This series looks at the challenging issues of our day, while attempting to find the middle road through love that leads to answers where everyone – liberals and conservatives alike – can find consensus and work together to solve the many problems that are facing our nation and the world today. Here in Part Five we’ll review the traditional arguments that are used by many to challenge the right of homosexuals to marry: religion and traditional family values.
Gay marriage is most often challenged on the religious grounds that it is a sin against God, and runs counter to the teachings of all religious scripture. As a Roman Catholic, I can only give my personal opinion concerning Christianity; and I begin with the fact that we are all sinners who fall short every day of the standards that God has set for us. Jesus taught us to love and forgive one another including our enemies, to treat others as we would have them treat us and not to judge others. That’s a pretty tall order to fill, and I myself have a lot of, “house cleaning” of my own to do before worrying about how other people choose to live their lives. If judgement is needed for any of us – me included – that’s God’s business alone.
As Christians, we are to mirror the love and grace of Jesus Christ to the world – which is more than I could ever do by myself – and I need God’s grace and love to be able to do it at all. If I agree or disagree with gay marriage it doesn’t matter – the homosexual community is protected under the Constitution just like everyone else is. For the record, the heterosexual marriage track record has been less than sterling in many cases and I expect that homosexual marriage will have the same experiences – because marriage is a bond between individuals that requires the best efforts of each partner working as a team in order to be successful. So any two human beings will find it difficult to have a successful marriage no matter who they are.
The other argument often used against gay marriage is that society has a long tradition of allowing heterosexual marriage only, for the important purpose of bearing and raising children which stabilizes society and communities. My response is that yes that’s correct – but society has an equally long tradition of war, murder, abuse, crime, prejudice and any countless number of other negative issues from the beginning of recorded history. Tradition only means that another way wasn’t offered or attempted.
In places around the world where gay marriage has been allowed, their societies haven’t collapsed. The track record for gay marriage is probably equally as good or poor there as it is with heterosexual marriage. Clearly tradition alone is no reason to deny homosexuals the right to marry. Religions clearly can set the rules for their faith and individual members within their own communities, but in a pluralistic democracy where not everyone holds their faith a church should first live the teachings of love and forgiveness – and use their actions rather than words to express their faith to the rest of the world.
Now we’ll look at the subject of marriage and children. The truth is that any bad marriage is harmful to children, and any good marriage – where the two partners love, honor and respect each other – is always beneficial for children. The fact that a marriage produces children or not is really immaterial to the subject of gay marriage, because many heterosexual marriages produce few children or none at all. In a world where adoption is badly needed for all of the world’s unwanted children as it is, the expansion of marriage to the homosexual community to help adopt these children is more than justified. Also, the chance that we can greatly reduce the number of abortions in this world by increasing the number of couples that are open to adoption is a potential blessing beyond measure.
Beyond religion and traditional family values, the final argument normally used to deny gay marriage is a long list of stereotypes commonly used against homosexuals in any or all cases when people look to criticize them and their sexuality. The truth is that sexuality is a complex issue that medical science is only just now beginning to understand. Scientists are learning that hormone levels during the normal course of fetal development are very instrumental in determining the child’s later sexual orientation, which is often known to the individual from a very young age. Many people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community report that their sexual orientation has always been known to them. Others find that with adulthood and self-awareness they are able to make decisions regarding their sexuality and sexual orientation that they were unable to express or understand at a younger age – due to a lack of information, knowledge and the general prejudice of society.
The greatest thing about the internet is the ability for people to have, “unfiltered” access to information and ideas from around the world at their fingertips wherever they are. Before the internet existed, families and communities were able to deny access to many types and sources of information – especially sexual in nature – and teenagers and young adults were rarely able to research and understand the nature of their sexuality on their own. All of that has changed with the internet, and unfortunately the internet is also a source of bad information as well – but the good outweighs the bad – which is why dictatorships still attempt to control the flow of information and ideas to their people, which always fails in the end. People around the world will seek out information and knowledge wherever they can find it – and will also choose freedom – because it’s in our nature to know and to follow truth and freedom at all costs.
The world will not come to an end if children learn about sexuality in school or if homosexuals are legally able to marry. Despite the flamboyant media images and stereotypes, the typical homosexual couple is in a long-term committed relationship and is as much a part of the community as you or me. Children will find ways to learn about and explore their sexuality no matter if they are raised in a homosexual or heterosexual household – and they are always protected by law from any type of abuse by anyone – gay or straight. The bonus to growing up in a homosexual household may just be that they will learn more about tolerance than they might otherwise experience.
After 24 years of being in a, “traditional” heterosexual marriage – I don’t find that gay marriage will have any affect on my marriage at all. My wife and I were married in Germany, and were first married in a civil ceremony much like a Justice of the Peace would conduct, because it was the law in Germany. A few hours later we were married by a kindly Baptist minister on Spangdahlem Air Base, because I was Protestant at the time. In 1998 when I converted to Roman Catholicism, my wife and I were married for a third time in a simple ceremony in the Roman Catholic Church.
So my personal opinion is that all marriages – homosexual or heterosexual – should be required to first have a civil marriage ceremony that provides for all the legal benefits of marriage, followed by any religious ceremony at the discretion and choosing of the couple and their faith as they desire. Once we start to look at the major issues of the day through other people’s eyes, we can see that in all cases – Love Changes Everything.