by Dr. Michael Farris
August 16, 2010
Michael P. Farris served as founding president of Patrick Henry College (2000-2006) and is now Chancellor. In addition to teaching Constitutional Law and coaching the Moot Court team, he organizes a mentorship program for PHC students called Tyndale's Ploughmen. He serves as Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Last week’s Washington Post discussed Glenn Beck’s somewhat surprising embrace of the lawfulness of gay marriage. The Post’s commentary arose from (and linked to) an interview between Bill O’Reilly and the uber-popular Beck. O’Reilly asked Beck why he rarely dealt with cultural issues on his program like gay marriage and abortion.
Beck, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (that is no doubt embarrassed by Beck’s proclamations) said that the only social issue he likes to talk about on his program is “faith.” People need to get back to God, Beck said, and he urged people to go to church, synagogue, mosque or “whatever.”
But when O’Reilly pressed him on cultural issues and, in particular, whether gay marriage harms the nation, Beck repeatedly attempted to change the subject. He finally supported his contention that it poses no harm by paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson. “If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket what difference is it to me?” Beck, thereby, embraces the extreme view of libertarianism—a philosophy that is utterly inconsistent with a biblical worldview.
In the first major court decision on gay marriage, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts made one correct observation on its way to a very wrong decision. The court ruled that the legal recognition of marriage involves three parties—two willing spouses and an approving state.
Nothing, for instance, prohibits homosexuals in any state of this country from going to “First Church of Non-Biblical Thinking” and participating in a ceremony that it calls a marriage. The issue only arises when they try to get legal recognition for their union.
And while there are far too many churches willing to perform such ceremonies, this battle is not about the availability of ceremonies – it is entirely about legal recognition.
You may ask, why does government even need to get involved in marriage? Let me count the ways.
There are literally hundreds of laws that are properly triggered and impacted by marriage. For example, a husband cannot be forced to testify against his wife in a criminal case where she is the defendant. Why not? Our legal traditions say that, if the prosecutor could make married people testify against each other, it would undermine the ability of spouses to be open with each other. As a nation, we have historically valued marriage so much that we have granted singular legal protection to spouses, and spouses alone.
This rule does not apply to any other relationship. Parents can be forced to testify against children and vice versa. Cousins and aunts can be forced to testify against relatives. And your very best friend in the whole world can be forced to testify against you. Our legal rules give this special protection only to marriage because marriage is widely acknowledged to be the most important relationship in society.
There are, furthermore, tax laws, inheritance laws, and dozens of other legal matters that are impacted by marriage. The state requires clarity on who is legally married in order to properly administer all of the laws that are triggered by this special union.
Returning to the Massachusetts ruling—the legal recognition of marriage involves two willing spouses and an approving state. Here, it is the approval of the government that is being sought.
Should our government approve of homosexual marriage? We need to keep in mind that in America, “we the people” are the government. When the government approves of something, it is acting as the agent of the people. So, if same sex marriage is approved by your government, you and I are vicariously (albeit unwillingly) giving our official approval to this relationship.
That is how we are involved. Any Christian who has the most basic understanding of Scripture knows that he cannot give his approval of homosexual conduct, much less homosexual marriage. When our government gives its approval to gay marriage, Christians are thereby forced to approve a relationship that God says we may not approve. If we didn’t live in a nation that practiced a republican form of government, then an act of the government could not be morally imputed to the people. But in America, the people bear moral responsibility for the acts done in the name of “We the People.”
Same sex marriage undermines the moral integrity of a nation. And Glenn Beck’s desire for a prosperous America and economic freedom—both of which are good things—can never happen when we shake our fist at Almighty God and consecrate as “blessed unions” behavior that God calls an abomination.