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Beliefs of conservative religious groups

As with many other gay-rights matters, the conflict over same-sex marriages (SSM) is not so much between heterosexuals and homosexuals. It is being fought between conservative religious groups and lesbian/gay groups. About a decade ago:

bullet The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund joined with other gay and lesbian groups and proposed "The Marriage Resolution." They view the matter as a matter of fundamental human rights :

Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice, RESOLVED, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage.

bullet The National Campaign to Protect Marriage, 8 a conservative religious group, proposed a conflicting "Marriage Protection Resolution" in 1996. They view same-sex marriage as an (unspecified) threat to existing marriages:

WHEREAS marriage is an essential element in the foundation of a healthy society, and WHEREAS government has a duty to protect that foundation, RESOLVED, the State should not legitimize homosexual relationships by legalizing same-sex "marriage" but should continue to reserve the special sanction of civil marriage for one man and one woman as husband and wife. 9

bullet The Constitution Party, a national political party with conservative Christian views states in their political platform:

The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The marriage covenant is the foundation of the family, and the family is fundamental in the maintenance of a stable, healthy and prosperous social order. No government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted. We are opposed to amending the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of defining marriage. 7

Much opposition to same-sex marriages appears to be based on certain beliefs which are listed below. However, gays, lesbians, religious liberals and others who support same-sex marriages disagree:

Position of many conservative ChristiansRebuttal by supporters of same-sex marriage
There have never been same-sex marriages in the past. In fact, many religious groups in Europe had special marriage ceremonies for gays and lesbians. Also, a recent book by the late Yale Historian John Boswell 1,2 demonstrates that Christian churches both sanctioned and sanctified unions between partners of the same sex, until modern times. That book lists the original texts and English translations of a number of religious ceremonies:
bullet Office of Same-sex Union, (and similar names), 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th & 16th century translations, Greece.
bullet Office of Same-sex Union, 11th century Christian church in Greece.
bullet The Order for Uniting Two Men, 11-12 century, Old Church Slavonic.
bullet Office of Same-Gender Union, 12th century Italio-Greek.
bullet An Order for the Uniting of Two Men [or Two Women], 14th century Serbian Slavonic.
bullet Order of Celebrating the Union of Two Men, prior to 18th century, Serbian Slavonic.
Our present view of nuclear marriage has always been the dominant one.Politicians and ministers are fond of referring to the "5000 year history" of one man-one woman marriage. In fact, in some societies [including ancient Israel] there were many forms of legitimate, recognized relationships:
bullet A tomb of a same sex gay couple Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep was discovered in 1964 in the necropolis of Saqqara, Egypt. The tomb dates to the Fifth Dynasty (circa 2,500 BCE), and shows that homosexual marriages date back over 4 millennia!
bullet Some marriages were and/or were polygamous. In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) Abraham, David, Solomon, and others had multiple wives. One version of the Hebrew Creation story mentioned Lilith as Adam's first wife; Eve was his second. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints frequently entered polygamous marriages prior to 1890. Some excommunicated splinter Mormon groups still do.
bullet Some marriages were considered mainly as an exchange of property in which total control of the woman was formally transferred from her father to her husband.
bullet Leverite Marriages existed in Biblical times in which a man had an obligation to marry his brother's wife and produce an heir if his brother died. This usually meant that he would be married to at least two women.
bullet Men engaged in sexual relations with one or more concubines. Concubines were women who had a lower marital status than a wife.
bullet Men engaged in sexual relations with their female slaves. Again, in the Hebrew Scriptures, Abraham engaged in sexual intercourse with his wife's slave, Hagar -- apparently without her consent. She conceived and bore a son Ishmael.
bullet In all, the Bible mentions eight different family types. Only one of them is the "standard" one-man one-woman in a mutual committed relationship.
The nuclear heterosexual family has always been the basic building block of society.The Oxford English Dictionary shows how the definition of the term "family" has shifted through history:
bullet in 1400 CE, a family included "Servants of the house or establishment, a household"
bullet in 1425 CE, it included "Those descended or claiming descent from a common ancestor; a house, kindred, lineage"
bullet in 1545 CE, it was "The body of persons who live in one house or under one head, including parents, children, servants, etc."
bullet in 1667 CE, it was "The group of persons consisting of parents and their children, whether actually living together or not; in wider sense, the unity formed by those who are nearly connected by blood or affinity"

