can the government explicitly enforce Biblical morality without openly sanctioning and sponsoring such religious beliefs?

And I think you must find it absolutely disastrous that our government has enshrine in its very Constitution protection from prosecution for individuals who voice religious dissent and denial, because in doing so America has surely called down upon itself and its people certain damnation.

If this is what you believe then you must separate yourself from America or you will share in its unavoidable destruction. For you cannot share in America's benefits without accepting guilt for its sins.

Alternatively you could accept that God is a God of peoples and not of nations.

Can't you see that you are guilty of the same prideful sins as Jonah, denying God the right to love and care for his people in Nineveh (even in their sinfulness) and insisting that they deserve on judgment and destruction?

John

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

People have acquiesced to all manner of horrors believing that the state is ordained by God and thus must impose God's order on society. Thus, Germans acquiesced to and supported the Final Solution because their theology told them that the Jews had killed Christ and thus were cursed. Read John Moses' book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer -- Reluctant Revolutionary.

Gary said...

John,

Does God approve of homosexuality? If you say yes, then what is the evidence? If you say no, then why are you in favor of "same-sex marriage"?

John said...

Gary,

That is not the issue in this thread, nor is that the issue you and I have been discussing.

For the record, I do not think God opposes homosexuality. God determined that we should not be alone. God gave virtually everyone sexual desires, not as a punishment but as a gift - to be enjoyed. God made some of us heterosexual and some of us homosexual. God encourages each of us to love one another and to engage in loving relationships. If a homosexual can only experience the gift of sexuality in a same sex relationship, well, we can only assume that God intended this to be so.

What we know for certain is that we were not made to be alone, and each of us was made to love and to be loved. Who am I to impose limits on God's gifts?

As for Biblical issues with homosexual conduct, I think they are neutralized and trumped by other Biblical provisions which carry a much higher priority, e.g., love one another. If I accept this loving injunction seriously, then I must love my homosexual brothers and sisters enough to grant them the freedom to experience all of the gifts of God, including the freedom to experience their sexuality in the form in which God gave it to them.

Again, the issue here is not whether God legislates against homosexuality, or even if we should be paying significant attention to the conduct of others (I am sure there is something about attending to the logs in our own eyes first), but whether it is appropriate for the state to enforce God's morality as understood by those currently in control of the government. If you think so then you should feel very comfortable with the conduct of the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

John

Gary said...

John,

Your beliefs about sexuality are entirely unbiblical, and therefore unChristian. There isn't a single person mentioned as a believer in the Bible who would agree with you. And, more importantly, neither does God.

Since you object to the state enforcing God's moral laws, I assume you favor repealing the laws against murder and stealing, to name just two that are currently on the books.

The "state" may choose to act on the issue of homosexuality in a way that is contrary to God. If they do, they should expect judgement, because it is coming. Futhermore, the "state" should not expect Christians, like me, to accept their decision and afford sodomites the "respect" the state requires.

kbrown said...

Bob, I agree. The problem is how far they have gone with the laws. If they would just stop with protection and not forcing everything down at us, maybe people wouldn't become so vehement about the issue at hand.

~andrew
what is the bible?

John said...

Gary,

And what should the state do about those who have divorced and remarried? And the adulterers? Put them to death? Shall we hand out whips to all who claim your sense of self-righteousness?

As for whether you treat homosexuals with respect, your treatment of those you deem to be sinners should be governed by the very same Scriptures you use as a weapon against others.

Why is it so hard for you to accept the admonition that in all things we are to act with charity towards others?

John

Gary said...

John,

The state should do what the New Testament says: one man, one woman, one marriage, for life. No remarriage until one of them dies. I don't object to making adultery a capital offense.

I treat sodomites with more tolerance than they deserve. It is likely I will have to answer to God for why I haven't stoned any.

By acting with chartity towards others, do you mean I should treat others like you treat me?

John said...

Gary,

I think I treat you with courtesy and respect. I read your posts and I respond to them as best I can. While I sometimes compare you with certain Biblical characters, it seems to me that the comparisons are compelled by your judgments, and I do not think you have ever denied the accuracy of the comparisons.

And, though I know I can be as righteously indignant about the correctness of my positions as the next blogger, I am pretty sure I have avoided denying any else's claims to faith, I have avoided dismissing anyone else as forever damned to the fires of Hell, and I have not impugned anyone else's relationship with God. And of course I really should do a lot better.

So yes, I think you could begin being more charitable by treating others the way I treat you.

If I have offended you tell me and I will apologize and be more careful in the future.

John