For years, critics of the idea of same-sex “marriage” have made the point that accepting the proposition that two persons of the same sex can marry each other entails abandoning any principled basis for understanding marriage as the union of two and only two persons. So far as I am aware, our opponents have made no serious effort to answer or rebut this point. Their strategy has been to dismiss it as a mere slippery-slope argument (although the truth is that it is a more fundamental type of argument than that) and to accuse us of engaging in “scare tactics.” Some have even denounced us as “bigots” for suggesting that same-sex relations are on a par with polygamy and “polyamory”–the union of three or more persons in a sexual partnership.
That was then; this is now.
A group of self-identified “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and allied activists, scholars, educators, writers, artists, lawyers, journalists, and community organizers” has released a statement explicitly endorsing “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.” Got that? More than one conjugal partner.
Well, this got me to thinking… you see, I took a stab at this issue in a paper I wrote in my first year theology and ethics class at Sewanee. Needless to say my professor, an outspoken liberal, didn’t really like it. My goal in the paper was to push the edges of the liberal arguments and demonstrate that they have little or no support from scripture or tradition. In one section I was discussing the views of some liberal voices in this discussion and I wrote the following:
Many on the liberal side of this debate also argue against the essentialism embraced by the Church. Carter Heyward addresses this issue in her book Touching our Strength:
A historical reading of sexuality will move us beyond sexual essentialism as explanation of anything, including either homosexuality or heterosexuality.
Speaking of this historical formation as a matrix, Heyward continues by stating that “There can be nothing static in a personal identity or relationship formed in such a matrix. There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual if by this we mean to denote fixed essence, an essential identity. There are rather homosexual and heterosexual people–people who act homosexually or heterosexually.” [Carter Heyward, Touching our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 40]
The issues raised by these authors demonstrate that any thinking about same-sex unions cannot be divorced from thought and discussion of a multitude of other issues, some of which are at least as divisive as sexuality. Not only do we need to look at what constitutes a faithful union, but also what we mean by faithfulness, union or marriage. Why is it assumed that the structure of faithful homosexual relationships should imitate a mode that we have largely abandoned�in practice if not completely in theory�in regard to heterosexual relationships? Simply stating that this is how we do things is no good, as this would only highlight our incoherence in regard to marital fidelity and, if clarified, it would rely on a tradition that forbids homosexual unions even as it support heterosexual monogamy. It is impossible, arguing from the tradition, to support homosexual monogamy since a rejection of the complementary nature of male and female is also a rejection of monogamous relations. Instead, the Church must construct an entirely new basis for monogamy between homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals if it is to move forward. So far, the Church has excluded those last two letters of LGBT, bi-sexual and trans-gendered persons from its discussions of faithful relationships.
One could make the same point by saying that the nature of marital and sexual fidelity as being between one man and one woman arises from the binary nature of human sexuality…without a recognition of that binary nature, there is no reason to limit sexual activity or relationships to those between two people.
Now Listening to: Black Star from the album “Black Star – EP” by Gillian Welch