How can my homosexual marriage threaten your heterosexual marriage?

Answer: This argument attempts to reduce the debate down to a micro level — to how it might affect your marriage, right now. But that’s not the point. The most important threat from same-sex marriage is how it would undermine the institution of marriage in general. There are future consequences — cultural consequences — to consider.

“Aren’t you exaggerating the problem when you claim that same-sex marriage will somehow undermine the very foundation of our civilization?”

Our nation already has seen how, in the words of columnist Jeff Jacoby, “Social behavior changes when society’s expectations and values change.” Our culture’s increasing acceptance of divorce, for example, has led to real-life consequences for couples and for children. Our growing sexual permissiveness has led to a host of social pathologies: rising rates of sexually-transmitted disease and children born out of wedlock, a media obsessed with breaking new ground in its portrayal of sex, a flood of pornography that threatens marriages, and much more.

So when we warn of the potential consequences of legalizing gay marriage, we are not raising false alarms that the sky is falling. As Jacoby writes, “My foreboding is that a generation after same-sex marriage is legalized, families will be even less stable than they are today, the divorce rate will be even higher, and children will be even less safe. To express such a dire warning is to be labeled an alarmist, a reactionary, a bigot, and worse… But it is not bigotry to try to learn from history, or to point out that some institutions have stood the test of time because they are the only ones that can stand the test of time.” (1)

How can same-sex marriage threaten the institution of marriage any more than heterosexual marriage already has?

It’s true that many heterosexuals have made a mess of marriage in our culture. But does that mean we’ve lost the right to stand up for what we know marriage can and should be? Does that mean we should take one more step to undermine an institution that is foundational to our nation’s health and stability?

Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation writes, “We should be talking about how to strengthen marriage. And the preservation in law of marriage as a man and a woman is a necessary condition for the renewal of the institution of marriage in our culture. We should all be disturbed by the ease with which some are willing to throw away thousands of years of experience, the laws and customs of every society, the beliefs of every major religious tradition, all for the sake of a social experiment.” (2)

Marriage remains a vital part of the American culture; ninety-five percent of Americans get married at some point in their lives. The fact that the rate of divorce is much higher than we wish means that this presents a great opportunity for the Church to do everything it can to support the good marriages and help the bad ones. “The challenge to the church is to be a countercultural outpost, modeling marriage as it should be for the world,” Christianity Today magazine said in an editorial. “Those with an impoverished understanding of marriage will be able to grasp it only when they see the real thing.” (3)

Why should we prevent two people who love each other from declaring their commitment to each other in marriage?

This question is a logical extension of how our culture has already redefined marriage over the last few decades. For many, marriage is just about expressing love and commitment. It’s viewed as a means of experiencing happiness and fulfillment. If that’s all marriage is about, it would make sense to allow same-sex marriage.

But marriage is much more. The Scriptures speak of God’s intimate involvement in creating the institution of marriage. He created it for man and woman for companionship, pleasure, and mutual completion … to bring children into the world and raising them to know and follow Him … and to create an institution that would mirror His image to the world. This basic institution, formed by God, has been emulated in every nation and culture throughout history, and is regarded as the bedrock of society. It fosters commitment and responsibility, and provides the best possible structure and environment for raising up each new generation. (For more information on God’s purposes for marriage, see the article by Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine on “Gay Marriage … What’s the Big Deal?”)

Isn’t this a basic issue of equal rights?

This is one of the strongest arguments raised by proponents of same-sex marriage. Their reasoning goes like this, “Nobody chooses to be gay — they’re born with that sexual orientation, which means that God made them that way. Therefore there is no justification for denying homosexuals the rights that anyone else enjoys.” The cause of homosexual rights has been compared to the struggles African-Americans faced in the 1950s and 1960s to gain civil rights.

There are two answers to this question: First, the Scriptures make it clear that homosexuality is sinful and contrary to God’s natural design (see Scriptures such as Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:18-32, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). It is interesting to note the recent statements made by three associations of black pastors in the Boston area after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that laws banning gay marriage are unconstitutional. These conservative pastors opposed the court’s ruling and said this was not a civil rights issue. The Rev. Gregory G. Groover, Sr., pastor of Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston, said, “As black preachers, we are progressive in our social consciousness, and in our political ideology as an oppressed people we will often be against the status quo, but our first call is to hear the voice of God in our Scriptures, and where an issue clearly contradicts our understanding of Scripture, we have to apply that understanding.”

