My new friend, Peter Kirk, has been entertaining a discussion on “Gay Marriage” on his Gentle Wisdom web site: http://www.gentlewisdom.org/5316/gay-marriage-why-christians-shouldnt-try-to-ban-it/
Today I commented there and then decided to share a slightly filled-out version of those remarks on this “side of the pond” with you:
Peter, et. al.
I have not taken nor had the time to read through this comment string as I usually do so forgive me, please, if all this has been covered.
In the U.S. Constitution, the rights of every human person (just in case anyone imagines there really is such a thing as a “corporate person”!) are guaranteed. Every citizen, for instance, has the right to vote, the right to do commerce and the right to freely exercise their own religion. Now we are facing a tiny constitutional crisis over whether gender can proscribe an otherwise constitutionally assumed right to marriage. In the states of Massachusetts, California and Iowa where the constitutions of the states gave no mention of an exclusion of a right to marry based on gender, the courts ruled (correctly, I believe) that no one could be denied a presumed right on the basis of gender. Therefore, if Joe Blow has the legal the right to marry Jane Row, Jill Doe also has the right to marry Jane. Citizenship is not articulated by gender.
The reason so many states have been pushing amendments to their state constitutions, is because, unless such gender exclusions exist, eventually every supreme court in every state was going to be faced with a case on its docket and come to the same conclusion, striking down its state statutes which forbid marriage based on gender.
Two facts will render this traditionalist backlash moot within the next thirty years (or much less) in the United States.
- If lawsuits are brought on a federal level in a given state against the constitutionality of a given state’s prohibition of any person’s right to marry another, eventually, one of those federal challenges will be decided against the state’s constitutional prohibition in the federal district court. When that happens, the case will be dragged from district to appellate to the U.S. Supreme Court. When that happens the state constitutional prohibition will be overturned and all similar stipulations in other state constitutions will fall as well. And I think this Supreme Court will do this? If not this Court then the next or the next. Why?
- The second fact: the U.S. demographic on this issue breaks along generational lines. Over age 70, 85% per cent oppose “Gay Marriage.” Between age 70 and 50, 65% oppose. 35-15? 80% per cent in favor. The fifty-fifty point hits somewhere around age 45.
So, in twenty years, the 30-somethings will be 50-something and the universal right of most people to marry each other will be the “what’s the big deal?” law of the land in the U.S. I believe it will happen sooner rather than later because the stats I quote above are out of date today (being based on polls conducted in 2010) and have been shifting toward “Gay Marriage” (I prefer calling it, “The Right of Everyone to Marry”) for the past fifteen to twenty-five years. Just like Obama, most everybody has been moving toward approval on this issue and the 50/50 point has been moving up, age-wise, much faster than the years have passed. Indeed, the tipping point has already been hit, I’ll wager, because the POTUS is always, always behind that curve!
It will not be long now. And sure, the Northeastern U.S. has already tipped as has the far West. The Midwest is now still more opposed than for, but shivering and the Southeast… (Well, the southeast is more interested in the government keeping other people from doing things they do not like than any other part of the U.S. Ironic, given the S.E. is also the most vocal on government keeping its nose out of other people’s business when the shoe is on the other foot.)
Personally, I wish the U.S. had a system like I saw at work when I lived in Switzerland where everyone who got married participated in a civil ceremony, signed the license and had, from that moment on, a legal civil union so that the covenant of marriage was reserved for Christians, Jews and others who actually saw it as an agreement between the couple, their faith community and their god. At L’Abri when I was there two couples got married, Barry and Veronica and Jerram and Vicky. Each couple did the civil service on Friday at the court house and Dr. Schaeffer married each couple the next day.
If we did that over here, we could get us pastors out of “the authority of the state” game which we now must play and our churches would still each clearly decide whether we approve of marriages of same-sex couples, all of whom would still have a right, like almost everybody else, to a civil union. Then the obvious legal right to civil unions, upon which all those other medical and civil rights and privileges would be based would not be subject to a matter of church policy at all. This is a much cleaner system than ours but, given our history, not one which we can get to from here.
So where does that leave us? We are Christians in a western liberal democratic republic. In our western liberal tradition, governments and the constitutions (written or unwritten) which direct and shape their policies have always broadened, safe-guarded and guaranteed the rights of their citizens. In the past few years thirty-one states in the U. S. have used their legal systems and structures to deny some of their citizens a right which is safe-guarded for all other citizens, essentially establishing a second class of citizens with fewer rights based on gender and sexual orientation. Such behavior shamefully flies in the face of 400 (mostly) good years of legal progress, progress which Christians have used to their advantage in the liberal western democracies in ways which Christians in the Muslim countries and in many of the former iron curtain nations can still only imagine.
When Christians or other faith communities use the systems of law in places where they hold either majorities or, more likely, strong, vocal and well-financed minorities, to force universal compliance by those who do not share their worldview with their faith-community’s ethics, they move toward theocracy, a system of government which simply cannot be just in a pluralistic world. True faith in King Jesus can only be entered into willingly. If we would be just we must not take on the ways of Sharia law and the Taliban, not even on matters about which we feel strongly.