30 January 2012

On homosexuality and same sex marriage

I grew up believing that homosexuality was wrong, from a Biblical standpoint. In large part, I still believe this. Don't get me wrong, I have never believed and advocated for a literal interpretation of Leviticus 20:13 which suggests execution for homosexuals (I would also argue that many other parts of the Bible aren't meant to be read literally, but that's another argument for another day). Rather, I hold it (both the Old Testament and the New Testament) as a general moral prohibition against homosexuality.

Until recently, I uncritically applied this moral code to marriage. For many years, I was one of the many people in our country (mostly on the Right, but in reality of all political persuasions) who believed that as a result of this moral code, homosexuals should not be allowed to marry.

The reality of the situation, from a liberty and freedom perspective, is that this argument simply doesn't make sense. I have come to believe that it is perfectly compatible to be opposed to homosexuality and still support same sex marriage.

Marriage is not exclusively a religious compact. In fact, it is a civil contract between two individuals. Truly, it can be one, or the other, or both, depending upon your beliefs.

When conservatives talk about defending traditional marriage, they're talking primarily about a religious contract. This is certainly a common view of marriage, but it's not the only one. People get married in shotgun weddings in Las Vegas. Celebrities get married and divorced months (or even days and hours) later. Neither of these are the traditional marriage that the Right would typically defend, but I don't see them trying to outlaw them, either.

Would those who believe in traditional man/woman religious marriage oppose the concept of a man and woman who wanted to get married, but aren't religious? Of course not. So conservatives don't really seem to be opposed to non-religious, civil marriage, either.

The issue really comes down to whether or not the government has such a power to push a social agenda through public policy. Perhaps there are circumstances when the government should do this; circumstances when the government has a vested interest. In this case, it's difficult to define.

Human beings are free to enter into civil contracts with one another. Whether those human beings are a man and a woman, two men, or two women, seems immaterial to me. From a civil perspective, I don't see any reason why same sex marriage should be outlawed.

This isn't a religious issue, it's a freedom issue. It's about the power of the government vs. the will of the people to do what they choose.

To approach someone who is religiously opposed to homosexuality by arguing that they are wrong, or that the Bible is wrong, is a non-starter. Not only are you putting them on the defensive from the start, but you're arguing on their turf. Rather, consider approaching the discussion from a liberty and freedom perspective. Religious opposition to homosexuality doesn't necessarily mean that this policy must be enforced by the government (if such was the case, the application of the Leviticus moral code to our public policy would be mandatory, no? Either way, it could be argued to absurdity). One (such as myself) can be opposed to homosexuality and still believe that the government does not have the power to outlaw civil marriage between same sex persons. Indeed, asking what authority the government has to prohibit same sex marriage is a preferable starting point.

We should avoid here, as in all discussions, about the "right" to do this or that. When you start talking about rights, people think the government is granting "special rights" to people. Rights are unalienable (or inalienable, they mean the same thing!), not granted by government.  The question should never be: "Do we have the right to do this?" but rather, "Does the government have the power to prohibit it?"

Of course, a same-sex couple who wishes a religious marriage can have one, if they find clergy who are willing to do it. But I would always insist that no religious person should ever be forced to officiate a marriage against their own will and personal beliefs (heterosexual or homosexual). I think all of us could agree with that.

Thoughts?
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