Legislated morality, civil rights, and the Christian response to marriage equality

As the Supreme Court ruling came down affirming the rights of LGBT people to marry, the responses from concerned Christians rolled in. I’ve been heartened to see many Christians expressing support, but as expected, there has also been a chorus of dissention from Christian circles. I was particularly disappointed, but not really surprised, at the negative response from many evangelical leaders.

What is curious to me is how few people seem to understand the difference between civil rights and individual religious beliefs. So many Christians are decrying this change as some kind of moral litmus test for the country. Some are even suggesting that it’s some kind of threat to traditional marriage. As if the divorce rate of hetero couples doesn’t already indicate that we’ve done a fine job of messing that up all by ourselves, that you very much.

But it seems like we need a collective reminder that this conversation is about equal rights, not about the biblical definition of marriage or sexuality. Why do Christians feel entitled to invoke the bible when talking about government matters? Do we only remember that our country was founded on religious freedoms when it benefits us personally? The right to worship (or not worship) is one that is afforded every person in this country. Most of us would agree that the separation of church and state was something our forefathers desired. And yet, so many Christians seem perfectly fine in using their own particular religious teachings while arguing about the rights of others living in this country.

I have noticed that for those of us who support marriage equality but run in Christian circles, there seems to be some dismay at our departure from the “biblical definition of marriage,” as if one could not possibly hold a personal view of something while supporting the right of another person to believe something else. And so people devolve into a debate on what scripture says, not realizing that this isn’t really the issue at hand. One can hold a high view of scripture in their own life while recognizing it should never be used to legislate what others do.

Photo Jun 28, 3 56 35 AM  

Since when was biblical permission required for civil rights?  A Buddhist person does not agree with a Christian’s biblical definition of God. And yet, most of us would agree that Buddhists have the right to worship, congregate, and apply to the state to  enjoy whatever rights are afforded to a religious organization.  Their right to worship in their own way does not detract from mine, nor does it threaten me in any way. It also does not diminish my own definition of God to affirm and support their rights.

This should apply to marriage equality as well. If you affirm marriage equality, you can still think whatever you want to think about marriage, or homosexuality. You do not have to change your personal interpretation of scripture in order to affirm the rights of others.  You can read Genesis or Leviticus however you like and still agree that others have the right to behave outside of your own belief system. You can also find plenty of spaces to discuss how to apply the bible to homosexuality. But the inconvenient truth is that civil rights should not be that space.

The relevance of your biblical beliefs on homosexuality in regards to marriage equality? THEY AREN’T RELEVANT. So stop talking about them in relation to civil rights. And stop acting confused when your Christian friends express happiness that our homophobic laws have been overturned.

When I see you arguing the bible against this decision, what I hear you saying is, “I would like to impose my religious beliefs on others, regardless of whether or not they share my faith.”  I’ve heard a whole lot of nonsense about “slippery slopes” on Facebook this week, but this tendency to impose our religious beliefs on others is the most dangerous one I’m witnessing.

For me, personally, this decision is a welcome one . . . one that shows tremendous growth for our country. I am happy that my children will grow up in a country where every person has the equal right to pursue happiness, marriage, and family with the person they love.




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