A Christian, intra-religious
Terms related to
same-sex marriage (SSM)
We compare here:
Definitions used by some of the larger fundamentalist, other
and religiously conservative organizations, like the Roman Catholic Church, American Family Association, Christian Coalition, the
Family Research Council, Focus on the Family,
Promise Keepers, Traditional Values Coalition, the National Organization for Marriage, etc.,
Definitions used by other groups and individuals -- including most
progressive, mainline & liberal Christians, followers of other religions'
liberal and mainline wings, persons who don't identify
themselves with any religion, humanists, Unitarian Universalists, therapists and counselors,
human sexuality researchers, social service workers, gays,
lesbians & bisexuals, transsexuals, civil
rights advocates, and others.
These definitions tend to reflect closely the group's or individual's beliefs
about the nature of homosexuality: whether it is:
||A behavior or an innate nature,
||Chosen or unchosen,
||Changeable or fixed,
||A preference or an orientation,
||Intrinsically immoral or immoral under certain circumstances (like
These definitions also reflect their beliefs about the nature of the family,
the nature of marriage, and gender roles -- if any -- assigned by themselves or
by their faith group:
||Whether only those families headed by one female and one male should be
recognized by the state.
||Whether marriage is a civil institution, a religious ritual, a sacrament
or sine combination.
||Whether SSM will have a negative impact on opposite-sex marriage.
||Whether the sole purpose of marriage is procreation.
||Whether allowing same-sex couples to marry will increase the number of
homosexuals in the future.
||Whether parents must be of opposite genders in order for their children to
develop properly into mature adults.
The terms that people use, and the precise meanings that they assign to terms, automatically bias the discussion in one
direction or another. This often makes dialogue difficult or impossible.
Attitudes towards SSM In North America differ:
|Common evangelical usage
||Usage by others
|Same-sex marriage (SSM)
|Some same-sex marriages involve bisexuals, so we recommend
||Using quotation marks indicates evangelical denigration of the status same-sex
|"Opposite-sex only marriage"
||Defining marriage between one woman and one man, while prohibiting same-sex marriage.
||"Marriage restricted to opposite-sex couples
||Denigrating marriage between two women or two men.
"Gay 'marriage' "
So called marriage
|"Same-sex marriage" SSM
||Denigrating marriage between two women or two men.
|"Protecting traditional marriage."
"Preserve the sanctity of marriage."
"Promoting natural marriage"
"Battle to save marriage"
"Defending true marriage," etc.
|Restrict marriage to one man and one women, thus preventing gays
and lesbians in committed relationships from enjoying the 1,400 or so benefits
given by state and federal governments to married couples.
||"Protecting traditional marriage" often has the
side-effect of reducing loving committed same-sex couples to the status of
roommates, and their children to the status of illegitimacy, with immense loss
of protections and rights.
"undermine the institution of the family"
||Extend benefits enjoyed by married couples to gays, lesbians,
and heterosexual couples who live together in loving, committed relationships.
|"impose same-sex marriage on everyone"
||Allow same-sex couples to marry
||Imposing same-sex marriage on everyone would logically mean that everyone would be required to marry a person of the same gender. That is nonsense.
Points of additional confusion:
A phrase like "I support traditional marriage" is ambiguous:
- Sometimes it means that a person supports marriages of one-man and one-woman, while indicating nothing about whether the person supports or opposes same-sex marriage.
- More likely it means that a person supports the marriage of one-man and one-woman, while actively opposing same-sex marriage.
Further, the term "traditional marriage" as the union of one man and one woman has only been valid for a few decades in the U.S. That is not really long enough to justify the term "traditional." In the past, "traditional marriage" in 16 contiguous U.S. southern states meant the union of one man and one woman of the same race. Miscgenation laws that banned interracial marriage were only declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, in the aptly named case: "Loving v. Virginia."
The term "biblical marriage" is also ambiguous:
- Usually it is a synonym for "traditional marriage:" a union of one woman and one man.
In reality, it refers to marriage during biblical times, which were a union of one man with one or more women. Polygyny -- a version of polygamy involving a man and multiple women -- was common among those men who could afford it. For example: Esau had 3 wives; Jacob: 2; Ashur: 2; Gideon: many; Elkanah: 2; David: many; Solomon: 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines; Rehaboam: 3; Abijah: 14. Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin and Belshazzar also had multiple wives. The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) contains no negative comments on such marriages except for Solomon's marriages which were criticized because he married many non-Hebrew wives who followed Pagan religions.
In addition, there are many prohibitions in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) against Hebrews marrying persons of another faith. Some who had done so were forcibly divorced; in one particularly gruesome case, one interfaith couple was executed without a trial. So "biblical marriage" can mean the a union of one woman and one man of the same religion.
We recommend that the terms "traditional marriage" and "biblical marriage" never be used unless they are carefully defined in advance.
Copyright © 2009 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2009-MAY-29
Latest update and review: 2012-SEP-07
Author: B.A. Robinson