Washington could be the seventh state (plus D.C.) to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill is moving steadily through the state legislature and is backed byGov. Chris Gregoire. Some religious groups are hoping to stall the bill, including the state's four Catholic bishops who are urging parishioners to contact their legislatures and “defend the current definition of marriage.”Other faith groups, like the United Church of Christ, are applauding the bill, proving that homosexuality remains a divisive issue among religious adherents. We asked some of our panelists what they thought. [polldaddy poll="5891587"] Should Washington legalize same-sex marriage?

No. I believe marriage should continue to be defined as it traditionally has been, as betweenone man and one woman. Not because tradition in and of itself is holy, but because this particular tradition has valid and essential societal, religious and biological justifications.This definition denies some people something that they want very much and I take no pleasure in that, but I do not believe in changing valid, fundamental tenets that benefit society as a whole in order to relieve the pain of one segment of society and grant them their hearts' desire, as universal and understandable as that desire may be.Many people are denied the opportunities they want most in life; homosexuality is not the only reason some people are not able to marry. Infertility, disability, disease, injury and poverty are a few of the reasons many people don't get what they want most. I don't want to take away anyone's civil rights or opportunities to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and hope that individuals will take legal steps to insure their personal preferences are fulfilled — that they can own property with the partner of their choice, leave their money to whomever they please, have end-of-life decisions made by whomever they trust, etc. I am not a debater, philosopher or expert in any related area (“clearly,” someone is thinking right now.)It won't be hard for someone to point out my weaknesses of expression and take exception to my rationale and argue against it.But this is what I believe. – Diane Kipp

The question is complex, calling forth a political, theological and deeply personal reflection. The question also touches on a divisive issue. Those who oppose same-sex unions tend to oppose same-sex relationships in general. Any response on the subject can lead to labeling and cutting off one another (e.g., left, right, center, liberal, conservative, moderate, fundamentalist, etc.) based on what a person believes and says. There's a thought-provoking and comprehensive chapter called Concerning Homosexuality in “Who We Are: Our Dignity as Human,”by Paul K. Jewett with Marguerite Shuster. I point readers to it. With that said, it seems the crucial issue before us hinges on the word and institution and definition of “marriage.” I would like to change the question: Is there a way to legalize same-sex relationships without redefining traditional heterosexual marriage? It will take more time and creative thinking to establish something new for same-sex couples. Until then, I see only a deepening rift. – Lace Williams-Tinajero

Buddhists do not believe in the concept of “sin” the way it exists in Western culture and in the Judeo-Christian mind.In Buddhism, actions are not inherently good or evil; rather it is that emotions and intentions are either positive or negative.Negative intentions beget suffering and positive intentions lessen suffering. Love is a positive emotion and the actions of love are positive actions.Buddhism has no specific restrictions that govern the activities of its practitioners. Buddhists have individual freedoms to make their own decisions regarding life choices.A practitioner of Buddhism should focus on the intentions and emotions behind their choices.Relationships, sex and even marriage can stem from both negative and positive intentions. That being said, I believe same-sex marriage should be legalized in Washington. I don't believe individuals should be denied the opportunity to make decisions that could potentially bring them happiness.Marriage is an expression of love two individuals make for themselves and each other.Who a person chooses to love is irrelevant from a Buddhist perspective. I hope people of other faiths and cultures can see and respect the perspectives of homosexual couples and be willing to extend to them the same rights and freedoms that heterosexual couples enjoy. – Pearce Fujiura

Same-sex marriagesshouldbe legal in Washington, as well as in the rest of the country. The primary outcry against such legislation tends to be religious in nature, and since we're discussing this topic on a website that deals with matters of religion, I'll assume we're trying to find out what various religions have to say about it. It frankly doesn't matter, however, as the simple answer is that any religiously—based argument against same-sex marriage in this country violates our constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state. If heterosexual couples can enter into civil unions (andeverymarriage, even those performed by the church, are civil unions), then homosexual couples should be granted the same basic civil rights. We're talking about the laws that govern the state, not the rules that govern the church. The legislation wouldn't, and indeedcouldn't,force churches to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples, or even toacknowledgesuch marriages as valid in the eyes of God. That's something the churches need to work out for themselves. If the religious really want to attempt to restrict the right of same-sex couples to marry, they're going to need to come up with something better than, “because God said so.” Which actually he didn't. But that's a discussion for another time. – Thomas J. Brown

