"I Now Pronounce You: President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christian Bigotry"
"I Now Pronounce You:
President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christian Bigotry"
By: Timothy "Red Baron" Wellbeck
Roughly a month ago, one day after North Carolina voters overwhlemingly passed a new state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between “one man and one woman,” President Obama openly endorsed gay marriage for the first time while holding the nation’s highest office. In so doing, he became the first sitting US president to openly endrose gay marriage. He sat for an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts in the White House Cabinet Room to detail his evolution on the controversial issue. After publicly vascilating on the issue for more than a year, President Obama unequivocally stated his belief that marriage rights should extend to same-sex couples. For many, it was a refreshing moment of candor regardless of whether they agreed with the President. As Matthew Franck writing for the Washington Post said, “Throughout his administration [President Obama] has acted like a supporter of same-sex marriage, but has spoken like a man who didn’t have the nerve to own up to his true opinion.” His recent announcement should then come as no surprise.
During the interivew with Ms. Roberts, President Obama reminded America of his “adamant” belief that homosexuals deserve “fair and equal” treatment. He furthered this notion by mentioning his administration’s actions to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his administration’s opposition of the Defense of Marriage Act. He even referenced his previous stance on civil unions being a sufficient means for same-sex couples to receive legal rights and privileges for their committed relationships. He told Ms. Roberts that he ultimately concluded civil unions are not enough to accomplish the “fair and equal” treatment he believes gays and lesbians deserve. While his announcement drew widespread praise, it also stoked the vehment opposition from numerous critics. Much of his most vocal opposition has come from the household of faith, particularly the Black Church.
As a professed disciple of Christ, and one who has spent most of his life in the Black Church I have come to expect the virulent opposition to any support for gay marriage that has surfaced. Moreover, I fully expected such opposition to hinge on biblical authority. There is no shortage of prohibitions for homosexuality, both in the Old and New Testament. Furthermore, the Church often cites centuries old tradition of marriage centering on a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman (though many men in the Bible had more than one wife). Certainly I understand these arguments and personally value the sanctity of marriage. I previously defined it as such:
Marriage is a sacred relationship, ordained by God, whereby a man and woman establish a covenant to join together to form an eternal union. The two become one and covenant to share life together. It is a relationship typified by an undying love. The union is the bedrock of our familial structure and symbolizes God’s desires for relationship with people. That is marriage as it should be. Because we are flawed beings, at times members of our community of faith, and members of our society at large, fail to live up to such a high standard. Nevertheless, I still believe we should strive to do this God’s way.
Notwithstanding, I agree with President Obama.
The United States of America is not a theocracy, nor is it the Christian nation it often purports to be. The nation’s highest executive officer is president, not king, not preist. Furthermore, as I have written previously, the founding fathers, for the most part, were not Christians; particularly not within the way we presently understand the faith. Even had they been, they sought to create a republic, a more perfect union, with democratic leanings and governing principles, not a theocracy that they believed were oft prone to tyranny. Even the Bible teaches that the Lord did not desire to appoint a king over His people, and their demands to the contrary represented a rejection of Him. Such power in government is too suspetible to abuse.
Moreover, one of our nation’s most prominent archiects even proposed the erection of a figurative “wall of separation between the church and state.” Surely, our nation’s Christian cultural tradition runs deep, but the national embrace has some times represented a mere act of convenience., Consequently, foreign press has often ridiculed the “Christian” nation’s treatment of its marginalized people: racial minorities, women, the disabled, et cetera. This is particularly the case when much of it was endorsed by the large segments of the Christian community in the country. In short, it is hard to argue that a nation with a history of genocide, chattel slavery, Jim Crow, bio-medical experimentation on its citizens, deployment of “weapons of mass destruction,” torture and more has its knee bent in reverence to God. Consequently, if we are a Christian nation, we as a nation are Christian by acculturation rather than governance or original founding intent. Hence, the president swears to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible.
