Which 'Biblical marriage' are Amendment One supporters talking about?

| March 13, 2012

Supporters of Amendment One, the proposed constitutional amendment designed to ban same-sex marriage, are quick to wear the mantle of tradition, history and God's will. Their campaign, they say, is all about protecting "traditional marriage," or "Biblical marriage." So said Tony Perkins, the head of the ultra-right Family Research Council, when he recently told the congregation at First Baptist Church, "God has defined marriage. It is not up to us to redefine it."

At other times, support for the amendment is about defending history itself, since marriage is "an institution that predates the state of North Carolina, the Catholic Church and even western civilization itself," said David Hains, the PR guy for the Charlotte Catholic Diocese.

People who claim they know God's precise position on worldly issues may reveal an astounding level of hubris, but, from Rick Santorum to Franklin Graham, they're a dime a dozen in America these days.

With regard to "Biblical marriage" — a favorite term of opponents of same-sex unions — I wonder which Biblical version of marriage they mean. I imagine it's the standard one-man-and-one-woman combo, but the Bible also says a woman who marries but isn't a virgin should be stoned to death. Maybe that's not the one the anti-gay folks mean after all.

Perhaps they think everyone should follow the Biblical "tradition" of a man having a wife and a few concubines; hey, it was good enough for Abraham and Jacob. No, that's not it either? OK, then it must be the Bible's approval of a man having several wives, a la Gideon, Esau or the man-of-700-wives, Solomon. You're shaking your head, no.

Let's see, could Amendment One supporters be talking about the Biblical prescription that a woman who hasn't had any children when her husband dies must marry her brother-in-law and give motherhood a few more shots? No, that can't be it.

Well, then, how about the Bible requirement that slave owners assign female slaves to their male slaves? No, that obviously won't work.

Maybe the anti-gay, "Biblical" crowd is getting behind the rule in Deuteronomy that says a woman must marry a man who rapes her. No? I thought not.

The point? God may have defined marriage in the Bible, but the "definition" was all over the map, so its value as an argument for enforcing a specific type of marriage today is, to be frank, nonsensical.

The truth is that marriage historically has been as subject to change as anything else. Numerous forms of marriage, and a hodgepodge of conflicting rules about it, have been acceptable, even mandated, at different times and in different places around the world.

In ancient Greece, many thought the ideal union was often seen as being between an adult man and an adolescent boy. Gay unions were common in Rome until Constantine, the first Christian emperor, prohibited them in 342 CE. However, it wasn't until the 16th century that the Church required a church ceremony to validate a marriage.

Keep in mind, too, that pre-18th century, most marriages were arranged by parents or at least were more concerned with money and property than love. In fact, the norm of an avid "courtship," followed by marriage, only became common in the 19th century. Even then, the husband, for all practical purposes, owned his wife, while married women had hardly any legal identity at all.

Changes in marriage continued throughout the 20th century, veering toward more freedom for everyone involved, particularly women, who also benefited from the spread of new methods of contraception. In the U.S., we didn't end some states' practice of banning interracial marriage until 1967. I remember when that occurred, and, yes, people actually argued about it — old habits die hard for many people, as the fight over same-sex marriage proves.

The biggest change in recent history is the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage. Government-recognized same-sex marriage was first established in Denmark in 1989. Other nations and some U.S. states eventually adopted similar laws.

It's not just that marriage has been subject to occasional change; the very concept of it has changed repeatedly, rising naturally out of societal changes, for as long as history has been written.

Same-sex couples in long-term, committed relationships live in every part of Charlotte and every part of North Carolina. They deserve to be able to choose to marry — or not to marry — like everyone else. What's hard to stomach is that many people in this state who support Amendment One don't, and apparently can't, value those committed same-sex couples' relationships as much as, say, an Old Testament marriage that includes a slew of concubines. That kind of thinking — and the backward vengefulness it exudes — is what is truly sick in the current debate. Image Credit: rykneethling

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Hahaa! Someone is uneducated on the bible, wow. The things ppl willl do to make a point.

report 5 likes, 21 dislikes   
Posted by Jessica on 03/13/2012 at 10:51 AM

Well put, Mr. Grooms. Thank you for articulating what many of us have been trying to point out since the whole Amendment One mess began.

report 15 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Mary Snow on 03/13/2012 at 11:32 AM

Jessica what is YOUR point? It's not clear.

report 4 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by stu on 03/13/2012 at 12:26 PM

Jessica appears to think that any face-value reading of the not-so-holy bible is somehow "misinterpreting" it. It's curious, though, how so many people like her wouldn't give an equally poorly written current-day novel or movie the same leeway they gladly give to a more than 2000-year-old book that's little more than a mishmash of myths, fables, and anecdotes (and a poorly edited one at that).

report 11 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by JustSayin' on 03/13/2012 at 1:52 PM

Isn't it odd that deeply religious people can see the delusional basis of OTHER religions while remaining absolutely convinced of the validity of their own?

report 13 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by DLP on 03/13/2012 at 4:11 PM

There are a few things I value about my Christianity. One of them is free choice, a gift God embraces. Folks that then use the bible to take away free choice are just not getting it. If you want to get married, have at it I say.

report 11 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by Steve on 03/13/2012 at 10:02 PM

The KKK, Arians, etc. base their beliefs on Christianity. Anyone can use certain parts of the bible to suit their own agendas, even churches. Politics and religion should not mix, let people love and marry who they want. Procreation will not end if gay marriage is legalized. And procreation is not even a valid argument, many heterosexual couples choose not to have kids. More republican idiocracy, they cry for smaller government but want to dictate relationships.

report 10 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by Albeit on 03/14/2012 at 5:20 PM

if they are doing this to preserve the institution of marriage ...then why is divorce still legal ? this ban is not about God this ban it about hate and discrimination of a group of citizens of the United States that some people believe should not have the same rights as everyone else

report 0 likes, 1 dislike   
Posted by Kathy Smelser on 06/22/2012 at 9:58 AM
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment