Monday, May 7, 2012

Minnesota Marriage: Homosexuality, Rights, and the Gospel

There has been a lot of debate about state or even national votes for the legalization of same-sex marriage.  Several states have already legalized it.  Now an amendment the Minnesota state constitution has been proposed to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  While to some this may seem redundant, given that there are already somewhere around 515 laws currently on the books that operate from this understanding, but the amendment would make it much harder to pass a new definition of marriage law or amendment.

Last Friday, I went to a performance by the 515 Players, an advocacy and lobbying group that puts on short plays in order to shed light on the homosexual civil rights struggle and convince people to vote "no" on the amendment, set for popular vote early this upcoming November.  This was informative, yet pretty much what I expected.  I had not realized before I went to the play that there are at least 515 statutes that discriminate against homosexual couples - in the play they mentioned probably about twenty.  However, the way it was presented was a series of vignettes of historical gay civil rights battles, and emotional appeals designed to remind people that homosexuals have the same feelings and desires as everyone else and therefore deserve the same rights under the law as everyone else.  They have a point.

There are several elements that need to be examined in the consideration of the upcoming amendment vote.  The first is ethical, the second is legal, and the third is theological (not necessarily in the at order).  Ethically speaking, no human being should be considered as part of a sub-class of humans.  As Christians, we have fought hard for this against . . . Liberals.  We Christians feel that Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians (etc.), the aged, the infirm, the mentally challenged, and the unborn all should have full human status.  If we are to be consistent, we must include homosexuals.  Based on those ethics, all humans should have the same legal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That being the case, laws that discriminate against specific groups of people should be challenged.  Theologically speaking however, homosexual behavior is blatant sin, and embodies idolatry, because it denies that God created man and woman for specific functions and roles.  Therefore it also denies Yahweh is God in the fullest sense, even where you have some form of mixture in those calling themselves Christian yet supporting, encouraging, or engaging in homosexual behavior.

Here we find ourselves, if we are Christians, to be in a bit of a quandary.  How do we support legal rights for fellow humans while not supporting sinful behavior or recognizing homosexuality as a viable lifestyle option (and this is based on theology, medicine, and science)? Here is my proposition.  First, that we should vote "yes" for the definition of marriage amendment - to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Second, we should contact our local representatives and congresspeople and request that as a second popular vote, a task force might be created, made up of both liberals and conservatives, to identify laws that might discriminate against same-sex couples and that they be posted publicly, and then voted upon statute by statute in a further popular vote.  I suggest this because some of the "discriminatory" statutes support biblical understandings of marriage and must be supported, while others make very little sense and actually go against the ethics we Christians say we support.

Before I list examples, let me just say this.  Homosexuality, while aberrant and sinful, has been with humanity a long time and will always be with us because it is human sin.  Because humans are, on their own, idolaters, we will never see the end of this until the Lord returns.  But we Americans have drafted a bill of rights and a constitution that we have said is for all Americans.  And Minnesotans have drafted state laws that should be for all Minnesotans.  Because homosexuals are people, and live among us, we must be careful to provide for them and their needs while not, effectively, supporting their behavior.

Now for a couple of examples - survivor benefits and end of life decisions.  Those who have partnered with someone else of the same sex cannot necessarily claim any survivor benefits that would normally go to a heterosexual spouse.  This should be examined.  These laws were created in a time when people were generally paid a "family wage."  It was expected that there was one income-earner in the home and that the (female) spouse would be left destitute if the male spouse died.  Most positions no longer offer a family wage (some don't even offer a living wage based on the market) and so a surviving spouse would be able, and expected, to work.  Therefore the law is archaic.  Even so, the same consideration, under the law, is not available to a surviving partner in a same-sex couple.  While it may seem like a bit of a moot point given our current economic culture, there may be cases in which a surviving partner might be denied needed benefits.  This is unfair ethically and legally.

As for end of life decisions, decisions about care, tissue and body donations, and even resuscitation legally stand with a heterosexual spouse instead of the biological family.  This is not the case in a same-sex relationship.  Therefore decisions that may be at odds with the deceased person's wishes, or his/her partner's wishes may be enacted.  While we might say something along the lines of, "We wouldn't give those rights to a heterosexual couple who were merely living together either", I would remind us that we have not legally allowed these people the opportunity to be legally bound to each other.

I do not advocate gay marriage - I stand strongly opposed to it.  Yet I think we need to provide reasonable laws suited for the realities of our broken culture.  Should we look at civil unions as an alternative? Shall we just change or abandon statutes that are on the books that unfairly discriminate?  I think that we should merely do for these people what is consistent with our theology and ethics for humanity.  I also think, if we turn a blind eye to this issue, we will lose marriage altogether as well as all rights as Christians in the eventual backlash.

P.S., I would love respectful feedback on this.

1 comment:

Jenny and Steve Douglas said...

Just as an update: The vote was lost (by Conservatives) in November 2012 and Minnesota decided not to define marriage between a man and a woman. People were given assurances that this would not lead to Minnesota allowing gay marriage. In May 2013, the Minnesota House of Representatives quietly passed a bill to redefine marriage and allow "civil marriage," which means that state employees will be forced to marry homosexuals, but churches will not be forced to. It WILL be passed by our Liberal Senate and our Liberal governor, Mark Dayton.