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Equality - In Our Faiths - Why Christians should support equal marriage

November 6, 2003

Ten Reasons Why Christians Should Support Same-Sex Marriage
By Vaughn Roste

The son of two Lutheran pastors, Vaughn Roste has since worshipped and worked in Episcopalian and Presbyterian Churches, but his current employment is in a United Church. Holding degrees in theology and music from two different church institutions, he currently freelances as a writer and musician in Edmonton.

Writer Vaughn Roste in Venice (Photo courtesy of the author)Having attended several debates about same-sex marriage thus far, it is still my firm conviction that there has yet to be proposed a single reason why same-sex marriage is bad for the country that is not based on religion or that has not been sufficiently countered. Most of the reasons proposed against same-sex marriage are in fact arguments against homosexuality in general, which is a useless argument to be had in the first place (as if one chooses between homo- or heterosexuality based on logic). While I can understand the opposition on religious grounds, I cannot understand why those same people cannot appreciate that other religious people might legitimately disagree with them. It seems shocking to some that Christians could support same-sex marriage, yet there has been a faithful contingent of religious pro-same-sex marriage supporters at every rally or event (for or against) that I have attended thus far. I thought it may be timely to explain how some Christians can do this - and further, why all Christians should. Opposition to same-sex marriage need not be labelled religious, as the Christian camp is by no means united on this matter. Naturally, I can only speak from the perspective of my own religion, Christianity, but I thought I would offer my own contribution to the debate: ten reasons why Christians should support same-sex marriage.

  1. Because Christians support equal rights for all Canadians (indeed, all humans). The “special rights” argument is patently false - this is obviously a clear case of all citizens being treated exactly equally with respect to all of the societal approbations that are associated with marriage: inheritance, taxation, hospital visitation rights etc. What is special about gays and lesbians being granted the same rights as heterosexual couples already have?
  2. Because Christians have long benefited from the freedom of religion in this country, and would want to continue to respect that in the future. Even if you personally don’t approve of same-sex marriage, you might at least recognize that there are several other denominations who are in favour of same-sex marriage: the Society of Friends, Metropolitan Community Church, Lambda Christian Church, and the United Church of Canada are only four Edmonton examples. To deny any religious groups’ belief to practice same-sex marriage in Canada violates a belief in the freedom of religion for all.
  3. Because modern Christians realize that marriage has nothing to do with procreation. Often a primary objection to same-sex marriages is that they cannot bear children. Not only is this narrow-minded and untrue (many creative solutions are available to the same-sex couple that desires to raise children), it’s a double-standard. No one tests heterosexuals for their fertility or desire to raise children before determining their suitability for marriage - on the contrary, churches today regularly marry couples known to be infertile (post-menopausal women being only one example) Inasmuch as any heterosexual couple that has remained childless has been recognized as married by the church, it is hypocritical to resort to this fallacious logic in the same-sex marriage debate.
  4. Because Christians should support marriage in all of its forms. Some claim that same-sex marriage is an attack on family values, but this is incorrect. On the contrary, it is an attempt by GLBT people to be legally recognized as having families in the first place. It is a non sequitur to claim that only the “traditional” nuclear family model is legitimate when less than half of Canadian families conform to this model currently anyways. Same-sex marriage can be seen as enhancing and strengthening marriage instead of the opposite.
  5. Because Christians realize that the Church has been discriminatory in the past and would seek amends for that. Formerly the Church denigrated “homosexual promiscuity” without making available any other option (a recognized covenanted relationship). The Christian support of same-sex marriage thus can end a hypocritical position of the Church and give the Church more relevance to contemporary society. Many agree that Christians should be opposed to discrimination in any form. The “have-your-relationships-but-don’t-call-it-marriage” argument is specious as it promotes a South African-type apartheid: the “same water coming from different fountains” is not equal. As the American Supreme Court has decided “separate but equal” is not.
  6. Because Christians realize that marriage has never been a static institution, and therefore there is no reason that it should be now. From its early origin as a property exchange, to a method of ensuring peace between nations, to being recognized as a church function only in the thirteenth century, to the recent questioning of the “God-given” roles for men and women, the institution of marriage has always been in a state of flux. Things once illegal, such as miscegenation and the marriage of the mentally handicapped, are now permitted. To arbitrarily decide that now marriage has evolved as far as it should according to an 1960’s definition is to deny any possible subsequent influence of the Holy Spirit in our world
  7. Because Christians support the separation of Church and State. Hardly anyone believes these days that the Church should define the law in this country - this position is ignorant of the centuries of problems that that historical situation created. In accordance with the freedom of religion in Canada, modern Christians realize that the insertion of the Christian God into government only spells trouble for those who (everyone agrees) have the right NOT to believe in that God. Christians do not want their denomination to dictate law for the rest of the country.
  8. Because Christians have long known that the Church should not determine legal policy. Further to the above, Christians universally believe in following one’s own conscience, even when that entails opposing the official policy of one’s church. Catholics believe that each person has a solemn moral obligation to adhere to the dictates of his or her conscience (even if that conscience is erroneous), over and above the dictates of the Church. As Cardinal Ratzinger has written: “Only the absoluteness of conscience is the antithesis to tyranny.” Thus for Catholics convicted that all Canadians should be treated equally and that the Canadian freedom of religion should be respected as above, not to promote the legalisation of same-sex marriages is sinful. Within Protestantism the case is even easier, as the entire tradition is ultimately based upon an individual acting according to the dictates of his conscience by nailing up 95 thesis to the wall of a Wittenberg church, an act commemorated in most Protestant churches this week To stand up and challenge the dominant authority is a practice firmly rooted and celebrated in Protestant tradition. Even those opposed to homosexuality in general can logically support same-sex marriage as a decidedly “lesser evil” than the alternative.
  9. Because Christians realize that to hold up marriage as for heterosexuals only is not only discriminatory, it also borders on idolatry. Just as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were maligned for counting their dill seeds while neglecting justice and mercy (Mathew 23:23), Christians today realize that marriage was created for humankind, not the opposite. Jesus’ words in Mark 2:27 are an interesting parallel to the contemporary situation. Marriage is a tool for developing honest, voluntary, long-lasting and mutually accountable relationships between two people, and Christians realize that that is a laudable goal for two people of any gender and seek to promote that.
  10. Because Christians believe in the supremacy of God, not the supremacy of government. Even those who consider homosexual behaviour to be sinful can believe in the equality of all people under the government. Christians realize that many sins are not covered by the Criminal Code, nor should they be, as they are more matters of individual conscience. Ultimately, Christians can take solace in the fact that all will be judged fairly before God, and leave it to God to do the judging. In the meantime, one can work toward the most equitable society possible on this earth: this is what Jesus would have us do.

