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Who is on God's side of the marriage debate?
March 25th, 2013
11:00 PM ET

Who is on God's side of the marriage debate?

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – As the Supreme Court considers two major same-sex marriage cases that could change marriage in the United States, religious leaders on both sides of the debate believe they are on God's side of the contentious issue.

In the months leading up to this week's Supreme Court hearings, religious leaders from across the country have held prayer vigils and rallies for their respective causes.

At each event, even those with diametrically opposed views, leaders cite biblical principles as the foundation for their beliefs.

"I believe I am on God's side," Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and and opponent of same-sex marriage, told CNN. "I have no question in what God says marriage is."

"I do think we are on God's side because my idea of God is someone that is loving," said the Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral and a proponent of same-sex marriage. "My understanding is that kind of God that loves everyone and wants everyone to live a joyful life."

This week, the Supreme Court will hear two cases. One will examine the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a law that prohibited same-sex marriage in California, and the other will test the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 legislation that forbids the recognition of same-sex marriages nationwide and bars married gay and lesbian couples from receiving federal benefits.

Marriage and the Supreme Court: Five things to watch

Land and Hall each have actively worked on his side of this debate.

Hall, after taking the reins at the National Cathedral in 2012, decided to marry same-sex couples in the historic church. Land, who has counseled Republican presidents and members of Congress, has written and spoken at length about why same-sex marriage goes against biblical principles.

And although they both believe in the Bible, their opinions on how the text views same-sex marriage are shaped by their views on how literally to read the holy book.

"I come from a tradition that looks at the big story," said Hall, an Episcopalian. "The image of Jesus in the Bible is of someone who really makes everyone welcome, and it is from that perspective that I operate."

Hall acknowledges, however, that the Bible isn't the only guide for this belief.

"Our argument is not entirely scriptural-based," Hall said, after acknowledging passages of the holy book that define marriage as being between a man and a woman. "There is no place in the Bible that I can point to that says Jesus performed a same-sex marriage or anything like that."

In addition to scripture, Hall said, "tradition and reason" anchor his belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to wed. There are about 2 million Episcopalians in the United States.

CNN Belief: My Take: Will gay rights infringe on religious liberty?

Land, on the other hand, cites the chapters and verses that guide his views on same-sex marriage.

"The people who take a more conservative view of the Bible and believe that they are under the authority of scripture almost universally oppose same-sex marriage," Land said about people who agree with him.

For Land, this view is not only consistent but  also roots his belief in "traditional values" and his disgust with "moral relativism."

Land, a Southern Baptist, continued: "The people who are religious and support same-sex marriage tend to take a Dalmatian view of scripture. They believe the Bible is divine in spots, and they think they can spot the spots."

If the Supreme Court decides in favor of same-sex marriage, Land said, the decision would be on par with the court's 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade, which affirmed a woman's right to an abortion.

"I think it will evoke a similar reaction," Land said.

Southern Baptists count 16 million members in the United States.

CNN Poll: 'Rob Portman effect' fuels support for same-sex marriage

This split over the biblical reasoning behind each side of the marriage debate extends beyond just Land and Hall, however. Churches around the country have been divided on the issue, with some choosing to allow same-sex marriage and others to forbid it.

The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York who has worked with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation on same-sex marriage, comes down in favor of same-sex marriage.

She uses the Bible - and civil rights - in her reasoning.

"I don't think that people who are supporting gay marriage need to distance themselves from the Bible in needing to find support," Lewis said. When asked about how the Bible anchors her beliefs, she cited Mark 12:31: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

On the other side of the argument is Robert Gagnon, a biblical scholar at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who has worked with the Family Research Council on the issue.

"Only a woman is a true sexual compliment to a man and vice versa," said Gagnon, citing Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24, along with the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, as the reasoning behind his view on same-sex marriage.

"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh," reads Genesis 2:24.

