With all the ado over marriage equality, I feel the need to look at it in the light of what I wrote last month titled 'It's All About Right Relations'. First, let's examine the 'troublemaker' verses in both the Old and New Testaments. These verses all have a common context which is set forth as follows: 'I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God.' (Leviticus 18:2b-4) What follows is a lengthy list of actually mostly wholesome rules forbidding sexual relations between a variety of blood-relations. Nowadays we tend to think of these strictures as commonsensical, but remember that Abraham and Sarah were children of the same father and put these strictures in that context! I suggest what God is after here is to keep relationships as clear and as unentangled with or by other relationships as might be humanly possible. Not to mention that Israel then shared at least one characteristic with Israel now: lack of size. Then, God called them the 'smallest of the nations'. And one thing that a tiny nation in the midst of much larger and almost perpetually warring nations needed in those pre-WMD days was warriors. Lots of warriors. Which meant that every healthy Israelite capable of procreating had to do so early and often and with a minimum of (if any) non-procreative sexual distractions. Finally, the cardinal point was (and still was when Peter, Paul et al. wrote disparagingly of homosexual intimacies) keeping Israel separate and distinct from the pagan nations around them. This point was still valid in the Apostles' times as such intimacies were then closely associated with, and may have been part of, worship of the Greco-Roman gods. But I don't see such an association today, nor does it look like a 'necessary' association--i.e., worship of other gods doesn't necessarily follow from such relationships.
One objection which I've heard is, 'Such relationships are sterile; only a man and a woman can produce new life.' This comes from those who hold that the sole, or primary, purpose of marriage is procreation. I used to agree, but that was years ago before I met, married and (after 11 1/2 years of happy marriage) saw home to God a truly wonderful woman with the biggest heart I've yet known and who, unfortunately, could not have children. And how much good is procreation 1) without the home being reasonably happy and, hence, able to raise children who will be assets to and not burdens on the larger community and 2) in our increasingly and almost alarmingly crowded world? Don't mistake me here; I know it's still necessary but just how necessary is now, and deserves to be, a debatable matter.
No, marriage has another purpose anterior to, yet necessary for, the rearing of children if not for their conception and gestation (though it's best for that too): to quote the Book of Common Prayer, marriage 'is intended by God for their mutual joy, for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity'. And so long as it's that, how much difference can the sex of the partners make if they feel themselves right for one another? Finally, I'd like to say that, not only are same-sex couples just as capable as raising healthy children as are traditional couples, but there's even a bit of research which suggests that children raised with two mothers do better than any! I don't know how extensive this is, but it's definitely worth some further examination.
Reverend Barber has the right idea, hands down. If we err, let it be on the side of rights expansion and not on the side of going backward by contracting them. And same-sex marriages marked by commitment and mutual joy may well fall within the circle of 'right relations' and, in any case, isn't it much more consonant with God's Spirit to give them the benefit of the doubt? Here and now, I say it is. ..