Once again the “what to do with homosexuals” question has emerged of late to the forefront of people’s attention. As an act of solidarity with those who have same-sex attractions, many on facebook have changed their profile pictures to the image of an equal sign as a show of support.
There are many issues wrapped up in this one, and all too often things get muddled very quickly. There is the issue of rights, Scripture, tradition, marriage, civil unions, and so forth.
The matter of civil rights is an important one. It has been established previously that legally one cannot be discriminated against for personal beliefs or activities or be persecuted for their personal choices. This is a strong legal and philosophical argument, one that will probably win the day in this particular issue eventually. Nevertheless, the question does become one of which civil rights are more primary – religious views (in which case opponents are within their rights to disagree with and refuse to participate in pro-same-sex matters) or civil freedoms (in which case the proponents of same-sex unions would have the upper hand).
Civil rights isn’t really my concern. I believe that for matters of taxation and inheritance and equal protection under the law, we should support civil unions.
Ahh, but what are civil unions? They are not “marriage,” or matrimony. We must firmly distinguish between civil unions, which exist as a matter of the state for purposes of inheritance, rights, and taxation, and matrimony, which exists as a binding oath which two people, one man and woman, take before God and the Church as their witnesses. The one is not like the other. It is perfectly legitimate for same-sex couples to have equal protection under the law. It is entirely irrational, cruel, and bizarre to want to oppose this.
But the jurisdiction of the Church should be re-asserted with regards to matrimony. As Thomas Kidd has helpfully written, the Church should stop performing marriage ceremonies for anyone who does not match the criteria, hetero or homo. Unless they are members of your church or come with a letter of recommendation from another church they should be refused a marriage service. Send them down to the courthouse for a domestic partnership.
This keeps the jurisdictions between the state and the church clear, allows the Church a clear moral stand on the issue of same-sex behavior, and allows support of same-sex civil unions all at once.
So am I going to post an equals sign on my facebook wall? No, because there is no getting around Scripture’s position on this matter. But will I support their right to inherit and be fully protected under the law? Certainly.