25 September 2013
WRITTEN BY RICHARD CIUCIU, NEWS TEAM
On June 26th the United States Supreme Court declared a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, thus taking a large step toward full marriage equality in America. Of the nine Supreme Court Judges, five of them found this form of marriage regulation to be an abuse of governmental authority under the Fifth Amendment in the United States Constitution. The close voting margin is directly correlated to the topic at hand: defining and regulating who can be married has been a hotly debated topic in the United States for some time. Various arguments for maintaining marriage as a sacred act between a man and a woman tend to either focus on religious aspects or the repercussions of a child being raised in a same-sex household. However, as more studies suggest that heterosexual households do not produce ‘better’ children than children raised by homosexual couples, the debate has seemingly come down to religious practice and belief. Whether or not religion should be the basis for legal rulings aside, Christians make up around three quarters of the American population. Accordingly, through understanding the ‘Christian viewpoint’ on homosexual marriage, the overall American attitude might become clearer.
The DOMA ruling has received much attention from some Christians who have spoken out against the Supreme Court’s findings. These individuals tend to fall into two categories, either focusing on the definition of marriage or the promotion of supposedly immoral activities. The former argument is rather straightforward, insisting that marriage has always been between a man and a woman, thus taking an historical approach. The later argument is more based in religion, claiming that marriage equality promotes the sin of homosexuality. However, other Christians have supported the ruling by the Supreme Court, insisting that loving one another is key throughout both the Old and New Testament. Some Christian supporters have gone so far as to suggest that a step towards the more ‘modern’ idea of marriage equality could possibly increase the church’s relevance. Despite the apparent discrepancy within the community, Christians as a whole are attributed with being against the idea of homosexual marriages. However, Christian thought is not so universally consistent and, through one approach to scripture, marriage equality seems to be acceptable under Christian doctrine.
By claiming that marriage equality goes against the definition of marriage, Christians are insinuating that the biblical definition of marriage is currently intact, but is this even the case? 1 Corinthians 11:3 states, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ.” However, the ancient Greek scripture prior to translation uses particular words that allow the same scripture to be translated as, “man is the head of the woman.” Although a seemingly small discrepancy, this minor nuance in translation has major repercussions. Corinthians is either stating that a husband is always in charge of his wife, or that men in general are in control of women. Either way, this is not a viewpoint that is widely followed, or even preached in modern day Christianity. Oddly, this dissonance between the ‘definition of marriage’ and modern day practice is not met with such fervor as allowing homosexuals to marry. Accordingly, the act of homosexuality must be the primary factor in the religious side of the DOMA debate.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is often quoted to show the sinful nature of homosexual relations. It is a moving tale, but to suggest that it is a lesson on homosexuality is a reach to say the least. The scripture tells of a man who houses two male guests in a gracious manner, but the rest of the city comes to his door and demands that the homeowner release his guests so that they may “know” the two men. However, the man replies, “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 room.” In the end the two guests turn out to be angels and punish the sinful individuals by destroying the area, clearly showing that the townspeople were acting against the supposed word of God. But the angels do not punish Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexuality; the people are punished for acting rudely to guests. The issue is not what the people wanted to physically do, as shown by the homeowner offering up his own virgin daughters to be known, but rather that they wanted to do wrong against another man’s guests. God apparently respects hospitality over familial bonds, as opposed to the unfounded arguments of many Christians that this passage portrays God’s disdain for homosexuals.
No matter the manner in which the Bible is translated, all Christians maintain the idea that their faith and religion is based on love: love for God, for Christ, for neighbors, etc. It isn’t uncommon for a born again Christian to explain that they were saved through love, both God’s love and their love for Him. Although it isn’t the normal approach, this focus on love can be used by modern Christians to argue for marriage equality. After all, St. Augustine’s famous quote to “love the sinner, hate the sin” is a prominent message among the Christian community. Even if homosexuality could be undoubtedly defined as sinful through scripture, which it cannot, the individuals themselves should still be loved and respected. Once a Christian can accept the idea that homosexuality is not a sin in and of itself, then the issue dissipates altogether: even if homosexuality seems odd to some, everyone still deserves love according to the Bible. Thus, marriage equality would actually further promote that supposed overpowering love, allowing more individuals to embody love for one another and, from the point of view of a Christian, be close to God through said love.
Clearly these passages are only a few examples of how someone could interpret the biblical stance on marriage equality. But there are many different ways to interpret the Bible, as is shown through the plethora of sects within Christianity. In this case, it doesn’t even matter which viewpoint is ‘right’ according to the Bible, considering the First Amendment of the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” While Christianity may be a central aspect for most Americans, the First Amendment is, by definition, a central aspect for all Americans. So, while the Bible possibly approves or discourages marriage equality, the Constitution clearly states that religion has no grounds for legal debate. With religion seemingly being the only point of debate in this argument, marriage equality should assumedly be allowed with few issues. Perhaps it is time for Christians to further expand their idea of love and for Americans, Christian or not, to recognize the sanctity of their Constitution.