Ugh. Where to begin?
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, news outlets and social media have exploded with celebrations, lamentations, and opinions about the matter. And misinformation. Lots of misinformation. And lots of opinions based on that misinformation.
I’d like to look at some of that misinformation.
First let’s look at Chief Justice Roberts’ statement that the ruling “had nothing to do with [the Constitution].”
Actually it had everything to do with the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution states: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Prior to this ruling, same-sex couples who were prohibited from marrying might have been denied the right to:
- sponsor their husband/wife for immigrations
- file income taxes jointly
- have joint parenting rights, such as access to children’s school records
- have next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions
- have family visitation rights, such as a visit to a spouse in a hospital or prison
- receive custodial rights to children, shared property, child support, and alimony after a divorce
- qualify for domestic violence intervention
- receive spousal funeral and bereavement leave
- inherit property
- receive spousal benefits when an officer is killed in the line of duty
- receive spousal Social Security benefits
- have immunity from testifying against spouse
- apply for housing assistance if in a low-income family
- apply for copyright renewal for works created by their deceased spouse
- receive spousal recognition for policies governing burial at Arlington National Cemetery
(source: PBS Newshour)
States that banned same-sex marriage most definitely deprived citizens their rights to the above, so yes, Chief Justice Roberts, this is about the Constitution.
And while we’re talking about the good Chief Justice, let’s also talk about his assertion that “The court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the states and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.” The Washington Post explores the marriage traditions of those four cultures in more detail than I will, but let’s just say that they include polygamy, homosexuality, marriage to corpses, acceptance of concubines. Some of those practices have already been made illegal within those cultures, already transforming the social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia. The marriage we practice today is very different from the marriage that was practiced for most of human history. But I’ll get to that a little later.
Justice Scalia called the ruling “a threat to American democracy,” a sentiment that was echoed by Mike Huckabee, who wrote on his Facebook page: “This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court’s most disastrous decisions, and they have had many.” If I may be permitted to teach basic civics to a Supreme Court Justice and a former state governor / presidential hopeful, the Supreme Court’s role is not to enforce democracy. From www.uscourts.gov: “The Supreme Court plays a very important role in our constitutional system of government. First, as the highest court in the land, it is the court of last resort for those looking for justice. Second, due to its power of judicial review, it plays an essential role in ensuring that each branch of government recognizes the limits of its own power. Third, it protects civil rights and liberties by striking down laws that violate the Constitution. Finally, it sets appropriate limits on democratic government by ensuring that popular majorities cannot pass laws that harm and/or take undue advantage of unpopular minorities. In essence, it serves to ensure that the changing views of a majority do not undermine the fundamental values common to all Americans, i.e., freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and due process of law.” [emphases added]
Huckabee has also said that this ruling attempts to redefine marriage, something that only God can do. Huckabee, like countless others, believes that God has defined marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman, and that the only acceptable sex is the sex that occurs within this covenant. He (and many others) claims the source of this belief as the Bible.
Really? Which Bible? I’m a trained pastor and theologian, and I can tell you with certainty that that’s not what my Bible says.
This post by Odyssey Networks explains the so-called “establishment of marriage” passages in Genesis 2 pretty well, demonstrating that it’s not actually a man/woman thing so much as a human/human thing. Rather than restate what they’ve already explained so well, I’m just going to move on to the slippery slope arguments that have already begun popping up.
‘If you’re going to allow same-sex marriage, why not a marriage between three or more people?’
This is a good question. There may be reasons against it, but I can tell you that an appeal to the definition of biblical marriage isn’t your best argument. Only six generations after Adam and Eve, Lamech took two wives. “Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.'” (Genesis 4:23) Clearly he was married to them simultaneously. And God did and said nothing about it.
Let’s look at Abraham and Sarah. They seem to be a good model of biblical marriage. Except for that whole Hagar thing. Genesis 16:3 says that Sarai (Sarah) gave Hagar to Abram (Abraham) as a wife. So he had two wives? Or was she really more of a concubine? He spoke with God several more times after that, and God never once condemned him for redefining marriage or for committing adultery (the fact that it was Sarah’s idea doesn’t make it any less adulterous).
And shall we mention Abraham’s grandson Jacob? Four wives? (Or two wives plus two concubines? Scholars disagree here.) And again, God said nothing.
King David had eight wives. 1 Chronicles 3 lists Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Adonijah, Abital, Ithream, and Bath-shua (Bathsheba). He was also married to Michal, the daughter of Saul (1 Samuel 18:27), but she had no children, so was not included in the 1 Chronicles genealogy. The only censure David ever received from God about his marriages was when the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to confront him about Bathsheba. In that case God was only angry that David had killed Bathsheba’s husband after he had impregnated her. Nothing about him already having seven wives of his own; in fact, Nathan even implied that God had given David multiple wives of his own (2 Samuel 12:8). God was angry because David had stolen someone else’s
David’s son Solomon had at least 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3), and God’s only complaint was that they turned his heart away from the Lord and towards foreign gods. So it would have been OK if his 700 wives and 300 concubines had all been faithful to God?
