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March 24, 2009

Vermont Moves to Legalize Gay Marriage

The Vermont state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday to allow same-sex marriage, putting the state one step closer to becoming the first to approve same-sex marriage by legislative means.

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The Democratic-dominated state Senate voted 26 to 4 in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. House Speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat, predicted to USA Today that a majority of the House would also vote in favor.

Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, has said he opposes the bill, but has not indicated whether he would veto the measure.

If the measure is approved, Vermont would become the third state (following neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut) to allow same-sex marriage. Vermont was the first state to grant civil unions in 2000.

If approved, the law would replace Vermont's civil-unions law starting September 1. Civil unions performed in the past nine years, however, would still be recognized, according to The New York Times.

Opponents say changing state laws to allow same-sex marriage is both unnecessary and morally questionable.

"Same-sex marriage in Vermont can offer only one benefit to Vermont's gay population: Hopes of increased social acceptance," said the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council. "All legal experts agree that civil unions already provide every legal benefit and protection Vermont can give."

Comments

Here is a link to a short, but beautiful video that should make any Christian that has a heart, and who believes in truly following Christ's message of love and tolerance, rather than a rigid agenda of human fears and failings.... reconsider how they feel about this subject: (you will need your sound turned on)

http://vimeo.com/3089746


A new poll reports that a large majority of pastors in the Church of Sweden are open to blessing gay marriages.

The poll, conducted by Sveriges Television (SVT), found that 68 percent out of 1700 pastors responded that they would be willing to officiate at gay marriages performed in churches.

A small minority (21%) disagreed with church sanctioned gay marriages, while 11 percent refused to answer.

Sweden is likely to become the seventh country to legalize gay marriage. A gay marriage bill was introduced in the Riskdag, Sweden's parliament, last week and enjoys wide support.

Lawmakers in Sweden approved civil unions for gay couples in 1995. The law offers gay and lesbians the same legal status as married heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt.

But a large majority of Swedes (74%) belong to the Lutheran Church of Sweden, creating a separation between civil and church ceremonies. The church has been blessing gay unions since 2007, but has said it would like to reserve the word marriage for heterosexual unions. Church officials plan to consider the issued at a meeting scheduled for next autumn.

Under the timetable set out in the bill gay marriage would become available May 1.

The new legislation calls for Sweden to become the first country in the world to allow gays to marry within a major church.

“There's a very clear majority that is open to this. And having so many pastors on board clearly makes it easier for the Church of Sweden to take such a decision,” said archbishop Anders Wejryd to SVT.

In addition, there are currently 72 Baptist, 90 Episcopal, 173 Metropolitan, 219 Presbyterian, 372 Lutheran, over 1000 Unitarian Universalist, and over 1000 United Church of Christ congregations here in the United States that offer same-sex marriage right now, and the number grows every year.

Then they should expect an increase of gay residents. Because a lot of gay will be moving in to Vermont. I don't care about it though. I'm happy for the gay people.

Expect christian persecution to heat up, expect God's judgment too. Homosexuality is a sin, always has been, always will be, God does not change. No matter what apostate churches do to promote sin, they are not within God's will at all.

@Jared

Since when did you become God's spokesperson? Have you actually read the entire Bible? Can you honestly answer yes? If you can, you would know that God didn't write the Bible and God has never spoken out about homosexuality. Also, if you would pay attention to history, you would know the Bible has been translated and not all words have the same meaning. Did you know that when the Bible was written, the word "virgin" meant a woman who had not yet given birth, not one who had not had sex?

Unless God told you his will, you are not qualified to justify your intolerance and bigotry (yes, bigotry, look the word up) with God and I don't believe God would appreciate you speaking for God.

Being gay is not a choice, it is how God created some people. Your ignorance of the subject however is a choice.

A question of moral hypocrisy..

I have never found anyone, in print or in person, who follows through on the argument that all the laws in the Bible should be observed. By this, I do not mean that people fail, from human weakness, to observe the commands in their own life. Rather, I refer to the universal practice of rejecting some laws while insisting on others. Those who argue that homosexual proof texts must, without question be obeyed, will, often in the same argument, wave away other legal texts.

Proof-texting is common, and done by all political persuasions. The conservatives are easiest to skewer. Leviticus 18:22 says "you shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination," and Leviticus 20:13 says "if a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them."


Yet, almost no conservatives favor enforcing the punishment, why? Where in the Bible does it say the punishment is not applicable? Leviticus 18:19 says "You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness" and we all agree this is unimportant now, but where is the warrant for saying that verse 19 is irrelevant and verse 22 is God's holy word, tampered with at risk of condemnation?

