My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage
The author backs same-sex marriage because of his faith, not in spite of it.
May 19th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage

Editor's Note: Mark Osler is a Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

By Mark Osler, Special to CNN

I am a Christian, and I am in favor of gay marriage. The reason I am for gay marriage is because of my faith.

What I see in the Bible’s accounts of Jesus and his followers is an insistence that we don’t have the moral authority to deny others the blessing of holy institutions like baptism, communion, and marriage. God, through the Holy Spirit, infuses those moments with life, and it is not ours to either give or deny to others.

A clear instruction on this comes from Simon Peter, the “rock” on whom the church is built. Peter is a captivating figure in the Christian story. Jesus plucks him out of a fishing boat to become a disciple, and time and again he represents us all in learning at the feet of Christ.

During their time together, Peter is often naïve and clueless – he is a follower, constantly learning.

After Jesus is crucified, though, a different Peter emerges, one who is forceful and bold. This is the Peter we see in the Acts of the Apostles, during a fevered debate over whether or not Gentiles should be baptized. Peter was harshly criticized for even eating a meal with those who were uncircumcised; that is, those who did not follow the commands of the Old Testament.

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Peter, though, is strong in confronting those who would deny the sacrament of baptism to the Gentiles, and argues for an acceptance of believers who do not follow the circumcision rules of Leviticus (which is also where we find a condemnation of homosexuality).

His challenge is stark and stunning: Before ordering that the Gentiles be baptized Peter asks “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

None of us, Peter says, has the moral authority to deny baptism to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws. It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit, which fell over that entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.

My Take: Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality

It is not our place, it seems, to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind that we find through baptism, communion, and marriage. The water will flow where it will.

Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not. The water is for all of us. We see the same thing at the Last Supper, as Jesus gives the bread and wine to all who are there—even to Peter, who Jesus said would deny him, and to Judas, who would betray him.

The question before us now is not whether homosexuality is a sin, but whether being gay should be a bar to baptism or communion or marriage.

Your Take: Rethinking the Bible on homosexuality

The answer is in the Bible. Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of Gods’ love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out stingily!

I worship at St. Stephens, an Episcopal church in Edina, Minnesota. There is a river that flows around the back and side of that church with a delightful name: Minnehaha Creek. That is where we do baptisms.

The Rector stands in the creek in his robes, the cool water coursing by his feet, and takes an infant into his arms and baptizes her with that same cool water. The congregation sits on the grassy bank and watches, a gentle army.

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At the bottom of the creek, in exactly that spot, is a floor of smooth pebbles. The water rushing by has rubbed off the rough edges, bit by bit, day by day. The pebbles have been transformed by that water into something new.

I suppose that, as Peter put it, someone could try to withhold the waters of baptism there. They could try to stop the river, to keep the water from some of the stones, like a child in the gutter building a barrier against the stream.

It won’t last, though. I would say this to those who would withhold the water of baptism, the joy of worship, or the bonds of marriage: You are less strong than the water, which will flow around you, find its path, and gently erode each wall you try to erect.

The redeeming power of that creek, and of the Holy Spirit, is relentless, making us all into something better and new.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Osler.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Episcopal • Gay marriage • Opinion

soundoff (15,115 Responses)
  1. Salero21

    Leave it to lawyers to manipulate the language like that to make it appear as if Marriage is a right. Bad, very bad news, Marriage is Not a right but a Priviledge.

    May 21, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Salero21

      Which of these words CNN Belief Blog is censoring, Duty, Obligation, Honor.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Salero21

      There are and have been for centuries marriages of Convenience. Why is CNN Belief Blog censoring certain words that are completely correct language.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Salero21

      Marriage, true marriage is between a Man and a Woman. Anything else is an aberration and a Perversion. Is aberration and perversion censored words in CNN Belief Blog?

      May 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Humble Agnostic

      You cry about censorship here but allow the censorship of freedom, the pursuit of happiness and a percent of the population out right in your church.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      equal protection under the law is a right. leave it to bigots to deny that

      May 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Salero21, don't take it personally. Others have helped me out in the past with the same problem. You can't write consti-tuition or inst-itution because they have the word t-i-t in them. Can't say circu-mstance because it contains c-u-m. Sad reality of folks on the Internet, not to be taken personally.

      May 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Salero21

      Mike Blackadder,

      Wow is incredible! Thanks for the info.

      May 21, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  2. Reality


    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-se-x unions not same-se-x marriages.

    To wit:

    From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, ga-y s-exual activity is still mutual mas-turbation caused by one or more complex s-exual differences. Some differences are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

    Yes, heteros-exuals practice many of the same "moves" but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male.