As for how he feels about people such as Hall who use the Bible to defend their position in support of same-sex marriage: "You are rejecting Jesus himself. ... Just go ahead and make up your own religion."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Gay marriage • Politics

soundoff (2,640 Responses)
  1. Randy, San Francisco

    Everyone should take a deep breath and calm down. The case should be determined on legal grounds and not whose side God is on.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  2. bamagrad03

    Interesting. I'm sure all the people here who say the religious folks have no right to dictate how we as Americans live our lives (which I agree with), will be the first ones who support the litany of lawsuits that always come after gay marriage rights are relaxed. Churches will get sued left and right – but you all don't care. You'll fight for protection of your rights, but have no qualms trampling on others.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • sam

      Where is this paranoid delusion coming from?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Thoth

      What does 'churches being sued left and right' have to do with individual freedom? More importantly, if a church violates the rights of others, they deserve to be sued. How does a same-s e x couple violate your rights?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Akira

      Church freedoms have never been in question. People know churches have the right to not marry whomever they please; they do it NOW.
      Gay people want the marry. If they want to be married in church, they will find the ones who already perform those services.
      Those suing a church would have a very rough row to how, as it is unlikely it would even proceed in a court due to the separation of church and state. Gay people know this, STRAIGHT people know this; it's a moot point.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Your fears are as unfounded as they are absurd. Nothing whatsoever will happen to society if these laws are changed, other than improved rights for a group of people, and a completely neutral effect for everyone else.

      No one is trampling on your rights, other than the right to hold people you hate and despise under your thumb.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • sam stone

      sure seems like a lot of conjecture, bubba

      March 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  3. Matt

    Who cares? It's not a religious issue. That's that.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  4. Alverant

    The USA is a secular country. What someone's idea of "God" says should have no bearing on our laws.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • gary

      R'amen.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Jennifer

      .
      .
      .
      EXACTLY
      .
      .
      .

      March 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  5. Dan Allen

    Since God doesnt exist, I would imagine this is a rhetorical question?

    March 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Patti

      Xlnt question, Dan!

      March 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  6. longfoot

    How can the Supreme Court have an opinion based on a mythical being?

    March 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Akira

      They don't.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Dan Allen

      How indeed. I was just thinking the same thing. CNN sure loves "god", even though intelligent human beings around the world know that the very thought is childish.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  7. I'm the best

    I don't understand why this was ever a real debating point. With the separation of church and state everyone should be allowed to have a civil union as viewed by the government, let the church marry whomever they wish.

    If you get married but don't get a civil union, in the eyes of the government you're not together let the church do its own thing. If you get a civil union but no marriage, then you get all the same rights and who cares what the churches think.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Alverant

      No, you don't get the same rights in a civil union than you do a marriage. Separate is not equal. That's already been proven.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • profbam

      Bingo! A state marriage license is a cheap legal remedy to establish a complex contractual relationship between two people with special recognition by the government. Equal access to the law is a fundamental right. Granting that access does not in any way force the Catholic Church to hold gay marriages. How the Church wishes to deliver the Graces from God is a separate issue.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • patrick JMatthews

      Why something less for the GAY population? I got married in a courthouse and there was no priest, minister, or any other religious figure. Just my bride to be, me and the judge that asked if we eanted to be married. Whay should that be any different for anyone sl4s, that does not belong to your church anyway. You church does not recognize equality anyway, whjay should we listen to your religion that is not equal or fair to everyone. I guedss yo alos have GOD's side in this. GOD called you and told you to say this right?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • I'm the best

      What I'm saying is the government should have nothing to do with marriage and only look at civil unions, no matter who it's between. Let the churches do what they want with marriage, but without a civil union the government shouldn't recognize it as anything. Then let all civil unions be equal and let the churches do what they want. Problem solved. Churches are still all bigots but everyone gets equal rights under the government at least.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  8. Diana

    God will come one day like he did in Sodom and Gamora and those who chose to continue to be sinful in anyway and not take his wisdom and follow him will all be going to Hell.
    Why do we not take the marriage business away from the government and put it in Gods hands. Who made the Government responsible for Gods marriage to begin with? Marriage is between God and Man not Man and their government. This issue would then be outside those laws and between Men and the Good Lord and Jesus Christ. This bickering does no one any good and all people have the right to thier beliefs. The idea of the Government being allowed to determine any of this and anyone not being able to marry without the Governments involvment is basically wrong.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Thoth

