Blessing same-sex marriage for the “right” reasons
As a Baptist minister, I find the task of writing on the issue of allowing gays and lesbians to marry an assignment that brings with it much fear and trepidation. There is not a lot of healthy debate and dialogue within the Baptist community on the subject. On this issue, however, the subject should not be limited to the confines of the religious community. It involves much more than theological speculation. It is first and foremost a civil matter, subject to the laws of the land and it is in that arena where gay and lesbian fights are really won or lost.
You see, within the religious community, churches have always had and will always have the right to determine whom it will marry and whom it will not. Separation of Church and State issues will always guarantee that. The battle for gay and lesbian rights to marry, will be waged in the court house, not the church house, understanding that unfortunately the two often are found in compromising relationships. If this country is to remain true to its principles, especially its Constitution, which exists to protect individual freedoms, then to deny a couple’s access to all of the rights and privileges of a legal marriage is an affront to those very founding guidelines.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the issues of this subject, persons of authority in the decision making arena have been guided mostly by ignorance and even worse, bigotry. There is still an incredible lack of reason and knowledge when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation. The theory that to allow gay and lesbian marriage will lead to a further compromise of the nation’s moral fiber and will encourage an outbreak of all sorts of depraved actions is absolutely incredible and nowhere grounded in factual data. If the truth be told, the opposite will occur. Committed relationships taken seriously by the community at large, will create a stronger and more productive society.
It has been clearly documented that many problems of substance and sexual abuse, as well as low self-esteem within the gay and lesbian community can be attributed to our society’s failure to acknowledge and embrace these relationships. If we cannot embrace them for the “right” reasons, then let us at least embrace them for practical ones, gays and lesbians are a driving force in our nation’s economy. They pay a high percentage of the total taxes that benefits us all. They are citizens in every respect. Marriage is a basic right.
As a nation, however, we should bless these unions for the “right” reasons. When two people desire to publicly commit to one another in love for life, that should be cause for celebration- not consternation. Let us continue to educate and inform. As an issue of social justice, this bridge too, will eventually be crossed.
Rev. Timothy Shirley served as senior pastor of Virginia-Highland Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., in 1999 when the Georgia Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly to expel his church and Oakhurst Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., for not condemning homosexuality. It marked the first such expulsions in the convention’s 177-year history and followed moves by the convention to alter its constitution to prohibit and exclude congregations that “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”