Religion and same-sex marriages (SSM)
Same-sex marriage and biblical passages
Bible passages describing same-sex marriage:
Same-sex marriage only became an issue in the
late 20th century after certain prerequisites were met, each spaced about two
- Human sexuality, including the concept of sexual orientation, began to
be seriously researched in the 1950s.
- Homosexuals and bisexuals started the gay-liberation movement to seek
equality with heterosexuals. In North America, this was triggered by the
Stonewall Riots in New York's Greenwich Village
- Some same-sex couples decided to launch a court case to petition for
marriage equality. This was done by three couples in
Hawaii in 1990. They opposed the strategy of most of the homosexual
leaders at the time, which was to first work to eliminate discrimination in
employment and accommodation, and to obtain protection from hate crimes
before tackling marriage equality.
There are no passages in the Bible that deal directly with same-sex marriages
(or domestic partnerships, civil unions, holy unions, etc.). This is one of the
very few beliefs on which conservative and liberal Jews, Christians, and Muslims
The last biblical books to be written appear in the Christian Scriptures.
they were all written before 100
CE (according to most conservative Christians) or 150 CE
(according to most liberal Christians). The concept of homosexuality as a sexual
orientation that could lead to a committed, long term relationship was not
developed until the late 19th century. Thus, one can not expect to find biblical
references to same-sex marriage. There are no references to planes, trains or
Similar to the controversy over abortion access, followers of the Bible have to
derive a position on SSM from biblical passages dealing with other, related
- Religious conservatives use their interpretation of the six "clobber
passages" and of passages discussing opposite-sex marriage to condemn
- Religious liberals use the Bible's general themes on love and justice to
argue SSM as a human right that is beneficial to same-sex couples, their
children and society as a whole.
What the Bible does discuss that is related to SSM:
Various passages discuss:
- Three instances of loving, same-sex
relationships in the Bible involving David, Ruth and Daniel. But there is no indication that
any of the three relationships were sexually active.
- A dozen or so oft-quoted passages
about homosexual behavior in the Bible. Because conservative and liberal
Christians interpreted the Bible very
differently, they reach totally different
conclusions about their meaning:
- Many conservative Christians interpret these passages as
stating unambiguously that all
homosexual behavior is forbidden, is an abomination, and is hated by God. It does not matter whether it is in
the form of casual
sex with a stranger, or sex within a committed, monogamous relationship. It is all sinful.
Some consider it an "ordinary" sin -- in the same league as all other
incorrect behavior, like lying, cheating or stealing.
Others consider it such a serious sin that it will prevent gays and lesbians
from attaining Heaven after death, even if
they had previously been saved.
- Many liberal Christians largely ignore English
translations of the Bible which are often heavily biased against
homosexuality. They prefer to refer to the original Hebrew and Greek. They
frequently interpret these passages as condemning:
But on the topic of sexual activity within a loving, committed, monogamous homosexual relationship,
many religious liberals view the Bible as being completely silent.
- Genesis, the first book in the Bible, contains
two frequently cited passages that have been used to both condemn and
- Genesis 2:18 quotes God after he created Eve
from Adam's rib as stating: "It is not good for the man to be alone."
Some interpret this a supporting SSM because, with few exceptions, a
life partner of a person with a homosexual orientation must be of the
same gender, just as a life partner of a person with a heterosexual
orientation must be of the opposite gender.
- Genesis 2:24 quotes Adam as saying: "For
this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his
wife and they will become one flesh."
Some interpret this as requiring marriages to be only between
one man and one women. Others say that this passage referring to only
one form of permanent relationships between and among adults --
one of eight marriage and family styles
mentioned in the Bible. This would leave the door open for other types
of permanent relationships, perhaps including same-sex marriages.
There are two sources that we can use to infer Jewish and Christian perspectives on
- Interpret biblical themes and individual passages that deal with principles of love, sex, and marriage.
Conservative and liberal approaches are described in this
section. They reach
- Direct assessment of the will of God through prayer. Unfortunately, according to a
pilot study of some visitors to this web site, this path does
not seem to be possible.
Copyright © 2001 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-JUN-7
Latest update and review: 2008-DEC-09
Author: B.A. Robinson