In a series of posts, Aaron J. Silletto, member of Concordia Lutheran Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and an attorney allied with the Alliance Defending Freedom, will address the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
by Aaron J. Silletto
On Jan. 16, 2015, the U. S. Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from four states—Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee—and decide whether the states’ laws, which reserve marriage to relationships between one man and one woman, are constitutional. Specifically, the Court agreed to answer two legal questions: (1) “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” (2) “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?” Court watchers expect the Court will decide the case, styled Obergefell v. Hodges, before the end of June 2015.
As Lutheran Christians who are citizens of two kingdoms, you may have questions about this case and how the Court’s decision could affect our country and our church. This article will first consider the biblical view of marriage as God intended it and the competing secular view of marriage that is finding currency in our civil courts. This article will then attempt to answer some of the most common questions you may have about this landmark Supreme Court case.
A biblical view of marriage
Lutherans believe, teach and confess that marriage as instituted by God is a lifelong union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4–6). Marriage is to be honored by all and kept pure (Heb. 13:4; 1 Thess. 4:2–5). Children are the most obvious, natural gift of marriage, for God blessed the first married couple—and all married couples—by saying, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28).
St. Paul describes marriage in beautiful terms in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 5:21–33). He describes marriage as a type of the relationship existing between Christ and His bride: “This mystery [of marriage] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). On its own, the church can do nothing, but if the church abides in Christ and Christ in the church, it bears much fruit (John 15:5). So it is with marriage: Only a union of a man and a woman can be fruitful and multiply. Marriage thus understood also blesses children by giving them a father and a mother to nurture and care for them, making it “the optimal setting for the child” (See “An Affirmation of Marriage” by the Anglican Church in North America, Lutheran Church-Canada, North American Lutheran Church and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is available at https://reporter.lcms.org/2013/an-affirmation-of-marriage.). Thus, sexual complementarity is the foundation of the biblical view of marriage as God intended it.
Though solidly grounded in a scriptural understanding of God’s design, this “conjugal view” of marriage is not unique to Christian cultures. Nearly every culture has recognized this view of marriage—as late as 1990, not a single jurisdiction in the world recognized same-sex marriages—and it has been foundational to the ordering of civil society from time immemorial. This should come as no surprise, as St. Paul also tells us that God’s invisible attributes, including His views of what is ungodly or unrighteous, may be clearly seen as reflected in His creation (Rom. 1:18–20).
A postmodern view of marriage
Not surprisingly, the plaintiffs in the Obergefell cases who are challenging the bans on same-sex marriage take a very different view of the institution than either the states or the church. They agree with the states that marriage itself is a fundamental right under the U. S. Constitution, but they disagree as to the reason for governmental involvement in it and how best to define it.
Rather than the conjugal view, which is focused on sexual complementarity and procreation, the challengers view marriage as “a foundational means in our society of seeking personal fulfillment and acquiring community esteem.” In other words, as is typical of our time, the challengers’ vision of marriage is not a self-sacrificing institution designed to provide an optimal setting for raising children and structuring society, but is a self-centered institution used to secure society’s approval of intimate relationships.
The challengers further argue in their briefs that a ban on same-sex marriages “deprives same-sex couples of the dignity and common understanding that comes only with marriage as well as the substantial network of protections and reciprocal responsibilities afforded to married persons and their families.” So, they claim, they seek only access to a preexisting, fundamental institution now limited to heterosexual couples, rather than admitting that what they really seek is to redefine the nature and purpose of the institution.
Aaron Silletto (email@example.com) is a member of Concordia Lutheran Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and is an attorney allied with the Alliance Defending Freedom. In his next post, Mr. Silletto will address the question, “What does the Fourteenth Amendment have to say about marriage?”
The materials on this website are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. They are not offered as and do not constitute legal advice or legal opinions.
” In other words, as is typical of our time, the challengers’ vision of marriage is not a self-sacrificing institution designed to provide an optimal setting for raising children and structuring society, but is a self-centered institution used to secure society’s approval of intimate relationships.” I can’t even begin to imagine how you come to that warped conclusion. Could it be – shockingly – that same sex couples want to raise children? Want to be in a loving, supportive relationship with the person that they love? Why is opposite sex marriage for the purpose of “being fruitful and multiplying” but same-sex is all about being selfish? Expand your worldview a bit and you might find that there are plenty of opposite sex couples who decide not to have children or, like my husband and I, cannot have children. We adopted as a way to form our family. My marriage is no less than anyone else’s marriage simply because while our parts are “compatible” they don’t work properly.
