My Turn: Marriage, biblical teachings not threatened by domestic partners

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2003

It's a Biblical disagreement, not a threat. Everyone who credits the success of their marriage to the denial of same-sex marriages, please raise your hands.

Everyone who thinks banning same-sex marriages will save their troubled marriage or protect their marriage's future please raise your hands.

In my unscientific polls, no one seriously raises their hands. So what's up?

"Marriage" with its near 50 percent failure rate is, of course, in trouble. But it's with no help or harm from committed gay and lesbian relationships.

So to suggest a U.S. Constitutional amendment denying same-sex marriage would make any difference at all to opposite-sex marriages just doesn't match reality.

What does match reality is that while it won't improve man-woman marriages, it would hurt same-sex couples and their children in innumerable ways.

Why? Because that no-marriage amendment would also bar civil unions like Vermont's and it wouldn't allow marriage-like benefits at all for same-sex couples.

Hospital visitation, inheritance, decision-making in times of accident or illness: these and over a thousand more rights and benefits are automatic in marriage. Barring them all from all same-sex couples is untenable.

My thanks to Ellie Sica, high school student, for saying it bothers her that much of the rhetoric against same-sex couples is mean. Much of it is. She recognizes the sting, asking if married people would want angry callers comparing their spouse to a dog? But much worse attacks are out there, of course. I've been told homosexuals deserve to be stoned to death because the Bible says so.

Thankfully, most people aren't so literal regarding the Bible's few anti-gay verses. What's ironic is that those who do attribute their anti-gay statements to scripture don't see they radiate Biblical noncompliance themselves.

When they stand before me unabashedly breaking Biblical prohibitions, there's just no way I can take them seriously on the few verses they use against homosexuals.

Why don't they condemn the following instead: the Bible bars women from braiding their hair, wearing pearls or gold (goodbye wedding rings) and wearing slacks. It bars men from shaving their sideburns. It bars tattoos. It bars men from being taught by women. Eating pork or shellfish, like homosexuality, is an abomination (imagine the Alaska seafood industry if that one prevailed).

The Bible also says loaning money at interest (usury) is deserving of death. But can you imagine capitalism without it? Everyone with a credit card or car loan is ignoring Biblical prohibitions by choosing to practice it.

So to all who say a Constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage is a Biblical necessity, I say - how about one to ban interest loans first? Imagine the reduction of personal and national debt!

Or there's Deuteronomy, saying men are not to serve in the army for a year after marrying. That's another Constitutional amendment I'm surprised no one's jumping on.

Bible interpretations clearly change over time. Not the words, but our understanding of them. History is clear: in every era many devout believers shift their understanding.

Such a shift is underway today. Some people still condemn homosexuality with religious fervor. But since they do so while visibly breaking many Biblical taboos themselves. I believe at some level they must appreciate how the rest of us can't accept their case as any kind of Biblical absolute.

Some faiths already support gay marriage (United Church of Christ, Unitarians, etc). Others don't. So as a religious decision, it seems obvious to say "let each church decide."

As to civil marriages, since states are also free to disagree, I likewise say "let each state decide."

Amending the U.S. Constitution for a few passages some people still choose to take literally, while not amending it for all the others - that's not Biblical consistency. It's selective bias: an attempt to enshrine some people's current religious views into the one document central to American equal freedom and pursuit of happiness that is supposed to give rights, not take them away.

Fortunately, not all religious people agree, so why should the Constitution take a stand?

So, now, I have to ask: will everyone living in full accordance with just the few Bible prohibitions I listed above, please raise your hands?

How many hands to you see?

• Sara Boesser is a human rights advocate. She lives in Juneau.

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