Today the Supreme Court repudiated the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed by President Clinton in 1996. This ruling means that gay and lesbian marriages from states permitting such unions must be recognized by federal agencies. The decision appears to keep in place the Constitutional decisions of 30 states to define marriage as a monogamous heterosexual union and the 12 states that allow for non-traditional unions. California’s Proposition 8, twice affirmed by the voters of the state, was struck down on a technicality, with its proponents not having proper “standing.” Add to these decisions adjustments to the Voting Rights Act that upset progressives and you are left with confusion and consternation instead of clarity about our Constitution.
The LGBTQ community is celebrating America’s social progress and civil rights for all. Traditionalists are concerned that an activist court has overstepped its authority and ignored the foundations of a free, just and prosperous society.
What is missing in all the celebrating and commiserating is clear thinking about the nature of “rights” and the place of government. Our founders understood that government exists to protect natural, God-given rights, not bestow them. Rights are inherent in our humanity and good governments protect our dignity and protect us from depravity. When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King pressed for Civil Rights and the original Voting Rights Act in the 1950s and 1960s, he appealed to universal moral precepts and the intent of our founders. He also understood that race was not a choice, but part of our nature from conception. The promises of Washington and Lincoln were finally realized for millions and our nation is better for such steps.
LGBT identity is completely different from the gender and race we are born with. There is no irrefutable evidence of any genetic link to gay or lesbian identity. In addition to the lack of empirical evidence, we have the activists themselves arguing for “fluid” definitions that allow subjective declarations at any stage of life to trump clear observation and natural intention. If John “discovers” he is bisexual, gay, or he wants a transgender procedure, it is fine for him to leave his traditional marriage and pursue his happiness. But if John has lived as a bi or gay man and decides to opt for traditional marriage, then he has been brainwashed and/or deceived. Woe to any caring person that suggests that someone with same-sex attraction can change!
Eros is not a right. Sexual happiness is not a right. Fulfilling any and every desire is not a right. These may be the happy consequences of liberty, but they are not government guarantees. All forms of adult cohabitation outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage, while permitted, are not the best for partners, children and our social future. These alternative lifestyles are morally unacceptable to billions of caring people in all cultures. A free society must prohibit deleterious behaviors, promote good choices and permit maximal liberty that still keeps the rule of law in place and social cohesion possible.
The fundamental error of our nation is thinking that “happiness” means the fulfillment of all desires, including current erotic orientations. This is actually dehumanizing, as we reduce persons made in the image of God to merely superior creatures with particular sexual proclivities. When I meet a man or a woman, my first questions is NOT about their personal passions. My first thought is how I might love and respect her or him and encourage them in their vocation. Everyone I encounter is first a human person, then a man or a woman with a calling. After this they may choose to share their orientation and partnership situation and I must respect them even if I disagree with their choices. The LGBTQ folks are diminishing their humanity when they reduce their identity to orientation.
Affirming biblical marriage (Genesis 1 and 2 and The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19) also means helping prevent divorce, receiving children as a gift and choosing selfless service over selfish oppression of another person. Affirmation of Christian faith also rejects covetousness and lust in all forms and urges adult women and men to marry before enjoying sexual intimacy. The fact that much of humankind fail at these ideals in thought, word and/or does not nullify their eternal nature, authority and legitimacy for a flourishing society.
What now? Much prayer and personal humility, persuasive personal conversations and active political engagement are all needed. As we debate, let’s love and respect every person we encounter and make sure that the 2×4 is out of our own eye before we become sawdust inspectors of others.