Today, I made calls to encourage people to vote no on prop 8. I had a number of discussions with people who said something to the effect of "The Bible says..." and then told me that they were voting for the proposition. It wasn't helpful to argue with them but it did get me thinking about the way this proposition relates to faith.
I have reasons to vote "no" on prop 8 that are squarely based in my faith and in my understanding of the Bible. I am sure that there are folk out there who have reasons to vote "yes" that are based on their faith. Neither is relevant to the discussion of a constitutional amendment denying the right to marry to gay or lesbian couples. We live in a secular country. It is irrelevant what the Bible says or doesn't say about marriage from a legal standpoint. Religious definitions of what is right and wrong cannot be the basis of public policy. For an idea to become law or public policy it must be able to stand on its own without the backing of any particular faith tradition. Our laws must have justification within themselves.
Yes, the general foundation of our ethics is based in a roughly Judaeo-Christian heritage and many of our laws reflect that tradition but it is never enough. The founders of our nation wisely realized that in a religiously diverse nation there must be more to our laws than religious dictates. They knew that there are scores of religious rules that do not stand up to investigation outside of a specific religious tradition. While those rules may be very good for an individual to shape his or her life, they are not adequate for forming public policy. If I believe that eating a cheeseburger is an affront to God, then I must not eat a cheeseburger. If you on the other hand, do not believe in the same god or any god at all, I have no right to impose a religious dictate on you. We do not need to appeal to the 10 commandments to outlaw murder. It makes sense for community life. At the same time we do not enshrine celebration of the Sabbath even though it is in the 10 commandments and even though it is a very good idea.
As a Baptist, I realize that as soon as we allow the state to impose religious ideas on the population, the question becomes, "Whose religious ideas?" There are a lot of religious folk out there whose ideas I find repugnant. I'm sure there are at least as many who find mine so. That is why we leave religious issues to individuals and faith communities and base our laws and our public policy somewhere else.
So... while I would disagree with those who argue that the Bible requires us to stand against gay marriage, in the end, it doesn't matter what the Bible says or doesn't say. We cannot and must not base public policy solely on religious faith.
Vote No on Prop 8