As a Untied States citizen exercising my freedom to vote according to my conscience, I would vote…no. But the question is presented in a manner that asks if we think Washington 'should' legalize same-sex marriage. As soon as we enter the realm of 'should' it becomes a very different discussion. For most people determining what one 'should or shouldn't do' becomes a discussion of the legislation's legality based on the constitutionality of the law as well as a discussion of the ethical and religious aspects of the law. The challenge of differentiating between these two spheres in American culture is at the root of so much of the debate, dissent and confusion on this subject. I think religious America has to come to terms with the reality that the two have been wed together in ways that have been culturally accepted and even desired by the majority but have not been true to the intent of the constitution in outworking specific matters of separation between church and state. The growing secularization of the country as viewed by many religious people is, for some people, simply the rebalancing of our country's application of constitutional law. What kind of America all this produces is deeply problematic to those who orient their public and private lives from a Judea-Christian worldview. For others this is seen as an expansion of civil liberties, blossoming of greater equality and justice and an end to the dominant conservative religious framework in place in many of our American institutions. I see the divide between secular and sacred increasing and producing accompanying means and measures to express and celebrate whichever worldview one holds. Some will welcome this change, other's will not. – Pastor Eric Blauer

Marriage is an institution with both legal and spiritual ramifications and it is also one of the very few places, perhaps the only place, left in society in which ordained ministers function as officers of the state in certifying that a valid and legal marriage has occurred. That creates confusion around the question of legalizing same-sex marriage because it is both a theological and a legal issue. As we all know opinions vary about the theological dimensions of this question and the bible gets quoted rather liberally on both sides of the issue. My personal opinion, and this opinion does not necessarily represent the views of the management, is that the bible is completely silent on the modern question of two people falling in love and wanting to spend the rest of their lives together who happen to be of the same sex. The assumption of all the writers of scripture was in complete accord with the standard thinking of the day: all men like women, and all women like men, and therefore to engage in sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex is to go against your own nature. Every biblical text cited on this question makes this assumption, an assumption we now know is simply not true. Sexual orientation is not so simple as we once thought and our theological thinking needs to evolve on this issue, as it has evolved on other questions. Men really can fall in love with men, and women with women. People of the same sex really do devote themselves to each other for “as long as both shall live.” More than that, common sense, and universal experience, tells us that marriage is mostly not about sex and to focus the question of marriage around sex distorts both the institution and that particular form of intimacy. At the theological level therefore I am in favor of same-sex marriage. However, I believe it would be a serious violation of the freedom of religion to compel any church, or its ministers, to solemnize such unions. There are people, indeed whole denominations, who stand in serious disagreement with my thoughts on this and on no account should the state structure any resolution of this question in a manner that creates ambiguity about the freedom of a minister to refuse to act as an officer of the state. A religious official has a freedom that a justice of the peace does not have, the freedom to refuse for any or no reason, to officiate at a wedding. That freedom must be preserved. On the legal and social side of the issue the question, in my opinion, is more straightforward. The state has no business telling two competent people of legal age who love each other and intend to spend the rest of their lives together, that they may not get married and thus enjoy the host of legal benefits that accrue to marriage. It is a question of civil rights and of equal protection under the law. Indeed, just as the state has a positive interest in protecting opposite sex marriage, so too does the state have a positive interest in protecting same sex marriage. I truly hope that this question can be resolved state by state, rather than by judicial decree, as was the case with Roe v. Wade. – Rev. Bill Ellis

16 Comments

  1. Bill, thanks for your comments. Speaking personally, I feel that people who are against gay marriage now will, in the future, be viewed in much the same way as people who were against interracial marriage in decades past —speed bumps on the road to progress, and nothing more. Whatever your religious views, we live in a country where church and state are separate entities. Because marriages can be performed by judges and other officers of the state, no pastor will be at risk of marrying a same-sex couple against his or her will and conscious. As a civil rights issue, it’s a no-brainer to allow two consenting adults in love to spend their lives together. That is my own, personal opinion on the matter.

  2. Sam Fletcher

    I’m not sure what you mean by the “age of consent” camp, but the polygamy issue has always given me pause. Weren’t there a lot more examples of polygamist marriages in the Bible, particularly the Hebrew scriptures, than the viewpoint expressed in the phrase, “one man, one woman”? Why do those who interpret the Bible in a more literal fashion not advocate for polygamy?

