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Religion and same-sex marriages (SSM)

Introduction:
Same-sex marriage and biblical passages


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Bible passages describing same-sex marriage:

Same-sex marriage only became an issue in the late 20th century after certain prerequisites were met, each spaced about two decades apart:

  • Human sexuality, including the concept of sexual orientation, began to be seriously researched in the 1950s.
  • Homosexuals and bisexuals started the gay-liberation movement to seek equality with heterosexuals. In North America, this was triggered by the Stonewall Riots in New York's Greenwich Village during 1969.
  • Some same-sex couples decided to launch a court case to petition for marriage equality. This was done by three couples in Hawaii in 1990. They opposed the strategy of most of the homosexual leaders at the time, which was to first work to eliminate discrimination in employment and accommodation, and to obtain protection from hate crimes before tackling marriage equality.

There are no passages in the Bible that deal directly with same-sex marriages (or domestic partnerships, civil unions, holy unions, etc.). This is one of the very few beliefs on which conservative and liberal Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree   

The last biblical books to be written appear in the Christian Scriptures. they were all written before 100 CE (according to most conservative Christians) or 150 CE (according to most liberal Christians). The concept of homosexuality as a sexual orientation that could lead to a committed, long term relationship was not developed until the late 19th century. Thus, one can not expect to find biblical references to same-sex marriage. There are no references to planes, trains or automobiles, either.

Similar to the controversy over abortion access, followers of the Bible have to derive a position on SSM from biblical passages dealing with other, related topics:

Generally speaking:

  • Religious conservatives use their interpretation of the six "clobber passages" and of passages discussing opposite-sex marriage to condemn SSM
  • Religious liberals use the Bible's general themes on love and justice to argue SSM as a human right that is beneficial to same-sex couples, their children and society as a whole.

What the Bible does discuss that is related to SSM:

Various passages discuss:

  • Three instances of loving, same-sex relationships in the Bible involving David, Ruth and Daniel. But there is no indication that any of the three relationships were sexually active. 
  • A dozen or so oft-quoted passages about homosexual behavior in the Bible. Because conservative and liberal Christians interpreted the Bible very differently, they reach totally different conclusions about their meaning: 
    • Many conservative Christians interpret these passages as stating unambiguously that all homosexual behavior is forbidden, is an abomination, and is hated by God. It does not matter whether it is in the form of casual sex with a stranger, or sex within a committed, monogamous relationship. It is all sinful. Some consider it an "ordinary" sin -- in the same league as all other incorrect behavior, like lying, cheating or stealing. Others consider it such a serious sin that it will prevent gays and lesbians from attaining Heaven after death, even if they had previously been saved.
    • Many liberal Christians largely ignore English translations of the Bible which are often heavily biased against homosexuality. They prefer to refer to the original Hebrew and Greek. They frequently interpret these passages as condemning:

      But on the topic of sexual activity  within a loving, committed, monogamous homosexual relationship, many religious liberals view the Bible as being completely silent.

  • Genesis, the first book in the Bible, contains two frequently cited passages that have been used to both condemn and support SSM:
    •  Genesis 2:18 quotes God after he created Eve from Adam's rib as stating: "It is not good for the man to be alone." Some interpret this a supporting SSM because, with few exceptions, a life partner of a person with a homosexual orientation must be of the same gender, just as a life partner of a person with a heterosexual orientation must be of the opposite gender.
    • Genesis 2:24 quotes Adam as saying: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh." Some interpret this as requiring marriages to be only between one man and one women. Others say that this passage referring to only one form of permanent relationships between and among adults -- one of eight marriage and family styles mentioned in the Bible. This would leave the door open for other types of permanent relationships, perhaps including same-sex marriages.

Conclusions:

There are two sources that we can use to infer Jewish and Christian perspectives on same-sex marriage:

  • Interpret biblical themes and individual passages that deal with principles of love, sex, and marriage. Conservative and liberal approaches are described in this section. They reach opposite conclusions.
  • Direct assessment of the will of God through prayer. Unfortunately, according to a pilot study of some visitors to this web site, this path does not seem to be possible.

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Site navigation:

 Hom > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Religious impact > Bible/SSM > here

or Home > Christianity > Bible themes  > Bible/SSM > here

or Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Marriage > SSM > Bible/SSM >  here


Copyright © 2001 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUN-7
Latest update and review: 2008-DEC-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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