A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

Homosexuality, society, and the Church – Equality and Rights

I have currently planned a series of posts on the issue of homosexuality. I have up to this point on this blog remarked minimally on the topic as it is a topic that is emotionally charged which leads more towards charged rhetoric instead of calm reasonable understanding of the issues involved in the topic of sexuality. But now I feel it is appropriate to articulate what seems to me to be the underlying issues. Let me preface this by saying that I do not believe it is a proper expression of the sexuality in the eyes of God, nor do I think it is in a nation’s best interest to put it on the level of heterosexuality. But I also do not think that I am approaching this in the standard “gay marriage leads to the marrying of animals” simplistic type argument. Nor is every post meant to justify a certain sexual ethic, but part of my purpose is to illuminate the issue from the darkness of ignorance on the topic (which cuts both ways). Also, when I am talking about sexuality, it is broadened beyond just the physical acts of sex, as there is more to it than just that.

One of the greatest arguments (at least within the United States) that is used for the allowance of homosexual marriage is that it violates equal rights to all persons. The rhetoric of inequality, discrimination, etc. that is used shares similarity with the civil rights moment that was centered around racial segregation. On the surface it seems to deny the possibility of homosexual marriage is to commit the same sins of the previous generations. There seems to be a common strand that runs through both the race and sexuality. However, upon further inspection, their apparent similarity is in fact relies upon a different definition of equality. For the case of previous racial (and gender) conflicts for equality, there was not as much advocacy for the approval of certain acts in a certain context that can change, but rather to apply the same standards to one person as to the other for the same act in the same context that can change. Whereas conflicts over sexuality is focused upon the same standard for a act, regardless of context that can change.

Black persons and female persons wanted to work in the same places, sit in the same places, eat in the same places, and vote as white persons and male persons did. Previously, there was a disqualification for persons with certain characteristics that they could not change (at least naturally so). In other words, there is no way to enjoy the same benefits as other persons did beforehand.

Homosexual marriage, on the other hand, is not the same. Moving beyond the issue of whether a person’s sexuality can change (although something I will address later on), a homosexual relationship is not an unchangeable state like being black or female is, but rather an act (or more precisely, a series of acts). A person is not bound to participate in a homosexual relationship, but they are free to choose to participate in a heterosexual one if they want, even if the idea does not appeal to them. But the homosexual is playing by the same rules all other persons are.

The context of the relationship can change. And context for acts are often times the determining factor as to whether it is to be allowed or endorsed (as some things may be allowed but not prudent to endorse). For instance, to forcibly restrict the movements of persons is generally seen as wrong. However, in the case of criminals, imprisonment is an option that is seen as justified. But the context dictates whether the action is proper or not, not just the action itself. And each person is free to retain freedom of movement so far as they do so within a certain context, that is not committing crimes.

For the case of homosexual marriage, it is not a matter of an unequal playing field where one person doing something in a context is treated different from another person in the same context. Rather, it is a matter of whether the option should be made available to everyone if they so desire, whereas currently the option is denied to everyone in most states in the United States. It it is not an option denied to just homosexuals, but to all persons. And that might seem to be nonsensical on the surface because it is illogical for a person who does not have sexual feelings for the person for a person the same gender to choose to marry them. However, it illustrates the fact that at the end, homosexual marriage is about the equal allowance of differing desires (desire for a particular marriage), not an equal playing field.

Whether it is to be justified or not is another issue, but fundamentally the issue isn’t about equality in the classic sense. It isn’t about wanting the rules to be consistent from person to person, but rather to change the rule for all persons. And there are cases where the rules for everyone do need to change, so that does not mean itself that homosexual marriage should not be allowed. But the current rhetoric of equality is misleading as sexuality and marriage is different from the race or gender, and as such must be approached differently.

A more proper analogue to the choice of the type of marriage one wants is the choice of the religion one wants to participate in (ironic, considering certain religions and certain expressions of sexuality have been at conflict, but fitting since marriage in recent history has been related to religion). However, in the case of religion in the US, there is no governmental control of religion beyond the rules that all persons must follow anyways. Presuming religion isn’t to be a special exception, to apply the treatment of religion to sexuality and marriage would be to follow a libertarian-like stance where the government is not involved in the institution of marriage whatsoever. Thus in that case all attempts to allow or deny homosexual marriage in the three branches of government are unjustified. However, that is view is not mandated within the US Constitution currently, and it might not be in the the nation’s best interest for the government to not be involved in the institution of marriage (something I will also address in a future post).

To apply to other issues and to illustrate in the end, a good principle to ask is whether one group can do the specific thing desired that other persons can not. For instance, before women’s suffrage, a female person could not vote but a male person could vote. That is a form of inequality. On the other hand, a homosexual person can not participate in a homosexual marriage, and a heterosexual person can not participate in a homosexual marriage. That is a form of equality. But one must be sure to be explicit in what is referring to, because one could just simply speak of marriage, but then the implied meaning for most persons is not applying the same thing to each person (we would fill in the lack of a qualifier with homosexual in the clause about a homosexual person, whereas fill in heterosexual with the clause about a heterosexual person).


April 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments