In the previous post, I addressed the common charge of hypocrisy presented against Christians for addressing the sin of homosexuality by arguing the uniqueness of this sin’s punishment in the Scripture, the uniqueness of this sin’s description in the Scripture, and the uniqueness of this sin’s promotion in the wider public around us. Today, I want to address the second obvious objection when Christians talk about this topic: the alleged harmlessness of homosexuality. This argument can be paraphrased as follows:
Same-sex marriage does not affect your marriage nor does it affect you personally. Tolerating their choices does not mean compromising your stance at all. Your personal discomfort should not hinder people from enjoying the benefits of marriage.
This is one of the most pervasive statements regarding homosexual marriage and the argument is largely based on myths and misinformation presented to the general public (see Paul E. Rondeau’s article: Selling Homosexuality to America). There are at least two basic levels of harm that homosexual marriage (and the act of homosexuality in general) brings upon the whole society as well as to individuals.
As noted by numerous social commentators, the homosexual marriage movement is on a collision course with religious liberty. In other words, we, as a nation, will decide in the relatively near future which liberty is more fundamental: religious liberty or sexual/erotic liberty. The reality is that the legal definition of marriage does not exist in isolation; the redefinition of marriage creates a legal precedent that will have a cascading effect in many other areas of law (such as the law of adoption, education, employee benefits, employment discrimination, government contracts and subsidies, taxation, tort law, and trusts and estates). In turn, these legal regimes directly govern the ongoing daily operations of religious organizations of all stripes, including parishes, schools, churches, temples, hospitals, orphanages, retreat centers, soup kitchens, and universities.
This has already been established in academic literature. In an article published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Roger Severino examines four ways in which religious institutions that refuse to recognize homosexual marriage risk civil liability:
- Religious institutions that disapprove of employees entering into homosexual marriages risk suits under employment anti-discrimination laws
- Religious institutions that disapprove of homosexual cohabitation risk suits under fair housing laws (e.g. religious colleges sued for not allowing homosexual couples to live in subsidized school housing)
- Religious institutions that refuse to extend their services or facilities to homosexual couples on the same terms as married men and women risk suits under public accommodation laws (e.g. consider the Boy Scouts policy on open homosexual leadership)
- Religious institutions that express their religious disapproval of homosexual marriage publicly face potential “hate crimes” or “hate speech” liability.
The last point is most troubling because it indicates that there may be a collision course between sexual/erotic liberty and freedom of speech. We have already seen arrests of religious speakers for publicly opposing gay rights. Given the increasing reliance of American courts on foreign precedents (i.e. civil and criminal bans on “objectionable” religious speech already exist in Canada, Britain, Australia, and Sweden), the domestic application of hate speech concerning homosexual marriage is an increasing risk. The day is fast approaching where religiously-motivated speech against homosexual conduct that is deemed “hateful” or otherwise offensive may not be tolerated in law. So, if the claim is that harm is done whenever sexual/erotic rights are denied from homosexuals, then it must also be the case that harm will be done towards religious objectors as the rest of our civil law catches up to the new law of the land.
We should also consider three basic ways in which religious institutions that refuse to recognize homosexual marriage risk losing equal access to a variety of government benefits and privileges. First, religious institutions that refuse to recognize homosexual marriage risk losing their traditional tax-exempt status (see the recent argument from Mark Oppenheimer). Second, religious institutions that refuse to recognize homosexual marriage risk exclusion from competition for government-funded social service contracts (consider the decision of the Catholic Charities of Boston to forgo adoption cases). Third, religious institutions that refuse to recognize homosexual marriage risk exclusion from government facilities (consider young church plants which use public schools as their temporary facility). So, if the claim is that harm is done whenever homosexuals and LGBT are denied privileges due to their sexual orientation, then it must also be true that harm will be done towards religious objects when they are denied privileges on the basis of religious convictions.
Perhaps the harm that is most concerning will not be felt within the next 10 years. Immediately following the SCOTUS decision, the American College of Pediatrics (ACP) gave a press-release stating:
This is a tragic day for America’s children. The SCOTUS has just undermined the single greatest pro-child institution in the history of mankind: the natural family. Just as it did in the joint Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions, the SCOTUS has elevated and enshrined the wants of adults over the needs of children.
I couldn’t agree more with this statement. One of the prevailing myths in the discussion regarding homosexual marriage is the alleged scientific consensus that children suffer no disadvantage with homosexual parents. However, the statement of the ACP given above is based on their scientific findings that contradict the alleged consensus. The reality is that the alleged scientific consensus that having two same-sex parents is innocuous for child well-being is almost wholly without basis. Of the several dozen extant studies on same-sex parenting in the past two decades, all but a handful of the studies cited in support draw on small, non-random samples which cannot be extrapolated to the same-sex population at large. This limitation is repeatedly acknowledged in scientific meeting and journals, but is largely ignored when asserted as settled findings in public or judicial advocacy. For the eight studies that use a statistically representative dataset, there are substantial negative outcomes for children (evaluated in terms of depressive symptoms, unhappiness, child fearfulness, child anxiety, sexual abuse, etc.) with same-sex parents, compared to the natural family. Moreover, these studies show that these negative outcomes worsen for children who have lived an average of ten years with same-sex parents, in comparison to the natural family.
In the three largest statistically representative datasets used to address this question (to date), all three have found that children with same-sex parents fare substantially worse (most measures show at least twice the level of distress) than do children with opposite sex parents on a range of psychological, developmental, and emotional outcomes. In other words, the longer social scientists study the question, the more evidence of harm is found. In analyzing the question of harm, special consideration should be given to the well-being of children, who are uniquely vulnerable and have little recourse against harm. The mounting evidence of harmful outcomes in children raised in same-sex household gives a rational basis for society (and the state) to maintain the definition of marriage.
Conclusion and Resources
In conclusion, contrary to popular opinion, there is significant harm (current and future) to the acceptance of homosexual marriage in our culture and in our government. First, the legal argumentation and precedents lead to an expected collision course between the fundamental right (recognized by the Constitution) of religious liberty and the 21st century right of sexual/erotic liberty. Based on the argumentation presented by SCOTUS and by numerous LGBTQ activists, the acceptance of homosexual marriage must necessarily lead to an erosion of religious liberty and the removal of rights from religious objectors and institutions. Second, the mounting evidence of harmful outcomes in children raised in same-sex households gives compelling evidence of the future harm that will be generated in our society due to the promotion of homosexual marriage.
The last point is very important because it indicates that homosexuality presents significant moral harm to numerous people. As Christians, we are not arguing against homosexuality because of deep animus against homosexuals; we are arguing against homosexuality because we know that it is a disordered affection that will lead to self-destruction if one indulges in it. When a lifestyle has been well documented to produce significant harm in a society, tolerance to it is not a virtue, but rather a sin. Having an attitude of indifference to this lifestyle is not consistent with the Christian virtue of loving our neighbor. Right now, homosexual marriage is seen as a political issue in which various constituencies take sides and I believe that this attitude misses the inherent morality of this identity and behavior. Based on the above social science research, it is likely that we will produce a generation of casualties and refugees associated with this social and moral revolution. As the Church, we must be prepared to receive them with the hope of the gospel: “… and such WERE some of you”.
For a more exhaustive discussion on the legal implication of homosexual marriage, see Robert Severino’s article: Or for Poorer? How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty?
For a more exhaustive discussion on the effect of same-sex marriage on children, see this college brief from the American College of Pediatricians.