Gay Marriage & the Slippery Slope

Even though much has already been said on this subject, it never ceases to amaze me that the primary argument from conservative Christians against legalizing gay marriage is that it is a slippery slope leading to all kinds of other legal marriage arrangements. 

Like polygamous/polyamorous marriage. Or worse, pedophiliac marriage. Or even worse, bestial marriage.

Yep, if the gays get married, then we’re only 10 years away from some guy marrying Mr. Ed.

In addition to how offensive that argument must be to monogamous gay couples who want to get legally married, it is fundamentally irrational. As I’ve grown in my faith I’ve learned that we Christians are prone to making “logical” arguments that defy rationality and common sense because of where they start. And the slippery slope argument starts with the assumption that legal monogamous heterosexual marriage rights arise pristinely from the Bible. Apparently, the Word of God prescribes monogamous heterosexual marriage licenses, and so the U.S. law code simply follows suit. And now, that pristine foundation is eroding under the perverse pressure to extend the legal rights to monogamous gay couples, and we are all headed down the famous slippery slope.

But the reality is that the U.S. law code is, by its very nature, a slippery slope, as all law codes are. That is, law codes are highly provisional and constantly debated and revised to more fairly address specific people and situations. Even the primary law code in the Bible – the Mosaic law – is highly provisional in its particular allowances, penalties, protections, and rights, superseded by newer developments (not least of which came from the life and teaching of the Messiah himself). Further, it is a terribly flawed line of argumentation that in any way demands the U.S. law code pristinely reflect the law codes of Scripture. I’m quite sure Jesus didn’t have the U.S. Constitution in mind when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Yes, the Bible has influenced U.S. law, as have other moral and legal theories and systems, but there is no precise derivation here (and there are plenty of contradictions). Besides, the separation of church and state seems to have significant New Testament precedence.

All that to say, extending legal rights to monogamous homosexual couples does not put us on the road to polygamy (or anything else) any more than rights pertaining to “traditional marriage” might. In fact, gay marriage might militate in the opposite direction. That is, the reason some gay people want to get legally married in the first place is because they really, truly believe in lifelong monogamy just like some straight people do. And by seeking this right, they are affirming our society’s value on monogamous commitment as the building block of healthy and sustainable families and communities. They are saying, with many Christians, “Lifelong monogamy is best for human flourishing.” And as one who, because of my belief in the Bible and because of rational common sense, affirms the legal rights around lifelong monogamy as an ideal for human society, I am happy to stand alongside gay brothers and sisters who believe the same thing.

I daresay, even if some of us Christians have ethical or theological disagreement with issues surrounding homosexuality, this legal question ought to be one that we happily, graciously, and hopefully concede.

Because the slope will be a little less slippery if we do.

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About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

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