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 afront 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.”