In yet another reason, educated Christians are also aware of the inherent difficulties in defining marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman: Olympic Committees and lawmakers alike realize the surprising impossibility of legally defining the terms “man” and “woman.” True, for the majority of the population these things are self-evident, but a universal law applying to all Canadians must also take into account the 1 in 1,000 babies that are born intersexed (with anatomical, hormonal, or chromosomal differences that render them unable to conclusively determine a child’s gender, let alone subsequent questions of orientation). The modern world is painfully beginning to realize that nature does not boil down into binary categories nearly as simply as we might like it to. The artificial dichotomy on sex and gender will be one of the final barriers to post-modern thinking to be lifted. If Christians are to seek justice in the world for all people this needs to include transgender individuals and intersexed people as well.

Instead of appearing reluctant or divided, the Christian church should be among the leaders in taking a progressive and prophetic stance in this matter. By doing this not only would the Church be thus opening itself up to the moving of the Holy Spirit in the world, but this would also enable it to regain a sense of relevancy to contemporary society. It is only through supporting same-sex marriage that the Christian Church will be able to live up to its own standard of communicating the unconditional love of God and the radical inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world.

What you can do

  • Write to, or phone, Canada's Prime Minister and Justice Minister, and Members of Parliament in support of equal marriage.
  • Write to homophobic leaders of faith communities in your area, denouncing faith-based bigotry.
  • If your faith community is homophobic, withhold your financial support. Instead of dropping money in the collection plate, leave a note explaining your position.
  • Support gay-positive organizations and faith communities.


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