Same-Sex Marriage Violates the Sacrament of
"There is not a same-sex equivalent to bride and groom. To insist that there are such equivalencies, and to act on this error, not only represents marriage as something it is not but also envisions salvation as something it is not."
Vigen Guroian is a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the author of The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key and other works. In the following viewpoint, Guroian argues that a same-sex union cannot be tolerated as part of the holy sacrament of marriage. As he explains, Christian marriage is not a civil partnership; it is a manifestation of God's will to join man and woman as one flesh bonded to Christ. Marriage is not a symbolic union, according to Guroian, but a religious practice that exemplifies God's prophecy and "fulfills the goal and purpose of Creation." For these reasons, Guroian insists that it excludes same-sex partners. To keep the religious nature of marriage intact, Guroian suggests that the government perform civil ceremonies while allowing churches to enact the marriage sacrament subsequently on those who conform to the model put forth by God. As you read, consider the following questions:
1. In what part of courtship does Guroian claim that "consent" between partners belongs, according to Orthodox teachings?
2. What civil problems does the author foresee if marriage is no longer defined as a sacrament between man and woman?
3. How does Guroian think the Orthodox Church should respond to the civil tolerance of same-sex marriage?
In recent years, homosexual persons and their supporters in North America have argued that marriage should be redefined to include the union of two persons of the same sex. Increasingly, this argument has been cast as a civil liberties issue: homosexual persons seek constitutional rights and liberties that have long been denied to them, key among these being marriage.
Same-sex marriage, however, is not just a legal matter. It is also a religious issue. For millennia, Western civilization has strictly understood marriage to be the union between a man and a woman. This definition, grounded in biblical beliefs about the nature of God and humanity, was reflected in common morality and civil law. Only recently has this understanding been questioned. At present, the debate is principally over marriage between homosexual persons, but it is not likely to remain so. For if our society extends the boundaries of marriage's meaning beyond the union of a man and a woman, there will remain no compelling reason under the law to deny "marital" status to heterosexual same-sex partners who seek the benefits that come with it, or, for that matter, to persons in polygamous relationships. This will explode the historical meaning of marriage that has [existed] in our culture for millennia.
Under these circumstances, the gay and same-sex marriage issue obliges Orthodox Christians to be very clear about their church's theology of marriage, and why a partnership—and partnership is the appropriate
term, not union or marriage—of any sort between persons of the same sex is not in character nuptial.
The Legacy of Rome
In pagan Rome during the first centuries of the Christian era, marriage was one of several acceptable forms of cohabitation and family life, and was available as a legal status only to free citizens. If two such persons, man and woman, lived together by consent in a regularized fashion and assumed the roles and responsibilities of husband and wife, then they were considered married under the law. Roman law stipulated that marriage in its essence was not about intercourse but the free consent of the individuals entering into it. Marriage would exist, therefore, where there was the intention to form a household and did not require legal formalization, though that was available and qualified a couple for the special privileges...
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