This fall Mainers will vote whether to allow same-sex couples to become legally married. Because I am a Unitarian Universalist pastor, and a straight, married man who believes in the importance and value of marriage, I support giving gays and lesbians the right to marry.
I support the freedom to marry because I support marriage. Marriage is a good thing; it promotes commitment, fidelity and family stability. If these conservative family values are good for straight couples, they’re also good for gay and lesbian couples.
I’m a straight man who has been married for 33 years. Our marriage will not be threatened if other couples are given the same freedom we already have. Marriage is strengthened, not threatened, by people who want to get married.
Some people say we should keep marriage for straight people and let gays have a lesser institution called civil unions. No, we tried that in the days of racial segregation. We said that colored people should have separate bathrooms, separate drinking fountains and could sit in the back of the bus. We called it “separate but equal,” but it was never equal. It’s wrong to have one institution for first-class citizens and another for second-class citizens.
Freedom of religion will be preserved. No church or synagogue will have to change any of its policies, nor perform any wedding ceremony it disapproves of.
Some Christian conservatives claim that the Bible prohibits same-sex marriage. I respectfully disagree. The story of Sodom isn’t about same-sex love. It’s about an attempted same-sex rape. Rape isn’t an act of love; it’s about power and violence. Rape is always wrong, whether same-sex or opposite-sex. So the story of Sodom does not address the question of same-sex love or marriage.
After that, out of 31,103 verses in the Bible, only six appear to have anything to do with the issue, and then only when lifted out of context and read in the worst possible light. So, based on the number of verses dedicated to the subject, this must be one of the very smallest issues in the Bible.
In Leviticus, sexual relations between men is forbidden – and so is eating pork or shellfish, cutting your beard, planting a field with two kinds of seed, getting a tattoo or wearing a shirt made out of two different kinds of material.
Exodus 35:2 tells us to kill all people who work on the Sabbath. Christians reject the laws of this ancient holiness code. The Apostle Paul says they have been replaced by the law of love. And so conservative Christians are being inconsistent when they reject all of this holiness code except for its condemnation of gays.
In a few verses the Apostle Paul appears to criticize same-sex relationships. But many scholars say that Paul’s original Greek actually condemns temple prostitution, male prostitution and the sexual exploitation of children.
Time and time again the Bible teaches us not to practice prejudice but to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor. Jesus welcomed everyone to his banquet table, especially those who were considered outsiders by proper society. He told us to judge not lest we be judged and to take the log out of our own eye before trying to take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye.
The Bible in general, and Jesus in particular, tells us to seek justice for the oppressed person. “Whenever you failed to help the least of these, you failed to do it for me,” he proclaimed in Matthew 25:45.
And so, as a follower of Jesus, I am called to support compassion, fairness and justice. “Yes on 1” is about fairness for our gay and lesbian neighbors, friends, church members and relatives. It’s about Mainers who support marriage enough to want to get married. It’s about my friends Kay and Diana, Wayne and C.J., Margaret and Christi. It’s about love and commitment.
So this November I will be standing on the side of love and will vote Yes on 1.
The Rev. Mark Worth is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine. He lives in Penobscot.