When our country declared its independence, the Founders did not proclaim liberty only for Christians. But they were guided by Christian principles, and they appealed to the laws of nature and of natures God. That is why, for 230 years, no state, no local government, permitted polygamy. While state laws on divorce varied, no state recognized as marriage anything but the union of one man and one woman.
Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to ponder whether to violate these laws of nature. One of the foundations of these laws of nature is the relationship of one man and one woman in marriage. This is why Chief Justice Earl Warren speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court in 1967 said, Marriage is a fundamental right of man, necessary for our existence and survival.
The Court is hearing arguments in two cases regarding the continuing constitutionality of the male-female definition of marriage. The first case, Hollinger v. Perry, will consider the constitutionality of Californias definition of marriage as put forth in Proposition 8, which passed in November 2008. The second case, United States v. Windsor, takes up the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Whether focusing on state law (e.g., Californias and North Carolinas) or DOMA, the Christian command regarding marriage is that it should take place between one man and one woman.
For example, Jesus told a group of Pharisees that God made us to be male and female and instructed [t]herefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. (Matthew 19:4-5). This understanding of marriage reflects the biological and psychological complementarity of men and women.
In 1996, both houses of Congress overwhelmingly passed DOMA, and President Bill Clinton signed it. Just last year, North Carolina amended its constitution, with 61 percent of the vote, recognizing the traditional definition of marriage.
DOMA had two overarching concerns. First, one provision, allows states to not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Second, DOMA defines marriage for all federal statutes, regulations, and programs in the traditional sense. DOMA therefore creates uniformity in the marital definition at the federal level.
Because DOMA is on the books, states like North Carolina will be able to maintain uniformity throughout its federal, state, and local programs. If DOMA alone were struck down, it would create a crazy hodge-podge of recognition and non-recognition of same-sex marriage in North Carolina. The ultimate effect would most likely be to undermine our states marital definition because, under the U.S. Constitution, federal law is the supreme law of the land.
One can disagree with DOMAs definition of marriage, and the American people are free to repeal DOMA and endorse same-sex unions. It would be a different thing altogether for the Supreme Court to unilaterally redefine marriage. Recent elections in more liberal states have made it clear that homosexual activists are capable of advancing their social agenda without the courts intervening. If the court were to redefine marriage, it would create another decision along the lines of Roe v. Wade that would divide America for generations.
Unfortunately, a marital Roe v. Wade would be a bigger calamity in some respects. The courts imposition of abortion did not force schools, churches, and businesses to accept the morality of abortion. It wouldnt be that way with the redefinition of marriage. As we have seen, opponents of marriage as the union of a man and a woman will not stop until they have subordinated all institutions that refuse to recognize the legitimacy of their behavior.
The age-old, biblical definition of marriage reflects the design of men and women. Not surprisingly, it creates the most developmentally sound environment for raising children a family with a mother and father. But if swept away by an imperious court, our country will suffer and believing Christians will be forced to obey God rather than men, a distinction we prefer not to make.
Mark Harris is pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte.
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