Today is a historic day in the history of the State of California and in the history of the United States as a whole. Today is the day when a ban on homosexual marriage will be lifted in accordance with a decision of the California Supreme Court. Homosexual couples from across the United States will descend on California in the coming days and weeks, and will receive the legal rights and responsibilities that accompany marriage.
Today’s removal of the ban on same-sex marriage is part of a larger debate in America over the definition of marriage. Because at stake in the discussion are issues of morality, justice, ethics, and separation of church and state, Adventists cannot and must not remain silent on the issue. Adventists have always insisted on speaking the truth, demonstrating God’s love, and working for justice. For those reasons, I suggest several reasons below that voters in California and elsewhere should stand in firm opposition to any constitutional amendments that would ban same-sex marriage. Below, I enumerate my reasons and provide a starting place for further conversation on the topic.
Seven reasons to oppose a ban on same-sex marriage
1. Adventists affirm separation of church and state. Advocating a ban on same-sex marriage on moral grounds is tantamount to coercive mandating of a religious viewpoint. We cannot spread morality by force through law! We should oppose all efforts to do so.
2. Protecting marriage: Supporters of a ban on same-sex marriage define the issue as protection of marriage. We must note that same-sex marriage is still marriage. Marriage as an institution is not under attack. Rather, it is being affirmed.
3. Promoting fidelity and monogamy: If we, as Christians, support and uphold fidelity and monogamy as better than cohabitation, then we should be consistent. The purpose of marriage is to promote monogamy and fidelity. Get it?
4. Marriage is beneficial for society both structurally and fiscally. Marriage promotes stable, lasting relationships over transient ones. Further, marriage is related to greater financial security and mental and physical health. Married people provide societal benefits for those reasons.
5. We cannot defer to the “will of the people” or “deeply rooted tradition,” as attempts by some organizations have done, to ban same-sex marriage. The will of the people and tradition consented to slavery in America. America’s elected officials outlawed slavery as a violation of human freedoms and dignity. America enacted laws banning interracial marriage by the will of the people and tradition. Appointed judges rescinded the laws as violations of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment. Majority does not equal right. The court-ordered desegregation of schools in the 1950’s also went against the will of the people.
6. Same-sex marriage is NOT a slippery slope to the permitting of polygamy in America. (See discussion below).
7. Same-sex marriage does not threat pose a threat to me, my choices, or my way of life. The practice of marital fidelity by homosexual couples does not impinge upon any of my liberties, it does not harm me or my religious practice, and it does not threaten God or God’s sovereignty.
Discussion – an opening for polygamists?
Some have argued that allowing same-sex marriage will open the door to a broad definition of marriage that will inevitably come to include polygamy. That slippery slope argument is demonstrably false. The following discussion comes courtesy of the article Gay Marriage and Polygamy, and is reprinted here for your convenience.
Any proposal for the expansion of marriage must be good both (1) for the individuals involved and (2) for the society in which they live. Gay marriage meets both of these criteria. The case for polygamous marriage is distinguishable (and weaker) on both counts, especially the second.
On the first issue — the effect of allowing gay marriage on homosexuals themselves — the deprivation for gays if gay marriage is banned is greater than the deprivation to polygamists if polygamy is banned. A polygamist may still marry someone if we ban polygamy; he simply may not marry many someones.
The deprivation to the polygamist is large, especially if polygamy involves the exercise of his religious faith, but not total. The gay person, however, has no realistic choice of a mate available under a gay-marriage ban. The deprivation is total.
Further, there is no “polygamous orientation” causing a person to need the close companionship of multiple partners (though some people may prefer it). There is, however, a homosexual orientation, causing a person to need the close companionship of a same-sex partner. The ban on polygamous marriage is the denial of a preference, perhaps a strong one; the ban on gay marriage is the denial of personhood itself.
On the second issue — the effect of recognition on society — the differences between gay marriage and polygamous marriage are more pronounced. There is ample evidence that people who live in stable, committed couples are healthier, happier, and wealthier than those who are single. Gay marriage is a good idea because it will benefit not only the gay couple but their families, friends, neighbors, and taxpayers whose burdens to care for unmarried gay partners is greater.
Jared Wright is pursuing a M.Div at La Sierra University. He blogs at Adventist Environmental Advocacy.
Of course anyone can respond below, but if someone would like to write up a formal essay responding to the seven points that Pastor Wright makes, email us.