June 27, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Where Do Marriage Rights Come From?

There is only one reliable source for a “right”—and that is a directive from the only possible giver of rights.

Yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that banned legal opposition to same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states is, as expected, generating a great deal of heated opinion on both sides of the political divide. This will undoubtedly continue for months and years to come. Some consider this a defining moment for the future of our nation.

A central issue is whether same-sex marriage is a “right”—a moral term. The New York Times says, “Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide.” The Washington Post says Anthony Kennedy, the crucial swing vote, cast his opinion on the basis that (1) marriage is a “fundamental right”, and (2) equality is a value that requires extending heterosexual couples’ right of marriage to homosexual couples. “The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest,” he said. He did not explain why this right should be limited to couples.

If same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, it did not exist nationally until Anthony Kennedy and the other 4 justices made it one by the slimmest possible majority. Had he voted the other way, given the court’s political makeup, it would not be a right today. It certainly was not a right when the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, which Kennedy used to justify his argument that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right. The 14th Amendment says nothing about marriage; its framers, moreover, would have thought the idea of same-sex marriage to be bizarre if not immoral.

Discussion of rights has a long history in American jurisprudence, as the “Civil Rights” movement illustrates. There’s a difference, however, between creating a right and recognizing a right. The founding fathers did not believe rights could be granted by any government; that’s why some of them opposed a “Bill of Rights,” arguing that the government’s job is not to enumerate rights but to protect the rights that all citizens have by nature. The Constitution was written to enumerate the limited and just powers by which the new government could infringe on individual rights when absolutely necessary for the general welfare and common defense. This view presupposes that rights are eternal. New rights cannot be created; they can only be defended or temporarily restricted by the consent of the governed. Martin Luther King Jr. argued not for new civil rights, but for the American government to pay up on its promise of protecting the rights recognized in the founding documents for all people.

The view that natural rights are God-given is clear from the Declaration of Independence, in its immortal words that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights” – rights no government can alienate, void, or alter. The subsequent phrase, “that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is insufficient in itself, however, to deny a right to same-sex marriage. Something more definitive is needed. Same-sex partners can always claim it is their way of pursuing happiness, though many would be hard-pressed to explain which Creator endowed them with that way of expressing it. Even if they accept “by our Creator” in the equation, which Creator? Where did he, she, or it talk about marriage?

Many evangelical Christians are understandably concerned about what comes next; will their religious liberties be protected from activists demanding recognition of, and participation in, this new “fundamental right”? Lawsuits against churches and Christian-run businesses are almost sure to come. Activists will now have the full force of the courts behind them. As the lines are drawn in the coming weeks and months between religious liberty and this new “right,” evangelical Christians need to understand the foundation for their position. The nebulous “Creator” of the Declaration of Independence is not enough.

Pastors, Christian businesspersons, and Christ followers in the pews: the answer is in the Word of God: God defined marriage in Genesis 2:24 and Jesus Christ affirmed its timeless truth in Matthew 19:4-6. The Scripture is also consistently clear that homosexual activity is a sin, so to give it free rein in that most intimate of relationships where sexual activity is expected is to sanction sin. No man or government can redefine what God has defined. No man can call righteous what God has called an abomination. Those who oppose this definition are not standing against you, but against God and His Son’s clear words. We know this, but how can we persuade the opposition?

Intelligent design has its place, but you can’t build a case for traditional marriage from intelligent design. You can’t defend it by waving the Declaration of Independence. Christ followers have been given a blow and knocked back on their heels with this ruling; gay activists have been handed a weapon that can be used, and will be used, to persecute all those who try to defend traditional marriage.

It will be a weak argument to say that traditional marriage is just your “religious viewpoint.” The other side will draw faulty analogies, saying that your religious viewpoint doesn’t allow you to discriminate against people of color; likewise, you can’t discriminate against gay couples by not making them cakes, refusing to take their wedding photos, or not allowing them to marry in your church. Any objection will be framed in terms of tolerance, equality and civil rights. Your “religious views” will be portrayed as obscurantist, unscientific, and out of touch with the culture. What are you going to do?

