Initially, I refused to get into that question because I firmly believe that the religious question and the civil question must be kept separate. Those who oppose government recognition of same-sex marriages must give a non-religious reason for that opposition. Opponents cannot deny marriage equality on the basis of their interpretation of the Bible. (And, yes, it is an interpretation. The moment the words on the page form thoughts in your brain you are interpreting.) Not everyone is a Christian who recognizes the authority of the Bible. Not all Christians who recognize the authority of the Bible agree with your interpretation of it. America recognizes religious freedom. Therefore, opponents of SSM must express their opposition in terms accessible to everyone. For example, those who defended California's Prop 8 argued that the state has an interest in promoting procreation. It's not a particularly convincing argument, but at least it is one arguable on non-religious grounds.
This is not to say that religious opinions should not shape a person's political opinions. Far from it. What I am arguing is that public policy cannot be based on religious arguments. We do this all the time with other moral issues like adultery, divorce/remarriage, etc. Of course, some people will still want to base public policy on their interpretation of the Bible. While they have every right to believe that, the differences between us are so great that I don't think we could discuss this issue fruitfully.
The essential question of the SSM debate is whether opponents can find non-religious reasons for opposing it. I have not. It is for this reason that I privately and reservedly supported SSM long before I re-evaluated my religious views on homosexuality.
Conservative Christians have generally been unwilling to consider the arguments for SSM because they fear that it will force them to abandon or radically alter dearly held beliefs. I believe that separating the religious issue from the civil issue is essential if we ever hope to convince conservative Christians that they can in good conscience support SSM, even if they disapprove of it morally. This argument for separating the issues is no ploy to try to get conservative Christians to change their religious beliefs. I genuinely believe it.
Having said that, I do not disapprove of homosexuality on moral grounds. Or, to state it more positively, I believe in the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Church. Homosexuality is the equivalent of left-handedness, i.e., a difference, not a moral deficiency.
The obvious objection at this point is, "But the Bible says ....". And to answer those arguments I am going to point the interested reader to some resources. Michael Westmoreland-White has written an excellent series of blog posts that covers all the essential arguments: "GLBT Persons in the Church". He addresses the biblical texts as well as other issues. Also, Bishop Gene Robinson has a less thorough series on the texts only: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five.
These two series of blog posts will get you minimally informed on the arguments for full inclusion of LGBT people. In addition, I would recommend the following books, which I have read and found helpful:
- A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics by William Stacy Johnson
- Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers
- The New Testament and Homosexuality by Robin Scroggs
Next is a list of books that come highly recommended but that I have not yet read:
- Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the NT and Their Implications for Today by L. William Countryman
- The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology by Mark D. Jordan
- Homosexuality and the Christian Faith by Walter Wink
I am sure that my opinion will disappoint people I love and respect. I assure you that I think no less of you for disagreeing with me and I hope that you will think no less of me for disagreeing with you. God will make all things right in the end and I can only trust that God will be merciful with me if I am wrong. My opinion here is not based on a desire to be fashionable, but to reflect the love and acceptance of God manifested in the ministry of Jesus.
I am willing to discuss this issue with anyone who has taken the time to engage the arguments for full inclusion and has genuine questions. I am not interested in debate for debate's sake. I have been discussing religious and political questions online for over seven years and I know how these discussion often end up. I am not interested in that.
I believe we are seeing the Spirit at work in our churches calling us to abandon long-held prejudices. At various times Christians have changed their opinions on issues previously thought to be clear and unambiguous - inclusion of Gentiles, married clergy, slavery, women in ministry, etc. I believe, in time, homosexuality will be another one of those issues where later generations look back with bewilderment at earlier generations' beliefs. In baptism God has already accepted God's gay children. It is up to us whether we will accept this, or, like the elder brother in Jesus' parable, refuse to join the party.