Well said. Marriage is defined in God’s word as a union between a man and a woman
I wish we would stop using the word “ban”. No state literally “bans” people stating vows for one another. Please use the phrase “the state only recognizes” marriage between a man and a woman. There is a big difference. The word ban implies against the law, there is no law that states two men or two women cannot get married. We all assume that it is only a marriage if a secular government grants a license, there are thousands of men/women marriage without licensing.
Your writings here are a great example of why so many people are choosing a secular life today over a religious one. For instance, when you state, “the challengers’ vision of marriage is not a self-sacrificing institution designed to provide an optimal setting for raising children and structuring society, but is a self-centered institution used to secure society’s approval of intimate relationships,” you come off as extremely dismissive. Can you tell me how you came to such a conclusion? Have you interviewed same-sex couples as to the reason why they decided to be married? Have you amassed data that shows homosexual couples to be self-centered rather than self-sacrificing? How can you claim to know what the secular view of marriage is, when you are not secular yourself?
Some more questions regarding your claim that children “are the most obvious, natural gift of marriage.” If a couple is found unable to bear children, should they be allowed to marry? If an elderly man and an elderly woman, both long past child-bearing age, ask to be married, should they be prevented from doing so, since they are incapable of having children?
As to your claim that “as late as 1990, not a single jurisdiction recognized the right of homosexuals to marry;” are you really arguing that because something has been illegal or frowned upon for an extended period that it should continue to be illegal and frowned upon because it’s always been that way? What is your view on women’s rights? Should women be allowed to take leadership positions in the church? From my understanding, women have been ordained as Lutheran pastors since at least the 1970s. But how did this happen, since before that time, there were zero women pastors for nearly 2,000 years. Using your logic, women should not be ordained, as women were disallowed from doing so for a thousand-plus years.
I understand that religious institutions such as the Lutheran Church are threatened by the progress made in the homosexual civil rights movement that has gained much momentum in the last decade or so. But tell me, how have legal gay marriages in states such as California affected the marriage rates in the Lutheran Church (or any other church, for that matter)? Are Lutheran Churches folding because of gay marriage? How exactly does gay marriage affect Lutherans personally?
Your view of marriage is myopic to your own religion, but you must remember that not everyone shares your religion, and thus, your religious laws do not apply to everyone. In this country, we have freedom FROM religion as much as we have freedom OF religion. This country was founded as a secular country, but a secular one wherein citizens are free to practice, or not to practice, whichever religion they desire. In fact, the founders made it quite specific that the new country they helped to create would be secular in nature, with no religious litmus test for its leaders, and no national religion.
While you are free to define marriage as you wish in your own church, you are most definitely not free to define marriage to those of us who wish to worship in our own ways, outside the realm of traditional religion. If you need further proof that marriage has always been a secular institution, I would encourage you to try getting a divorce from a pastor or priest. You cannot, and not simply because pastors or priests wouldn’t grant a divorce on religious grounds, but because the state does not recognize the right of that pastor to grant a divorce. Marriage in this country has always been of a secular nature, first and foremost. Marriage in this country bestows upon the married couple certain rights as regards to tax law, to medical law, to family law, that are not bestowed upon couples who are not married. This is in rather clear violation of the 14th Amendment’s language of Equal Protection. I look forward to your discussion of the 14th Amendment as it relates to your religious views on this matter.
Beautifully done. Thank you for the references that will help nicely in discussions. I totally concur with the reason for these selfish demands. Looking forward to your next writing. LCMS member.
Your article is great but your discussion doesn’t answer the questions the justices are taking on. You are merely stating the LCMSs definition of a marriage according to scripture.
How do you answer the questions facing the justices? If you were the state of Tennessee how would you defend the constitutionality of your states law?
I agree with all that I just read. Best wishes at your High Court appearance
I like the comment regarding the self-centered attitude of the gay marriage debate. It provides a perspective for the actions of pro-gay marriage I had no thought of even though it is obvious.
Great post, I am anxious to read the next one.