Last week, Iowa and Vermont joined Connecticut and Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage. Progressive religious voices and civil rights groups worked hard to help achieve these victories, moving us closer to our nation’s promise of equality and justice for all. Even so, conservative religious opponents are criticizing the victories, claiming that same-sex marriage violates the biblical definition of marriage. They are wrong, and here’s why.
1. There are few biblical verses that address homosexuality at all, and most of those are not directed at homosexuality per se. Opponents of same-sex marriage routinely cite seven verses in the Christian Bible as condemning homosexuality and calling it a sin. But when taken in context, these lessons speak not against homosexuality itself, but rather against rape, child molestation, bestiality, and other practices that hurt others and compromise a person’s relationship with God.
2. Jesus never said one word against homosexuality. In all of his teachings, Jesus uplifted actions and attitudes of justice, love, humility, mercy, and compassion. He condemned violence, oppression, cold-heartedness, and social injustice. Never once did Jesus refer to what we call homosexuality as a sin.
3. The Bible never mentions or condemns the concept we call same-sex marriage. Although opponents of same-sex marriage claim that lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender unions violate biblical principles, no verses in the Bible explicitly address gay marriage or committed same-sex relationships.
4. Those who claim a “biblical definition of marriage” as a model for today ignore various marital arrangements in the Bible that would be illegal or condemned today. The Bible is filled with stories of polygamy and husbands taking concubines. In accordance with the culture and laws of the past, women were often treated like property that could be traded or sold into marriage. Today we understand that these examples of marriage reflect the cultural practices of the time rather than a spiritual model for today.