    Still, I think your question is probably an apples-to-oranges comparison. Everyone, no matter how they self-identify, is going to exist on several sliding scales of sexuality and sexual being. We want to box people into “heterosexual” and “homosexual” camps for purposes of… convenience? We can’t claim to delve into anyone’s head to find out what will really make them happy in life. How can we claim to be able to legislate it?

    Right now, bi-sexual people can get involved in “bi-sexual marriages” and it’s all completely legal. So thinking that the “institution of marriage” as we understand it is able to be some sort of cultural barrier against a degeneration of culture (as some understand that to be) doesn’t really hold a lot of water. We are in effect singling people out just because of a label — a label which, I hope is clear, is actually sort of artificial in real, human terms.

    What we do know is that, were marriage equality established, there would be a litany of practical benefits in areas such as health care, and a litany of psychological benefits, such as not living under the stigmatization of being “that kind of person who can’t get married to their true love but wants to”.

  3. There are many sexual behaviors that are or were ‘stigmatized’ in American culture that was based on the influence of Hebraic/Christian teaching. Much of our society’s framework of law and right and wrong is rooted in it. If law should simply support whatever you want to do or feel like doing, who sets limits and why? Age of Concent laws are in place due to a society saying sex with certain ages is not ok and after certain ages is ok. Seems pretty logical that your argument opens up the way forward to eliminate in time, such restrictive moralism. The same goes for polygamy…in this economy it would mean more money from the state for sure! So maybe the economic implications are worth factoring in before we redefine what ‘marriage’ means, especially in light of the financial considerations. Imagine the implications of polygamy on the welfare system. Being happy is one consideration in this debate but I would argue it’s a weak one to judicially rule from.

  4. Diane’s view reflects the opinions of a lot of people. I am impressed that she is aware of the painful consequences this view has on a small segment of the population. What puzzles me about it, however, is that while it is true that there are reasons some people choose not to get married, there are no legal prohibitions on marriage for poor, disabled, diseased or infertile couples. I have more than once presided at marriages for people who fall into each of those categories. In the case of same-sex marriage legal prohibitions exists, prohibitions that are often tinged with moral condemnation. I also wonder about Eric’s evident that legalizing same sex marriage will inevitably lead to a complete “anything goes” atmosphere, since the law will “simply support whatever you want to do or feel like doing.” I truly don’t understand that line of reasoning, for it doesn’t seem to be happening anywhere else in society. Self defense is exculpatory in cases where people get killed, but that has not opened the doors to condoning murder. In spite of the best efforts of tne NRA the right to bear arms does not imply a right to own a bazooka. Everywhere you look within our society judges, juries, and legislatures are making reasonable distinctions about what rights are implied by the rights that are expressed in law. The questionof polygamy is particularly interesting in light of the reference to the “Hebraic/Christian” teaching, since polygamy was rather obviously the norm in ancient Israel, and remains so in some parts of the world. But the west has moved away from that, rather than toward it, and same-sex marriage, it seems to me, discourages, rather than encourages, multiple partner arrangements, by upholding the notion in law of the union of two people, and two people only.

  5. As usual this format and topic usually cloud more than clear the issues and it feels like tennis. But…I still will attempt to share my perspective, while taking time to listen and think through the responses. My original post reflects my belief that from a civil standpoint it’s inevitable that legalizing gay marriage will happen. My questions on why it shouldn’t expand, have not been satisfactorily addressed in my opinion. I think most conservatives would say that in the last 60 years we have seen many, many examples of the liberalization of America. One may applaud or grieve that change but acting like it hasn’t been happening seems pretty disingenuous.

    As for American culture arising out from the roots of a Hebraic/Christian worldview: I think the progressive maturation of biblical morality is evident in the testimony not examples from scripture. We don’t draw our ethics from the direct actions of people in the story, such thinking could lead to many erroneous applications. Healthy, and in my view, biblical sexuality and morality come from the flowering teaching and unfolding revelation of the OT and finds its fullness in the words and life of Jesus Christ and His Apostles…not the sexual and economic situations of nomadic, agricultural and tribal life. But the foundational principles in the mosaic code and Christian doctrine have inspired western thought and law.

    As for same sex marriage adding stability to a culture more than polygamy. From a evolutionary, cultural and anthropological view, how can a non-procreative relationship produce stability in a civilization dependent on reproduction for its ultimate survival? If homosexuals are dependent on As usual this format and topic usually cloud more than clear the issues and it feels like tennis. But…I still will attempt to share my perspective, while taking time to listen and think through the responses. My original post reflects my belief that from a civil standpoint it’s inevitable that legalizing gay marriage will happen. My questions on why it shouldn’t expand, have not been satisfactorily addressed in my opinion. I think most conservatives would say that in the last 60 years we have seen many, many examples of the liberalization of America. One may applaud or grieve that change but acting like it hasn’t been happening seems pretty disingenuous.