Bishop Gilbert A. Thompson, Sr., pastor of New Covenant Christian Church in Mattapan, Mass., said, “I’ve read that [former presidential candidate] Carol Moseley Braun didn’t see any difference between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, but we believe the difference is enormous. Today, we look back with scorn at those who twisted the law to make marriage serve a racist agenda, and I believe our descendants will look back the same way at us if we yield to the same kind of pressure a radical sexual agenda is placing on us today.” (4)

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Second, there is no valid evidence suggesting that some people are born homosexual. The belief that science has proven that some people are born gay may be one of the most widespread myths in our culture today.

Homosexuals use two arguments to support their contention that they are born gay. The first is personal testimony: “I’ve always known I was gay.” But just because a person doesn’t consciously choose a homosexual orientation does not mean this is an inborn trait. Our upbringing and our environment shape our sexual desires in ways that we are still learning to understand.

The second argument is that genetic studies have proven the existence of a “gay gene.” Several studies in the early 1990s supposedly established this genetic link to homosexuality and were trumpeted in the media, as have other studies that seemingly linked genes to alcoholism, obesity, and other human problems. Since then, those studies have been increasingly questioned by geneticists, who caution that genetic research has not yet progressed to the point where anyone truly understands how complex behavior is influenced by genes. As one science writer summarized in a 2001 San Francisco Chronicle on genetic research, ” In retrospect, claims of links between genes and complex human traits have two things in common: They almost always make headlines, but they’re almost never easily verified — ‘replicated,’ in scientific jargon — by other researchers.” (5)

Why should the government have anything to do with marriage? Why not leave it to the realm of religion?

Answer: There are some issues in which the government must be involved for the ultimate good of the people and of the nation, and marriage is one of those. Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation says, “By virtue of its function and purpose in society, marriage is a fundamental institution necessary for societal existence and well-being.” (6)

It is then reasonable for government to set laws that protect the institution and protect children and uphold established moral standards. Current laws, for example, forbid children or siblings from marrying. We are not allowed to marry one of our children, or have more than one spouse. Laws such as these strengthen the foundation of our society.

It’s also important to note that the traditional view of marriage is not a radical idea found only in the Bible. In an online discussion, Peter Sprigg, director for the Center of Marriage and Family Studies at the Family Research Council, wrote, “Defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not something limited to the theology of one particular religion…The argument in favor of it is rooted in biology, anthropology, and human nature, not simply in religion.” (7)

Another good argument comes from Jacoby, who writes, “Society’s ideal is for boys and girls to grow up, choose a life partner of the opposite sex, and form a new family… That is the relationship in which society has its strongest survival stake, and our legal system privileges traditional marriage in order to send the message that it is still, despite all the other choices out there, the ideal.

“Legalizing same-sex marriage would change that message. It would signal that we no longer attach unique importance to the union of married opposite-sex couples. It would affirm that same-sex unions are as valuable in every way as conventional marriage. And its most dramatic impact would be not on the gays and lesbians who would joyfully embrace the right to wed today, but on the children who would grow up in a world of normative homosexual marriage tomorrow.” (8)

Why is so much effort made to oppose gay marriage when there are more important issues for our culture to address?

Answer: This argument makes sense if you’ve already concluded that gay marriage is not a problem.

Issues such as poverty, hunger, disease, and war are vital for us to address in our society. One difference, however, is that these problems have always been a part of human existence, and always will be. But this is the first time in American history that we’ve seen our judges and politicians in America debate the definition of the most basic institution of humanity — the family. The very fact that this issue has been so emotional and divisive means that it’s important for us to address.

1. Jeff Jacoby, “Gay Marriage Would Change Society’s Ideal,” Boston Globe , July 6, 2003. 2. 3. “The Next Sexual Revolution,” Christianity Today , September 2003, 40. 4. “Black Clergy Rejection Stirs Gay Marriage Backers,” Boston Globe, Feb. 10, 2004. 5. Leah Davidson, “No Easy Link Between Genes, Behavior,” San Francisco Chronicle , Feb. 13, 2001. 6. 7. 8. Jeff Jacoby, “Gay Marriage Would Change Society’s Ideal,” Boston Globe , July 6, 2003.

Taken from by Dennis Rainey. Copyright © 2005 FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Used by permission.