    As noted, there are basic biological differences in gay unions vs. heterose-xual marriage. Government benefits are the same in both but making the distinction is important for census data and for social responses to potential issues such as disease, divorce and family interactions.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Humble Agnostic

      Marriage=Only in a church
      Union=everyone who wishes to be together in the eyes of all.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      humble: then get it's licensing out of that hands of government

      May 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  3. Moving Forward

    I agree with this article. Jesus was about inclusion not exclusion. It seems to me that today the majority of Christians in America are more about exclusion than inclusion.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Humble Agnostic

      Most treat it like a private exclusive club and no one gets in except those that think the same way...thats dangerous to be so closed minded

      May 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • David

      Gays have been speaking of their realities for hundreds of years, but it goes against our religious narrative and we absolutely refuse to listen much less try to empathize.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Humble Agnostic

      Jesus, Christ or not is turning in his grave at that statement, his teachings like that of others has such compassion for everyone that denial of another right to be who they were born to be(and if your Judeo-Christian/Muslim made in the image of God by him) is a tragedy of man.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • purnnnnnnnn

      Luke 13:23-24 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

      No, Jesus was NOT inclusive. He died for all but that doesn't mean all will be saved. Only those who repent and ask for forgiveness will be saved.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  4. Humble Agnostic

    Why does no one look at this from a non-religious viewpoint. Most of our countries are not religious states, therefore marriage is religous but a union between anyone should be the same before the state. If I am an Athiest and my bride is Hindi we are not going to be married in a Christian church, seen as married before a God neither one of us believe in or should we. Th state should recognized our union regardless of faith or orientation. If a particular faith does not want to recognize us then so be it. If I was a gay man living in America the last thing I would want to do is go to a Morman church every Sunday, why would I torture my soul that way when my true faith is with God not a church.
    Just the opinion of a humble agnostic.

    May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Jackie

      Everlasting life pulls almost everyone in. It is a strong pull. Being gay does not preclude you from wanting to be with God.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Humble Agnostic

      Just as I don't believe in God the same doesn't mean I don't want those that do to be happy, my friends or my wife.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  5. Zack

    "but our charge as a Christian is to stand in place of Christ here on earth and be an advocate for Him and our Father's will." I cant believe this someone wrote that... SINCE when is this our charge as Christians?? Where did Jesus tell us to do this!? Jesus = GOD.. and he told us to LOVE everyone and leave the judging to GOD.... WAKE UP "Christians"

    May 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Tina

      How is it that Christians can collectively beat down gay Americans generation after generation after generation then cry "vicitm" when someone suggests the offer contraception? The righteous indignation is just too much for me to understand. These people are bullies to the maximum degree and their screams of religious intolerance are laughable at best.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  6. JCMars

    University of St. Thomas – I hope you have dropped your Catholic affiliation otherwise you are just a group of hyprocrites for employing this guy. Typical lawyer – part of the 99% of lawyers that give the rest a bad name.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Gregg

      I am in their first year nursing school program. I am gayer than gay but take their money to get my degree. I also have to bite my tongue during their anti-gay religious classes. I plan to graduate then tell them to f off afterwards. They are sooo dumb.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  7. CNess

    And I will be adding this to my wonderful list of arguments of why Christianity should not be used to deny Gays and Lesbians their civil rights.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  8. hey

    talk about judaism or hinduism or islam for a change. yall are obsessed with christianity

    May 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • JoJO

      They are all evil.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  9. Diane Nicole

    The foundation of God's teachings are LOVE & TOLERANCE. Love ur neighbour (all people) as urself. Too many christians are lacking in LOVE & TOLERANCE.
    Kudos Mark Osler!!!!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Regina

      Christians think that if they stomp on the inalienable rights of gay people, that no more will ever be born again. They just have never lived in reality. If I elect anti-gay politicians, my own children and grandchildren will not be gay. Sorry, but the chances are that your children and or grandchildren will fall victim to your political bent.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  10. Devorah

    Separation of church and state is there for a reason. Forcing your beliefs on others is religiously criminal. If you do not agree, that is your choice; however, it is also the choice of the other to believe as they see fit.

    At the end of the day, you have to be happy with you. You do not have to take on the happiness of another. Instead of spending all your time worrying about your neighbor, worry about what happens under your own roof.

    Living in a world dictated by religion, demanded upon by those who hold office, and under the scrupulous eyes of thy neighbor, is no way to live at all. It is suffocating, immoral, and well... frankly, the old adage comes to mind... "Judge not, Lest the first stone be cast at your glass house..."

