Does God Approve of Same Sex Marriage? This controversial topic was up for discussion on the late afternoon of February 23rd in the Barone Campus Center when panelists Dr. Paul Lakeland, Rabbi Rachel Gurvitz, Dr. David Schmidt, and Ms. Heba Youssef came together and spoke about this subject from the perspectives of the Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, and Islamic religions. The event was sponsored by many on-campus groups including the Center for Catholic Studies, The Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies, and the Office of the University Chaplain.
Dr. Ellen Umansky, the Director of the Bennett Center for Judaic Studies, asked the panelists what the dominant narrative of same sex marriage was in their religion. Dr. Lakeland represented the ideals of the Catholic Church and explained that the official narrative was disapproval, based on the beliefs that the Catholic Church regards are biological. Because same sex couples are unable to procreate, the act of relations is a sin in the eyes of the traditional Catholic Church. However, although these are the beliefs of traditional Catholics and Bishops, 58% of Catholics around the world support acceptance of LGBTQ in the community, 6 of 10 Catholics approve of Lesbian or Gay couples adopting children, and 2 out of 3 believe that if the relationship is long-term they should have the same rights as married couples. Dr. Lakeland also spoke about the polarization in the community and how the official Catholic traditions are based solely off of scripture and ethics. The world where those scriptures were written is completely different than the one we live in today. He also continued by saying that the Church is still afraid of speaking about sexuality openly and that one of the greatest traditions of the Catholic tradition is celibacy, which is expected of gay and lesbian Catholics are sanctioned to in the Church. Dr. Lakeland ended strongly by saying that we need to question a tradition that forces celibacy on people rather than considering it the gift that it actually is.
The Jewish viewpoint on the subject is very similar to that of the Catholic Church, but with some minor differences. Rabbi Gurvitz said that the big story in Judaism is that there is nothing that we can point to in the tradition that will give us a straight, definitive answer. Orthodox Jews range from complete exclusion of the LGBTQ community to high acceptance, while conservative Jews will allow them into the community, and some Rabbi’s will even bless them in the synagogue. Liberal Jews have full acceptance of the LGBTQ community and even have some Gay and Lesbian clergy. Gurvitz said that the biblical texts are up for interpretation for each and every person and raised the question of whether or not marriage was a human right because human rights are critical in creating marriage.
The Protestant views on the subject are no more concrete than the Catholic or Jewish views because, as Dr. Schmidt explained, the official story is that everyone disagrees. He said that the real question is not whether the couple is of the same sex, but if the relationship is a quality relationship. Protestant ideals have much less emphasis on the biological and natural procreation and focus more on personal and relational qualities such as trust. However, just as many other religions, Protestant Evangelicals take the literal terms and readings of scripture which is why they disapprove of the act. Dr. Schmidt also stated that when the scriptures are taken literally, they hold many contradictions and that the root value of the couple’s entire story is what is important. The last thought given by Schmidt was the strongest of the afternoon, when he said that if the mood of the room was one in which God did not accept same-sex marriage, it is still okay to argue with God.
The Islamic take on this subject is one that is not quite existent yet, according to Ms. Youssef. She explained that there is no dialogue in the Muslim community about gays and lesbians because the subject is extremely taboo in that culture. The Islamic religion is ruled with an iron fist and is very close-minded, and they are currently still working on getting women more rights, a step taken by other religions and cultures many years ago. Youssef explained that the Koran has not been changed or translated in over 1400 years and that people interpret the texts based on their own personal agenda which is the opposite of what should happen. The religion is dominated completely by patriarchal voices, and traditionally marriage, was the husband’s way of purchasing the wife’s reproductive organ, which is why the problems of accepting women as equals has been such a struggle. The major question among the people of this culture is whether or not they are mature enough to have the conversation about LGBTQ while still respecting everyone involved. Youssef ended strongly by saying that at the end of the day, it is between you and God, and that the commandment “be nice to your neighbor” is non-conditional.
Coming from the background of a religious family and a Catholic school, the topic is close to me due to the fact that many friends of my family are gay and lesbian. The question “Does God Approve of Same Sex Marriage?” is one that I have always quietly thought about in the back of my mind, but never had the courage to bring up in conversation. The opportunity that was brought by the University to have a discussion like this is one that is extremely important to the student body and to me personally. The topic is one without a definitive answer, which is understandable because in religion, nothing is concrete. Personally, I believe that everything is up to interpretation by the individual and that in the end, like Youssef said, it is between you and your faith in God.
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