Appearing on Piers Morgan's program on CNN, Thursday (March 28), evangelical Christian minister Franklin Graham, son of renowned minister Billy Graham, explained the reason behind his resolute opposition to marriage for same-sex couples:
"It's what God says, Piers. God is the one who defined marriage, not government, but it's God. And it's between one man and one woman. So, to come and try to redefine what God has ordained, and what God has blessed, and what God has given, would be a great mistake for our government and a great mistake for this nation."
Graham's words sound eerily similar to those of a trial judge in the not-to-distant past:
The defendants in the case were Mildred Loving (born Mildred Deloris Jetter, a woman of African descent) and Richard Perry Loving (a man of White European descent), both residents of Virginia who married in June 1958 in the District of Columbia to evade Virginia's so-called "Racial Integrity Act" of 1924. Upon returning to Virginia, they were arrested and charged with violating the act. Police entered their home and arrested them while they slept in their bed. At their trial, the judge convicted and sentenced them to one-year imprisonment with a suspended sentence on the condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia for a period of 25 years.
At the trial, the judge, Leon Bazile, used Biblical justifications to convict the couple:
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix."
Prior to 1967, a number of states within the U.S. prevented consenting adults from engaging in sexual activities, let along marriage, with anyone from another so-called "race." The Lovings took their case to the Supreme Court. In the case of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), the court declared the state of Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute unconstitutional overturning the former Pace v. Alabama decision (1883) and thereby ending all race-based legal restrictions on adult consensual sexual activity and marriage throughout the U.S.
So, What Is 'Biblical' Marriage?
One does not have to be a biblical scholar to know our society does not and has not followed many of the principles the Bibles dictate on issues of marriage. Let's look at some of the religious teachings, many pointing out that the institution of marriage was constructed very differently from what some today consider as "traditional."
Approximately 4,000 years ago, Abraham (commonly referred to as "the father of the Jewish and Arab people" and patriarch of Jews, Christians and Muslims) was a distant ancestor of Shem, son of Noah. When his wife Sarah (who in fact was his half-sister having a common father) was unable to conceive, as it is written, Sarah told Abraham to conceive a child with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar, who birthed a son, Ishmael. Soon afterward, Sarah also conceived a son, whom she and Abraham named Isaac. After Isaac's birth, Abraham banished Hagar and Ishmael into the desert.
In Deuteronomy 25:5: "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her." And in Deuteronomy 25:6: "And it shall be that the first-born whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel."
And what about biblical injunctions on husbands and wives engaging in sexual intercourse during a woman's period? Leviticus 20:18: "If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people."
Furthermore, I would think that many women today, of all sexual, gender, and racial identities and religious backgrounds, may find difficulty in Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior."
And who today promotes the commandment to women in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35:
"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."
I wonder how many parents actually subscribe to Exodus 21:15 & 17, which dictates: "And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death."
Actually, some biblical scholars interpret the relationships between David and Jonathan and Naomi and Ruth as romantic love. In 1 Samuel 20:16-17: "So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, 'May the Lord require it at the hands of David's enemies.' And Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life."
Jonathan also made a covenant with David. When Jonathan was later killed, David bemoaned his death with these words in 2 Samuel 1:25-26:
"How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain on your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women."
Naomi and Ruth likewise loved one another romantically. In Ruth 1:14: "And they lift up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law, but Ruth clung unto [Naomi]." The word for "clung" in Hebrew is dabaq, the very same word in Genesis 2:24 to illustrate Adam's feelings toward Eve. Interestingly, the vow Ruth made to Naomi is the vow exchanged in many marriage ceremonies for different-sex couples: Ruth 1:16-17:
"Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die -- there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!"
The Maintenance of Oppression
I believe that THE prime factor keeping oppression toward LGBT people locked firmly in place and enacted throughout our society -- on the personal/interpersonal, institutional and societal levels -- is the negative judgments emanating from some conservative faith communities.
Fortunately, however, there exists no monolithic conceptualization, for other faith communities' "values" are progressively welcoming toward LGBT people, our sexuality, and our gender expression, and these communities are working tirelessly to abolish the yoke of oppression directed against us.
For, in the famous words of Bob Dylan,
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be passed
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'"