In reality, the extended family was the norm up to the 19th century in many countries. This evolved into the nuclear family. In the 1990's, marriage has continued to evolve in at least two ways:

bullet With the high divorce rate, single parent families have become quite numerous.
bullet Most couples decide to live together before getting married.
Married homosexuals are not good parents.  Some believe that gays and lesbians will raise children who will also be homosexuals: Studies have shown that children of homosexuals are no more likely to grow up gay and lesbian than are children of homosexual parents. However, they do tend to be more tolerant of minorities. Others believe that you need a male and female parent for optimum child-raising. This is a problem experienced by many single-parent families. They overcome it by exposing their children to role models of the other gender -- e.g. through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or simply having the frequent presence of an aunt or uncle in the home.
Same-sex marriage would threaten existing opposite-sex marriagesConservative Christians tend to do use military or violent terms when referring to the impact of state recognition of gay and lesbian relationship:
bullet Defense: Laws that forbid a same-sex marriage in one state being recognized in another state are called "Defense of marriage Acts" or DOMAs.
bullet Threat: A news bulletin from the Fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family has a header: "Vt. Civil Unions Threaten Nation."3
bullet Damage: In the above bulletin, Dr. James Dobson, president of the Fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family is quoted as writing: "the institution of marriage in Vermont will be damaged irreparably..."
bullet Assault: In the same bulletin, the Vermont bill was described as "an assault on marriage."

Yet the precise nature of the threat/damage/assault is rarely mentioned.

What exactly is the danger to society? To visualize what would be involved in a same-sex marriage or civil union, consider a homosexual, committed, loving couple joined in a civil union and living at 100 Main Street. Do they represent  a major threat to a heterosexual committed, loving, married couple at 102 Main Street? Does the extension of dental and medical coverage to the non-working gay spouse and their children at 100 Main Street somehow cause the heterosexual couple at 102 to be more likely to divorce. 

It is forbidden by the Bible. Jack Ellis commented  "It's just asking too much to elevate a scripturally forbidden relationship to the sacred level of holy matrimony. To do so would make a mockery of procreative marriage and drive the final nail in the coffin of the American family..." 4 It is true that many English translations of the Bible condemn homosexuality and homosexual rape. However, analysis of the Hebrew and Greek original texts shows that Bible condemns homosexual rape, homosexual rituals in Pagan temples, and homosexual orgies. One passage, in 1 Corinthians 6:9 seems ambiguous. The Bible appears to be silent on the topic of homosexual relationships and marriages.

If and when same-sex marriages become available across North America, not more than perhaps 5% of all marriages will be of this form. That is because gays, lesbians, and bisexuals only constitute a small minority of the population. And some will prefer to remain single.

In a democracy, the will of the majority must rule. Because most adults are currently opposed to same-sex marriages, then such marriages should not be legalized. The belief of the majority is not a constitutionally adequate criteria to restrict rights to a minority group. At the time that the US Supreme Court legalized mixed-race couples, a majority of adults in many states were opposed to the concept.
If we allow same-sex marriage, then we will not be able to stop further redefinition of marriage: Brothers and sisters, humans and animals, groups of three or more will demand the right to marry.Legislatures and courts define exactly who is eligible to marry, and who is not. Legislation can be rewritten to allow any two people who are sufficiently old and who have made a commitment to support each other emotionally, financially, and logistically without expanding eligibility further. Since 2005-JUL-20, the federal law in Canada states that: "Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others." The law does not allow for polygamy or inter-species marriage. 
Only one man and one woman can complement each other physically, emotionally and spiritually in marriage.Many lesbian and gay couples have been supporting and complementing each other physically, emotionally and spiritually for decades.
A main function of marriage is procreation. A same-sex couple cannot procreate.Opposite-sex couples in which one is sterile, cannot procreate either. But lesbian couples can use artificial insemination. Gay couples can adopt.
Men and women are different. Children in a family need the presence of both a mother and father.People are different. Children in a family do best with two parents, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is financial. Studies have shown that children of gay and lesbian parents do as well as children in heterosexual-led families.
Homosexuals want to redefine marriage and thus undermine it.Gays and lesbians want to expand marriage so that a greater number of loving couples can enjoy its advantages and protections.
The five major world religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism teach that homosexual behavior is sinful or wrongThe conservative wings of these religions certainly do consider all same-sex activity to be sinful. However the liberal wings of these same religions accept homosexual and heterosexual activity by committed couples. Besides, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution separates church and state, so that legislation cannot be made on religious grounds.
These same religions "uphold the natural heterosexual understanding of marriage." 6A marriage consisting of one man and one woman certainly is the "natural" arrangement to a heterosexual couple. But a marriage of two women is "natural" for two lesbians, as a marriage of two men is "natural" for two gays.

