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Same-sex marriage (SSM) and
domestic partnerships in California

Rick Warren's stance on
Prop. 8 and SSM in California .

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About Rick Warren's fluctuating stance on Prop. 8 and SSM:

Warren is one of best know evangelical leaders in the U.S. He is the lead pastor of a network of Saddleback Churches in and around Lake Forest CA and author of the bestseller book "The Purpose Driven Life." He has played a major role in opening up a chasm within evangelical Christianity. On one side are those who are primarily concerned with opposing abortion access and equal rights for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, including the right to marry. On the other side are those like Warren who are primarily concerned about the poor, the sick, and persons suffering in other ways.

He included opposition to same-sex marriage as among five "nonnegotiable" issues in a letter he sent to his congregations in advance of the 2004 presidential election. 1

He is widely reported as having supported and endorsed Proposition 8 during 2008. Prop 8 passed with such a small margin that the public might well have been rejected it if Warren's had actively campaigned against it.

On CNN's Larry King Live program of 2009-APR-06, he commented on his past support for Prop 8, and said that he has:

"... never been and never will be [an] anti-gay or anti-gay marriage activist. ... During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never -- never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop. 8 was going. The week before the -- the vote, somebody in my church said, 'Pastor Rick, what -- what do you think about this?' And I sent a note to my own members that said, I actually believe that marriage is -- really should be defined, that that definition should be -- say between a man and a woman. ... There were a number of things that were put out. I wrote to all my gay friends -- the leaders that I knew -- and actually apologized to them. That [apology] never got out." 2

He said that he was "totally oblivious to" the recent unanimous Iowa court decision to permit SSM in that state. He indicated that his main concerns were to observe the 15th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, and study the effects of the recession on the spiritual climate of the nation.

However, OneNewsNow, a fundamentalist Christian news source, contradicted Warren by stating that:

"... before the November 4 Prop. 8 vote, Pastor Warren issued a clear endorsement of the marriage amendment while speaking to church members." 3
OneNewsNow published what they describe as "a complete transcript of Warren's comments just weeks before the Prop. 8 election:" He allegedly said:

"The election's coming just in a couple of weeks, and I hope you're praying about your vote. One of the propositions, of course, that I want to mention is Proposition 8, which is the proposition that had to be instituted because the courts threw out the will of the people. And a court of four guys actually voted to change a definition of marriage that has been going for 5,000 years."
"Now let me say this really clearly: we support Proposition 8 -- and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8. I never support a candidate, but on moral issues I come out very clear."
"This is one thing, friends, that all politicians tend to agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain, I flat-out asked both of them: what is your definition of marriage? And they both said the same thing -- it is the traditional, historic, universal definition of marriage: one man and one woman, for life. And every culture for 5,000 years, and every religion for 5,000 years, has said the definition of marriage is between one man and a woman."
"Now here's an interesting thing. There are about two percent of Americans [who] are homosexual or gay/lesbian people. We should not let two percent of the population determine to change a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years."
"This is not even just a Christian issue -- it's a humanitarian and human issue that God created marriage for the purpose of family, love, and procreation."
"So I urge you to support Proposition 8, and pass that word on. I'm going to be sending out a note to pastors on what I believe about this. But everybody knows what I believe about it. They heard me at the Civil Forum when I asked both Obama and McCain on their views." 3,4

Some notes on Pastor Warren's statement:

bullet Unfortunately, it is unclear whether the apology to his gay friends that Warren mentioned took the form of:
bullet "I'm sorry to have to oppose SSM. I know how much many gays, lesbians and bisexual want access to marriage, to stop being treated by the government as more than room mates, and to stop having their children regarded as illegitimate. But God's Word says that marriage must be between one man and one woman."

bullet I'm sorry to have supported and endorsed Prop. 8. I realize now that I was wrong. Main themes running through the Bible include equal treatment of people, treating people with love and respect, and encouraging mutual love and commitment.

bullet some other type of apology.

One News Now seems to favor the second option. They said that Rick Warren "... disavows support for Prop. 8." If so, then this is remarkable news, because it would be the first time, to our knowledge, that a major fundamentalist or other evangelical leader actually supports SSM.

bullet Religious conservatives often use 2% as an estimate of the percentage of adult gays and lesbians; gay-positive groups often use 10%. The actual number varies slightly according to the definition of "homosexual." However the actual value appears to be about 5%.
bullet Some suggest that whether same-sex marriage should be allowed should not be determined by the number of loving committed same-sex couples who want to marry, and gain protections for themselves and their children. One might ask whether inter-racial marriage should no longer be permitted because the total number of loving, committed inter-racial couples is small relative to same-race couples?
bullet He made the same error that so many others make: he assumes that all same-sex couples wishing to get married are either gay or lesbian. In reality, same-sex couples are generally a relationship between:
bullet Two male gays,
bullet Two lesbians,
bullet One lesbian and a bisexual woman,
bullet One gay male and a bisexual man,
bullet Two bisexual males, or
bullet Two bisexual females.

