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
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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. Bubba

    Gay Marriage is the Boogieman the Far Right uses to push through their Tax Scamming Agenda. When the Far Right agrees to pay their share without complaint, and take care of the poor, and love unconditionally (you know, that Jesus thing), then I might trust them. However, since the Conservatives are all about wealth, this is never going to happen. I love Jesus, and He loves me, and I see the Gay Marriage Issue as a platform to get Christians to begin behaving as such. (Not in the Texas judgemental way, but in the forgiving, loving, Christ sort of way.)

    March 26, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Brian

      "I love Jesus, and He loves me"

      Sounds kinky – get a hotel.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  2. Me

    Even if god existed, his opinions have no legal weight in this country.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Realist

      agreed.. In fact religious rules are no different than kids tree house rules. All silly, they need to grow up and accept reality.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  3. Big6ft6

    I'm still confused about why god is even part of the debate. The US government does not decide what God thinks, we will never know what god thinks, we will never even know if there is a god. We should revisit the original reasoning for giving married hetero couples special rights and if the same reasoning applies to gay couples we should grant gay couples the same rights. Hopefully the original reasoning for giving hetero married couples special rights wasn't because God said so. I assume there was actually some reasoning that includes benefits to our society beyond Gods blessings.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  4. Banjo Ferret

    Who's on God's side? What a silly question. We should really be asking ourselves who's on the side of Tim the Destroyer of Worlds. Course, we already know since Tim is both friend and ally of the LGBT community. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent and secure your purple energy bubble! (banjoferret d c)

    March 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  5. Rob

    I love how people who have never talked to "god" claim to speak for "him". This is the most ridiculous "news" article ever.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Realist

      it is rather funny.

      I also find it hilariousness that the religious right watches more p-o-r-n and engages in most adultery yet claim family values (Data gotten from study a year ago using zip codes from credit cards to purchase p-o-r-n from a large provider. Results were; sales were the highest per capita in red states and sales were the lowest during Sunday services)

      March 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • jem

      Right there with ya Rob... and I always love the "I believe God is" comments. God is God.. we don't get to make God up and make him fit our life... we have to change our life to fit God.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • 'Nother-Son-'O-Ursus

      Re: "Rob: I love how people who have never talked to "god" claim to speak for "him". This is the most ridiculous "news" article ever..."

      There is NO accepted method by which to judge the validity of any (alleged) hominid-Deity contact.

      When Harry Camping / Camping’s radio empire proclaimed his 'CHRIST' was returning, (in mid – late October, 2012, among other scheduled times 7 locations)…
      I viewed such nonsensical talk as sourced from another mere Tv-evangelical-charlatan!

      My negative opinion was reinforced upon hearing that some poor fool donated his $140K life savings to Camping's radio empire...
      Camping has since, (as far as I am aware) consistently refused to return such monies to their rightful, (if childishly naïve) owner-origins, post J.Christ’s (alleged) Repeat-No-Show!

      March 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Peregrine

      Incorrect jem people create their personal god all the time. Else, we wouldn't have thousands of denominations of Christianity and thousands of separate deities to choose from. Each of them correct to thier true believers and all others false.

      March 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  6. truth truth truth 2013

    That is the honor and respect I give to GOD. Because man captalize for man, saints captalize for GOD

    March 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "truth truth truth 2013", but "GOD" is an element of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  7. rf7777

    "Who is on God's Side?" Are you kidding me? Ridiculous.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Louisiana Man


      March 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Paul

    What does God have to do with a civil matter?

    Churches will still be able to refuse to perform the marriage ceremony for whatever reason they like, even ones that the government and business cannot discriminate against. Churches should not have power over the civil authority that issues the actual license.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Akira


      March 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  9. Tim

    About a third of all Americans believe in astrology, so what do the astrologers have to say about gay marriage? How about the people who believe in ghosts? That's a sizeable number, or how about those who believe in alien abductions? Why aren't we getting these people's opinions?

    March 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  10. Why?

    Well, we could easily clear this issue up if god would just come down here and state his/her/its opinion on the matter. Oh right, that's never happened in recorded history. The bible will support almost any view point. You can find a scripture somewhere that supports whatever you want to believe, and proves the bible should not be used as a moral framework.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • jem

      Actually people who don't read the bible try to fit it to their life. If someone hasn't studied the bible then they really don't know what they are talking about. Taking one line in the bible and trying to say this is what it says is very weak. Read the bible... then have an opinion.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  11. Milton Platt

    Since this is a court of law and not a church, I would hope law and reason would prevail in the decision. Members of any church have the right to condemn each other over the abortion issue, but they should not hold sway over those not in their congregation.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  12. cc423

    Tell ya what... when God starts voting and paying taxes, we'll care.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Gave Them Up

      Weirdo, the rich don't pay taxes. They talked you into it.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Doris


