Of Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriages
By Abdallah El-Kurebe
Recently there has been renewed debate on the question of allowing same-sex marriages. The discussion has centred on various aspects including civil rights, genetic pre-disposition and religious perceptions. In this article, the issue is addressed primarily from a religious standpoint, i.e. whether same-sex marriages are acceptable in God’s eyes. Relevant to same-sex marriages is a discussion on the scriptural prohibition of homosexuality and the unfortunate persecution of those openly gay.
The traditional belief in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is that God forbids homosexuality and therefore same-sex marriages as well. For example, in the Old Testament, particularly at Genesis 19, we see the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot implores the people of his town not to act wickedly and to leave his male guests alone.
The story goes on to describe the persistence of the townsfolk in wishing to indulge in homosexuality and the subsequent annihilation of the two communities. Other verses in the Old Testament also prohibit homosexuality, e.g. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. In the New Testament, we see similar proscriptions in I Corinthians 6:9; I Timothy 1:8-10 and Romans 1:26-27 (the translation used is the New American Standard Bible).
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. [Leviticus 18:22]
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor effeminate nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the covetous nor drunkards nor revilers nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. [1 Corinthians 6:9-10]
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. [Romans 1:26-27]
In the Qur’an, we see reference to homosexuality in the story of Lot (the translation used is Qur’an: The Final Testament, translated by Dr. Rashad Khalifa).
Lot: Homosexuality Condemned
Lot said to his people, “You commit such an abomination; no one in the world has done it before! You practice sex with the men, instead of the women. Indeed, you are a transgressing people.” His people responded by saying, “Evict them from your town. They are people who wish to be pure.” [7:80-82]
Lot said to his people, “How could you commit such an abomination, publicly, while you see? You practice sex with the men, lustfully, instead of the women. Indeed, you are ignorant people.” The only response from his people was their saying, “Banish Lot's family from your town; they are people who wish to be pure.” [27:54-56]
While liberal interpretations suggest a contextual limitation on the prohibition of sexual activities between members of the same gender, the verses themselves are quite direct in their condemnation of the behaviour. Some people argue that, “God created humans with a certain sexual preference, hence there cannot be sin in it; the verses therefore must be limited in their applicability.”
Medical research on the genetic predisposition for homosexual behaviour is far from conclusive. In any case, God prohibits it. Therefore, even if such a genetic link were found, the argument against it would be similar to that against consumption of alcohol or gambling. The latter two are associated with the make-up of one’s genes, but that does not make them acceptable in God’s eyes. In fact, much the same as homosexuality, God terms intoxicants and gambling as abominations of the devil (Qur’an 5:90). As such, we must refrain from any behaviour that God commands against. While we may be inclined to sin; the test is to remain steadfast.
Is one who recognizes that your Lord's revelations to you are the truth equal to one who is blind? Only those who possess intelligence will take heed. They are the ones who fulfil their pledge to GOD, and do not violate the covenant. They join what GOD has commanded to be joined, reverence their Lord, and fear the dreadful reckoning. They steadfastly persevere in seeking their Lord, observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), spend from our provisions to them secretly and publicly, and counter evil with good. These have deserved the best abode. [Qur’an 13:19-22]
You shall seek help through steadfastness and the Contact Prayers (Salat). This is difficult indeed, but not so for the reverent, who believe that they will meet their Lord; that to Him they ultimately return. [Qur’an 2:45-46]
The advocates of same-sex marriages point out that the scriptures do not expressly prohibit a marriage between members of the same gender. In light of the prohibition of homosexuality, this argument does not have much utility. Also, for those who follow God’s scriptures, marriage is a divine institution (Qur’an 30:20-21). The scriptural references to marriage always suggest a union of a man and a woman, e.g. Genesis 1:27-28; Mark 10:6-9, Qur’an 7:189, etc.
Marriage: A Divine Institution
Among His proofs is that He created you from dust, then you became reproducing humans. Among His proofs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquillity and contentment with each other, and He placed in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think. [Qur’an 30:20-21]
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate. [Mark 10:6-9]
Proponents of same-sex marriages argue that this scriptural restriction deprives them of enjoying equal rights under the law. Married couples typically enjoy tax, medical, inheritance and other benefits, which are denied to same-sex partners. The problem here is one of financial and procedural difficulties that same-sex marriage partners endure.
These issues are relevant to human laws and are addressable by the law-making bodies. This also serves to highlight the fact that religious and civil unions are two separable entities. God defines religious unions and lays down what constitutes a marriage in His eyes. Consequently, a woman and a man may fulfil the requirements specified in the scripture (e.g. mutual attraction and dowry—Qur’an 4:24) and be a married couple by God’s rules, but may not necessarily be recognized as a couple by the state.
Sexual Preference and Persecution
An unfortunate repercussion of homosexuality is mistreatment by fanatics. Regardless of the view one has of same-sex marriages, there is no justification for persecution of those with homosexual leanings. God gives human beings freedom of religion (Qur’an 2:256; 18:29). We cannot take that away from them. Instead, we can inform them of God’s teachings and invite and debate in the best possible manner (Qur’an 16:125).
Absolute Freedom of Religion
Proclaim: “This is the truth from your Lord,” then whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve. We have prepared for the transgressors a fire that will completely surround them. When they scream for help, they will be given a liquid like concentrated acid that scalds the faces. What a miserable drink! What a miserable destiny! [Qur’an 18:29]
How to Spread God's Message
You shall invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and kind enlightenment and debate with them in the best possible manner. Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He knows best who the guided ones are. [Qur’an 16:125]
Perhaps the question of social oppression is easier to understand in light of other prohibitions by God. Since homosexuality is referred to as an abomination (Leviticus 18:22, Qur’an 7:80-81), let us examine a few other sins termed as abominations.
Intoxicants and Gambling Prohibited
O you who believe, intoxicants and gambling and the altars of idols and the games of chance are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them that you may succeed. [Qur’an 5:90]
O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do? Most abominable in the sight of GOD is that you say what you do not do. [Qur’an 61:2-3]
Of these, idol-worship is the most deadly sin, and the only unforgivable offence (Qur’an 4:48, 116) if maintained until death. Intoxicants, gambling, games of chance and hypocrisy are also listed as abominations, as is eating food upon which the name of God is not mentioned (Qur’an 6:121). However, those who commit these sins are not persecuted by society. Instead their judgment is left to God.
To conclude, we observe that same-sex marriages and homosexuality are prohibited by God’s religions. This is made clear in the Old Testament, New Testament and the Final Testament (Qur’an).