Thus, attempts to legislate morality, as evidenced by attempts to prohibit same-sex marriage, are not only misguided, but are thinly veiled attempts to codify bigotry. Simply put, many of gay marriage’s opponents have singled out the perceived unseemly behavior of one group of people while ignoring that of others. We have had similar brands of bigotry previously in our nation’s history. In July of 1958, local authorities arrested Mildred Jeter Loving and Richard Perry Loving for violation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. Virginia law classified Mildred as “colored” and Richard as “white.” Under the law of the Commonwealth at the time, the two could not lawfully wed.
The couple married in the District of Columbia, which did not have anti-miscegenation laws. The Lovings, took up reisdence in Caroline County Virginia shortly thereafter. Notwithstanding, the Racial Integrity Act prohibited interractial couples who lawfully married outisde of Virginia to live there as man and wife. Consequently, the Circuit Court of Caroline County issued an indictment alleging the two violated state law. The Lovings pled guilty and had their sentences suspended on the condition the two did not return to Virginia as husband and wife for twenty-five years. In his opinion, the trial judge held:
Almighty God created races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the reaces to mix.
Deeply disappointed, Richard and Mildred opted to leave Virginia for Washington, D.C. What would happen thereafter would cement their legacy in American history and set the precedent for the law governing marriage in the US.
Five years later, in 1963, the Lovings retained Bernard Cohen, an attonery affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union, appeal their 1958 conviction.
Mr. Cohen was later joined by Philip Hirschokopf. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In the landmark case, Loving v. Virginia (1967), the Warren Court overlooked the trial judge’s distorted theology and untenable legal reasoning to rule, “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’ fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so, unsupportable a basis . . . is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.” The Court further concluded, “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the invidudal and cannot be infirnged by the State.” Loving v. Virginia has remained the law of the land for forty-five years.
By analogy, same-sex couples have argued for decades that the holding of Loving v. Virginia has and should apply directly to any and all restrictions on gay marriage. In other words they argue subsituting the words “colored”” and “white” for the word “gay” or “lesbian” would produce similar outcomes in the court of law. They further argue that as citizens of the United States, they remain entitled to all the liberties enshrined in the Constitution. The High Court of the land has declared marriage as one of those fundamental liberties. Undoubtedly, states may establish substantive requirements (determinations as to who may marry) and formal requirements (determinations on how marriages are legitimized), but federal law prohibits arbitrary limitations on whether consenting adults may marry. Loving v. Virgnia cemented that reality decades ago. Therefore if the Supreme Court ruled that a state cannot infringe upon a citizen’s rights by arbitarily limiting who they might marry on the basis of race, states cannot arbitrarily limit who a person may marry on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.
Certainly gay marriage will fundamentally alter the apperance of marriage in the eyes of many Americans. Nonetheless, these Americans ignore the fact that marriage in the United States simultaneously has sacred and civil components. Particulalry, though most marriages begin in a church, those who choose to end their marriage do not stand before a priest, preacher or another type of elder of the church. When Americans divorce, they seek the force of the law to dissolve their union. Implicitly in doing so they acknowledge that the nation’s laws has the power to sanction and nullify the union they also declare is divine. The nation has the power to do so over all its citizens regardless of their religious affiliation. That is what our law dictates.
If our laws centerd on biblical precepts, bans of gay marriage would be appropriate because the Bible clearly prohibits homosexuality. Nevertheless, the also Bible speaks in no unclear terms on adultery, fornication, divorce (which is one of the few things the Bible declares the LORD hates) and other intimate behavior, meaning there would be ample precedent to legislate bans on those practices as well if the Bible were the true basis for our statutes. Notwithstanding, politicans and social advocacy groups seeking to ban same-sex marriage do not target the other aforementioned sins and the like with the same fervor. Why not follow their desire to sync the Word and our laws to its logical end and legislate prohibitions to fornication, adultery, viewing pornography, et cetera and only allow for divorce "save for the cause of adutlery . . ?" Why not advocate imprisonment for fornicators and adulters? Why not cite those who watch pornography? Why not push to make it more difficult to divorce? They do not do so, because it would expose their own failings.