    As for American culture arising out from the roots of a Hebraic/Christian worldview: I think the progressive maturation of biblical morality is evident in the testimony not examples from scripture. We don’t draw our ethics from the direct actions of people in the story, such thinking could lead to many erroneous applications. Healthy, and in my view, biblical sexuality and morality come from the flowering teaching and unfolding revelation of the OT and finds its fullness in the words and life of Jesus Christ and His Apostles…not the sexual and economic situations of nomadic, agricultural and tribal life. But the foundational principles in the mosaic code and Christian doctrine have inspired western thought and law.

    As for same sex marriage adding stability more than polygamy. From a evolutionary, cultural and anthropological view, how can a non-procreative relationship produce stability in a civilization dependent on reproduction for its ultimate survival? If homosexuals are dependent on heterosexuals from survival doesn’t that premiss invalidate the nature vs nurture defense?

  6. Pearce Fujiura

    I am not an evolutionary biologist, however I have had some instruction in the matter. That being said I would like to offer my understanding of the answer to the most recent question posed by Pastor Blauer.
    From a evolutionary standpoint, homosexuality is likely a product of the need for a gene to survive. Sometimes survival of the gene is not simply a matter of procreation. It is often about the survival of your children or the survival of those related to you. Homosexuality offers many benefits for the survival of the family members/society. They contribute in the search for resources, aid in raising the children, and help defend the community. At the same time they do not create more children to compete for resources. Much in the same way that women after menopause are incapable of reproduction but continue to contribute to the society/family in which they live. In this way the gene’s of the family have a better overall chance for survival, like someone drowning to save their niece from a freezing lake. They do not survive, do not reproduce, yet it makes evolutionary sense because their genes will survive through the niece they saved. Hopefully I have explained an evolutionary defense for homosexual relationships without confusing the issue. It is sometimes difficult to explain a subject such as this one in a way that is comprehensible to the general public.
    I am not trying to argue Pastor Blauer’s opinions, I just wanted to offer an evolutionary perspective on the topic.
    I hope it is received well and does not spark outrage or anger from any of the readers. I am humbly limited by the confines of my vernacular and comprehension. If there are any evolutionary biologists reading this article, please feel free to throw in your two cents. I would welcome correction, clarification, elaboration, or validation from anyone who is an expert in the field.

  7. A ‘gene’ passes in procreation not through philosophy or philanthropy. My comments were strickly tied to the issue of biology. I’m fully aware and celebrate many contributions to society by gay people. To me the issue of ones sexuality isn’t about the nature of personhood…that’s been the incarnation of the advocates of homosexuality. Defining worth or meaning from ones status within sexuality is foreign to my understanding of the faith of Jesus and Paul both single and celibate.

    I’m simply wondering from the argument of ‘ the ‘survival of the fittest’ how advocates see a self defeating form of sexuality as nature? Wouldn’t that at face value (emotions aside) be an evidence of a bad gene?

    I know that these convos are inflammatory and I’m trying not to enrage but just talk about my ideas, questions and concerns. Most of the time the process is demonized or the space in conversations isn’t allowed to voice dissagreement.

    As a citezen, I do not think civil law has the means to justify not allowing gay marriage. It will eventually become law.

    As a Christian, I believe it’s sin…a consequence of fallen nature, either by volition or biology. I see no either option from scripture…I wish I could.

    As

  8. Pearce Fujiura

    My comments were also strictly tied to biology. I am sorry if that was not clear.
    Each individual shares genes with there family members, and it is sometimes in the gene’s best interest to support the efforts of raising family rather than diluting the resources of the area in which the family lives through continued procreation. In some instances a single gene has a better chance of survival if a limited number in a group procreate and pool their resources into the survival of those progeny, rather than each member producing children who will ultimately compete for resources. It is in that context that my former statements were made, not from a philisophical or philanthropic standpoint. For example, it is for your gene’s best interest to save your brother’s life because he shares some of your genetic material. Your genes give you impetus to share with your nephews as well as your sons because in both of them there are shared genetics. When resources are limited or if competition is high there are two evolutionary strategies. Either produce as many children as possible and invest few resources in them, or produce very few children and invest deeply in them. Many evolutionary biologist believe that homosexuality is a natural derivation of that latter strategy. It can be advantageous to a genetic line to produce individuals that will aid in the defense and collection of resources without producing further competition for said resources. Similarly a gene will often have a better chance of survival if the individuals carrying them choose to live in a social group who can pool their resources and similarly defend there resources. That is why from a evolutionary/biological standpoint many species choose to live in groups. This idea takes it one step further by creating individuals in the group that have a genetic connection with children that are not there own.
    As I write this I know that it has absolutely no impact on your feelings or your position on the matter. Which was not my goal in the slightest. As a matter of fact I appreciate your perspective on the matter. It would be impossible and foolish to attempt to argue your beliefs or your convictions. I write this because I interpretted some level misunderstanding in your reply. For the sake of this thread I would like to segregate your religious beliefs, for which I have no quarrel, and ask you to focus on the genetic/scientific theory that I have attempted to outline. I just wanted to attempt to clarify my earlier statements, and emphasize that they were not in refering to some concept of “philosophy or philanthropy.” I would also like to go one step further and say that I do not even hope for your acceptance of the theory, I just hope that you can understand that it is not a theory about emotion it is a theory based on biology, behavior, and science.
    Also, your last reply appears to be cut short again. I would be very interested to see how it ends.

  9. I understand what your saying but I’m not convinced that genes have a sentient sense of purpose to the extent you are giving them.

    As for separating faith from the equation it isn’t possible for me because the central reason I’m talking about the matter arises from scriptures condemnation of the practice.

    We were asked if we thought WA “should” pass this law and to explain that, I’ve got to explain my reasons.

    I appreciate your interaction.

  10. Pearce Fujiura

    I appreciated it as well! You have an insight that is well articulated and a conviction that is admirable. I wish you could see the smile that is on my face as we exchange ideas. You’ve elucidated your perspective remarkably, and I believe I have a better understanding of your side of the issue. I hope that others that read our thoughts feel as enriched as I do now. I will look forward to reading your future blogs, thank you for your continued respect and patience throughout our discussion. Your church is lucky to have you as one of its leaders and as a representative through this blog.

  11. I’d like to make my personal thoughts clear on this: Scripture does not “condemn” homosexuals (or homosexual practice, as one might say) any more than scripture condemns eating shrimp, getting tattoos, cooking dinner while menstruating, going into a church building while physically handicapped, being uncircumcised, or any number of other things prohibited in the Torah.

    Christians under the “new covenant” that Jesus made are obligated to two, and only two, laws: Love God with every fiber of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. We do not have to be enslaved to first-century sexual, legal, and moral ideas. (When you really start to examine those ideals, they were quite brutal, bloody, and full of all kinds of oppression.)

    How can we live out the Gospel idea of love for God and love for each other? That is the question Christians of all times must ask, and answer in a way that makes sense for the world that they are in. In the first century, there was no such thing as a committed homosexual relationship — the concept was entirely foreign to people because their definition of marriage and what it was to mean was entirely different from ours.

    I like to think that the world we live in now is much more enlightened. It is certainly a far, far less violent place. It is a place where women have rights. People can vote for their leaders in nearly every country in the world. Slavery is illegal in every nation. I think Christians can find all these traits to be inherently good in themselves.

    Why then do we continue to burden ourselves and each other with this one, last nonsensical view of human love? It is as outdated and brutal as slavery, women chattel, and child concubines from those bygone days when the Bible was written. Let’s break the chains and be free to love our neighbors.

  12. Sam,
    Scriptures do not place ‘homosexuality’ on the same plane as ‘eating shrimp’. If you are going to pit scripture against scripture, please take the time to frame the argument honestly. Adulterty, fornication and homosexuality are acts that lead to the punishment of eternal death (1 Corinthians 6:9 & Revelation 21:8 ) unless someone repents from those sins and turns to Christ for forgiveness, washing and regeneration (1 Cor 6:11). Bringing this message to anyone is the most loving, enlightened and lberating thing someone could do for another.

  13. Bill, re-reading I see that I was a bit confusing in what I wrote. I didn’t mean that infertility, disability, disease, injury and poverty are reasons that some people cannot marry; I know that people with those conditions marry all the time. I meant that those conditions are reasons that some people cannot have whatever it is that they most want in life, such as an infertile couple that cannot conceive, a disabled person who cannot walk or see, a person with cancer who cannot be healed, etc.

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