reaching into the God, Guns and Country bag of tricks once again to molest the
most ignorant and prejudice of American minds. In an effort led by zealots on
the religious right along with Republicans desperate to survive President
Bush�s plunge at the polls, House Republicans, fueled by their love of freedom,
no doubt, are poised to push the amendment to ban gay marriage to a vote the
week of July 17.
The effort comes
just over a month after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist led a failed attempt
to pass the amendment in June.
In an affront to
the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, H. J. RES. 88 seeks to engrave discrimination and a prejudice for Fundamentalist
Christianity in the Constitution with these words:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a
woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be
construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred
upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.'.
Marriage Amendment, which, if passed, would be called the `Marriage Protection
Amendment,� was first introduced in 2002 by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and
Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) and again in 2004 when it was defeated in the House
and the Senate.
According to the
Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian civil rights organization, the
amendment �could forever invalidate civil unions or other legal protections for
same-sex couples, like the right to partner health benefits or fair taxation
upon the death of a partner -- even if state legislatures passed them and
voters approved them.�
for Separation of Church and State contends that the amendment would �favor the
marriage doctrines and rituals of some religious groups over others.� AU
executive director, Rev. Barry W. Lynn said the proposed amendment �is a
blatant attempt by conservative religious leaders to enshrine their doctrines
and marriage practices into the Constitution.� 
Leaders on the
religious right say that the amendment is necessary to prevent the destruction
of the institution of marriage. James Dobson has expressed fear that if gays
are allowed to marry it might open the door to �marriage between daddies and
little girls,� or �marriage between a man and his donkey.� �Anything allegedly
linked to civil rights will be doable,� he said. Bill O'Reilly said he fears if
gay marriage is allowed, �all other alternative marital visions will be allowed
. . . you can marry 18 people, you can marry a duck . . . somebody's gonna come
and say I want to marry the goat. You'll see it. I'll guarantee you'll see it.�
hyperbole and absurdity of associating the love of two consenting adults with
bestiality and pedophilia, conservative Christian pundits make it clear that
their real intention is to protect what they see as the specifically Christian
nature of marriage and the family. Organizations like the American Family
Association (AFA), a Christian group maintaining NoGayMarriage.com, claim gay
marriage threatens the �God-ordained institution of marriage.� AFA founder and
chairman Donald E. Wildmon wants to ban gay marriage and civil unions,
contending that allowing gay marriage would bring an end to �Not only Western
Civilization, which came out of the mind of Christ, but the whole of
civilization will be drastically changed. Forget the family -- mother, father,
children -- because it will not exist in that brave new world. Look for the
state to take on more and more responsibilities for children.� 
Dobson�s book, Marriage Under Fire, Why We Must Win This Battle, �the
institution of marriage is one of the Creator�s most marvelous and enduring
gifts to humankind.� Adding, marriage is a �sacrament designed by God that
serves as a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and His church.�
Bush�s thinly veiled words seem to echo this view. Before the Senate began
debate on the issue, Bush said, �Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural,
religious, and natural roots without weakening this good influence on society.
Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of
all� (Speech, June 3, 2006).
As the Christian
right ushers the so-called marriage protection amendment to the Senate, vowing
to valorously defend the sanctity of �Christian� wedlock, we should all be
asking: Is marriage really a Christian institution? Are Christians really an
authority on the sanctity of marriage and the family?
on the early history of the church, the simple answer to both questions is, no.
In fact, the Christian Fundamentalists seeking to �enshrine their doctrines and
marriage practices into the constitution� are in need of a serious history
lesson when it comes to marriage�s place in their religion�s history.
is perceived as a kind of moral authority when it comes to the family, it
hasn�t always been this way. Early on, Romans felt that Christians were the
ones who threatened the fabric of the traditional family. Conservative Romans
like Celsus (ca.185) were disturbed by Christian calls to renounce traditional
religion, the Roman state, and the traditional family.
When it came to
marriage, historian Edward Gibbon writes that early Christians tolerated it as
�a defect,� and exalted celibacy �as the nearest approach to the divine
perfection.� According to Gibbon, the early Church fathers believed Adam would
have best served God had he remained a virgin: �The use of marriage was
permitted only to his fallen posterity, as a necessary expedient to continue
the human species, and as a restraint . . . on the natural licentiousness of
This contempt for
marriage among Christians was not limited to the ancient world. In colonial
Mexico, explains historian Asuncion Lavrin, �Christianity contained a strong
misogynist strain that placed marital love as second best when compared to
divine love.�  Yet none of this should come as a surprise. The Bible makes
it crystal clear that chastity, not marriage, should be the primary focus of a
God-loving Christian. While Paul says it�s okay to get married, both he and
Jesus clearly state that giving up all carnal pleasures, even those between
husband and wife, is the best course. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says being too
involved in marriage can actually detract from proper worship of God: �An
unmarried man is concerned about the Lord�s affairs. . . . But a married man is
concerned about the affairs of this world -- how he can please his wife -- and
his interests are divided� (7:32-4). Earlier in Corinthians, Paul says plainly:
�It is good for a man not to marry� (7:1).
