Marriage Equality – The Time Has Come!
Over the last two weeks we’ve examined both the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures often quoted to demonize, denounce, degrade, and diminish the LGBTQ, especially those who identify as homosexual. We’ve discovered that the verses have been mistranslated, misquoted, taken out of context, and misused. Since we are now comfortable defending our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, the next logical topic to explore is Marriage Equality.
“Remember that the successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.”
~Carrie P. Snow
As our country moves forward in bestowing equal rights to all, including gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered, and those who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, state by state, the fight for Marriage Equality pushes on. Many don’t feel homosexual relationships should be recognized at all. While others feel it is valid to recognize such relationships, but we must come up with some other word – just don’t call it marriage. And then, there are those who feel the right to marry should simply extend to all – heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.
Personally, I’m not a fan of terms such as Gay Marriage and Same-sex Marriage. These terms place qualifiers on marriage that would make these relationships somehow different. We don’t say Straight Marriage or Opposite-sex Marriage. The two individuals are simply married. The same should hold true for gays and lesbians. They are not, or would not be, “gay married.” They would simply be married. So, I prefer the term Marriage Equality; because that’s exactly what the fight is about – the right to be equal.
Let’s be clear…we’re not talking about the right to marry multiple people, marrying your dog, or marrying children. If people are interested in poly-amorous relationships, let them take up that banner and fight for it. It’s a separate issue.
As far as I know, a dog can’t be a consenting partner, so that argument goes right out the window.
And marrying children? We already have age requirements in place to protect children. We’re talking only about the right for two consenting adults to enter into the marriage relationship equally – whether heterosexual or homosexual.
Many also say that we shouldn’t be redefining marriage because it’s existed for thousands of years. But, that definition in and of itself has changed – it has not been static for thousands of years. In ancient biblical times, men had numerous wives and concubines. And, in ancient times, marriage was often less about any sort of love and more often based on forming strategic alliances. Even when two-person marriages became the norm, there were restrictions. In the United States, it wasn’t until the late 1960s that interracial couples were universally allowed to marry. Over time, as cultures changed, so did the definition.
“Yes, but it was still one man and one woman!” True enough – that’s what it has been. But, just because that’s what it has been, it doesn’t mean that it must always be. Now that we know that homosexuality isn’t a sickness, nor a ‘sin,’ nor is it a choice, it is simply the way some people are born, it’s time for our marriage laws to catch up.
Do I feel two people, who are consenting adults, and have agreed to form a loving, committed, bond, should have the right to marry? Yes! Even if they’re gay? Yes! But, as we talked about over the last two weeks, it’s not enough just to ‘feel’ that it’s right. We also need to see what we might discover by examining Scripture. Most opposition to Marriage Equality comes from a religious viewpoint. We hear statements like, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” This is a very traditionalist stance.
Can a Scriptural case be made regarding Marriage Equality? Let’s take a look at Scripture and see what we can uncover.
Adam & Eve
The story of Adam and Eve was written to help answer the age-old question – where did we come from? Some feel the story is just that, an allegory to explain how we got here. Others feel it is quite literal – Adam and Eve were, indeed, the very first male and female created. And some feel it’s somewhere in between – God as the Source of all Being brought forth life, and over time it evolved into what know as homo-sapiens. For the sake of argument, we’ll go on the premise that there was an Adam and Eve.
The traditional argument goes like this…since Adam and Eve were created heterosexual, it must be God’s plan, and so, everyone must be intended to be heterosexual. There is a flaw in this argument, however. If we follow the logic, then whatever Adam and Eve were created to be, everyone who came after would be the same – there would be no deviation. This would mean that anyone who is of a different skin color, has different color hair or eyes, etc. must be contrary to God’s plan. We now know that people are born heterosexual or homosexual, just as some are born with dark skin, some with fair; some with blue eyes, some with brown; and some are born with blonde hair and some with black. If we start to label the attributes that Adam and Eve had as “right” or “wrong,” we can see how dangerous it can be. Adam and Eve were first, so it would make sense they would be heterosexual, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who came after must also be heterosexual.
Since Adam and Eve were the only two humans, there was no wedding, they didn’t exchange rings, there were no vows, and they didn’t enter into a “marriage contract.” The writers had to assign to them words that would make sense to them – husband and wife.
Well, Adam and Eve were supposed to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28) This is yet another argument – gays and lesbians can’t procreate. Well, first off, yes they can. Some people who have been married, and had children, come to terms with their homosexuality. Their children are still their children. Some may become parents through a process other than traditional sexual intercourse – but many heterosexual couples conceive children by other means as well.
Basing marriage solely on procreation has its faults, too. If procreation is the only basis for entering into marriage, then people beyond child-bearing years, infertile couples, and anyone else who will not have children should not be allowed to marry.
And remember, Genesis 1 is an overview of all creation, and Genesis 2 goes back to tell the story again, filling in more detail. The fact is that, before “the fall,” there was no need to procreate. In fact, if all the species had procreated, they would have soon overflowed the boundaries of the Garden. Having children was part of “the curse” after the fall. So, procreation in and of itself was not part of God’s original plan.