      Sodom and Gamora have been explained via science – perhaps read something from this century.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • longfoot

      It's all in your imagination Diana. All people have the rights to their beliefs, sure they do. If you chose to believe in some fantasy novel from a couple thousand years ago, go for it. I have the right to treat you with the same respect that I would someone who dresses up as Darth Vador and thinks Star Wars is real. Neither Jesus or Darth Vador should be involved in making laws for actual living beings.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • patrick Matthews

      Be VERY AFRAID of MY GOD, as he will destroy you. WOW. what are you drinking ?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • BRC

      Diana,
      Why should your religion have ownership over the word marriage? THis whole discussion could end if the ceremony sanctioned in teh church were called a marriage, adn those performed by governments were called Civil Unions, but why should everyone who doesn't follow a church cave? How about those straight couples who have been married by the state for decades? do they have to change the name of their relationship because one religion thinks it knows what's best? No. Marriage is the binding, either legally or spiritually, of people. For practical purposesin this time and place it's between two people. For legal purposes, and for the protection of the innocent from abuse, it must be legally consenting adult people. Other than religion, which doesn't apply to everyone, there is no reason that it has to be 2 adults of opposite genders.

      The government can't, and shouldn't, tell a church who it can spiritually bind and how. But the church does not own the word or the concept of marriage, and doesn't get to tell the government who it can legally bind, or how.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      So when we need counsel on laws we need to just check with your god first?

      And how exactly do we accomplish that? Send him email?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      Spend a lot of time on your knees, do you Diana?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Doobs

      Marriage is a contract. You can have all the fancy white dresses and doves and butterflies, lovely words and a bona fide preacher man in your church, but guess what? You're not married. You still have to go down to City Hall and get a marriage license for it to be a legally recognized marriage.

      It's a legally binding contract, so it goes through the civil process. Your church wedding has the same legal status as "jumping the broom", maybe less.

      By the same token, your church is still legally free to refuse to conduct marriage ceremonies for couples of the same gender, even if the SCOTUS overturns DOMA. So basically nothing changes for you.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • TheSchmaltz

      Marriage existed before the bible, and has appeared in some form or another in most non-christian societies. That's because the family unit is an essential part of society. Religion took it over, and now claims it's always been theirs.

      If god existed, and came back to smite the decadent and sinful, I'd bet the vatican and the midwest megachurches would be major targets.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  9. Rap is not music

    It would be pleasant and delightful if the sky hostess myths disappeared.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  10. Arcy

    Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23-24)

    If you are in disagreement with God's word, then according to Him, you do NOT love Him. How then could you be on His side? Answer: You are NOT on His side. Those who believe His word and seek for His Kingdom to be established on this earth are the ones on His side. If you don't like this,well, your problem is not with me but with God and His word. If you hate me for believing His word, then I'm not surprised. Jesus reminded His followers that the world hated Him first and would hate us too. But your hatred toward me does not upset me in the least, because I am at peace and full with joy in my God.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Athy

      There is no god, fool. How deluded can you get?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Diana

      I agree with your statement, but I also know God did not put us here to judge each other. He is and will be the final Judge.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • Rap is not music

      If he actually existed, he lied about a few things. So I wouldn't take the red words (or any others for that matter) in that book of fairy tales to heart.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Athy

      How can you know why god was put here? For that matter, how do you know there is a god at all?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • sam

      Yes, yes, the kind of peace and joy that has you on here bitching at people about what god supposedly wants or knows. Who are you really trying to convince?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Arcy

      @ ATHY "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God". Psalm 14:1.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • longfoot

      Jesus answered to him and said..... nothing because he's dead

      March 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
  11. Sly

    Does anyone know what God thinks about Passover horseradish? I see a story on here about it, and I am quite curious what God thinks about that dish.

    Also, does God have favorites in the Tourney? I would think He has a lot of insight, and I would be willing to risk some large bets on His favorites. (Likely the Blue Devils ...)