Further, even if we were to succeed in codifying the law from the scriptures, we would still not escape the fundamental truth that we all would fall terribly short of its dictates. We would also still be worthy of hellfire absent repentant hearts. That is why we needed, and still, need redemption. Simply put, last month, President Obama did what he swore he would nearly four years ago, uphold the Constitution. Regardless of whether his critics deem it politically expedient or a distortion of the faith, he did as he should. It is the role of the church to show forth an example of a better way and lead men and women to that Way. This outcry from the believers, while duly noted, will not solve anything and only further complicates matters. It also serves as a grand pronouncement of many their personal biases and prejudices.
 See Genesis 16:1 – 3, Genesis 25:1, Genesis 26:34, Genesis 36:11 – 12; Judges 8:30, Judges 12:13 – 14; I Samuel 1:1 – 2, I Samuel 25:43, II Samuel 3:5, II Samuel 5:13; I Kings 20:1 – 3; I Chronicles 2:18,, I Chronicles 4:5; I Chronicles 4:17 – 18, II Chronicles 13:21; Esther 1:9; Daniel 5:2 for examples of men in the Bible with more than one wife.
 Those who subscribe to such a notion often cite historical facts such as John Adams, George Washington and others attended afternoon Mass at St. Mary’s Church when the Continental Congress met, or how nine of the thirteen original colonies had established “state churches during the colonial period.” Kind of Red, One Nation Under God, www.thepaintedone.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/one-nation-under-god/ (last visited May 21, 2012)
 As David L. Holmes writes in Faiths of the Founding Fathers, the founding fathers had varying degrees of faith. He writes, Benjamin Franklin was “the first prominent American Deist and most universal American of his time.” Mr. Holmes further noted how George Washington was “religiously active” by the standards of his time, while John Adams was a Unitarian, or in other words a “Christian Deist.” Thomas Jefferson, though deemed “the most self-consciously theological of all America’s presidents,” was no by no stretch of the imagination a Christian (one need look no further than his personal version of the Bible). James Madison partook in a revival that occurred while he was on Princeton’s campus, but his faith was described as “short-lived.” James Monroe was possibly deemed a skeptic with a private pattern of religious commitment. Thomas Paine has even been quoted saying, “The religion of Deism is superior to the Christian Religion.” Kind of Red, One Nation Under God, www.thepaintedone.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/one-nation-under-god/ (last visited May 21, 2012)
 One commonly overlooked idea is that Christianity during the time of the founding fathers differed mightily from the Christianity, in any form, we witness in this nation presently. Particularly, as Mr. Holmes again writes in Faiths of the Founding Fathers, between the fourth and sixteenth century, “certain practices or doctrines recorded in the New Testament or in the writings of the early church fathers dropped out of use in Christianity.” Deism proved an influential frame of thought during eighteenth-century Americans as “a liberator from the shackles of repressive religion and tyrannical government won widespread acclaim.” Kind of Red, One Nation Under God, www.thepaintedone.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/one-nation-under-god/ (last visited May 21, 2012)Christian doctrine during the colonial era was also heavily influenced by Quaker thought, the Unitarians and the Sandemanians.
 The United States began inserting the motto IN GOD WE TRUST on our currency due to “increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War,” and formally adopted the tradition on March 3, 1865. Contrastingly, Congress added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance to satiate the anti-Communist fervor that swept the nation during the time immediately following the Second World War. Since, the words, along with “IN GOD WE TRUST” and God bless America have become “backdrop of American life” throughout the years, despite its origins. Kind of Red, One Nation Under God, www.thepaintedone.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/one-nation-under-god/ (last visited May 21, 2012)