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Case For Legal Recognition

There are several arguments that have underlined this remarkable change in thinking about a previously unchallenged orthodoxy. First, there is the argument that certain Biblical references have been misconstrued as condemning homosexuality. Second, it is argued that some of the terms used by the original authors of Scripture have been mistranslated by persons who were influenced in their renditions by an imperfect understanding of the original text. Third, it is said that there is no Biblical pronouncement against homosexuality that is authoritative for Christians. Fourth, it is argued that arguments about the sinful nature of homosexual acts are based on philosophical attitudes hostile to all non-procreative sex that are rejected by modern Christians. Fifth, it is said that Biblical teaching is based on ancient scientific beliefs that are now demonstrably wrong. Sixth, and most importantly, it is argued that our scientific understanding of sexual orientation was unknown to the authors of the Bible, and that the validity of their pronouncements must be questioned in light of the context of ancient understanding of the nature of homosexual acts.

I will deal briefly with each of these topics:

1. Misconstruction

The most influential text that has supported the ecclesiastical and legal persecution of homosexuals has been the story of Sodom. In the story, angels visit Lot at Sodom. A mob demands that the strangers be bought out “that we may know them”. Lot offers his daughters to the mob, unsuccessfully, and the evil intentions of the mob are frustrated when they are struck blind. God later destroys Sodom. It will be seen at once that the act that is central to the story is one of homosexual rape, which says nothing about loving relationships between same sex couples. Bailey and others have pointed out that Jesus never cited the Sodom story as evidence of God’s condemnation of homosexuality. It was later writers like Philo who blamed tolerance of homosexuality for Sodom’s fate[7]. In fact, the Sodom story is still a valid moral condemnation of rape. However, the historical context was that righteous persons extended hospitality to strangers in a time when there were few inns. Homosexual rape was an indignity that was often imposed on defeated enemies, so to degrade your guests in the manner of an enemy would have been particularly horrifying to people of that time. Even after this context was lost, it is interesting that the focus of concern became the homosexual nature of the threatened act, rather than the violent nature of a gang rape.

[7] Bailey, supra note 2 at 21-22, 26.

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