I’m writing this article in response to the recent news headlines about DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act) being struck down for the second time.
Christian opponents of gay marriage rights often state that they have no problem with homosexuals being given all the same legal rights as traditional married couples, but that they must call it something other than “marriage”. They claim that “marriage” is a biblical term, therefore the biblical definition of “marriage.” i.e. One man one woman, must be applied to it.
Aside from the fact that this really is a pretty semantic argument, there are bigger issues at stake here — not the least of which is the lack of any definitive use of the word “marriage” anywhere in the Bible. Really, take a look if you doubt me on this. While extremists often quote the verse in Leviticus that says homosexuals must be put to death, most mainstream Christians seem to realize that this is a tad extreme. They also don’t like having it pointed out that Leviticus also condones ritual animal sacrifice. So they pretty much steer clear of that one. Mainstream Christians like to quote Genesis, wherein a verse says — I’m paraphrasing here — some boy left his parents, found himself a woman and shacked up with her. This is the example they think God wants all men to follow, yet nowhere in the verse is the word “marriage” mentioned, and nowhere in the verse does it say god commanded the boy to do this. So the claim that there even is a biblical definition of marriage is invalid — an implication, perhaps, but not a definition.
The next issue I have to point out is the double-standard applied by Christians against the homosexual community. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Bibledid contain a concrete, definitive explanation of what constitutes a legitimate marriage. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Animists, and atheists all perform marriage ceremonies within their respective communities. Muslims even allow polygamy, and while Christians like to demonize and vilify polygamy, I have yet to hear anyone complain about the use of the word “marriage” to describe such unions. So, why is it acceptable for people of all faiths and none to use the word “marriage” in a wide variety of ceremonies, yet only when homosexual couples want to get married do the Christians suddenly claim exclusive rights to the word and start deciding who can and cannot use it?
Let’s ponder, for a brief moment, the whole idea of Christians claiming a biblical origin of the word “marriage.”
If the idea of marriage originated with the bible, how did folks get married before the Bible was created? How do folks in places where they’ve never heard of the Bible get married? The idea that Christians own the word is preposterous. The idea that a religious definition of the word could be made into law in a nation whose constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is shameful. The Defense of Marriage Act is appalling in every way and the courts were right to strike it down.