Standing firm on the Word of God is admirable and necessary. Assuring believers that God is on the throne is true and right. These arguments, however, preach to the choir. They are unlikely to convince the other side; rather, such entrenchments will likely confirm their opinions that religious people are dogmatists. Let us suggest an apologetic that could further the discussion with opponents, provided they are still rational.

We suggest you focus on that word “right.” Ask your opponent, “Where do rights come from?” Anything other than an eternal, timeless, God-given definition of rights cannot hold up logically, because it is self-refuting. If rights can be created out of whole cloth, they are not rights, because they can be taken away later. If rights evolve, they are not rights, because they can evolve into something else later. They may be social conventions; they may be arbitrary pronouncements, but they are not rights. If you can change a right, it’s not a right, because it’s not “right” to change a right. If your idea of a right is right for your interest group but not for mine, then might makes right. The very word right presupposes something outside of ourselves that is unalienable and timeless. We could even say it’s supernatural.

You may not get any further in your apologetic, but like Greg Koukl says, you can at least put a pebble in their shoe. “Where do rights come from?” Think this through until you understand it well and can defend your answer. You must be able to prove that if a so-called “right” is not timeless, universal, necessary and certain, it is not a right.  Don’t let anyone call it a right. Help them to see it is merely a social convention. Once they agree that same-sex marriage is a social convention (granted by 5 out of 9 mortal, fallible justices in 2015 after billions of people lived for millennia without it), help them realize it can be changed by another court decision or majority. Pursue this line of argument until the self-refuting nature of this newly-defined “right” becomes clear. “If Republicans win in 2016 and pass a law taking away this right, or if a future Supreme Court vacates the Kennedy decision, will same-sex marriage still be a right?” If they say, “yes, it is still a right,” then keep on topic: “Where does this right come from?” They have essentially agreed with you that the US Government is powerless to grant rights. Help them to see that they are supernaturalists in spite of themselves; they believe that morality is absolute. That is your bridge. Instead of shutting the door on your disagreement, it keeps the conversation going. It makes them think: What is a right? What confers “rightness” to a right?

You can quote Scripture to opponents. You can print them on placards in protest rallies. You can impress them with your courage to stand firm on your religious convictions. These may be effective with some. But we feel the apologetic suggested above accomplishes some necessary pre-evangelism to prepare the ground for the seed of the gospel. Don’t waste seed on hard ground where the birds will snatch it away. Take some time to plow it up, bust up the clods, and rake it smooth; then trust God for the increase (I Corinthians 3:6-8).

“May you live in interesting times,” the Chinese proverb says. Yes indeed; these are times needing clarity, courage, and wisdom. It may become costly to follow Christ. Historically speaking, that is nothing new; it’s been the norm, and is the norm today in many parts of the world. Now it’s our turn. Christ warned that since they hated Him, they will hate his followers. But don’t just curl up and die. Talk to people. Engage them.  Peter encouraged those who suffered in his day to be ready with a defense (apologetic) to those who ask a reason for the hope that is in them (I Peter 3:15-16). Paul said, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). Salt will make them thirsty for more. Grace will keep them listening. God can and will turn evil into good.

We invite your comments on this apologetic.



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  • Pastor Mark says:

    There is indeed a wider issue that should be of high importance to believer and non-believer alike in the USA. The courts have increasingly defied the wishes of the electorate, raising themselves above the voter, the citizen, the patriot. The three branches of government are the executive, legislative and the judicial. All three branches should be beholden to the citizen and responsible to THEM, not the other way around.

    When the government rules the voter, the USA is turned on its head. Is this quote from Abraham Lincoln familiar? “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    When the government, in this case the supreme court, rejects the will of the people and instead exerts its power in brute strength to “rule” the people, it is no longer a government of the people and Abraham Lincoln’s fear has now become a reality. Now the USA has “a government against the people, by the courts and for the left.”

    When the people are powerless to guide their own nation in the face of a small elite who now hold that power is unassailable, does it matter if it is a court, king, dictator? Even if some are happy that the courts have taken the issue of marriage out of the hands of the voters, the people, we must all ask ourselves “what voter decision will be crushed next?”

    Americans have sold their very souls for gay rights and in effect placed crowns on the heads of wicked men and put scepters of power in their hands. As for the executive (the president), yet another ungodly man has sold his soul to the courts for unrighteous gain.

