Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Marriage Walls Are Tumblin' Down

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples...Because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
US District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, Perry v. Schwartzeneggar
Lawrence, Kansas, 4:00PM CST

What's that sound I just heard coming from our distant, beloved and native California? Just another few bricks crumbling off that old, hastily built wall blocking gays and lesbians from state-sponsored marriage. This cannon-blast came from US District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, appointed by Republican George H. Bush, who heard from 16 witnesses over the course of 2 1/2 weeks in January. The normally conservative Republican Ted Olson took on this case with his good liberal friend David Boies, defending a gay couple from SoCal and a lesbian couple from Berkeley. Neither Republican Governor Arnold Schwarteneggar nor Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown agreed to argue on behalf of Proposition 8.

Although this important case still has a couple more hurdles (US Appelate Court and US Supreme Court--we are holding our breath), EasyYolk concurs with Walker on the basis of both the biblical gospel story and deep democracy enshrined in the earliest documents of our founders. In other words, it is both "blessed are the meek" and "liberty and justice for all." Here are a few things we'd like to share with all of our Christian brothers and sisters who sincerely voted "yes" on Proposition 8.

1. As much as you want to scream "judicial activism" or "I can't believe this judge is taking away my democracy," remember that the court system has been a vital component to ensure rights for minorities at key junctures in American history. Where would we be without Brown v. Board of Education (1954) striking down educational Jim Crow? Sometimes judges can do what majority populations refuse to do: insure rights to those who have had rights wrongfully taken away. For most of my Christian brothers and sisters, this litmus test will do: Would you agree with a judicial decision that banned abortion in all 50 states?

2. The defendents in Perry v. Schwartzeneggar (pro-Prop 8) admitted in cross-examination that children reared by same-sex parents fared no worse that those in "traditional" homes. These same pro-Prop 8 attorneys answered "I don't know" to the judge's question about how exactly marriage equality would harm opposite-sex marriages.

3. We can take notes from uber-conservative-Catholic Argentina whose Legislature and President just made same-sex marriage legal. The Argentinian population has rather conservative views on sexuality, but they overwhelmingly believe (70% in public opinion polls) that a citizen's choice to get married to anyone they want, regardless of gender, is a matter of basic equality.

4. A recent study on the Proposition 8 vote has revealed that a major shift in voting occured in the final week before the November 2008 election. The results showed that the changed hearts/minds of these voters (more than 687,000 voters!) came as a result of fear-based TV ads (like this) that showed a little girl coming home to tell mommy that she learned about gay sex and how she can choose to be gay when she grows up. Of course, this greatly affected parents with children under 18 still living at home. This kind of last-minute advertising works...but not a lick of it was true.

5. As we've posted before, there are numerous reasons we give for why this is a "Christian" issue:

-Because when the Bible, a library of diverse & inspired documents, refers to "homosexuality" it never refers to same-sex marriage or orientation, but instead to what it actually was in that historical context: same-sex temple prostitution, same-sex military rape, same-sex pederastry (a wealthy man who owns a young boy for sexual gratification).

-Because God's People are commanded--over and over again in the Bible--to reject fear and embrace the vulnerable, left-out, marginalized. Gays and lesbians, throughout the centuries, have been grossly misunderstand and pushed aside and neglected. They continue to be equated with pedaphiles and molesters.

-Because many communities within the American Body of Christ, over the centuries, have been silent or complicit with the wrong side of history on too many vital social issues, including slavery, women's rights, civil rights and various wars (including our current adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan).

-Because the heterosexual agenda is the real issue in US culture. We are inundated with sexual hints and innuendos on TV, movies, billboards, print ads, commercials, music and magazine covers.

-Because divorce within "traditional marriage" is widespread within the Body of Christ. Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are just two examples of conservative leaders who champion "traditional marriage" in order to block same-sex marriage, but then define "traditional marriage" on their own terms, getting married over and over to different women.

-Because scientific studies are "contested" and abused by both sides of the debate to bludgeon their opponents with "the truth."

-Because conservative Christians rarely get the opportunity to hear the stories of gays and lesbians, who have, since an early age, experienced sexual feelings that the mainstream has labeled "distorted" and "perverted." They are hard to find since fear and manipulation have driven them into the closet.

-Because gays and lesbians have a lot to teach the Body of Christ about what persecution and vulnerability really feel like.

