Gay marriage is not primarily about gay marriage; it’s mainly about silencing gay consciences.

Given that so few homosexuals and lesbians actually marry when given legal opportunity, their vigorous and often vicious campaign for gay marriage has always puzzled me. After reading Brendan O’Neill’s The Trouble With Gay Marriage, I’m puzzled no more. Although O’Neill doesn’t approach this from a Christian perspective, his post-referendum article on the Republic of Ireland’s move to legalize gay marriage shines a bright light on the ultimate aim of most gay marriage campaigners – and it’s not gay marriage.

Validation and Recognition
O’Neill begins by noticing how little talk or commentary there actually was about gay marriage in the aftermath of the “Yes” vote. As he puts it, “Instead of saying ‘We can finally get married’, the most common response to the referendum result from both the leaders of the Yes campaign and their considerable army of supporters in the media and political classes has been: ‘Gays have finally been validated.’ All the talk was of ‘recognition’, not marriage.”

He then piles up quotation upon quotation to prove his point. For example:

  • Ireland’s deputy PM Joan Burton said the Yes vote was about ‘acceptance in your own country’.
  • Writing in the Irish Examiner, a psychotherapist said ‘the referendum was about more than marriage equality… it was about validation and full acceptance [of gay people]’.
  • PM Enda Kenny also said the referendum was about more than marriage — it was a question of gay people’s ‘fragile and deeply personal hopes [being] realised’.
  • In the words of novelist Joseph O’Connor, the Yes vote was an act of ‘societal empathy’ with a section of the population.
  • The official Yes campaign went so far as to describe the Yes victory as a boost for the health and wellbeing of all Irish citizens, especially gay ones.
  • A writer for the Irish Times described his gay friends’ pre-referendum ‘nagging shadow’, a ‘feeling that [they are] less somehow’, and he claimed the Yes victory finally confirmed for them that they now enjoy society’s ‘support, kindness and respect’. 
  • Fintan O’Toole said the Yes victory was about making gays feel ‘fully acknowledged’.
  • ‘My country has acknowledged that we exist’, said a gay Irish businessman.

Feel Good Vote
O’Neill says that “in short, the Yes result made people feel good,” and that what was sought was “not really the right to marry but rather social and cultural validation of one’s lifestyle — ‘societal empathy’ — particularly from the state.” He highlights older literature on gay marriage which also demonstrated that “early agitators for gay marriage seemed to be primarily concerned with ‘relieving adult anxiety.’”  

Why is this state-sanctioned validation, empathy, acceptance, acknowledgment and approval so important to gay marriage campaigners? Why is it far more important than actually being allowed to marry?

Desperate Measures
The answer lies in Romans 1:18-32, where the Apostle Paul explains what desperate measures that homosexuals (and other unrepentant sinners) take to silence the voice of their conscience. They hear God’s prohibition and condemnation in their consciences, hate it, and do everything they can to shut it up – including, in our own day, getting gay marriage legalized everywhere, even if relatively few ever make use of it. Because, in most cases, it’s not about the right to marry; it’s mainly a vain attempt to muffle the inner voice of conscience by multiplying and amplifying external voices of approval.

If I’m wrong, then why don’t they leave alone the alleged minority who still disapprove of gay marriage. Why will they not tolerate any dissenters? Gay activists have got the media on their side, they’ve got the entertainment industry on their side, they’ve got the education establishment on their side, they’ve got corporate America on their side, they’ve got most politicians on their side, and most courts and judges too. Is that not enough? If they are so sure of the rightness of their cause, why can’t they tolerate even a few voices here and there that still insist, “This is wrong”?

Unprecedented Protection
There’s hardly any group in the world that has the level of public acceptance, validation, approval, and empathy now enjoyed by homosexuals. They’ve certainly got far more recognition, protection, and promotion than evangelical Christians anywhere. So why can’t they leave such Christians alone? What more do they want or need?