Much of the opposition to SSM is based on fundamental beliefs about sexual orientation which SSM supporters believe, can be proven to be false. Those beliefs are:

bullet Sexual orientation is a choice that is made perhaps during teenage years
bullet It can be readily altered by therapy, prayer, meditation etc.
bullet That gays and lesbians recruit young people into their lifestyle; homosexuality can be caught like a cold.
bullet That a homosexual agenda exists in which gays and lesbians are seeking special rights for themselves.

Some married, heterosexual people feel threatened by the concept of same-sex marriage. They feel that all marriages should be only between one man and one woman. The fear is similar to the emotions which drove religious wars and cultural conflicts in the past; e.g. the Protestant/Catholic wars in Europe. They attempted to resolve whether everyone had to be a Roman Catholic, or whether Protestants would be allowed to worship God in their way. Compromise eventually triumphed: Catholics were allowed to continue their beliefs and practices without limitation. Protestants were also allowed to have their separate beliefs, institutions, churches and practices. Finally, the state and churches became, to a degree, separated. Ultimately, this model may become a guide for the next century as increasing numbers of countries follow the experience of the Netherlands, Canada, State of Vermont, and Scandinavia by either:

bullet Continuing "marriage" for different-sex couples unchanged, and recognizing gay and lesbian partnerships which are equivalent to marriage (except perhaps that they might be called by another name such as civil union), or
bullet Allowing same-sex couples to marry.

The trick will be to calm married folk's fears that they might somehow lose something by the deal.

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Active opposition by conservative faith groups:

We have scanned dozens of Internet sites that condemn the movement towards equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians. The vast majority that we have found to date are from Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christian groups. It would appear that the battle for civil rights in this area is not between homosexuals and heterosexuals; it is between homosexuals and conservative Christians.

We have observed many sites that refer to the "homosexual agenda" and the "attack against traditional marriage" and the attempted destruction of civilization as we know it. Groups supporting the battle against equal rights for same-sex couples are as varied as Focus on the Family, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Roman Catholic Church. Some of the websites that describe what they believe to be deleterious effects to society if persons of all sexual orientations were eligible to be married are:

bullet Hawai'is Future Today is a group composed mainly of Mormons and Roman Catholics. They issued a statement opposing same-sex marriages.
bullet The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) issued a statement on 1996-JUL-24.
bullet The NCCB's Committee on Marriage and Family Chairman, Most Reverend Joseph L. Charron, CPPS, and its Committee on Domestic Policy Chairman, Most Reverend William S. Skylstad, USCC issued a statement on Same-Sex Marriage.
bullet Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian agency published "Frequently Asked Questions about Same-Sex Marriage" on 1999-OCT-22. It can be seen at: 

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The impact of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court:

Conservative Christian groups paid close attention to Lawrence v. Texas - a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. As of 2003-APR, Texas law allowed anal and oral sex between opposite-sex couples, but criminalizes it among same-sex couples.

2003-JUN-26, the court made two rulings.

bullet They overturned the court's famous 1986 decision: Bowers v. Hardwick which had upheld the constitutionality of an anti-sodomy law in Georgia.
bullet Bssing their decision on the concept of personal privacy, the court declared the Texas anti-sodomy law and similar laws in over a dozen other states unconstitutional.

Conservatives worry that since the court recognizes that homosexuals have a constitutional right to engage in sexual behavior with their partners, that permitting same-sex marriage or civil unions might be the next logical step.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. John Boswell, "Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe", Villard, New York, NY, (1994) You can read a review and/or safely order this book from the online bookstore.
  2. "Welcome to the Great Hall,"  at: 
  3. "Vt. Civil Unions Threaten Nation," Family News in Focus, at: 
  4. Jack Ellis, "Vermont and Same-sex marriage," at:
  5. Anon, "Why Not Gay Marriage," at:
  6. "Focus on the Family Position Statement on Same-Sex 'Marriage' and Civil Unions," CitizenLink, 2000-OCT-4, at:
  7. "Family," Platform of the Constitution Party, undated, at:
  8. "Press Release," Colorado for Family Values, 1996-FEB-07, at:
  9. "Marriage Protection Resolution," National Campaign to Protect Marriage, 1996. Online at:

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Copyright 1996 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2005-AUG-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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