- December 2, 2013
- By Cynthia Holmes
Is it simplistic to say the recent Supreme Court decision recognizing gay marriage allows economics to overshadow family values?
Yes. The complex Supreme Court decisions apply only to the specific situations in those cases.
In one, the IRS denied plaintiff Edie Windsor, 84, a refund of estate taxes paid after her female spouse of decades died. The court ruled the federal government could not deprive same-sex couples legally married in their state of benefits available to opposite-sex spouses. The statute disparaged those whom their state’s marriage laws, “sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. By “treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
The second case ruled traditional-marriage activists had no standing to defend California’s Proposition 8 after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial.
Ministers not forced to perform any marriages
Courts consider the state-sanctioned civil contract between two people who wish to share lifetime benefits and burdens. Perhaps all laws should refer only to civil unions, leaving each faith group to determine its doctrines about the sacrament of marriage. Churches should not ask the state to impose its doctrines, just as the state under our Constitution will not force the church to marry anyone. Opponents of marriage equality spread false stories, claiming government will force pastors to marry gay couples. No minister is required to perform weddings for anyone. Is the actual concern declining when a favorite deacon or largest contributor asks a minister to perform a wedding ceremony for their gay child?
Our question assumes families are harmed by marriage equity. Many who wish to make a lifetime commitment to someone of the same gender consider themselves family. Not all Christians believe they compromise family values. In Missouri, a state trooper killed on duty had a marriage-like relationship with his male partner of 15 years. Because the state did not allow them to marry, the survivor was denied spousal benefits that would be granted to a previously thrice-married woman who married the trooper while drunk in Vegas. Would the second survivor have the relationship reflecting family values?
The trooper’s pastor wrote they were like other couples in his congregation “whose love for one another witnesses to Christ’s love for the world.” To him, they were married, although not recognized by the state. He stated marriage is “a quality of commitment to one another that recognizes that the two become one in self-giving love, … a relationship of joyful intimacy and of help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity.” A Baptist pastor wrote that he would be honored to perform “weddings” for similar couples.
Southern evangelicals have highest divorce rate
Why do Christians become incensed with this issue and not with divorce? A recent survey reported Southern evangelicals have the highest divorce rate. For many, marriage between one man and one woman means one woman at a time. Perhaps the danger to families comes from a society of serial “marryers,” or those living together until they become bored.
We can be certain Christians will differ on marriage equality. Hopefully, we can agree as Baptists to our longstanding principle of respectfully allowing others to have another belief, even if we strongly disagree.
Cynthia Holmes, attorney
Former moderator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
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