Where are the literalists thundering about obeying God's holy word at the church's ignoring the 'clear word' on treatment for leprosy (Lev. 14) or shaving the edges of beards (Lev. 21:5)? One verse certainly implies that a fetus is not a person (Ex. 21:22, in imposing a reduced punishment for causing a miscarriage), yet it has not stopped those who oppose abortion.

Even more amazing is Proverbs 11:1: "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but an accurate weight is his delight." Why does the word "abomination" mean in Leviticus a situation on which your whole faith stands or falls, but when the same Hebrew word appears in Proverbs it is "politics" or "social action" and therefore to be waved away?

This is all the more significant as there are more verses in the Old Testament devoted to false weights than there are verses devoted to homosexuality.

Various figures in the Old Testament are allowed moral practices that would not be considered acceptable by those opposed to homosexuality: multiple wives, aggressive military campaigns, and slaves. Strangely, no one seems to think there is any problem with rejecting these practices, yet they are in the "law book" of scripture. Conservatives tend to advocate strict application of the rules on homosexuality, but do not tend to feel that way about 'economic' texts that command tithing (Deuteronomy 14:22) or the forgiveness of debts (Deuteronomy 15:1) Flogging when done by followers of Islam many consider to be primitive or ungodly, yet it is commanded for certain offenses by Deuteronomy 25:1-3.

Nor is their selective application limited to the Old Testament. What opponent of homosexuality considers Matthew 5:39

(" do not resist an evildoer") normative, either for personal conduct or for a nation's foreign policy?

Sodom, Gomorrah and Sodomites: The assertion is often made that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is primarily about homosexuality (as opposed to gang-rape or inhospitality which is what the story actually refers to).

We 'all know' that it is about homosexuality, except that the Bible doesn't seem to know this. When the story is referenced later in the Bible, the focus is not on homosexuality but uses the fate of the city as a warning of the ultimate punishment God can inflict.

Still more compelling is the point that if the attackers are homosexual, then the tactic of offering them a woman will not likely be effective. Yet, because Sodom, in modern usage, is considered a synonym for homosexuality, it is common to assume these verses condemn homosexuality.

Here are the literal meanings of some translated words:

Certain words about prohibited sexual behavior do not always literally mean what they are assumed to mean. Examples would include the words often translated as 'fornication' and 'Sodomite.' 'Fornication,' (ponhro,j,) then and now apparently means 'sexual immorality.' We tend to assume that 'sexual immorality' means what our society has traditionally condemned, but there is no explicit definition of this word in the Bible that would show it includes homosexuality.

The word translated (especially in older English Bible versions) as 'Sodomites' (avrsenokoi/tai, lit, 'soft man') is not a reference to Sodom at all. The underlying word likely refers to a specific type of homosexual behavior, perhaps regarding a cult male-prostitute (which were common in certain other religions at the time) who is penetrated by another male, but the word is not a Greek form for 'Sodom.'

If you had asked someone in Biblical times what a 'Sodomite' was, they simply would have said, -someone who lives in Sodom.

I truly appreciate the previous writer's comments, especially as regards the word sodomy. The town of Sodom may have existed in Biblical times, but the word sodomy as referring to homosexual behavior was not coined in the 13th century. A careful reading of the scriptures and how they interpret the sin of Sodom gives a very different idea than the current word "sodomy" would suggest. In Ezekiel 16:49, for instance, we read "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, exess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." Oppression of the poor was the sin God was most concerned with...as is often the case in the Bible. Jesus speaks of Sodom's sin as having rejected the messengers of God and then speaks of the same sin as being perpetrated against him. As John Calvin has said, (as I recollect) "The Bible is its own best interpreter." Any translation which uses the word "sodomy" or "sodomite" to speak of anything to do with homosexuality only furthers the prejudice perpetrated in the 13th century when the word was coined. It is time, as the previous writer might suggest, to return the word to its original meaning, to refer to a person from Sodom.

After nearly 30 years as a minister - and an evangelical one at that - I am now convinced that the Bible does not make a case against homosexuals. It certainly does make a case against sexual promiscuity, but that goes for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

I am also convinced that while the church may split over this issue now, the time will come when history will show that those who work for justice - including biblical justice - for homosexuals will be seen to have been on God's side all along. If Paul were to write in today's context I believe he would have written, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female...and there is no longer gay and straight; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28, with my addition).

The hope, I believe, is that our children will be tomorrow's leaders of the church and they will lead differently and with more love than we have led. Until then, I pray we will work now for God's justice and love on behalf of all God's children.

I would like to thank both Langdon and Gregory for your well-written, and well thought-out posts. Have a great weekend guys! I am going to post something after this that might cause consternation amongst some, but I would ask that people truly consider it before rejecting it out of hand.

A Biblical same-sex love story..

