For the SBC, Fighting Marriage Equality Is Actually About Upholding Discrimination

On Wednesday, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention released there “Legislative Agenda” for 2015. The agenda 8204809_300x300touches on many important issues like immigration reform, adoption, and religious liberties. But of course, no SBC legislative agenda would be complete without touching on the issue of LGBTQ equality. While there is nothing incredibly surprising in the agenda, I was particularly shaken by how clearly the ERLC spelled out their reason for fighting marriage equality.

If you have followed this debate, the reasoning typically goes something like this:

“God designed marriage to be between one man and one women. This pattern was established in the creation order. When we tamper with God’s design, we fundamentally disorder creation and open up pandoras box of immorality. When we allow marriage to be redefined, families are dismantled, society is infected, and our values are undermined.”

Now, despite the fact that much of the fears in this argument are unjustifiable, at least the argument sounds like its rooted in a genuine, faith based, theological concern. But in the ERLC Legislative Agenda, the SBC outlines the real reasoning behind their fight against marriage equality:

The State Marriage Defense Act would instruct the federal government to look to a person’s state of legal residence when determining marital status and application of federal marriage law. The bill also lets each state decide for itself who qualifies within their states for marriage benefits. With the Supreme Court set to rule this year on the constitutionality of state efforts to define marriage as only the union of one and and one woman, we are watching closely to determine if this bill or something additional is needed in response.”

Time and time again, as I have entered in to conversations about civil marriage equality, my evangelical friends say things like, “Gay couples can already have all of the same rights and benefits as straight married couples!” I hear that the argument against equality isn’t about equal rights or benefits at all, but about upholding God’s design for marriage. Yet, here in black and white, it is clear that the SBC isn’t interested in simply “upholding God’s design for marriage.” No, instead, they are about denying LGBTQ couples equal benefits and rights. 

As LGBTQ civil marriage equality becomes our reality this year, it is unfortunate to see that my fellow evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ are hell bent on creating more and more strategies to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. This so-called State Marriage Defense Act is actually an attempt to strip away the dignity of LGBTQ people in certain states by denying them their constitutionally granted benefits as a family unit.

This “agenda” item of the ERLC fundamentally un-American and un-Christian. Denying dignity and equality to any individual for any reason is an affront to the Kingdom of God and I am deeply troubled to see my fellow followers of Jesus continually working as a force for injustice and inequality. My prayer is that in 2015, God will change their hearts and minds as marriage equality becomes the law of the land. Because standing for equality, not discrimination is a the call of Christ to his Church. May my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters heed that call of our Lord.

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