    I am not a legal expert but I can see the moral road and I tell you this, when Americans allowed their courts to overrule their voters, they just put in place unelected dictators to rule their nation and only grief will ever come of this. The ever increasing judicial activism is more dangerous with each slap delivered to the voting public.

    Who is in charge now in the USA? One thing is for sure, it is not the people, unless, unless… Americans vote in a new president gutsy enough to face down an overreaching, activist court. Only in this way may Americans ever take back their country from their dictatorship.

    Americans must vote in a president who will snatch away the self-bestowed scepters from the Court’s grasping hands and self-bestowed crowns from the Court’s scheming heads.

    Your vote is like a talent in your hand. Will you use it or bury it? Will you later tell Jesus on the Judgment Seat that this talent was best buried so evil could increase, bringing on the end-times evil about faster? Are you prepared to reject your role from Jesus as salt in favor of your own self-imposed role of facilitating sin? I tell you now, facilitating sin and burying personal responsibility is NEVER the role of the Christian.

    Be salt and light and don’t worry; Satan does not need your personal assistance to bring sin, evil and darkness!

  • nader says:

    To editor :
    I totally agree and accept your understanding that the core reson for the attitude that man stands alone deciding right and wrong is the atheistic materialistic philosophy that must result in man as the source of right and wrong …..this trend is increasing ….
    But – a very big one – I myself being a Unitarian does not believe in the fall and atonement — all human conditions Now proves that if atonement was right then that conditions cannot exist since every thing was restored by atonement and the fall was corrected which is not true — so I believe that humanity by challenging its Creator Mighty God is heading Now towards the final act of judgement ,….. If ALL are challenging God then planet earth is doomed …
    The premise is correct … The result will follow .
    So it was written
    So it shall be done

  • nader says:

    In this grave stage of humanity assuming the role of god , even taking no notice of god whatsoever , we are in very deep need to hear the voice of God and of the voice of Jesus with respect to this situation …….we do not need or accept any other opinion be it of Peter or Paul or whoever …..
    Prepare for the end of time as once humanity deny their creator then the wisdom of keeping planet earth came to its end .
    So it was written
    So it shall be done
    You will remember what I just told you .

    • Editor says:

      Hello nader,
      Are you righteous before your Unitarian god? How will you escape the judgment to come? Good works won’t help. If you have sinned like me and everyone, you are already guilty.

  • marken55 says:

    A review of the dissenting opinions is valuable. SCOTUS probably has overstepped its bounds.

  • nader says:

    Hello editor :
    You are urging every one to do his share of doing his best to correct the trend of declaring capital sins as legal ! that OK and it is a Good work and by it forgiveness could be attained , if Good word does not matter then why you are against GLHM ? If Good work has no value then let sodom be back with no objection from your or any ones side ……if Good work is in vain then who cares if atheists are in full control of the people , really , who cares …
    There are no salvation without Good work , without Good work earth is in total corruption and all the signs are materialized , just read your post .
    What I am saying is : when planet earth inhabitans turn against their creator then planet earth is doomed ….Thus saith the Lord and his word is an ontological decree .

  • nader says:

    Hello Pastor Mark :
    Do you think the best way to handle this situation is to boycott any L/G/H persons ……no social relations , no contact , no friendships , NO RESPECT , …. This is an obligation of Faith , No human decree can change a cardinal sin to normal behaviour .

  • nader says:

    To editor :
    Does the SCOTUS ruling obligate churches to provide religous wedding services to lesbians and gays ?

    • Editor says:

      Hi nader,
      The ruling itself does not; however, one can foresee lawsuits against any church that refuses a gay couple to marry there. In fact, that is already happening in the UK. Another danger is that institution refusing to recognize same-sex marriage could lose its tax exemption. Some gay activists are already demanding that. Difficult days are ahead.

  • nader says:

    Hi editor :
    God help us , we need His help indeed.

  • Pastor Mark says:

    We have always treated gay people with grace and love, pointing them to Jesus and the word of God. This is not about them, it is about our leaders who make wicked laws or stand aside to allow the wicked (Supreme Court Justices) to flourish.