Although I'm not a Christian (not because I disagree with Christ's message, but because the word itself has been ruined for me by those who hate in his name), and although scripture will play no part in legal constitutional battles across this nation to win our freedom and equality... I feel it's time to share one of my favorite scriptural passages and stories.... in such detail that the sexual aspect is undeniable to any rational and honest 'Christian' that wants to follow a true translation.. and not one that more and more churches and entire countries are abandoning.

I would like to share an in-depth analysis of the biblical love-story of Jonathan and David. This was a relationship between two men deemed so important to write down, that it is the only one in the Bible of its kind.

In the early material on David (1 Sam 16-17), three times the narrator calls attention to David’s beauty – more times in the Bible than in any other case. First, the prophet Samuel notes that David “was ruddy [admoni, Strong #132], and had beautiful eyes [yapheh ‘ayinim, #3303, #5869], and was handsome [to behold, tob ro’i, #2896, #7210].” (16:12, NRSV) Then, when a young court servant recommends David to Saul, he describes him (among other things) as “a handsome [to’ar, #8389] person” (16:18, NKJV). Finally, the giant notes that David, his opponent, was “a youth, ruddy [admoni] and good-looking [yapheh mar’eh, #3303, #4758]” (17:42, NKJV). Here, the common language used throughout the OT to describe beauty is found again, including yapheh and tob (“beautiful, handsome” in both cases), along with to’ar and mar’eh (“[in] figure or shape”). However, new words in the David descriptions include ro’i (#7210, “a … sight [to behold]) and admoni and ‘ayinim, translated as “ruddy” and “eyes” respectively in the NRSV – although the last two Hebrew words present a challenge to translators.

Jonathan’s intense love and attraction to David: Not surprisingly, after making such an ado about David’s looks, the reader begins to find responses to this in the text. For example, in 1 Sam 18:1 we read, “Now when he [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul [nephesh] of Jonathan was knit to the soul [nephesh] of David, and Jonathan loved [aheb, #157] him as his own soul [nephesh].” Then (v. 3), “Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he [Jonathan] loved [ahaba, #160] him as his own soul.” Later, when the two make a second covenant, we are told (20:17) that “Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he [Jonathan] loved [ahaba, #160] him; for he loved [ahaba, #160] him as he loved [aheb, #157] his own soul.” (NKJV, underlining added) In addition to this, we are told in 19:1 that Jonathan “delighted [kaphes, #2654] greatly” in David” (NKJV). So, in response to three references to David’s beauty, there appear three references describing Jonathan’s love for him – two of them twice using the verb “love” and the third using the related verb “delights [in].” Strong’s lexicon notes that the aheb (#157) means “to have affection for (sexually or otherwise),” along with the related terms oheb (#159) and ahaba (#160), the last a feminine form. The male and female forms of “love” (verb and noun) appear to be used interchangeably in Scripture, e.g. in Song of Songs 2:4-5, the beloved [girl] says, “He [King Solomon] brought me to the banqueting house, and his intention toward me was love [#160]. Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am faint with love [#160].” (NRSV)

The Bible records three pacts that Jonathan and David made. The first covenant was made very shortly after they met. In 1 Sam 18:3-4 (NRSV), we read: “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul [NIV: ‘as himself,’ nephesh]. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor [NIV, REB: ‘tunic’], and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” The preceding verses relate how after David had finished speaking with Saul, “the soul [nephesh] of Jonathan was bound [qashar] to the soul [nephesh] of David, and Jonathan loved [aheb] him as his own soul” (v. 1); and after this, Saul would not let David return home (v. 2). The emphasis here clearly is on the intense love Jonathan felt for David, expressed through the combined and repeated use of “loved,” “bound [to]” (this used only once), and nephesh, which indicates the extent of Jonathan’s love (as compelling as the love and interest one has toward oneself).

Jonathan’s attraction to David appears in the narrative like a bolt out of the blue: spontaneous, intense, and earth-shattering for him. He expresses this love then by the giving to David all of the clothes he was wearing and all of the weapons he was carrying, the significance of which represented the entire “giving away [of] one’s own self,”.. i.e. the giving of his whole heart and self to David.

The second covenant was made near the end of their time together in Gibeah and is recorded in 1 Sam 20:16-17 (NRSV): “Thus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the Lord seek out the enemies of David.’ Jonathan made David swear again, by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.” (1 Sam 20:16-17, NRSV)

20:42 (NRSV) records, “Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendents and your descendents, forever.’” The repetition of aheb/ahaba (“love/loved”) and of nephesh (“as [much as] his own life”) in 20:17 is a very clear emphasis on this pact having strongly homoeroticized elements as well as political elements.