      March 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • John Buchanan

      God is the one who gave you life and the ability to vote,hold a job and pay taxes

      March 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • sam

      @John – sorry buddy, that was my mom and dad. God only knocked someone up against her will the one time.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • cc423

      You keep believing the mythology John.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Pam

      No, John Buchanan. My parents gave me life, and my hard work gave me the ability to pay taxes. Your god delusions generally only depower democracy and try to shield people from personal responsibilities such as paying taxes. Please keep your god delusions out of civil law. In fact, this free country and the whole world would be better off without your god fictions.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm |

  13. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BZU-HQ_c8bg

    March 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  14. Apex301

    Who's side is God on? God is an imaginary creature. Pick a side, and you are wrong.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  15. ROMNEY2012

    If God wanted Men to love eachother he would have not made it so disgusting and vile in the first place.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Tim

      I find country music disgusting and vile, therefore God could not have wanted that either.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • ME II


      March 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • EJR17

      God is not a part of the fight for equal rights. Sparation of church and state applies.
      Men frequently love each other; Jesus said he loved everybody.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • nhguy

      your comment is disgusting and vile as well as narrow-minded and bigoted. grow up and join the 21st century or remain silent along with you equally narrow-minded political views.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Rap is not music

      Don't forget about rap.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • EJR17


      March 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, you'll be singing the opposite tune once someone finally finds your prostate, tough guy.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  16. Vince

    Does it matter? God doesn't make the laws of this country, so who cares? If he/she/it has something to say about it...he/she/it is welcome to open his/her/its mouth.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  17. Bravo

    Really? Who is on God's side? A mystical make believe being has a say in our political process? Oh wait, my bad, this is America.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  18. Live4Him

    @Rap is not music : It states that no one knows the time of the son's return. No one but "the father." However, The son (the guy who was allegedly crucified) on multiple occasions in the NT openly claims to know when he will return.

    Care to cite the passages / references?

    March 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      It saith in Jibberish 23:12 ...

      March 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Tim

      Jesus was a carpenter, which makes him a contractor, and we know what they mean when they say "I'll be back soon to finish up." 🙂

      March 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Rap is not music

      What you have just proven to me is that you have not read "the good book." Therefore your apologetic arguments are completely null. As are all apologetic arguments that veer completely off course when this very subject is mentioned.

      It is known as The Olivet Discourse. You are going to need background knowledge to understand the following:

      –Mark 13:1-4 *Note – The destruction jesus mentions happened around 70 CE.

      Claims of a triumphant return:

      –Matthew 24:34
      –Mark 9:1
      –Matthew 16:28
      –1 Corinthians 7:29-31
      –1 Thessalonians 4:15
      –John 21:22
      –Matthew 10:23

      Some of the above are quotes as a an urgency. Others are quite literally jesus stating that some of the people he was speaking to would be alive when he returned. Which he didn't. Therefore, he lied. If he even existed at all.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  19. EvinAR

    "Who's on God's side of the debate?"

    Let's just ask? That way, we can wait 2,000 years for somebody to figure out how stupid humanity is.

    March 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  20. LeeCMH

    I hate Christians back as much as they make it clear they hate me!

    March 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Live4Him

      I don't hate you. Rather, I love you.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Live4Him Translator

      (love = my belief judges you, but things are "nice" because I always provide you a way to join)

      March 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • John Buchanan

      I'm not sure what kind of Christ followers you know,but all the ones I know care deeply about you....and Jesus thinks you are to die for

      March 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • me

      We (Christians) don't hate you, we are just praying for you and this country to consider that choices you make on how they affect you (soul) and others. Everyone has freedom of choice, but it's unnatural for man to marry man & woman to marry woman. What someone does personally is their choice, but the unnatural relation shouldn't be accepted as normal when obviously it isn't...

      March 26, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • IronSharpener

      Christians aren't supposed to hate.! They can read what Jesus says "love thy Neighbor", "do not Judge", don't mistake disagreement with Hate. NoBody is perfect, there was only one. I am never amazed when I see how far off the target line some of these responses are.....! Why don't we try and stick with "what can I do to help someone less fortunate, with compassion, love and kindness...and without expecting reward" first and then see how it goes.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • truth truth truth 2013

      I am a Disciple of CHRIST and I love you and i never have met you. Anyone can call themselves CHRISTIANS but everyone is not a follower of JESUS. It takes away from you to hate someone

      March 26, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Pam

      Christianity is all about hate and bigotry.

      March 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      They don't hate you, per se – just your nature, as they hate their own natures.
      They love you, but they hate all that makes you distinct.
      Central to Christian dogma is the belief that all humans are inherently evil, born with the curse of "original sin" becuase a woman cloned from the rib of a man fashioned from dirt was convinced by a snake to eat fruit.

      March 26, 2013 at 1:07 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.