I could go on, but you get the idea. The Bible does not define marriage as being between one man and one woman. Not once does God condemn or even chastise someone for having a marriage that does not fit that definition.
“If you’re going to allow same-sex marriage, why not marriage between blood relatives?”
Two words: Joffrey Baratheon. Watch or read Game of Thrones and you’ll understand why procreation between close blood relatives is a bad idea.
Seriously, there are multiple reasons against this kind of marriage, including the problems with recessive genes resulting in inbreeding depression (Joffrey). However, I’m just going to demonstrate that, again, appealing to the definition of biblical marriage doesn’t work.
Most people know of Lot because of the Sodom and Gomorrah story. Lot (who was Abraham’s nephew) was the one righteous man in Sodom, so righteous that he offered his daughters to an angry mob saying, “Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” (Genesis 19:8) I really hope that’s not the biblical definition of fatherhood. But I digress.
Lot escaped Sodom with his wife and daughters, but his wife turned to a pillar of salt when she looked back at the burning city. He hid with his daughters in a cave in the hills, and the daughters, believing that they’d never marry, each got their father drunk and had sex with him, thus getting pregnant and continuing the family line. (Genesis 19:30-38) Considering that David and eventually Jesus came through that line, I can hardly say that God condemned the action.
Now let’s talk about Abraham again. Twice he passed Sarah off as his sister when he feared he’d be killed on account of her, and the second time he confessed that she actually was his sister. “Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.” (Genesis 20:12) As we’ve already said, God never condemned that union.
And it gets worse. I’m just going to quote verbatim the explanation from answers.com, and I’ll include at the end the biblical citations that the author neglected.
According to the Book of Genesis, the patriarchal family line is a self-contained unit, originating solely in Terah, with no pathways to or from the outer world. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and even Joseph were all descended on both sides from Terah.
Sarai was Abram’s sister and therefore not only Isaac’s mother but also his aunt, so that any further genetic relationship would be, in effect, doubled. Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel, Isaac’s own cousin through Nahor. Bethuel was also the son of Isaac’s own cousin Milcah. Jacob, in turn married his cousins, Rachel and Leah. In this story, Rebekah and Isaac were closely related, as second cousins on both sides, separated by one generation through Nahor and Bethuel, or two generations through Haran, Milcah and Bethuel.
(Genesis 11:27-29; Genesis 20:12; Genesis 24:24; Genesis 29:21-30)
So there you have it. Biblical marriage includes incest as well as polygamy. The slippery slope isn’t going to bring us further away from the biblical definition of marriage, but closer to it.
Oh, and just a personal pet peeve of mine: if you or your spouse has divorced and remarried, please don’t sanctimoniously lecture others about the importance of keeping God’s law. Jesus said that any man who divorces his wife (except on the grounds of unchastity) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32) And just in case you forgot, the penalty for committing adultery is death. (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22) If you’re going to pick and choose which verses in the Bible to embrace and which ones you’re going to reject, please have a hermeneutic for that other than it benefits me or it’s what I’m comfortable with. There are legitimate methods of interpretation; please be specific and consistent.
Now for the fear mongering. This article is making the rounds, claiming that pedophiles are using the same tactics as gay rights activists in order to get pedophilia normalized as simply another sexual orientation. (The article is linked through ‘Do Not Link’ so that links through my site will not improve their search engine position.) The article is entitled “That was FAST: Yesterday it was gay marriage; Now look who wants ‘equal rights.'” The only problem is that pretty much the entire article quotes another article that was originally published in 2011, so no, there’s nothing ‘fast’ about it, and it has nothing to do with the Supreme Court decision. It’s also full of lies and out-of-context quotes. Read this for clarification of the APA’s position. The whole article is nothing more than a scare tactic.
Consent matters. Adults of the same gender can consent. Children cannot consent. And neither can animals, so the bestiality argument is a nonstarter, too, so please, let’s not even go there.
As far as redefining ‘traditional’ or ‘historical’ marriage, let us remember that, aside from polygamy and incest being both traditional and historical, the idea of two people choosing their own spouses and marrying for love is a relatively recent innovation. For much of history, women and girls were seen as property, hence the traditions of dowry (purchase price) and the still-common practice of the father giving away the bride at the wedding. Marriages were arranged for political or economic reasons, or as a means of increasing the family labor force. There is little traditional or historical about marriage as it is practiced in the United States today. Read this if you’d like a brief overview of the history of marriage.
If you disagree with the Supreme Court ruling, fine. If you want to express your disagreement, fine. But please do so intelligently.