today tend to ignore God�s call for complete chastity, the earliest fathers of
Christianity took chastity (marriage to God) very seriously. In his book, The
Confessions, church father Saint Augustine repeatedly acknowledges that
chastity is the most Christian path to take. In one instance, he points to
Matthew 19:11-12, in which Jesus recommends being a eunuch (a castrated or
sexless man): �The one who can accept this should accept it.�
Reflecting on his
own prior sexual licentiousness, Augustine looks back with regret on his having
ignored Jesus� call to castration or sexlessness: �Yes, I could have listened
more attentively to those words, and made myself a eunuch for the kingdom of
heaven. In that way I might have waited more contentedly for your embrace.� 
Augustine isn�t alone in his antipathy towards marriage. Researcher and writer
Barbara Walker reports that �Origen declared, �Matrimony is impure and unholy,
a means of sexual passion.� St. Jerome said the primary purpose of a man of God
was to �cut down with an ax of Virginity the wood of Marriage.� St. Ambrose
said marriage was a crime against God, because it changed the state of
virginity that God gave every man and woman at birth . . . Tertullian said
marriage was a moral crime, �more dreadful than any punishment or any death�� .
exalt marriage and the family life as values anchored in their faith�s
tradition. But the historical reality is that early attitudes among Christians
about such things were very different than they are today. In the New
Testament, Jesus tells large crowds �If any man come to me, and hate not
his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea,
and his own life also, he can not be my disciple� (Luke 14:26). A similar
passage comes to us from Luke 18:29. ��I tell you the truth,� Jesus said to
them, �no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for
the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this
age and, in the age to come, eternal life.�� As for marriage, Jesus says, �At
the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will
be like angels in heaven� (Matthew 22:30). However confounding to contemporary
Christians, early Christian aversion to what is now considered �traditional�
family values does in fact makes sense when one considers Christianity�s
renunciation of the physical world: �Do not love the world or anything in the
world� (1 John 2:15).
In the context of
Christianity�s historical rejection of the family life and its advocacy of
chastity, the religious right�s crusade against gays and lesbians, specifically
the right to marriage and adoption, is highly selective at best and absolutely
groundless at worst. If all sin is equal, and non-procreative sexual behavior
is indeed sinful; if being a husband or wife detracts from the proper worship
of God, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, then it seems unjust for these
selective sinners to hurl stones of condemnation with such righteous force. It
is said, after all, that one should not judge, �or you too will be judged�
For those who think
that this is a �gay� issue, that the Christian right�s attempt to enshrine
their notion of marriage won�t affect them, think again. After all, it wasn�t
so long ago that Thomas Aquinas condemned masturbation and �utilizing monstrous
or bestial techniques of intercourse�  alongside homosexuality as indecent
sexual activities. Maybe a ban on gay marriage is just the start.
Fundamentalists succeed in passing the Marriage Protection Amendment on grounds
that a valid marriage must conform to Christian tradition, non-Christians,
secular and religious alike, will be left wondering: when will my love, my
marriage be outlawed?
This article was originally published by Toward Freedom on 5/29/06 when the
Senate held its vote.
Jeff Nall is a
community activist and freelance writer. He regularly contributes to
publications such as Toward Freedom, the Humanist, and Impact Press.
CLERGY FOR FAIRNESS
HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
United press release, �Americans
United Urges Senate To Reject Marriage Amendment,� May 17, 2006.
 Human Rights
Campaign, �Weekly Web Message: �Is
the FMA a threat? Listen to the extremists in their own words,�� May 2,
 Donald E.
Wildmon, �Why I'm supporting
the proposed Marriage Protection Amendment.�
 Edward Gibbon,
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (New York: Dell Publishing Co.,
Inc., 1976), 244.
 Asuncion Lavrin
�Women in Colonial Mexico,� in The Oxford History of Mexico, eds. Michael C.
Meyer and William H. Beezley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000),
 Augustine, The
Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding (New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics,
 Barbara G.
Walker, The Women�s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (Edison, NJ: Castle
Books, 1996), 585.
 Thomas Acquinas,
St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics (New York: W. W. Norton &
Company, Inc.), 80.
This article was originally published by Toward Freedom on 5/29/06 when the
Senate held its vote.
Jeff Nall is a community activist and freelance
writer. He regularly contributes to publications such as Toward Freedom, the
Humanist, and Impact Press.