Late last month a Georgia judge struck down an amendment banning same-sex marriage.  The ruling turned on a technicality which limits amendments to one topic. The constitutional change, approved by three-fourths of the State electorate, defined marriage as between one man and one woman, while also   banning gay civil unions.  But, according to Judge Constance C. Russell, that was a disservice to voters "who believe marriages between men and women should have a unique and privileged place in our society [and] also believe that same-sex relationships should have some place, although not marriage."

 

While I believe the judge was wrong to overrule the will of the people by the power of the bench, I believe his assessment of popular sentiment is sadly right. According to a 2004 poll, whilethere is nearly a 2-to-1 opposition to same-sex marriage, popular support of civil unions is 54 percent--up from a 43 percent in July 2003.

 

Consequently, as the U. S. Senate prepares to vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment in the next couple of weeks, the question on many people's minds is "Why shouldn't gays be given the benefits of marriage?"

 

Threat, what threat?

One of those is Karl Giberson, editor of Science & Theology News and a self-described conservative who values marriage.   In an editorial last year, Giberson shared his hopes for his eldest daughter to: find the "right person"; have a long, happy marriage; and provide grandchildren. At the same time, Giberson said he didn't understand why gay "marriage" was a threat to those hopes: "I don't understand how heterosexual marriage is 'protected' by denying gays the right to marry."   

 

Giberson is not alone. One of my life-long friends, who is a practicing physician with a traditional Catholic upbringing, believes that since "gays can’t help it, we should let them marry...it's the right thing, the compassionate thing. Any way, what harm could come of it?"

 

My friend and Giberson are like others I've talked with who can't understand how gay inclusion would adversely affect heterosexual marriage or the common good. A few even consider gay "marriage" a good thing for society.

 

For instance, before leaving the "lifestyle," one friend of mine became troubled over the morality of his long-term partnership, only to be told by more than one pastor that a committed relationship was a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving, not guilt. On another occasion, a pastor advised a gay man to seek a committed homosexual partner in order to avoid the hazards of single gay life. One wonders how the pastor would have counseled a pedophile.

 

Sympathizers for gay "marriage" generally offer one of several arguments: Jesus never proscribed homosexuality, so neither should we; since homosexuality is "how some people are born" it would be unfair and heartless to deny them the benefits of marriage; marriage is about love and commitment, not sexual orientation; and finally, as Giberson implies in his editorial, allowing committed gays to marry wouldn't hurt society, but likely improve an institution marred by heterosexual divorce and infidelity.

 

First things first

Before we examine the societal effects of gay "marriage", we need to set the record straight about the moral teachings of Jesus. While it's true that Jesus said nothing explicitly about homosexuality, it's also true he never mentioned the evils of bestiality, incest, pedophilia, rape, slavery, wife-beating, or substance abuse, to name a few.   In fact, the New Testament records very few things that Jesus specifically condemned. It would be reckless, therefore, to assume that anything not specifically prohibited is permitted. What the scriptures do record, however, is Jesus's shift from old covenant particulars to core moral principles.

 

The shift begins with the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus expands the reach of the Decalogue. It continues with his summation of the Law to love God and to love neighbor. And it culminates with his ultimate standard to love as he loved--an infinitely comprehensive principle that encompasses every aspect of life.

 

Above all things, Christ-love means valuing others as his image-bearers. In contrast with the cultural "accommodators" who take the low view of man as a powerless victim of base instincts, the Christian view of man is as a moral being blessed with a conscience and free exercise to act against his carnal pull.

 

Consider Jesus's conversation with adulterous woman. Jesus didn't treat her as a poor creature helplessly controlled by her earthly desires. He treated her as a free moral agent capable of choosing a different way to live. Consequently, he didn't give her the false compassion of tolerance toward her lifestyle. Out of true compassion, he showed her the way out of her broken condition by challenging her to "go now and leave your life of sin."

 

This is a helpful pattern for us. The disproportionate incidence of substance abuse, mental health problems, disease, mortality, and suicide among homosexuals reveals the truth behind the gay lifestyle: it is anything but gay. By following the example of Jesus, our compassion should involve encouraging those with homosexual urgings to live chastely, rather than affirming and enabling them in a destructive lifestyle.

 

Genetic robots?

Next is the claim that homosexuality is an inherited trait. I've had more than one Christian tell me they believe same-sex orientation is no different than a physical or mental defect brought on by a genetic mutation. They reason that since God "made them" that way, and since "God don't make junk," individuals with same-sex inclinations can't be held morally accountable for homosexual behavior. That logic is flawed on several points.

 

First of all, despite the frenetic search for the "gay gene" by gay rights advocates, there is no demonstrated genetic link to same-sex orientation. In fact, study after study confirms what several ex-gays have personally told me: same-sex preferences come from backgrounds of sexual abuse or from families with an abusive, absent, or emotionally distant father and an overly-controlling mother.

