For many, the issue of gay rights is very simple. Some say that absolutely no legal distinctions should be made between heterosexual relationship and homosexual ones. On the other hand, some say that that no special concessions should be made for gay couples and marriage should never be defined outside one man and one woman. I believe that we must all admit, though, that this issue is far from simple. It is complex not because the solutions are complex, but because dealing with the variety of people in America is complex.
There are two issues with which we must come to terms–How should gay people be treated in our society, and should gay people be allowed to marry? We must come up with creative (and simple) solutions to these issues.
How Should Gay People be Treated?
I believe that we should base our values and our behavior on the example of Jesus. Jesus never addressed the issue of homosexuality. He did, though, continually interact with people who were considered by His society to deserve judgement, shame, condemnation, and punishment. The account of Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery (John 8) seems especially relevant.
A woman was brought before Jesus. The religious leaders said that she had been caught in the act of adultery and should be stoned to death. According to their ancient law, this was true. They asked Jesus for his opinion on the case. The account in John tells us that Jesus knelt and began to write in the dirt. He then spoke to the men who are ready to stone the woman. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Every one of the would-be executioners dropped their stones and walked away.
While Jesus did tell the woman to “go and sin no more,” He first showed solidarity with her. Jesus demonstrated that He was on her side. He comforted the woman and dispersed her enemies.
How often do today’s followers of Jesus show solidarity with with homosexual people, comforting rather than accusing? How often do we say, “I am on your side”?
No matter what we believe about the morality of another person’s actions, that person is always deserving of dignity, respect, fairness, and love.
Should Gay People be Allowed to Marry?
The fact that marriage is a “sacred bond between one man and one woman” is perhaps the most common defense against the legalization of gay marriage. This statement implies that marriage is a union established by God. It is a religious institution.
If we accept that marriage is a spiritual or religious institution, then we must conclude that it should not be in the hands of the United States government. (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . that’s from the constitution)
If we leave marriage in the hands of secular governments then we will never have a satisfactory resolution to the debate about gay marriage. I propose that government get out of the marriage business. We should allow churches to marry who they choose to marry and limit the role of government to managing legal affairs.
This arrangement would mean that if a person wants a legal union, they go to the courthouse. If a person wants a marriage , they go to the church. A couple who wish to share property, rights of inheritance, and the right to make medical decisions could do so through a legal agreement. A couple wishing to enter the sacred union of marriage before God could do so under the authority of the church.
While this proposal will not suit some, I believe that it is our most reasonable solution. It preserves the sanctity of marriage by placing it solely in the hands of the church, leaves definitions of morality in the hands of religious leaders rather than politicians, and respects the role of government to manage legal issues.