Most of the people I know who support California's Proposition 8, Ban on Gay Marriage, do so out of the conviction that the Bible condemns homosexual love, and that gay marriage somehow threatens the institution of heterosexual marriage.
I was brought up in a working class family in a very conservative environment. In my teen years I worked at a local 'little theater' in Philadelphia, my home town, and I got to know gay people for the first time - and I thought they were all right, because after all, theater people were already...different. Different sexual mores seemed natural to the theatrical life. I was a teenager, what did I know?
Fast-forward to 2008. Now I'm almost sixty, and I have to say, a life-time of observation leads me to believe that the institution of marriage - as an institution - is more threatened by divorce, which is also condemned in the Bible. And some of my friends who support Prop 8 on the Biblical basis noted above, have indulged themselves in divorce, sometimes more than one time. Where is the outraged condemnation of that? Who is standing on street corners waving placards over divorce?
As for divorce: "Whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder." "The Lord God says, I hate divorce."
Another main problem for the institution of marriage is that both parents have to work night and day just to survive and can't spend all that much time with their kids, but that's not an issue that relates to the Bible. Right? Well, we can discuss that another time.
The Jewish faith, out of which the Christian faith has sprung, plants marriage and the raising of children front and center to its way of life. As do Hindus, although they, like the Catholics, offer the alternative of an institutionalized celibate lifestyle, called brahmacharya in India and monasticism in the West. In either case, it's a lifetime commitment. Real marriage is a lifetime undertaking. It's not a part-time deal. 'Oh, I was married to L_____ for ten years.' No, better to say, 'I was 'together' with L____ for ten years.' That's the truth of it.
Personally, I don't know why gay people want to get married. Is it because they want a sentimental ceremony to celebrate their 'love?' (BTW, we'll see how their 'love' holds up over the long haul.) Well, they can have a ceremony without its having any legality. Do they want legal rights? For example, visitation at the death-bed, rights over children they are raising together, tax-breaks? People tell me they've already got that. Do they want the blessing of God? They've already got that, too. I just heard the reading in church this past Sunday that says God makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. No one is without God's love and blessing.
As for myself, I've been married to the same man for thirty-five years, and we didn't have a sentimental celebration of our love. We married each other on a Quaker certificate, which means we didn't need a minister, in a 'ceremony' that lasted less than five minutes, with our parents and a couple of friends in attendance in my parents' living room. We were a bit leery of 'being in love' but we had a good feeling about each other, were attracted to each other, enjoyed talking and had some of the same aims in life, and as it has turned out, a lot of the same values. We believed in 'love' more than in 'falling in love' if you catch my drift. We loved each other. Our basic premise for our marriage was that we would 'share life together' and that meant 'whatever comes.' Very open-ended and yet totally committed. We chose the Quaker certificate because we felt that we were marrying each other with God as the Third Partner, so to speak, and so we didn't need a minister for that.
Some people say we were lucky, and we do believe that 'God has brought us together' (so divorce would be out of the question) and perhaps God's 'blessing' can also be described as 'luck' - in the Chinese sense - after all. But we also worked hard and learned the meaning of the word 'sacrifice.' A very important word in the lexicon of marriage. 'Compromise' is another one.
But I think, my own story and various preachments on marriage aside, that I finally do understand why gay people want to get married.
Let me back up a little. Mainstream Protestantism and even modern-day Catholicism teach that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. They both believe that human beings must bring their intellect to bear on interpreting this Word of God. Protestants trust the prayerful, self-reflective individual's conscience, and Catholicism calls on the community, as especially represented in the synod (?) of bishops and the deliberations of church councils and of highly-educated theologians, etc, to make an intelligent interpretation of the Word of God. That means you have to be able to justify your interpretation of the Bible in terms that other people can relate to. It isn't enough to say, 'the Bible told me so.' That is an approach that leads nowhere. And if you insist on taking that tack, then there can't be any divorce, y'all. And you better set to making those sacrifices of sheep and goats, and report any white spots that show up on your skin, eat no shellfish - forget the jumbo prawns, the surf and turf platter - etc, etc, etc.
Now, some people are so unfortunate, ill-educated, or unsupported in life that the Bible is a kind of lifeline for them. I know these people from the days when I was doing Christian pastoral ministry for the church. They read in the Bible that God cares about them, even more than He cares about the lilies of the field, and if this sustains them and helps them not to drink, commit suicide, beat their children, give up, give in, etc, well, in that case, I support the use of the principle, 'The Bible tells me so.' Because that is using the Bible as a source of spiritual strength and faith in one's personal relationship with God. This is not about running the country, for which this approach is totally inadequate.
But back to the public sphere. Many of the people I know who support California's Proposition 8, Ban on Gay Marriage, do so out of the conviction that the Bible condemns the gay and lesbian lifestyle. Not so. The Bible condemns a profligate lifestyle. Yet people who support Gay and Lesbian marriage do not engage in a profligate lifestyle. They want to raise children - and ARE raising children in loving, supportive families.
Gay and Lesbian couples face the dilemna that as long as they are not married in the eyes of society, they are 'living in sin' (to use the old-fashioned expression I was brought up with). So that clumps them with the 'profligate' sinners so distasteful to the ancient Jews, for whom family was the most sacred thing on earth. If they do marry and raise their children in stable families, they will be able to stand with those who stand against profligacy.
They are in the same position that many of our ancestors were in, in this country in earlier times. If you weren't both white - let's say one was white, the other Indian, or one was white, the other 'mulatto' - in many states you couldn't get a marriage license. Then, if you lived together, raising your children - even if you lived together for fifty years and had a love worthy of the greatest poet - and even if you raised your great-grandchildren - you were 'living in sin.' That's it, end of story. You were below the notice of 'decent people' (aka hard-hearted people, who needed the Lord to remove the stones from their chests and give them hearts of flesh.) Of course, you were also pushed into abject poverty and then blamed for your human failings in trying to deal with such a difficult lot in life, by the holier-than-thou. I'm sure many of you remember the relatives and neighbors who had to deal with this.
(For a more innocent example, see the film 'Sweet Land' about a European couple who had to deal with the same kind of rejection.)
People, be careful here. Don't make the Bible into a graven idol. Don't force people to wear the mantle of 'sin' when they could be raising with love children who need them. Open up your hearts, and let your love-light shine.