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Civil marriage is a civil right. The referendum regarding same-sex marriage in Maryland deals with exactly that subject—civil marriage, the legal right for two adults to enter into a binding contract of marriage with all of its responsibilities and benefits. Some may claim that God doesn’t approve; some may point to a handful of Bible passages; but religious considerations should have no impact on the legal rights of our fellow citizens.
Some people have a deep conviction that homosexuality is sinful, based on their traditions or how they choose to apply a few verses in the Bible. I completely disagree with them. But their right to believe those things, and their right to implement those beliefs by not allowing same-sex marriage in their place of worship, are protected under this law. At the same time, just because some folks consider a certain action a sin is no reason for that action to be illegal in the State of Maryland.
Jesus never discussed homosexuality. Jesus did strongly reject prejudice and discrimination on the basis of faith, ethnicity, gender, age, and occupation. Quoting Leviticus is a rational non-starter—how can you hold up ancient Jewish rules against homosexuality when you reject nearly all of the other rules in that book? And Paul’s three New Testament references to homosexuality actually seem to have more to do with ancient practices of pederasty and ritual temple prostitution than our current understandings of lifelong, monogamous, publicly-accountable, same-sex relationships. The Bible, when studied, is not as hostile toward same-sex marriage as some loud voices would have us believe.
It may be that after reflection, study, and conversation, a peripheral Bible verse or two still seems negative toward homosexuality. That’s no reason to deny equal protection under the law to our fellow citizens. Nor is it even a reason to deny marriage rights within a Christian church. Christians throughout history have on occasion decided that being faithful to the ministry and call of Jesus Christ means setting aside some Bible passages shaped more by human sinfulness than divine inspiration. In parts of the Bible, slavery is condoned, women are told not to exercise leadership in the Church, and patriarchal family structures are commended. And yet our church supports none of those things. Not because we “gave in” to society, but because we listened more closely to Jesus than to human biases and traditions. Now is one of those moments in which Christ is calling those within the Church to set aside our inherited biases and realize a more full and inclusive vision of God’s kingdom.
Pastor Mark Parker
Breath of God Lutheran Church