Persons with a bisexual orientation are less common than those with a homosexual orientation; they total perhaps 3% of the population. However, they should not be ignored in debates over SSM. They are human, too.

bullet It is surprising that Pastor Warren would say every religion and culture for 5,000 years has restricted marriage to one man and one woman. This is clearly wrong, yet we have seen similar statement by many fundamentalist and other evangelical leaders.

We have found eight types of family structures described in the Bible; none were condemned. Polygyny (one man with multiple wives) was common during biblical times. Solomon had 700 wives, to say nothing of his hundreds of concubines. Throughout most of the 19th century polygyny was practiced among Mormon denominations and continues today among fundamentalist Mormon faith groups. There have even been a few cultures that allowed a woman to marry multiple men. Today, Muslim men are allowed to have up to four wives in many countries, but only if they can treat the wives equally.
bullet The definition of marriage in the U.S. has changed a number of times, most notably in the 19th century when African Americans were first allowed to marry freely, and in the 20th century when inter-racial couples were allowed to marry everywhere in the U.S. Today, the U.S. appears to be in a state of flux in which same-sex marriage is being gradually accepted in the East and West coasts. Polls indicate that youth and young adults are far more accepting of SSM than their parents. They indicate that opposition to SSM is gradually sinking and support for SSM is gradually rising nationally.
bullet Warren stated that "God created marriage for the purpose of family, love, and procreation." The implication is that same-sex couples cannot form families, cannot have mutual love for each other, and cannot procreate. This is a surprising comment, particularly in view of Warren's extensive work with homosexual groups on AIDS prevention. He must have worked closely with many gays and lesbians who have formed families, who deeply love and are committed to their spouses, and -- in the case of lesbians and bisexuals -- who have adopted or had their own children with the help of assisted fertility methods.

Reaction to Warren's statement on YouTube:

YouTube viewers were not too kind in their comments about Warren's interview on Larry King Live; some were downright vicious. The posting was viewed by 47,937 surfers within a few days of his appearance on Larry King Live. There were 560 posted comments. I gave up trying to find a neutral or positive one:

bullet "Revmimbob" wrote: "I have more respect for Fred Phelps and his zany clan than this bigot. 'Every religion for 5 thousand years says the definition of marriage is between one man and a woman.' How many wives did Mohammed have?"
bullet Wunderkat08 wrote: "WOW! Rick Warren = Liar. In his recent Larry King interview he denies making any claim of supporting prop 8. He made it too easy for us. Wonder what he's going to come up with next."
bullet Avalonjoyous wrote: "Rick Warren is nothing more than a homophobic fascist. All he knows are lies and he has proven it many times. Prop 8 passed yet people are still not satisfied. They should give themselves a big pat on the back .....for writing discrimination into the U.S. [sic] Constitution. Oh yes I would truly feel so proud to deny deserving Americans of THEIR rights.*Sarcasm in case anyone missed it.*"
bullet Ftogyeppf wrote: "Given his Larry King appearance, I think we can conclude that Rick Warren is a fraud and a liar. 'I did not have sexual relations with that woman!' "
bullet Cherstyler wrote: "He's and idiot and clearly a homophobe preaching hate. God must be so proud of him."
bullet Ofoeti wrote: "Last night Warren told Larry King, 'During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never -- never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going'. Thank goodness for YouTube. You have to wonder why all of these conservative extremists keep on lying in spite of proof. They must think Americans are stupid."
bullet Kerplukntube wrote: "Rick Warren is a liar. What is it about 'Christians' that they are willing to believe a liar?
I conclude they are delusional."

Grammar, punctuated, and spelling corrected. 4

References used:

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

  1. "Rick Warren: Stopping Gay Marriage 'Very Low' on Priority List," U.S. News and World Report, 2009-APR-07, at:
  2. "CNN Larry King Live: interview with Pastor Rick Warren," 2009-APR-06, at:
  3. "Rick Warren disavows support for Prop. 8," One News Now, 2009-APR-08, at:
  4. "Rick Warren Endorses Prop 8," YouTube, at:

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Home page > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Couples > California > here

Copyright 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-MAR-04
Latest update: 2009-MAY-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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