Besides procreation, marriage has, indeed, traditionally served other purposes: fidelity, mutual support, companionship, love, intimacy, and a familial bond. This is exactly why Eve, as the Bible tells us, was created – to be a “help meet” so that Adam would not be alone.
All of these attributes of marriage can be met both in a homosexual unions as well as in heterosexual. Simply basing opposition to Marriage Equality on Adam and Eve carries little or no weight at all.
But, didn’t Jesus say, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh…”? (Mark 10:7 &8) Yes.
But look at the entire message. Based on the texts before and after, Jesus is responding to questions regarding divorce. Jesus, too, left his father and mother – not to get married, but to fulfill his mission. Obviously there were more reasons to leave one’s parents than to enter into a heterosexual marriage.
Jesus’ message on divorce was pretty clear – the only acceptable reason was adultery. The people at the time had no concept of alcohol or drug addiction, spousal abuse, child abuse, and a whole host of other reasons people today get divorced. As our culture has changed, so has our application of Scripture. We should be no less adaptable to our changing understanding of homosexuality and the ability for two people of the same sex to enter into a loving, committed marriage relationship.
Jesus also speaks of three types of eunuchs. In Matthew 19:12 He says, “For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake…” We often think of a eunuch as someone who has been castrated. But, the original Greek word, eunouchizo (yoo-noo-khid’-zo and yoo-noo’-khos) mean to be castrated, a castrated person, an impotent person or unmarried man. So, eunuchs are not only those who are castrated (on purpose or by accident), but also those who are “born that way” and those who choose a life of celibacy. It is held by many scholars that non-castrated males were actually homosexual – born that way, and that, because they were homosexual, they would be safe around women. We’ll see this again when we talk about Daniel. For now, let’s understand that even Jesus understood that it was perfectly natural for some not to enter into a “traditional marriage.”
King James I
The most read version of the Bible is the King James. Unfortunately, it also has some of the most errors in translation from the original texts. Be that as it may, it is often held up at the “standard” by which we are all to live. The version was commissioned by King James in 1604, and it was completed in 1611. Many who use this version, and others that came after, are completely unaware that King James was homosexual. It’s true that he enforced laws against homosexual acts – but that was no different than many of our preachers and politicians today. It comes under the heading – “me thinks thou dost protest too much.” Even with his attempts to enforce anti-gay laws on the people, he, at some point, came to terms with his own homosexuality.
Though King James did marry and father children, it was out of duty rather than love. Over time, he had three long-term relationships, the last of which was with George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. At this point in his life, the King was very open and unashamed about his love for Buckingham. In a letter to the Council of England, he wrote:
“I, James, am neither a god nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George.”
Even James’ wife, Anne, knew of the relationship, and actually supported it. In letters to Buckingham she begged him to be “always true” to her husband. And, in letters to Buckingham, James even addressed him as his spouse saying, “I desire only to live in this world for your sake…I had rather live banished in any part of the Earth with you than live a sorrowful widow’s life without you…God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband.” When King James died, Buckingham was at his side.
Now, I’m not saying that King James was right and that Jesus was homosexual. But, look at the verses in John:
- 13:23 – “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”
- 19:26 – “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing by, he saith unto his mother, woman, behold they son!”
- 20:2 – “The she (Mary Magdallen) runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved…”
- 21:7 – Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Pter, It is the Lord.”
- 21:20 – Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; (which also leaned on his breast at supper…)”
It’s easy to see why King James would make the assumptions he did. In English we only have one word for love. In Greek, there are many, depending on the type of love – unconditional love, spousal/intimate love, love for children, love for parents, etc. James didn’t know of the different words used in Greek for love. But, even James, on some level, understood there was something “right” and “natural” about his love for George Villiers.
Are there actual Scriptural examples of homosexuals marrying? No…and yes, in a manner of speaking.
David and Jonathan
The Book of Samuel goes into great detail about the relationship of David and Jonathan. The same word used to describe their love is used to describe Jacob’s love for Rachel in Genesis 29:20; and to describe the love of the Shunamite girl for Solomon in Song of Solomon 3:1-4. I Samuel 18:1 says, “Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan love him as his own soul.” Verse 18:3 goes on to say, “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.” Once they had made this covenant vow, 18:4 tells us, “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.”
Keep in mind that there was no such thing as underwear. Clearly Jonathan stripped naked. This is more than simply turning over his sword and bow. It would have been strange then, and would be now, which could indicate theirs was more than a platonic friendship. And then David left his father and mother and moved in with Saul…and Jonathan.
