Guest column

William Givens

The safe way to legalize gay marriage

(Disclaimer: I am a Lutheran, and as such my theology is my own. I believe that, as a Christian, I must pay heed to the commandments of Christ himself over and above all other biblical commandments, and I am therefore pro-gay rights, since Matthew 22:39 – “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” – contains no explicit exception on the basis of sexual orientation. Agree with me or not, it’s your choice.)

Gay marriage is one of the most controversial social issues of our day. Conservative Christians insist that legalizing gay marriage would undercut traditional, “one-man-one-woman” marriage, which their interpretations of the Bible insist is the only valid form of marriage. They also fear that legalizing gay marriage would open up churches and priests to lawsuits for refusing to perform gay marriages.

This fear, which I think is entirely reasonable, can be avoided, if gay marriage is legalized in the right way. People like me who seek the legalization of gay marriage on equal rights grounds must respect the theologies of others. I believe that if the government decides to finally get this country into the 21st Century on gay marriage, a legalization bill must give religious organizations and their representatives (priests, rabbis, etc.) blanket immunity to civil or criminal lawsuits if, for matters of conscience, they refuse to perform gay marriage.

Why is this necessary? The First Amendment’s religion guarantees prohibit excessive entanglement of government and religion. The Establishment Clause prohibits, essentially, one religion or denomination from controlling the government. For example, even if President Kennedy had wanted to, he could not have legally handed over the control of this country to the Vatican. That scenario would have been excessive entanglement with religion dominant.

The Free Exercise Clause prohibits the government from controlling people’s religious expression. The Free Exercise rights of citizens are not denied on the basis of somebody’s profession. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are legally allowed to proselytize at your door, no matter how annoying you may find them. If religions and their clergies are not protected from being forced to perform an action their beliefs prohibit, then this would excessively entangle them within our court system.

Entering into a discussion of polygamy is beyond the scope of this article. Again, agree with me or not, it’s your choice.

William Givens is a senior political science major with a Latin minor and a

guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected].