By / Oct 6

On Thursday, Texas Congressman Randy Weber introduced important federal legislation designed to help clarify state authority in crafting state marriage policy. This comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The federal legislation, the State Marriage Defense Act of 2014 (H.R. 3829), seeks to resolve legal unknowns by mandating that the federal government recognize marriages based on where a couple resides, not where their wedding was performed or celebrated.

Download the full issue brief for more information.

By / Jul 14

NOTE: Rosaria Butterfield was one of the speakers at the ERLC National Conference: “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The conference was designed to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches. For conference resources go here.

In 1996, when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I grieved with my people. I was an atheist then, and lived in a monogamous lesbian relationship, working as a tenure-track professor specializing in English literature and Queer Theory.

Seventeen years later, in the summer of 2013, the Supreme Court has delivered its historic DOMA decision. I am now a Christian, married to a man who serves God as a pastor, and I homeschool in the classical Christian tradition the two youngest of my four children. And again, I grieve with my people.

Standing with the disempowered

Perhaps you think that I have a knack — call it a spiritual “gift” if you like — of affiliating with the losing team?

One of my enduring life values, which carried me through the Feminist and Gay Rights movements of the 1990s, and continues to motivate me today as one of Christ’s own, is the desire to stand with the disempowered. So here I am. Standing in a familiar place, bearing a new heart supplied by the Holy Spirit, a renewed mind, transformed by Christ’s atoning love, a new mission, created from before the foundation of the world by God’s sovereignty, and a new identity as a daughter of the King. But here I stand, still sporting my comfortable shoes.

An electric few weeks for a former lesbian

It was an electric few weeks for a former atheist, now Christian disciple. First, Exodus International closes down. Truth be told, this is fine by me. Reparative therapy was never part of God’s method, and Jesus Christ did not die to make any para-church his bride. But Exodus detonated with a colossal bang, and took with it gospel integrity, leaving even more theological turbulence in its wake.

Then, the Supreme Court, using strong, cosmological, moral language defending the human dignity of same-sex unions, overturned DOMA and Proposition 8, sending a resounding rebuke to the Christian ideal of creation ordinance, and with it, the normative (albeit not always redeemed) heterosexuality that undergirds it.

Gathering the children in close

So I did what parents across the country did — believing parents and unbelieving parents, gay parents and heterosexual ones. I gathered my children in close, and I talked with them. You probably did this, too. No big surprises in my talk.

No new news. No identity bombs were dropped. My children have always known that their mother used to be an atheist and a lesbian. They cut their teeth on this vocabulary, and could say the words before they knew what they meant. Saved by grace. Closets are for clothes, after all.

Here is what I know: God is bigger than my sin. And God is sovereign over Supreme Court decisions and shifting worldviews. He has had the first and he will have the last word on all matters of sin and grace.

The Church, Christ’s bride, is a God-made institution and will sustain herself in majesty in times of persecution or revival. Context matters not. Providence will paint the walls of this worldview.

Who owns your heart

But Jesus, the word made flesh, will not be drawn and quartered. He came to fulfill the whole law, every jot and tittle. And he wants your whole life relinquished to him. Any theology that denies God’s moral law, and then domesticates sin by its absence, does not have Christ’s atoning love, God’s justifying pardon, or the Holy Spirit’s kind company. The red letters of the New Testament, unmoored from the moral law of the whole Bible, offer only half the God-man, mangling the gospel by wrenching salvation from sin and belief from repentance. Even the demons believed in Jesus — and it only sent them straight to hell. All dangerous lies pack a dollop of truth. That was true when Jesus walked the earth, and it is true today. That we are saved from our sin simply reveals the obvious: God was right all along. No shame in truth that loves like this.

The Bible is not some pragmatist’s paradigm. It is the double-edged sword that chiseled truth into my stony heart, rendering it new and with it, recreating me as a new creature in Christ, a daughter of the King. I have no personal sexual orientation to call my own after Christ chisels my heart anew — and neither do you. We have Christ orientation, an alien identity to which we claim no rights. Do we struggle with sin? Yes. Is temptation a sin? No. What distinguishes temptation from sin? Temptation clobbers you from the outside and lures you to do its bidding. Sin makes temptation a house pet, gets it a collar and leash, and is deceived to believe that it can be restrained by impositions of civility. What you do with temptation reveals Who owns your heart. How you talk about other people’s sin patterns reveals Who owns your heart.

Lessons in losing

So, here is what I have learned from being on the losing team of both historic, public, and political renderings of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia. Homophobia is irrational fear of a whole people group, failing to see in that group God’s image diminished but not extinguished by sin, and that God’s elect people linger there, snared by their own design and awaiting gospel grace. Biding time. Think about that. Waiting like the caterpillar that spawned today’s butterfly. God has set apart a people from before the foundation of the world to receive his grace, and they are waiting for you in every nation and people group. It is an act of homophobia to believe that people in the LGBT community are either too sinful to respond to God’s call on their life, or to believe that people in the LGBT community have a fixed nature that will never, by the blustering, unfounded, and uncharitable declarations of secular psychology, change by the power of the gospel.

The only fixed feature of the human constitution or badge of personal identity is the soul; imprint of God to us, it will journey from life to death to life and will last forever, permanently, for eternity in heaven or hell.

Hopes, dreams, redemption

The gospel reorders and remakes people, and its metamorphosis manifests in a life that loves God more than itself. God doesn’t zap us. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, promising that as we “proclaim and initiate an irreconcilable war against our choice sins,” as Puritan William Gurnell states, God will be there. The Rock. Never leaving nor forsaking. Never failing the soul who puts trust in Him (Ps. 9:10). No matter what.

God promises that he will make meaning, purpose, and grace out of your redeemed life. God provides the church to be family, from cradle to grave, where single Christians are cherished saints in Christ’s Kingdom, not people waiting to be fixed. And God provides Christ-redeemed heterosexual marriage so that his creation ordinance is fulfilled and so that his Bride, the church, has imaginative authority over hopes and dreams.

This was originally posted on Desiring God.

By / Jan 10

On Thursday, Texas Congressman Randy Weber introduced important federal legislation designed to help clarify state authority in crafting state marriage policy. This comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The federal legislation, the State Marriage Defense Act of 2014 (H.R. 3829), seeks to resolve legal unknowns by mandating that the federal government recognize marriages based on where a couple resides, not where their wedding was performed or celebrated.

This analysis is available in a downloadable PDF.

In the Windsor decision, the Supreme Court tried to rectify the following situation: Edith Windsor was considered “married” to her lesbian partner in her state of residence, New York, and filed taxes accordingly. But the couple’s “marriage” was not recognized for tax purposes by the federal government. Edith Windsor sued the federal government on the grounds that the “death tax” on her deceased partner’s estate was discriminatory against her, both the heir and spouse. The Court ultimately sided with Windsor.

Rep. Weber’s bill would require the federal government to levy taxes based on the marriage law of New York, which happens to recognize same-sex marriage, but not permit federal agencies to presume same-sex marriage upon states where it is not recognized. Moreover, while striking down section three of DOMA, the Windsor decision did not create a definition of marriage for the federal government.

In the fall out from Windsor, the question of whether the federal government would recognize same-sex marriage was resolved, but the federal government’s jurisdiction on how it would recognize same-sex marriage and the larger question of state authority in making marriage policy, remains unanswered. Whose definition of marriage wins the day? In the absence of federal definition, many people believe that a state’s definition should be the basis for assigning federal benefits. The legislation by Weber would mandate that the federal government recognize the legal status of the relationship based on where the couple resides, not the location of where a same-sex ceremony was performed.

In the wake of administrative regulations handed down by the federal government, the State Marriage Defense Act asks that the federal government respect the authority of the states in creating marriage policy. The bill restores a modicum of judicial balance by signaling the importance of states in determining what is or isn’t a marriage. Dr. Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s Vice President for Public Policy and Research commented on the proposed legislation:

“Our country and our courts will soon experience a chaotic clash of marriage laws and regulations. At this time, the federal government is not capable of responding to the situation developing in the states. The Weber bill will provide crucial guidance to policymakers and agencies at the federal level as states and concerned citizens attempt to navigate the crumbling landscape of marriage in the country.”

In commenting on his rationale for the bill, Weber said:

“The 10th Amendment was established to protect state sovereignty and individual rights from being seized by the Federal Government. For too long, however, the Federal Government has slowly been eroding state’s rights by promulgating rules and regulations through federal agencies.

“I drafted the “State Marriage Defense Act of 2014” to help restore the 10th Amendment, affirm the authority of states to define and regulate marriage, as well as, provide clarity to federal agencies seeking to determine who qualifies as a spouse for the purpose of federal law. By requiring that the Federal Government defer to the laws of a person’s state of legal residence in determining marital status, we can protect states’ constitutionally established powers from the arbitrary overreach of unelected bureaucrats.”

Relevant text from Weber’s bill reads:

Sec 2 (4) Congress recognizes that current actions by the Federal Government to afford benefits to certain relationships not recognized as marriages by a person’s State of residence go beyond the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor. These Federal actions create “two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State,” in direct contradiction of United States v. Windsor.

(5) Actions taken by the Federal Government to grant recognition of marital status for persons not recognized as married in their State of domicile undermine a State’s legitimate authority to define marriage for its residents.

[…]

Sec 3, § 7 “[…] as applied with respect to individuals domiciled in a State or in any other territory or possession of the United States the term ‘marriage’ shall not include any relationship which that State, territory, or possession does not recognize as a marriage, and the term ‘spouse’ shall not include an individual who is a party to a relationship that is not recognized as a marriage by that State […]”

Almost a decade ago, the ERLC called for passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as the union of one man, one woman. That effort included handing out a statement on the subject at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the SBC in Indianapolis. At the time, the ERLC was told by numerous policy makers that the proposed amendment was unnecessary and contrary to principles of federalism. Today, 18 states have implemented same-sex “marriage” and Rep. Weber, et al are now forced to rely on the principles of federalism to defend against an encroaching federal government that would impose a lie about the nature of marriage.

In the absence of a constitutional amendment that tells the truth about what marriage is, the best opportunity to protect marriage is to preserve the democratic process throughout the states, enabling citizens to make marriage policy. If marriage cannot be protected federally, it should be left in the hands of those best equipped to decide marriage policy: citizens.

Southern Baptists will be pleased to know that many of the members of Congress leading on this legislation are Southern Baptists. The bill’s author and sponsor Rep. Weber himself is Southern Baptist, as are 8 of the 27 original cosponsors: Jim Bridenstine (OK-1), Mike Conaway (TX-11), John Fleming, M.D. (LA-04), Bill Flores (TX-17), Louie Gohmert (TX-01), James Lankford (OK-5), Randy Neugebauer (TX-19), Daniel Webster (FL-10).

Citizens who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman; and citizens who simply wish to defend the right of their state to define marriage policy, are encouraged to support this legislation. If the representative of your respective district is not listed as a cosponsor, please ask them to cosponsor H.R. 3829, The State Marriage Defense Act.

This analysis is available in a downloadable PDF.

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