Now, Saul, of course, had intended Jonathan to be his heir and successor to the throne. Samuel, though, had anointed David to succeed Saul. This angered Saul, and he set out to have David killed. He couldn’t kill him outright, so he devised a plan to marry David to his daughter Merab. Saul hoped that David would be distracted and fall in battle. Merab married someone else. So, Saul offers up his second daughter, Michal. Michal loved David, but there is no indication that David loved her. It seems he would marry her out of duty, not love. Their marriage, by the way, produced no children. The modern version of verse 18:21 says that David would be Saul’s son-in-law “through one of the two.” That would seem to imply Michal over Merab. The words “one of” are italicized. That means they were added – they were not part of the original text. The actual text reads, “Today you will be my son-in-law through two.” This means David would be Saul’s son-in-law twice – once through Jonathan and once through Michal. Saul obviously recognized the “marriage relationship” of David and Jonathan, even if he didn’t approve of it.
In verse 20:17, Jonathan causes David to vow “because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul.” Then, in verse 20:41, the text has been radically changed. The NKJV says, “…David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so.” The original translated text reads, “…David came up from the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and they bowed three times, and kissed each other, and wept with each other, until David became large (experienced an erection).”
After Jonathan’s death, David lamented his loss in song. II Samuel 1:26 reads, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.”
Remember, at that time, and still for Chassidic Jews today, men didn’t have platonic relationships with women. David’s use of “love of women” would clearly be a sexual love. It wouldn’t make sense to compare a platonic relationship with a man to a sexual relationship with a woman.
The love expressed for Jonathan is clearly more than just a platonic friendship. And, though David married many times, nowhere in Scripture are we told of David expressing this type of love for any of his wives.
When one looks beyond the printed text of our modern versions, and we see the words used and the context in which they were used, it’s clear that David and Jonathan were in a committed, loving, supportive, and intimate relationship. They couldn’t “marry” in their culture; but they were, for all practical purposes, married. Even Jonathan’s father, Saul, recognized this fact when he referred to David being his son-in-law twice.
Another example of a recognized homosexual relationship is the story of Daniel. Daniel was a eunuch. Remember, eunuchs could have been castrated, either by force or by accident, they could choose a life of celibacy, or they could simply have been “born that way.”
We’re not really sure how or why Daniel was a eunuch, but we know that he was. Daniel 1:3 tells us that the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring “sons of Israel” and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles. Verse 6 goes on to say that Daniel was one chosen from among the sons of Judah (Israel). And Verse 9 tells us, “Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.”
The Hebrew words used for “tender love” indicate a sexual, intimate love. And, since God brought Daniel and Ashpenaz together, and since God does not desire intimate relationships outside of a committed relationship, we can deduce their relationship to be one of commitment and intimacy. And that type of relationship is what we call marriage.
More and more people are realizing that prohibiting two people who love each other, and who desire a committed relationship within the bonds of marriage, is just plain wrong. Once again, we’ve seen how words have been mistranslated, misunderstood, and misused.
Forcing homosexual people to live a life of celibacy is wrong. Even Jesus understood that celibacy (the life of a eunuch) wasn’t for everyone. In Matthew 19:12 He says, “…He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” And to force or pressure a homosexual to marry someone of the opposite sex is ludicrous. That would be the same as forcing a heterosexual to marry someone of the same sex. Consenting adults must be permitted to enter into the relationships that create successful, strong marriages. The key for gays and straights alike depend on the same two factors – finding the right person, and being the right person.
There is no Scriptural basis for denying people of the same gender the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage. And, there is absolutely no need to use a different word to describe such relationships.
Marriage, in and of itself, has changed over time. Men are no longer required to marry their brother’s widow, we no longer sanction polygamous marriages, and we no longer force rape victims to marry their rapists. Were there reasons these types of marriages existed? Yes, at that time. But the reasons no longer exist. Have there been reasons up until now to think of marriage as only being between one man and one woman? Sure. But those reasons no longer exist, either.
Just as in the past, our society grown in knowledge and understanding, and has subsequently changed. Merriam-Webster Dictionary now defines marriage the same way for both opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. In this sense, I suppose marriage has a new definition. However, the base definition remains the same. Stripping out the gender aspect, the definition simply reads, “the state of being united to a person in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” That doesn’t sound like we’re re-defining anything. The marriage relationship is the same for same-sex couples as for their opposite-sex counterparts – it is equal. And that is exactly what we’re talking about – Marriage Equality.
And, let’s remember that marriage is governed by civil authority. As equal citizens, same-sex couples should have the right to enter into a state-sanctioned marriage. Churches have the right to decide whether or not to solemnize the marriages. There are still churches that won’t perform marriages for mixed-race couples, or for mixed-faith couples. That is their right, just as it’s their right not to solemnize same-sex marriages. But, there are churches that do solemnize mixed-race, and mixed-faith marriages; and churches should, at their option, have the right to solemnize same-sex marriages as well.
We would do well to agree that this is just another subject on which there will always be differing opinions, move past these divisions, and actually begin to live as Christ instructed – loving God, and loving each other.
Marriage Equality – truly, the Time Has Come!
- Genesis 1:28
- John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20
- Genesis 29:20
- Song of Solomon 3:1-4
- I Samuel 18:1 & 3, 21, 20:17, 20:41
- II Samuel 1:26
- Daniel 1:3, 6, & 9
- Matthew 19:12
- Mark 10:7 & 8
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