What is the Civil Marriage Protection Act and why should Christian churches talk about it? This is a very important social issue. I have heard many reasons and excuses.

  • “Oh we don’t talk about politics in our church.”
  • “That’s a very controversial topic.”
  • “It might polarize our congregation.”
  • “We’re not ready yet.”

The time for discussion is now! We don’t want to wake up one day next year and regret our vote because we didn’t make a bigger effort in learning about Civil Marriage. And Pastors should want to know they did all they can do to help their congregation members make the right moral choice about how they will vote on this referendum.
The Civil Marriage protection act allows the state to recognize a legal relationship between two people that want to get married regardless of their sex. And, it allows ALL churches to decide for themselves whether they want to perform marriage ceremonies to same-sex couples or not. The state is NOT requiring churches to marry gay people! There is no violation of religious rights in this law no matter what the hierarchy of some Italian-based church says and repeats over and over again.
I have been talking about a variety of human rights for people in my LGBTQ community since 1980. When will my moderate church be ready? We need to stop allowing the conservative churches the only voice in defining their point of view as “the Christian position”.
We need to have discussions about this because there are gay and lesbian people in our congregation and two things need to be made clear. Gays and lesbians need to actually know if they are welcome in our church and supported and we as a congregation need to know what our fellow congregants know and think about these two diverse opinions.
There is a verbal tug-of-war going on (in both the civil and theological arenas) and I am convinced that both sides are not talking about the same thing or even responding to each other’s point of view.   Frequently both sides seem to be on the offense do not take time to listen, or respond to the other perspective.
The ideas of disagreement often includes whether homosexuality is a choice; whether homosexuality is curable, whether homosexuality is immoral; whether “they” should be using the word “marriage”; whether same-sex marriage will destroy “traditional marriage”; and whether homosexuals already have all the civil rights they need. And, most of all the idea that: All Christians are against the freedom to marry which reiterates the old idea that one is either gay or Christian. Most conservative Christians insist it is impossible to be both.
Some areas of disagreement are diversionary and some are rooted in true beliefs on both sides. My question would be “Which view is morally correct?” Can both perspectives be morally correct at the same time? And what responsibility does the church have to provide a forum for understanding?
And finally, there will be a vote on the Civil Marriage Protection Act this November and we need to hear both points of view of all interested people in our congregations so that we can make an informed decision about how to vote on this very important social issue. No matter which way the vote turns out on November 6th, this issue will not be going away anytime soon.
Is homosexuality a choice?
Fewer people today believe homosexuality is a choice, many know it is not.  This is the root of the divide in public opinion on the acceptance of same-sex relationships.
If you believe that all people are created as heterosexual (because it is God’s only plan) and that homosexuality is the rejection of heterosexuality (or of God’s plan) you might believe that a gay person’s selection of a partner is a choice.
We all have some choice in our partner selection. And, yes there is some personal discrimination made in whom we approach. The confusion comes from who we are attracted to. You chose your partner or spouse based on who you are attracted to. Yes, some people are attracted to the opposite sex and some are attracted to the same sex.
Proponents point out that making decision among possible partners is where you make the choice. Heterosexual do not choose same-sex partners.  Heterosexuals frequently forget that they did not make a conscious choice to be heterosexual. And although a Lesbian can be married to man, the real choice is in deciding to be authentic or pretending to be something she is not.
The choice frequently is: Do I want to placate my family, my religion and society and pretend to be heterosexual or do I want to be authentic? The healthiest (and moral just) decision is to be honest and authentic.
Is homosexuality curable?
There are some people who claim that homosexuals can be “repaired” the methods used in the process are referred to as “reparative therapy”. There are a handful of people who claim to have been “cured”.  The first problem with this approach is that being gay leans on some form of “brokenness”. Homosexuality was delisted as a psychological illness in 1974. Thirty-eight years ago. Science has recognized homosexuality as a normal variant of sexual orientation for thirty-eight years.  Understanding homosexuality as an illness or as normal is not based on a belief, it is based on the opinion of many people who are highly educated and work in a variety of scientific fields.  This change of heart by the American Psychiatric Association was made after it realized that they were basing all of their judgments on the private conversations and studies of people who sought psychiatric advice. They were overlooking well adjusted gay men and lesbians.  The facts are that of the tens of thousands of people who have experienced “reparative therapy” fewer than one in ten thousand patients have reported any feeling of being cured. Many have doubts about the one claim to be cured. And even if it is true, is it truly moral to further damage ten thousand individuals who will not be cured to cure just one?
Is homosexuality immoral?
