I do think the issues of gay marriage and polygamy are linked. That is, I do believe there are ethical or religious reasons to object to both, but I'm not sure there's a single compelling legal or legislative objection to either. (For that matter, I'm not sure why the State is involved in marriage at all
As a Christian, I'm very much invested in what the Bible says about homosexuality
. And the Bible isn't too keen on polygamy either, even if it does record the polygamy of several patriarchs. But as a Christian, my faith places me in the role of a stranger and a traveler: someone who is not supposed to treat this world like my home. Therefore I'm not supposed to waste my time trying to make laws based on Christianity, or forcing nonChristians to act like Christians. 1 Corinthians 5 flat-out tells me that what nonChristians do with their lives is none of my business: I should worry about introducing people to Jesus before I worry about changing their behavior. Grace first, then sanctification.
And so Christianity doesn't really give me very much to base the laws of a democratic pluralistic society on. I could look to the theocracy of ancient Israel (i.e. the Old Testament) for inspiration, but that's old news, old wineskins. (And besides, I'm a bacon-loving Gentile
.) Christianity equips me for operating within a nation, even within an oppressive nation like Nero's Rome, but doesn't equip me for making a "Christian nation." Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."
So while I have religious objections against both gay marriage and polygamy, religious objections are not enough to make laws on. If I want to make a legal or legislative statement that "marriage should only be between one man and one woman," I need a legal or legislative reason to do so.
As I understand it, the Founding Fathers were very much influenced and inspired by Locke's Natural Law
. Compare the Declaration of Independence's "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness"
with Locke's three natural rights: Life, Liberty, and Estate. In short, the American system of government is based on the following premise: that the job and purpose of government is to defend the "natural rights" of its people. This idea of "natural law" underlies both the Declaration and the Constitution.
So, by this way of thinking, if you want to know whether the U.S. Government should or should not be doing a thing, you have to boil the government down to its essentials. Is this action protecting the Life, Liberty, or Estate of its citizens? (If you're not satisfied with this, the words of the Preamble of the Constitution work as a decent substitute: does this action establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, or promote the general welfare?)
When phrased like this, I don't see why either form of nonmainstream marriage should be prohibited for legal reasons. The only arguments I could muster against either are entirely religious and ethical in nature. The government should only deny marriage to people if such a marriage violates the goals and purpose of the government: that is, if it would infringe on someone's Life, Liberty, or Right To Property (such as in a marriage involving someone below legal age or involving a non consenting partner). Marriage is not a right--I wish people would stop saying it was--but it's also something that the government should have a good reason for denying. All the government needs to be concerned with is the protection of its citizens' life, liberty, and right to property--vague concepts like "decency," when separated from their religious/ethical sources, become nonsensical when they are used in government. The function and purpose of government is to protect its citizens and its citizens' rights. Going strictly by that as a guideline, there are only a few reasons that would justify denying someone State-marriage.
So in that sense, at lease, gay marriage is like polygamy. I think that these are two forms of marriage which are illegal in many parts of our nation without a good reason why they are illegal. And yet at the same time, I myself have ethical/religious objections against both.(In other news, I've been looking for a place to toss this lit match. I think I'll just use that powder keg over there.
)How do we reconcile the legality of gay marriage and polygamy with our ethical and moral objections to them? Is it the government's responsibility to enforce moral stances or legal stances? Is there anything in scripture that can help us understand the conflict between religion and government?