    March 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Owl96

      I have vacationed on the Florida Gulf coast, and it looks Iike I would have wanted the Garden of Eden to look. I think God would like Florida Gulf Coast ot win, but he will not play the game for them. They have to win it themselves.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  12. Hoppy

    Only the Supreme Court can decide who's on God's side – just like they ruled a corporation is a person. Their final decision might depend on who has the most money.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  13. Susan

    "God" should have no role in this decision. Separation of church and state.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  14. koga001

    that any American is denied a freedom is an insult to all those who died for those freedoms.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm |

  15. [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2waZOYD0-A&w=640&h=360]

    March 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  16. Sly

    Prior to 1967, God was opposed to inter-racial marriage as well, and He made it illegal.

    I am curious if God has changed His opinion about inter-racial marriage since then.

    Maybe God just needs a few more years to warm up to gay-marriage also. I understand He is quite careful when he develops US Government social policies.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • sam

      A+

      March 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Arcy

      Please leave this forum if your contribution will continue to promote falsehood and lies.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Diana

      Can you give me scripture on this? I do not recall anything in the Bible that decries inter racial as against Gods will?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Doobs

      Guess what, Arse. You don't get to dictate who posts here.

      And I'd like to see you point out the lie in what Sly wrote.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Sly

      I have heard God is not pleased with legalizing inter-racial marriages, and He is planning on making them illegal again.

      Arcy – these are NOT 'falsehoods and lies'. God has made His opinion of inter-racial marriage quite clear (see Matt 14:63.12).

      March 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • sam

      Arcy, please leave this forum if you can't handle being disagreed with.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Snuffles

      Ah, yes, now I see. It just took a while for God to warm up to the idea of slavery being wrong a century and a half ago, women having the right to contribute to the government of men a century ago, and women and blacks having equal rights later on. Now maybe he will eventually warm up to the idea of marriage equality.

      Every single time these big events happened, people rose up and proclaimed it was against God's will. But somehow God has changed his mind at some point. Thanks for pointing that out!

      March 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Arcy

      @ Sly. The Scripture reference you cited (john 14:63) does not exist.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Sly

      Yes, snuffles, you got it – God sometimes takes awhile to form His opinions, and sometimes He makes mistakes, and changes His opinions. After all, we're all human right?

      So cut the Guy some slack – He'll likely be in favor of gay marriage in a few years, if He isn't already. I believe He is getting more aquainted with the subject – readying up on the literature, maybe trying out a few Guys up there ...

      March 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Richard

    "God" is merely a power play. It is an attempt to steal the authority of an all powerful being. It matters not whether that being actually exists. What matters is that people believe He exists and that certain people speak/spoke for Him. Don't fall for it.

    As for myself, if there is such a thing as a "God" and He has anything to say to me, I have FAITH that He knows where I am and how to say it so I know it is really Him. Therefore, I ignore ALL the clowns who pretend to speak for Him – especially, if they lived and died thousands of years ago.

    And, religion is for those who would have others tell them how they should act, think, feel, and believe. That is counterfeit spirituality. True spirituality is figuring those things out for yourself.

    As long as there are those who would have others tell them how they should act, think, feel, and believe, there will be religions – and, those exploiting them for their own agendas.

    God believers fail to realize that, regardless of whether "God" (whatever that is) exists, or not, "it" will ALWAYS be a construct in their imagination that they created for themselves. And, "God" doesn't have to be anything like that. So, it's just an imaginary friend.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • LIVE 4 REALITY

      WHAT?

      March 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  18. palintwit

    If you listen carefully you can hear tea party patriot's heads exploding everywhere. It's music to my ears.

    March 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  19. abcd1

    It's hard to tell the retards the facts of life .

    March 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  20. Wayne

    Since the legal definition of the 1st Amendment provides for a separation between church and state, I don't see where "God" has a vote on the issue. He doesn't have an address and is not a citizen of the country so he cannot vote. If called upon to testify before congress, he won't show up and a lot of people who claim to know him have never met him.

    March 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Akira

      I agree.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • clarity

      Absolutely.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Athy

      Actually, Wayne, he simply doesn't even exist.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Curch of Suicidal

      If he does show up to testify, I'm hoping he will look like George Burns and say things like, "So help me me."

      March 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Arthur

      May god forgive you for what you have done. You made me a non-believer.

      March 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.