In the wake President Obama’s (many would say calculated) endorsement of same sex marriage (SSM), the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the nations oldest Black civil rights group, recently announced that their board of directors came out in favor of SSM, calling it a civil rights issue. The homosexual lobby has consistently framed the issue of homosexual rights as a civil rights issue prompting many within their circles to coin the slogan “Gay is the new Black.”
Now as far as civil rights go, I am a firm believer that no American should be denied the right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. I am a firm believer that it is the government’s job to protect everyone’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am a firm believer that it is morally wrong to infringe upon anyone’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am a firm believer in concept enshrined in the 14th amendment that the laws of the nation, state or locality should apply equally to all persons. What our country did during and after slavery to Black Americans was wicked and evil. Having said that, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the Black struggle for civil rights and equality under the law with the homosexual struggle for acceptance and, ultimately, SSM. That the NAACP equated the two is, in my opinion, just as calculated a move as was President Obama’s endorsement two weeks earlier.
Now I know there is a lot of emotion surrounding these issues, but let’s try and separate the emotion from the issue and think on this clearly. The Black experience in America was one of wholesale, institutionalized discrimination and unequal protection of the law. The basis for this discrimination was racial. Now I think our concept of ‘race’ is completely mistaken; Blacks are no more a different race from Whites as are Hispanics or Asians. We’re all part of the human race, and the genetic differences between Black, White, Brown and Yellow are superficial; it all boils down to the amount of melanin in the skin. Be that as it may, the concept of race is ingrained in our culture, so I’ll accommodate it’s use with the objections previously stated as given.
Race is considered an immutable characteristic when it comes to civil rights issues. In other words, it’s an issue of identity; one is born Black and there is nothing he or she can do to change that. Gender discrimination would fall under the same considerations; one is born either male or female. To discriminate on race or gender is immoral. The question when it comes to homosexuality is whether or not it too is an immutable characteristic. Is one born a homosexual? Is there nothing one can do to change from being a homosexual? These questions don’t have easy answers. There is no controversy in saying one is born Black, but there is great controversy surrounding saying one is born gay. Can one say being gay in exactly the same way one says being black? I don’t think so, and I think it’s a category error of the highest magnitude to say otherwise.
Sexual orientation is not in the same category as race. Sexual orientation is a description of behavior — I am attracted to someone of the opposite sex or I am attracted to someone of the same sex — this is a definition of behavior, not of identity. Now don’t misunderstand, just because I think it’s a category error to equate racial identity with sexual orientation doesn’t mean I advocate for trampling the civil rights of gays, but not Blacks. Again equal protection under the law applies to everyone regardless of race or sexual orientation. I can no more infringe upon the right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness of someone who is Black as I could of someone who is gay.
Here’s the crux of the situation: Is marriage a civil rights issue? That’s the thrust of President Obama’s endorsement and the thrust of the NAACP’s statement on SSM. However, I must respectfully and emphatically disagree. There is no right to marriage, just as there is no right to owning a home or having a job or getting a college education or affordable health care. These aren’t rights! That’s the problem with our culture is that everything becomes an issue of rights. Once something is considered a right, then it becomes immoral to suggest otherwise. One may argue that these things are necessary and conducive to promoting the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and there is a grain of logic in that argument. However, the Declaration of Independence said we have the right to the pursuit of happiness, this is not a guarantee or promise that you will be happy. You have the right to pursue home ownership, if that will make you happy, but owning a home is a privilege, not a right. You have to be able to afford a home before you can own one. The same goes with getting a job or going to college — you have the right to pursue those things, but you have to earn the privilege of obtaining them.
What about marriage? Do I have a right to marry? You have the right to pursue marriage, but not the right to be married. Furthermore, you do not have the right to marry anyone you want. This is at the core of the SSM debate. Homosexuals want the right to redefine marriage so they can marry whomever they want (i.e., a person of the same sex). No one is saying homosexuals cannot marry; what they’re saying is that homosexuals cannot marry someone of the same sex. Homosexuals will cry foul and say “That’s not fair!” Yes, it is fair because we are applying the law equally to all people. I (as a heterosexual) do not have the right to marry someone of the same sex, and neither does a homosexual. Similarly, I don’t have the right to murder someone and neither does the homicidal maniac (even though he wants to kill people). I don’t have the right to steal your property and neither does the kleptomaniac (even though he wants to steal your property). We do not have the right to change the law to allow kleptomaniacs to steal or to let homicidal maniacs kill no more than we have the right to redefine marriage to let homosexuals to marry someone of the same sex.
Marriage has a precise definition that is not determined by governments or societies. Marriage cannot be redefined by executive fiat, legislative action or popular vote. Marriage is defined by our Creator, who “from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'” (Matthew 19:4-5). God created the institution of marriage with specific goals in mind. Marriage defines the boundaries of human sexual activity — a husband and his wife, not a husband with another’s wife. Marriage also provides the basis for procreation and the building of families, which are the building blocks of society. Marriage brings order and stability to society while providing for its future through the next generation. Furthermore, marriage is a covenant, not a contract — dissolution of marriage through adultery and divorce causes irreparable damage to the fabric of society. To want to redefine marriage to allow me to marry whomever I want in whatever arrangement I want and to suit my particular desires is the epitome of selfishness; and is ultimately destructive to society.
In the end, I fear the battle over SSM is a losing battle barring some fundamental paradigm shift in the moral attitude of America. This doesn’t mean that fighting for the sanctity of marriage is not warranted. Ultimately, I would like to see marriage out of the hands of government altogether. The government should not be involved in defining marriage one way or the other. If homosexuals want to pair up and live tougher and even form contracts for certain relational benefits, I have no problem with that politically; however it is not marriage just because two people who ‘love’ each other decide to co-habitate. We have, as a society, capitulated to the postmodern way of thinking and the moral relativism that it brings in its wake. One cannot make moral judgments in society any longer without being labeled an intolerant hater. In fact, the only evil left in society is to proclaim something as evil and wrong. When a civilization abandons its moral compass, as the societies of the west have increasingly done, it’s only a matter of time before that civilization becomes irrelevant. I take solace in the fact that God is sovereign and in control of human history, and he is working all things for his glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!