Role of Religion in Same-Sex Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Such is a world from which the Old Testament emerged.

With the onset of the New Testament and Christianity, polygamy was replaced by monogamy, mainly because the former was considered immoral from the Christian viewpoint. The church therefore dictated the format of marriages. Furthermore, men were generally favored in terms of laws governing marriage, property, adultery, and the like -- all the tenets of which were based upon religion rather than government, which played a role only so far as it adopted the laws of the church.

According to White, laws began to change during the 1800s, with the first manifestations of such change relating to women's rights to property and children. Government had begun to play a larger role in the law governing marriage. Religious conflict however remained at the order of the day, with the Judeo-Christian government passing laws against the polygamous practices of the Mormons during the second half of the 19th century. This set the precedent for violating human rights on religious grounds -- polygamists would often be held indefinitely without trials.

In this way, the government, as White puts it, formed a partnership with organized religion, as is clear in the current legislation regarding same-sex marriage. Federal government seeks to control not only state governments in terms of this issue, but also all individuals within the country. Human rights continue to be violated by the partnership of the government with religion.

Some religious community members as well as officials are showing encouraging signs of adapting to the dictates of society, rather than trying to force society to follow rules and regulations that have long been outdated. William Wan (2009) for example mentions the case of Episcopal Church officials, who voted in favor of bishops to bless same-sex unions. The author also however hinted that this vote was more likely to further divide an already torn community within the wider context of the Anglican Church. While it is therefore a victory for gay rights, it is hardly a stepping stone for religion as a whole.

The vote was taken in Anaheim, California, and involves allowing bishops to bless same-sex unions particularly in states where these are legal. Significantly, this follows the approval of ordinating gay bishops. Both measures resulted in strong reactions from the Anglican Church, creating a division among those who are for the new measures, and those against them. Anglican officials are generally against approval for gay unions and gay officials, accusing the Episcopal Church of consciously breaking from the Anglican parent.

Advocates of gay rights however welcome the new open attitude within the confines of the church, and are hopeful that further measures will follow. This hope is also an indication of the important role that religion still plays in government and legislation. If church officials can begin to see the merits of allowing same-sex partners to marry, government may soon follow suit.

It appears that the younger generations of Episcopal clergy are more open to gay rights and marriage than the more established officials. Wan for example quotes Mike Angell, an Episcopal student of the priesthood, who was happy about the ruling, and believed in equality among all parishioners, whether gay or not.

The devastation among the ranks of the church is however undeniable Wan notes that many parishes and dioceses left the Episcopal church to either affiliate with the Anglican Communion overseas or in the United States. Irresolvable divisions have therefore occurred within the church as a result of this issue.

This appears to indicate then, that gay rights and same-sex marriage is as much part of religion as it is part of politics. Religion informs politics as much as politics does the same for religion. The two appear to go hand-in hand, with little hope of achieving the church-state division intended by the Constitution.

David Boies correctly places the issue in the same category as cross-racial marriage. The ban on these was already lifted during the 1960s, as it was regarded as unconstitutional (Boies, 2009). Boies emphasizes that the issue is not a so much a political one as a Constitutional one. A large amount of the issue has been confused as a result of the political involvement in the enactment of Proposition 8. This does not however change the fact of the Constitution, its guarantees or those these guarantees apply to.

Boies cites the Supreme Court opinion that marriage between persons who love each other is a fundamental and constitutional human right that cannot be removed by state legislature. This is demonstrated by the many cases in which the Court provided for the constitutional right to marry of various types of individuals, such as imprisoned felons.

Boies notes that no legitimate state policy underlies Proposition 8. One argument that proponents tend to raise is that same-sex marriage poses a threat to heterosexual marriages. Boies however points out the absurdity of this argument by stating that a "love struck" heterosexual couple would not be deterred from marriage by the knowledge that homosexual people are also allowed to tie the knot. On the other hand, those who have marital difficulties would hardly base a decision to divorce upon the relationships of same-sex partners.

Furthermore, preventing same-sex marriage does not by association create more loving, stable heterosexual relationships. By contrast, allowing same-sex marriages would create more stable, loving households, as more individuals are allowed to marry people that they truly love.

A common religious conception as that being homosexual is somehow a disease that can be "cured." In this light, they advocate against same-sex marriage as one such possible cure. However, Boies also disregards this notion as entirely separated from credibility. Depriving homosexual people of their fundamental constitutional right has no possibility of effecting a "cure" for the "condition.

Boies further emphasizes that gay people are as much a characteristic of diversity as race, nationality and ethnicity. Like race, it has also often be used as a basis for often violent discrimination and abuse. In contrast to race, however, the fear of marriage between partners of the same sex is based upon religious intolerance, for the reasons mentioned above. There is no legitimate political or moral grounds for depriving such couples of marrying each other.

Boies furthermore points to the legitimacy of gay marriage as demonstrated by the success of legalizing it in several countries and states without any adverse effect on heterosexual couples and families. There is no threat to social or family stability by allowing this type of marriage. Instead, it serves the very function of increasing stability as a result of increased happiness created by marrying for love.

In comparing California's Proposition 8 with the laws of other states, Boies point out that Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, and several other states have repealed the ban on same-sex marriage precisely because of its violation of basic human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution. Boies however also pointed out that gay rights issues should not be subject to voting in the first place, precisely because of its nature under the Constitution. The author notes that minority rights cannot be consigned to the majority vote. If this were the case, one might as well remove all rights altogether and subject them to the vote of the majority.

Ancient religious principles regarding homosexuality can no longer be used as a grounds for unacceptable discrimination against a certain sector of society. According to Boies, this is exactly what Constitution 8 accomplishes. Indeed, it does nothing at all to prevent gay relationships; it only prevents homosexuals who are in love from marrying each other. Domestic partnerships between same-sex couples remain unchanged by the law.

Proposition 8 serves only to stigmatize a large sector of Californian society. It serves no other purpose that provide religious fundamentalists with a further tool for discrimination and hatred. Boies further points out that the First Amendment provides not only the right to religious freedom, but also the right to Equal Protection by law. Religious freedom should never be used to impose laws that detract from fundamental human rights. This is what is done by means of Proposition 8; it is no more than a deprivation of human rights based upon an ancient biblical principle.

The enactment of Proposition 8 in the first place indicates political support for discrimination on religious grounds. Christian politicians tend to lose sight of the separation of church and state and appear to frequently impose their faith ideologies upon the nation as a whole. This cannot be acceptable in the light of the Constitution.

In conclusion, it is clear that religious intolerance is at the basis of Proposition 8. The demographic statistics of voters involved in its enactment demonstrate this quite clearly. Furthermore, the Proposition is simply a further manifestation of the government's often over-zealous attempt to create a "Christian" nation, whereas an increasing amount of the nation is in fact not Christian.

Those claiming religious freedom as the basis for…

Sources Used in Document:


Boies, David (2009, Jul 20). Gay Marriage and the Constitution. The Wall Street Journal.

Garofoli, Joe. (2009, Jul 16). NAACP weighs support of gays who want to marry. San Francisco Chronicle.

Hart, Tom (2008, Nov 25). Proposition 8 wrongly grounded in religion. The Daily Cardinal.

Stone, Geoffrey R. (2008, Nov 15). Democracy, Religion and Proposition 8. The Huffington Post

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