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Religious Tolerance logo

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) & homosexuality

2012: A resolution that same-sex marriage
cannot be considered a civil rights issue.

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Resolution concerning same-sex marriage:

Messengers (delegates) attending the year 2012 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) overwhelmingly passed a resolution expressing the belief that marriage by loving, committed same-sex couples is not a civil right and should not be considered as one. 1 The resolution, titled " 'Same-sex Marriage' and Civil Rights Rhetoric" was in response to several recent developments, including:

In the title of the resolution, they surround the term same-sex Marriage with 'single quotation marks,' apparently to indicate that they do not believe that such marriages are legitimate. This denigration of same-sex couples is found quite frequently on conservative Christian web sites.

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About the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA):

The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." 2

Since the Constitution does not delegate the definition of marriage to the Federal government, it automatically becomes a responsibility for each state. For over two centuries, from the late 18th century, when the United States was founded, until 1996 when DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton (D), the federal government automatically recognized as valid every marriage that was legally solemnized in any of the states. With the passage of DOMA, this multiple century tradition was abandoned. DOMA intruded on states rights by requiring that the federal government ignore all legal marriages made under state law when they are solemnized by a same-sex couple. The result is that about 1,150 rights, benefits, and protections automatically given to each opposite-sex couple by a civil or religious marriage are not available to same-sex married couples.

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About the resolution:

On 2012-JUN-20, Kevin Smith who is pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and spokesperson for the Resolutions Committee said:

"This was a specific statement regarding the use of rhetoric that we find to be a misappropriation, certainly with people who read a lot of history that talks about the godly Christian influences of the Civil Rights Movement."

This positive reference to the civil rights battle over desegregation during the mid-20th century is refreshing because the SBC was originally organized to preserve slavery. The denomination played a major role in opposing the civil rights movement by African Americans. 3 The SBC only repudiated its past racist actions in its 1995 apology to African Americans which said in part:

"... we, the messengers to the Sesquicentennial meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, assembled in Atlanta, Georgia, June 20-22, 1995, unwaveringly denounce racism, in all its forms, as deplorable sin; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we affirm the Bibles [sic] teaching that every human life is sacred, and is of equal and immeasurable worth, made in Gods image, regardless of race or ethnicity (Genesis 1:27), and that, with respect to salvation through Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for (we) are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28) ..." 4

Unfortunately, the SBC does not extend the teaching that "every human life is sacred, and is of equal and immeasurable worth, made in Gods image" beyond considerations of of race and ethnicity to include gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Their stated position is that only men are eligible to be ordained as pastors. And now, they have formally declared that marriage by same-sex couples is not their civil right as fellow human beings.

Still, at this Convention, the SBC did elect Fred Luter Jr. as their first African-American president. Also, they did pass a "... Resolution on 'African American Contributions to American Baptist History,' which acknowledges the role of African Americans in Baptist work in the United States..." 1 Every bit of progress towards "liberty and justice for all" should be encouraged and celebrated, whether it relates to gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, national origin, religion, etc.

Their 2012 resolution reads:


WHEREAS, Marriage is a covenant relationship and an institution established by God rather than simply a human social construct (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4–6; Ephesians 5:22–33); and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have consistently affirmed our support of the biblical definition of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman; and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures indicate that all sexual behavior outside of marriage is sinful; and

WHEREAS, All people, regardless of race or sexual orientation, are created in the image of God and thus are due respect and love (Genesis 1:26–27); and

WHEREAS, The Department of Justice has argued (Perry v. Schwarzenegger) that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional claiming that DOMA unfairly discriminates against homosexuals; and

WHEREAS, For the first time in history the President of the United States has publicly voiced his personal support of "same-sex marriage"; and

WHEREAS, While homosexuality does not present the distinguishing features of classes entitled to special protections, like the classes of race and gender, we acknowledge the unique struggles experienced by homosexuals in some parts of society; and

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19–20, 2012, oppose any attempt to frame "same-sex marriage" as a civil rights issue; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we deny that the effort to legalize "same-sex marriage" qualifies as a civil rights issue since homosexuality does not qualify as a class meriting special protections, like race and gender; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptists everywhere to fight for the civil rights of all people where such rights are consistent with the righteousness of God; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we express our love to those who struggle with same-sex attraction and who are engaged in the homosexual lifestyle; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we stand against any form of gay-bashing, whether disrespectful attitudes, hateful rhetoric, or hate-incited actions toward persons who engage in acts of homosexuality; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm that pastors should preach the truth of God's word on human sexuality, marriage, purity, and love with all boldness and without fear of reprisal; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we proclaim that Christ offers forgiveness of sin for those who turn from their sins and believe on Christ for the forgiveness of sin. 1

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This topic continues on the next page

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References used, and two footnotes:

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

  1. Katherine T. Phan, "Southern Baptists Agree Same-Sex Marriage Not a Civil Rights Issue, Christian Post, 2012-JUN-21, at:
  2. "Charters of Freedom: Bill of Rights," National Archives, at:
  3. "Southern Baptist Convention," Encyclopedia Britannica, at:
  4. "Resolution on racial reconciliation on the 150th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1995-JUN, at:

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Copyright 2012 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-JUN-26
Latest update: 2012-JUN-26

Author: B.A. Robinson
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