 

Even if we accept that sexual preferences are genetically determined, sexual behaviors are not; unless, that is, we take the low view of man as a genetic robot. For example, although a Down's child cannot, by strength of will, choose to have an IQ of 130, a person with homosexual inclinations can choose to be celibate. Is it an easy road? No. But neither is it for the person who struggles against addictive behaviors like pornography, overeating, and alcohol. To deny their power of choice is to consider them no better than brute animals fatally controlled by instinct.

 

But the real question for the Christian is whether a genetic link really matters.  The doctrine of the Fall tells us that all of creation is groaning from the pervasive effects of sin. So while it's true "God don't make junk," what he made has been deformed from its original state.

 

It would not be surprising, then, if some day researchers discovered genetic links to proclivities like anger, violence, alcoholism, and even same-sex orientation.  At the same time, a genetic proclivity does not justify behavior.   We should no more condone homosexual behavior for those with an inherited predisposition, than we should condone spousal abuse for those genetically-inclined toward violence.

 

All ya need is love

Gay advocates and sympathizers also believe that marriage should be the legal right of any two people who love each other. After all, marriage is all about love and commitment, right? True, but commitment for gays holds a very different meaning. For instance, a 2003 study of gay men in the Netherlands indicated that the average gay man in a committed relationship has eight extra-marital partners per year.

 

That would seem to be the norm according to gay activist, M. Sinorile, who writes, "Monogamy simply doesn't necessarily mean sexual exclusivity...[but] a relationship in which the partners have sex on the outside often, put away their resentment and jealousy, and discuss their outside sex, or share partners."

 

But to the larger issue: if marriage is primarily about love and commitment, why should it be limited to two people? Why not three, five, or twenty? Why not allow a brother to marry his sister, a father marry his daughter? For that matter, why should marriage be limited to the human species? Why not have cross-species marriages for a woman and her dog, a man and his goat, or three women and a horse?

 

If you think that's a stretch, consider that earlier this year a British woman married a dolphin! No, it wasn't an impromptu college prank after a night of binge-drinking, it was a planned ceremony conducted fifteen years after a love-at-first-sight encounter between 41-year old millionairess, Sharon Tendler, and Cindy, the dolphin. (The slope is indeed slippery, and we are well on our way down.)

 

What's the harm?

At the same time, gay advocates are right to point out the failures of the heterosexual marriage. Beginning in 1969, no-fault divorce made it easier to get out of a 25 year marriage than to get out of one's cell phone contract.  Within 15 years, the divorce rate soared to 250% of its 1960 value with the majority of divorces involving minor children headed by a single-parent woman.

 

Prior to that time, the strong marriage ethos of our society meant that most pregnant women were either married or got married. But by 1992 the number of children born outside of marriage jumped from 11% to 30%. Tragically, those children are more often victims of abuse, domestic violence, anti-social behavior, depression, substance abuse, and poverty than children brought up by both biological parents.

 

To answer Mr. Giberson on how gay "marriage" will affect this trend, we need look no further than Scandinavia. According to Stanley Kurtz in the Weekly Standard, Scandinavia has had gay "marriage" for over a decade. During that time it experienced a 25 percent increase in co-habitation and unmarried parenthood, resulting in a 60 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate in some Scandinavian countries.

 

In addition, studies compiled by Peter Sprigg and Timothy Dailey show that children raised by gay couples risk a 50 times higher incidence of incest, a two times incidence of domestic violence, and perform worst in nine out of twelve social and academic areas, as compared to children in other family types.

 

Thus, the results for the gay "marriage" experiment are in: By further elevating the desires of adults over the needs of children, gay "marriage" widens the gap between marriage and the stable nurture of the next generation.

 

Has the blight of heterosexual divorce undermined the welfare of families and children? Sadly, yes. But that is no justification to redefine marriage, or sanction other family configurations that deepen the problems of fatherless homes, single-parent moms, and at-risk children.

 

"[T]he lives of millions of adults and children will judge us harshly for not learning the marriage redefinition lesson the first time. People get hurt deeply when you tinker with the essential nature of marriage..." -- Glenn T. Stanton

 

(This article originally appeared on Breakpoint.org)

 

For Further Reading:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/17/us/17georgia.html?_r=1&oref=slogin--Same-Sex Marriage Amendment Is Struck Down by Georgia Judge

 

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-03-09-gaymarriage-usat_x.htm --Civil unions gain support

 

http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-1161.htm -- The real assault on marriage, Karl Giberson

 

Fertility of American Women: June 1994 (Washington D.C.: Bureau of the Census, September 1995)

 

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/660zypwj.asp?pg=1 -- The End of Marriage in Scandinavia, Stanley Kurtz

 

Getting it Straight, What the Research Shows about Homosexuality, Peter Sprigg, et al, Family Research Council

 

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1549217/posts   – British Woman Marries Dolphin

 

http://www.family.org/cforum/fosi/marriage/ssuap/a0032550.cfm -- What No-Fault Divorce Can Teach Us About Same-Sex Marriage, Glenn T. Stanton

 

Scripture verse: John 4:11 (New International Version)

 

Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at: centurion51@aol.com.