The state of California has been all over the news lately for events other than earthquakes. It started when a slim majority of voters decided to ban same sex marriage. Many states, including my own, have enacted such bans. I have to say that as a conservative minister and counselor I would prefer that the state stay out of some issues. This is one of those issues. I just have a hard time calling sexual orientation a reason to deny any couple the chance to live a committed monogamous life. If I was asked to solemnize a same sex marriage, the couple would have to agree to much the same interview and counseling as any other. Unfortunately, my state prohibits me from performing the ceremony.
This paragraph will probably anger most who read it. I am not a psychologist or theological academician. My only degree is strictly honorary. Which may be, in part, why I can be annoyed yet mildly amused by people on both sides of this issue. Both sides have been throwing around the same two verses from the Bible's book of Leviticus. The problem is that they always take these verses out of context. I re-read Leviticus and had to really reach to find any substantial relevance. God spoke to Moses and gave him some pretty specific guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Some of these guidelines were deliberately outside of The Commandments. Contextually, these guidelines were for Moses' time and situation. They provided Moses with a pretty simple hierarchy. I believe these guidelines were given to Moses to prepare him to lead a relatively small community in isolation for four decades. These guidelines gave Moses the tools to make sure that the community survived an extremely long and isolated journey. In fact, when I re-read it, it sounded like God was determined to protect the genetic viability as well as the physical and mental health of Moses' people based on their population, demographics, and circumstances. And the emphasis was on penalties for transgression. That is often an Old Testament theme. Are some of the described acts horrid? Of course! Are “all” of them horrid? Are every single one of the rules required for a population thousands of times larger today? Maybe “that” is a discussion we need to have. It really doesn't take a lot of deep thought to differentiate between love, sex, promiscuity, irresponsibility and violence. I think that as reasonable people, we must be able to contextualize religious text or it becomes meaningless prose. I am embarrassed that it has taken me nearly a half of a century to realize this.
I do have some concerns regarding homosexuality. These have come to me as friend, coworker, and extended family member as well as minister. I have discovered at least three subsets of the gay community. Subsets two and three deeply trouble me. The first group are people who were indeed born gay and are searching for a healthy, committed, and monogamous relationship. The second group is simply promiscuous and not particular. They are doomed to be spiritually damaged until they are willing to change. And the third, which to me is the most disturbing, are the people who call themselves gay but are using that as a coping device to deal with sexual assault. Often these violent assaults occurred during childhood. I have not found any study that quantifies any of this. And my observation is not scientific. But I have indeed met all of these people. And it bothers me that this is not part of the discussion in any measure.
I submit that the interview and counseling I would offer to a strait, gay or lesbian couple would be different. In fact, there are different concerns to address for every couple. I treat each couple as the situation dictates. Gay and lesbian couples present different circumstances to be recognized before the relationship issues. Denying that fact is just intellectually lazy. Perhaps it should be a little more difficult for any couple to get married. But should any couple successfully complete the interview and counseling process with me or any officiant, I would like the government to stay out of it. We have the experience. We care about the couples and take the time to know them. In my state, we have been licensed. I think that makes us uniquely qualified to decide who should be married by us or not.