The answer to this hinges on whether you believe homosexual relationships occur because the partners have made a conscious choice to “practice” homosexuality or whether the partnership occurred because sexual orientation is a natural but different variation of what we have come to understand as “sexual orientation.” There are many left handed people in this world. Would we call them abnormal? No, we would call them a minority.
Why do homosexuals need to use the word “Marriage”?
The short answer (yes it could be a very long answer) is based in civil law. The law of the state of Maryland defines what is covered and not covered under the term “marriage”. The state allows for certain rights and protections and requirements. Insurance companies, for instance are required to provide a health insurance optional plan for married couples. The law does not require a provision for the partner of two people who are civil unioned. If two lesbians, each have children from previous relationships, should get civil unioned those children would not be afforded the same rights that children of a married heterosexual couples would have.  It is legal right now for a hospital in some states to deny the child of one lesbian to visit her other mother in the hospital unless the second mom has been through a legal adoption process and the adoption was granted. And then is some states those types of adoptions are not currently recognized.
Using the term “civil union” sets up a second category for legally joined couples. The first glaring example of how our cultural has already evolved on our broadened view of what “marriage” is is my need to write the term “legally joined” in the previous sentence. We understand the term “marriage” to mean a commitment between the two individuals wishing to join together as one for the rest of their lives. Allowing same-sex couples to be included in the definition of commitment and “forever after” is not changing the meaning of marriage; inclusion is drawing the circle larger and encouraging gay couples to have sexual relations within a marriage commitment, not as single people. People of any sexual orientation are not going to stop having sexual relationships just because we deny them access to marriage. They will simply walk away from institutions that insist they be celibate. Celibacy is not fair unless personally chosen.
Will Same-sex Marriage destroy Traditional Marriage?
I have asked this question over and over again. “How does your neighbor’s marriage affect your marriage?” The response is generally, “It doesn’t.” So then I asked that person, “So, how will allowing same-sex couples to get married ever possibly affect your marriage?”
Don’t homosexuals already have all the civil rights they need?
No, rights based on sexual orientation, at present, provide some protections in some places and a few additional rights in a limited number of other places. The truth is that every request to codify a civil right into the law and it takes so long that most of us are exhausted with hearing all the repeated arguments for inclusion. There are employment protections in some jurisdictions, but then it is completely legal to fire or not hire an individual on the basis of his or her sexual orientation in most states in our country. And if we added more rights to that list, the list of covered places would grow smaller. In fact gays and lesbians were not covered in employment, housing, education, credit or public accommodations in Baltimore County unless February of this year (2012).
All Christians have the same opinion of same-sex marriage.
This is truly very obvious. No. There are some denominations of Christianity that fully embrace same-sex relationships. There are other who pretend theirs is the only “Christian position” on “gay marriage” which would be to insist that homosexuality is immoral, so “gay marriages” are absolutely off the table. There are other denominations that are struggling to work at having a conversation about this topic. There are those that are simply ignoring it hoping it will either go away or the congregation will simply come to terms with same-sex relationships at their own pace. And finally, we all recognize that there are a variety of views on this topic within our congregations. Closing our eyes to a moral decision that must be made is in itself immoral in my humble opinion.
Conclusion
Many more people today believe that homosexuality is not a practice; it is a state of being, like heterosexuality, gender, ethnicity, handedness, etc.  Being gay, female, black or left-handed is not a practice that religious people can morally object to.  We cannot argue against another person’s existence, even if we feel “superior” to those other types of people.  Allowing equal rights to gay, female, or black people is not a “reward” or “special right” when you yourself already have those rights.  Rights are defined in our Constitution as being inalienable.  The rights themselves have had to be defined over the years, but the rights are inherent in our American culture.
This effort to invalidate the relationships of gay people and this fight to deny gay people the right to enter into a civil marriage is not a fight that can be justified through one’s religious beliefs nor can it be justified through constitutionality. It is a fight by the majority to keep minority classes of people inferior to themselves, as it’s has always been for civil rights issues in the past.
If some of us really feel that homosexuality is not good and moral and that our government has no role in rewarding same-sex couples with the legal benefits of civil marriage and promoting it, we clearly need better understanding of the concept of morality. This is where the Pastor should step up.
Morality is simply knowing between the “right and wrong” decision in a case of action or intention.
Scientific evidence of homosexuality being neither destructive nor the result of mental illness is widespread, and even shows that it is beneficial for homosexuals to identify as such. And since one cannot decide, nor act, nor intend to be gay a person can only choose to lie about it, which is immoral.
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Mark Patro

Mark Patro