    May 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  11. Toe

    The real issue is that religion does not belong in matters of state. Ultimately marriage is a legal standing that should be afforded to all people. In the eyes of the state marriage exists simply to provide legal basis for certain rights and benefits afforded to the parties involved. However you choose to dress up the ceremony confirming this legal standing is of no consequence to the law. Creating laws to deny this standing to certain people is discrimination, plain and simple.

    May 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Ran

      You seem to forget that the state took marraige from the church.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Angie

      Civil law should usurp hocus pocus, voo doo, the metaphysical and the supernatural.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Dude

      The church never had marriage; nor did the state. For example, in Colorado – if an adult couple says they are married – they are. (Gays remain to be recognized, but they will be eventually.)

      May 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  12. khalid wardak

    christianity one time was the right religion until people changed it
    islam is always one way and will stay as one path thats y islam is the fastest growing religion in the world
    majority of them are christians that become convert to islam

    May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Isaac

      Jesus is the way the truth and the life, there is no other truth

      May 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • David

      People will fall for anything. Debbie Gibson is proof of that.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Dude

      How can Jesus be "truth" if he was a liar himself?

      May 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      isaac: another opinion

      May 21, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  13. Fred Evil

    A CHRISTIAN actually talking and acting like a CHRISTIAN!
    Kudos to you Mark Osler, now, if you can get all these pretend pseudo-xtians telling everyone else how to live their lives to STOP pretending they are a moral authority, we might all start getting along.
    Until then xtians, STFU, and go find someone else to annoy!

    May 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  14. khalid wardak

    dont judge people judge the religion

    read about islam

    May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Realist

      Stop trying to push your religion on everyone else.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  15. 1word

    OBEY THE 1ST GREAT COMMANDMENT AND THIS TOPIC WOULD BE NO MORE! When you love God with all your Heart, Mind and Soul you live your life according to Gods Will. He will give you the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit gives you the Power to become a new creature. That means someone that's crooked can be made Straight!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      As soon as she give me a REASON to love her with all my heart, I might just consider it.
      Until then, all these judgmental little xtians are making her look VERY bad!

      May 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • StudentoftheBible

      1Word summarized the matter correctly and succinctly. AMEN. Those who truly believe in the Christ and has the Holy Spirit will become a new being and give up his/her old sinful ways of this world (e.g., being gay). Beware of spreading false teachings Mark Osler! The Bible spells out the consequences of false teachers and false prophets.

      May 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      Student: What makes you think that orientation is a choice that you can change? Can you change your eye color?

      May 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • StudentoftheBible

      Sam Stone: In response to your comment, let me explain that physical attributes is something one cannot change (e.g., color of skin, color of eyes, height, etc.). Orientation is from the mind and is therefore a choice. To say that I love blonds more than brunettes (or vice versa) is not an orientation but a fixation by choice. Likewise for those who choose to be gay.

      May 22, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  16. FCash

    Question – How do you interpret this: Honor thy Father and Mother? How does gay marriage fit in that commandment?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Ktacia

      How does that fit for single mothers or fathers? Or widowers? Please shut up.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Laura


      May 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  17. Crispy_Frog

    The Bible also states that it is ok for a parent to leave a disobedient child outside the gates of the city or to stone them. Lets share the love of the Bible, shall we?

    May 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  18. khalid wardak

    thats y islam is the truth

    gay is forbidden and disgusting

    May 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • ME II

      ... but not forced marriage of under-aged girls, right?

      May 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Potion4

      You have the same thing going on in your faith so be real.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • 1word

      I doubt Islam can be the truth, does Islam believe Jesus is Lord? If not, Islam isn't the truth. Jesus is the Door, and the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      1word: you keep on blabbing the same old thing with absolutely no proof. do you think that regurgitating scripture is effective?

      May 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  19. Primewonk

    Larry wrote, " If Gays are born Gay, then show me the scientific evidence that says so. Waiting......... STILL waiting............................"

    Well Larry, some of us have posted these citation showing the biological multivariate nature of sèxual orientation. And all we've asked in return is for you fundiots to do the same thing – post your citations to peer-reviewed scientific research showing gays choose to be gay.

    I'm gonna be a decent guy and give you a couple. But I expect that for each one I post, you post one that shows gays choose to be gay. Is that a deal Larry?

    The neurodevelopment of human sèxual orientation.
    Rahman Q.
    Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2005;29(7):1057-66. Epub 2005 Apr 25. Review.