The third covenant was probably made several years later and is noted in 1 Sam 23:18 (NRSV): “Then the two of them made a covenant before the Lord…” the pact made in 23:18 is not merely “a simple extension or re-confirmation of the [earlier] pact” described in 1 Sam 20, for the later pact looks deeper into the future and “lays down the work distribution and relationship which is the center of everything.” The third pact is best understood as a “fresh, bilateral covenant defining their new relationship.” In fact, each of the three pacts, while containing a common core of expressed love and commitment, seems to differ from what was pledged before, and so advances in content and adds detail to their relationship.

Just as three times our attention is directed to David’s beauty (16:12,18; 17:42), so also three times we are told that Jonathan “loved” David (18:1,3; 20:17). Interestingly, the same word aheb (“loved”), used in 18:1 referring to Jonathan, appears also in 18:20 referring to the princess Michal, where it has been rendered as “Michal had fallen in love with David”, or “…fell in love with David” Such a reading is bolstered by 19:1 which relates how Jonathan continued to take “great delight [kaphes] in David” (NRSV), since kephes usually appears in OT passages concerned with sexual desire and erotic love. This interpretation is further bolstered by comparing the Jonathan and David relationship to that of Shechem and Dinah in Gen 34, where the Hevite prince falls madly in love with Jacob’s daughter (underexpressed in the Hebrew, as usual, with “was drawn to,” v. 3, NRSV). Here we have exactly the same language as appears in 1 Sam 18:1,3 and 19:1, used to describe erotic passionwhich has led to sexual union – including “loved” (aheb), “heart” (nephesh) and “delighted [in]” (kephes) (34:3,8,19, NRSV), as well as the idea of “longs [for]” (kasaph, v. 8; J. Green: “bound [to]”), although 1 Sam 18:1 uses a different verb for this (qashar).

In 1 Sam 18, Jonathan and David stayed together in the capital city a number of months, perhaps up to a year, as David masters the arts of sword and bow (Jonathan at his side), gains real-life experience on the battlefield, and leads Israel’s army to many glorious victories (18:16,27,30; 9:8). However, in chs. 19-20 time rapidly speeds up. As Saul’s jealousy and rage toward David intensify, he hides his murderous attempts from Jonathan, while David’s life becomes one of terror, trying to keep one step ahead of Saul and his henchmen. Then, at a New Moon festival celebrated at court, Saul asked Jonathan why David was absent; and the prince explained that David had asked leave to join his family for an annual sacrifice in Bethlehem (20:6,27-29). “Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen [bachar] the son of Jesse to your own shame [bosheth], and to the shame [bosheth] of your mother’s nakedness [‘erwa]? For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.’” (1 Sam 20:30-31, NRSV). Then the enraged king hurled his spear straight at Jonathan, who jumped and fled in anger from the king’s table, realizing, at last, what a dangerous and deadly position David was in related to his father.

Although the first part of Saul’s insult is usually translated like “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!” (18:30a, NRSV, cf. NIV, NRSV), the Hebrew is quite vulgar and would be more accurately rendered as, “You son of a slu.!” or “You son of a BLEEP!” Interestingly, Lucian’s version of the Greek Septuagint adds gunaikotraphe (“effeminate man”) here (Driver), an idea which Chrysostom reiterates (ca. 400); so the original Hebrew conveyed something of this element as well. Then, the second part of this insult reads, “Do I not know that you have chosen [bachar] the son of Jesse to your own shame [bosheth]…” (18:30b, NRSV). Instead of the verb bachar (Strong, #977) in the Hebrew, meaning “to choose,” the more ancient Greek text uses the noun metochos (Strong, #3353), meaning “to partner with, or companion with”.

The importance of the third part of this insult, which reads “…and to the shame [bosheth] of your mother’s nakedness [‘erwa]?” (18:30c, NRSV), cannot be denied. This final phrase is loaded, in fact, with sexual terminology, including ‘erwa (“nakedness”), most often used in the OT to refer to the genitals and the repeated bosheth (“shame”), which is usually used in a sexual context.

One really has to ask, what was Jonathan doing – nakedly, sexually and shamefully – to receive such an insult as this? In fact, the language throughout 20:30 is so extremely sexually-charged it goes well beyond rationality to believe that we are not meant to interpret it in sexual ways.

For those who will bend over backwards in an attempt to say it was only a 'friendship', I'd like them to share how many well-known examples they can provide of heterosexual male 'friends' making 3 sacred covenants of 'love' and devotion to each other... disrobing completely and giving their clothes, weapons, and heart to their friend... having the father of one friend trying to kill his son's friend solely because they were 'friends', and while also stating to the other friend that his love for him "surpasses the love of any woman."

Though David goes on to marry, this does not prove 'heterosexualty' since there are many gay men who have married and produced children in an attempt to hide their nature. David most likely was bisexual. By the reasoning that it is only a heterosexual friendship... there should be hundreds of detailed, explicit, and well-known heterosexual examples readily available for them to contribute.