-Because gays and lesbians, just like heterosexuals, should have a real option (recognized by their faith community) to experience covenant love that requires discipline, fidelity, service and forgiveness.

--Theological Autopilot


  1. Given all of the abuse, discrimination, and apparent prejudice involved with state-sponsored marriage, would you advocate for a system in which the government was not in the business of providing marriages at all?

    Any thoughts on the merits of a world in which the government completely abstains from blessing some relationships while discriminating against others?

  2. The link in #5 is the same as in #4.

  3. Dave, one concern I would have with the non-state marriage model (which I believe would be better than our current model) would be with what options non-religious, agnostic and atheist couples would have for "marriage." No doubt, they could get creative, but so much of what marriage has come to mean in our society is tied to the state for legitimacy. What happens to the atheist or gay (or gay atheist?) couple living in the Bible Belt? Not many options for a blessed marriage ceremony. The state at least guarantees that any and all marriage covenants are recognized by a wider community of people.

    As a Christian, I like the non-state model because it presses the issue of what marriage actually means theologically, according to the story of God in Scripture. High church models would emphasize the "sacramental" nature of marriage and, certainly, Southern Baptist, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Bible Churches would emphasize the "traditional" nature of marriage between a man and woman (and only a man and a woman).

    What are your thoughts?

  4. Eddie, thanks for the editing help! I've made the change. Thanks for reading!

  5. Great post, easyyolk! I love your passion and your conviction not to take this subject lightly. Personally, I'm ashamed about how the church has handled and embraced such a nasty piece of legislature like prop 8. Question: regarding the point you raised about the bible speaking to "homosexuality" in terms of only meaning "same-sex temple prostitution, same-sex military rape, same-sex pederastry," how sure can we really be about this? As a seminary student, am not totally convinced by this argument, as much I a truly want to be. In Romans 1, we read about men exchanging natural relations with women for unnatural relations with other men. I have heard the argument saying Paul was referring to same-sex pederastry, which I do think is possible, but what about the women that are mentioned in Romans 1? What are your thoughts about their unnatural relationships? Does what you say apply to them? How can we know? What do we know about women homosexuality in the 1st century?

    I guess my point is that I continuously have a hard time reconciling homosexuality with scripture (even though I wish I could). I understand that I can be wrong on this matter, and if I am I hope my homosexual brothers and sisters can forgive my ignorance. But then again, what if homosexuality is the product of a fallen world, just like all the brokenness I find in myself? Is there a way we can foster more conversation and education on this topic?

  6. Thanks for the comments, Anonymous! I can tell that you sincerely care about serving God and caring for your gay brothers and lesbian sisters with the love of Christ. As to your question about knowing for sure about what Paul meant by unnatural relations and lesbianism in the 1st century Hellenist world, we can only make educated historical guesses and admit that we cannot know for sure. I am compelled by the argument that Paul's own understanding of homosexuality was limited to his own context. He was using the philosophical logic/reasoning of his day to argue a position that was (probably) greatly influenced by those "abomination" passages in Torah. This line of reasoning, I believe, calls us to examine the nature of homosexuality in our world today and prayerfully dialogue and discern God's divine will. As I hear the stories (some of them first person accounts) of gays and lesbians, I witness something that even the Apostle Paul would not label "unnatural." I don't believe that he witnessed committed, conensual, covenanted loving homosexual relationships like we see today. These relationships should be honored in the church and in society at large.

    And, in light of ALL the complexity of this issue, we all need to take a leap of faith on one side of the issue or the other. 2 years ago, I chose to leap to the side of giving dignity and liberation to gays and lesbians both within the Body of Christ and in wider society. This doesn't mean I believe in "anything goes" for my gay brothers and lesbian sisters in Christ, just like I don't believe in "anything goes" for my my hetero brothers and sisters in Christ. Sexuality outside of committed, covenantal, consensual loving relationships has a destructive, dehumanizing legacy.

  7. I did not mean to imply that only people with religious affiliations can get married in the non-state marriage model. The idea behind the non-state marriage model is to eliminate the de jure monopoly currently held by the state. The state's role in marriage (to address your concerns of legitimacy) would be to merely enforce the contracts that individuals write, agree, and sign.

    In the non-state marriage model in which people are free to enter into any "marriage" contract they see fit, I don't think "non-religious, agnostic and atheist couples" would have limited options for marriage. If anything, they would have more options.

    I completely agree with you about pressing the issue of what marriage means, theologically. That's a great conversation to have.