    Biological and psychosocial determinants of male and female human sèxual orientation.
    James WH.
    J Biosoc Sci. 2005 Sep;37(5):555-67. Review.

    Fraternal birth order and the maternal immune hypothesis of male hômosèxuality.
    Blanchard R.
    Horm Behav. 2001 Sep;40(2):105-14. Review.

    The neurodevelopment of human sèxual orientation.
    Rahman Q.
    Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2005;29(7):1057-66. Epub 2005 Apr 25. Review.

    Fluctuating asymmetry, second to fourth finger length ratios and human sèxual orientation.
    Rahman Q.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005 May;30(4):382-91. Epub 2005 Jan 13.

    The biology of human psychosèxual differentiation.
    Gooren L.
    Horm Behav. 2006 Nov;50(4):589-601. Epub 2006 Jul 25. Review.

    Finger-length ratios and sèxual orientation.
    Williams TJ, Pepitone ME, Christensen SE, Cooke BM, Huberman AD, Breedlove NJ, Breedlove TJ, Jordan CL, Breedlove SM.
    Nature. 2000 Mar 30;404(6777):455-6.

    A biologic perspective on sèxual orientation.
    Pillard RC, Bailey JM.
    Psychiatr Clin North Am. 1995 Mar;18(1):71-84. Review.

    Androgens and sèxual behavior.
    Pardridge WM, Gorski RA, Lippe BM, Green R.
    Ann Intern Med. 1982 Apr;96(4):488-501. Review.

    Hormones and psychosèxual differentiation: implications for the management of intersèxuality, hômosèxuality and transsèxuality.
    Meyer-Bahlburg HF.
    Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1982 Nov;11(3):681-701.

    Sèxual orientation and handedness in men and women: a meta-ànalysis.
    Lalumiere ML, Blanchard R, Zucker KJ.
    Psychol Bull. 2000 Jul;126(4):575-92.

    Quantîtative and theoretical ànalyses of the relation between older brothers and hômosèxuality in men.
    Blanchard R.
    J Theor Biol. 2004 Sep 21;230(2):173-87.

    Linkage between sèxual orientation and chromosome Xq28 in males but not in females.
    Hu S, Pattatucci AM, Patterson C, Li L, Fulker DW, Cherny SS, Kruglyak L, Hamer DH.
    Nat Genet. 1995 Nov;11(3):248-56.

    Neuroendocrine mechanisms and the aetiology of male and female hômosèxuality.
    MacCulloch MJ, Waddington JL.
    Br J Psychiatry. 1981 Oct;139:341-5. Review.

    Hormones and psychosèxual differentiation.
    Giordano G, Giusti M.
    Minerva Endocrinol. 1995 Sep;20(3):165-93. Review.

    Neuropsychological development of cognitive abilities: a new research strategy and some preliminary evidence for a sèxual orientation model.
    Sanders G, Ross-Field L.
    Int J Neurosci. 1987 Sep;36(1-2):1-16. Review.

    Fraternal birth order and the maternal immune hypothesis of male hômosèxuality.
    Blanchard R.
    Horm Behav. 2001 Sep;40(2):105-14. Review.

    Sèx steroids and human behavior: prenatal androgen exposure and sèx-typical play behavior in children.
    Hines M.
    Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Dec;1007:272-82. Review.

    Androgens and sèxuality.
    Hutchinson KA.
    Am J Med. 1995 Jan 16;98(1A):111S-115S. Review.

    Biological and psychosocial determinants of male and female human sèxual orientation.
    James WH.
    J Biosoc Sci. 2005 Sep;37(5):555-67. Review.

    Neurobiology and sèxual orientation: current relationships.
    Friedman RC, Downey J.
    J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 1993 Spring;5(2):131-53. Review.

    Genetic and environmental influences on sèxual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample.
    Bailey JM, Dunne MP, Martin NG.
    J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000 Mar;78(3):524-36.

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Mrs. A


      May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • JD

      Good times Primewonk. Of course your point will likely fall on deaf ears but thanks for compiling the list. I might brush up a little myself.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • D Rufus Onfyre

      @Mrs. A, those are called scholarly sources. Well done, Primewonk.

      May 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Dude

      Where's the like button?

      May 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • mandarax

      Good work, Primewonk. Well done. Unfortunately, I suspect most of the people who are demanding such information have no idea what these are or what they mean.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Humble Agnostic

      Sweet, nail in coffin...oh wait they have no idea what these people are talking about, it would require intellect, an open mind and the will to admit one is wrong.

      May 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  20. PDXtoNOLA

    Live and let live Christianity?! Blasphemy!

    May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
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About this blog

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.