    Solomon said in Proverbs
    Pro_17:15 He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.
    Pro_18:5 It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.
    Pro_25:5 Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
    Pro_25:26 A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.

    The last verse is more revealing in some other translations.
    Pro 25:26 A righteous man who falters before the wicked Is like a murky spring and a polluted well. NKJV
    Pro 25:26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. ESV

    The righteous must never make way for the wicked, failing to be salt and light. Those unwilling to oppose the wicked have no place in high authority and violate God’s word.

    We have our own authority as voters, to choose the righteous to rule, to choose a wicked person to rule, or we can bury our talent by not voting, hiding it and hoping that the Master does not notice.

    I choose righteousness every time and will not stand aside to make way for the wicked. Besides, it is the wicked, ruling in places of authority that oppress Christians in the sciences just for believing God’s word and exposing clear evidence of creation. We need more of the “righteous leader” types in the sciences too. There have been righteous and Godly leaders in the past, both in the nation and in the sciences. There are righteous people available today. Just choose as Solomon would, choose for the righteous who do not move out of the way for the wicked. Instead of turning the country into a polluted spring, it becomes a fountain of life, and freedom flourishes under the righteous. There is still time, but not a lot of it.

    The believer and Church who does not stem this tide with all they can muster, will soon be in court for refusing to perform gay marriages and loosing the right to preach God’s word, except perhaps by preaching from a jail cell for violating gay rights.

  • nader says:

    ((((Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics

    Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists….

    • Editor says:

      The Pope is not a religious authority for everyone. He is a sinner like all human beings. The Bible teaches redemption, but it comes through repentance from sin and trust in the finished work of Christ. Through Jesus, and Jesus alone, we can have confidence not only of surviving God’s righteous judgment, but of joy with our Creator forever. See Romans 5:1-2 and the preceding chapters.
      We’re straying from the topic at hand (marriage and civil rights), so please stick to the subject and keep comments short and to the point.

  • nader says:

    Hi editor :
    In this situation we are facing a fundamental contradiction….
    In principle is it legal to delete or contradict or oppose a divine clear cut law ?
    Is it legal to declare as legal what God decreed as illegal ?
    That is the question.
    Is the supreme ruling THE ultimate supreme or any decree of God in over and above any human supreme ?
    That is the question .
    Does the constitution support this stand ?

    • Editor says:

      The dissenting judges pointed out that the ruling had no basis in the Constitution. Their opinions are worth reading. No law against God will stand ultimately, but poor laws can cause suffering in the short term (Prov. 29:2).

  • nader says:

    To editor :
    If the constitution does not allow L/G/H and normal case polygamy then the constitution does not allow same sex marriage since it is reduced to marriage in which more that one of the same sex is participating in one case of marriage and this is polygamy.

    • Editor says:

      You’ll never get them to accept this logic, because they redefined the word marriage. And polygamy could well be next, based on their same twisting of the word. They made marriage about personal happiness, not about children and family. One could marry his dog with the new definition.

  • nader says:

    To editor :
    Please refer me to the source where i can read the dissenting judges opinions ..
    Thanks .

  • Pastor Mark says:

    Here are a few clips from the dissenting Justices

    “A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

    “The Court’s accumulation of power does not occur in a vacuum. It comes at the expense of the people.”

    “So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about mar¬riage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.”

    “This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected commit¬tee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extrav¬agant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most im¬portant liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”

    A righteous president supported by congress could put the court in its place.

  • nader says:

    The majority and dissenting opinions took differing views about whether the decision would harm religious liberty. Justice Kennedy said the First Amendment “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” He said both sides should engage in “an open and searching debate.”

    Chief Justice Roberts responded that “people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.”

    Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in his dissent, saw a broader threat from the majority opinion. “It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” Justice Alito wrote. “In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

  • nader says:

    To editor :
    Does the ruling render any criticizing and attacking the concept of same sex marriage in the media as illegal since the ruling raised same sex marriage to the level of essential right ?

  • St-Wolfen says:

    I suspect that only God can intervene now, we cannot expect to see a God fearing man or woman to take the presidency any time soon, and I don’t think we will have many more presidential elections to come. We can only pray that God will remove these ‘voices of evil in our land,’ to paraphrase the Psalmist.

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