Only Romans 1:18-32 can explain this. In effect it says that even if gay marriage is legalized everywhere, and even if every dissenting voice is extinguished, gay consciences will still scream “Wrong!” and “Guilty!” Deep inside they will still know “the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death” (Rom. 1:32). That’s the “nagging shadow” that forever stalks gay consciousness.

Peace Through the Cross
The Christian message to the gay community is to give up this futile attempt to secure peace of conscience through the courts, the media, and millions of crosses on ballot papers. Far better to bring such pained consciences to the cross of Christ for full healing and permanent silencing by God Himself, through faith and repentance. That will do a far better job of removing anxiety, shadows, and fears than any amount of referenda or baker and florist bankruptcies. It will also open the way to experience the immeasurable length, depth, and height of the love of God.

And for Christians who are suffering or who will yet suffer the consequences of societal or state disapproval over this issue, take confidence from the power of a good conscience. We are mocked, disapproved, belittled, sidelined, caricatured, and rejected more than any other group in society. We are called bigots, homophobes, and haters. But having a good conscience through which God speaks His approval and acceptance of us means we can continue to stand for what is right and true no matter how many voices of intolerance and hate yell at us.

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  • David Lipsy

    Well written and insightful. Thank you for the clarity. You’ve expressed similar sentiments given by Dr. Joel Boot in his helpful speech on the “Theology of Cain” given on May 1 at an ARPA fundraising dinner.

  • Stephen Grcevich MD

    You nailed it. Romans 2:15-16 sums it up. Enforced societal approval as a strategy for calming guilty consciences.

  • Alejandro C. Peluffo

    Thanks for this article! From Argentina, Alejandro Peluffo

  • geoffrobinson

    I think we need to ponder how this phenomenon is also guided by heterosexual guilty consciences.

    • Brandon Klassen


      Homosexuality is just one of many sexual sins. The heterosexual crowd seeking to approve of homosexual lifestyles (which far outnumbers that of the actual homosexual crowd) do so because such further normalizes sexual deviation in society. Consciences all across the board are soothed.

      • Nolan

        Why did my conscience tell me it was wrong? Because I was taught all my life it was wrong. I didn’t choose to be this way, I was born this way. On the other hand I was taught religion.

        • Mark

          We are all born sinners. We all desire sinful things. We all sin. You admit your conscience tells you it is wrong? How can you be so sure that it is your upbringing that makes you feel that way? I can be told something is wrong and if instructed properly, i won’t do it. But to feel guilty about it (your conscience telling you it’s wrong)… no one can teach you to feel guilty.

          • Nolan

            my conscience told me it was wrong because of what I was taught. Now that I have educated myself, I don’t believe it is wrong. I have many friends who grew up without religion and they have never been taught it’s wrong and don’t have conscience at all for being gay

          • Mark

            I’m not pointing to any specific sin and i certainly don’t see this as an argument. As I said, we are all sinners. Concerning the conscience, you would agree that it can be changed and what seems right for one person may not seem right to another. Our conscience is heavily influenced by the instruction we receive. That means that my conscience, which leads me to think homosexual acts are wrong, is no more or less trustworthy than yours, which leads you to think homosexual acts are ok. This, at the very least, indicates that how we feel about a certain act is not a good tool to determine the objective morality of that act. So how can we know if something is right or wrong? We must look to an external (outside of ourselves) source. We have to pick a source for our morality. That external source is God (I can discuss why I believe this to be true if you like), and God communicates to us through the scriptures. Paul said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Paul also said, “[...] I had not known lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shalt not covet’,” affirming the earlier statement that we cannot rely on how we feel about something to direct our moral compass.

            Obedience to God is not easy for anyone. In fact, I think complete obedience is near impossible, but we must recognize when we are disobedient, confess our sins, and turn away from them.

            To your point of freedom, you have freedom (assuming you are in the U.S.). There is no law saying you can’t love, be in a long-term committed relationship, or even sleep with someone of the same sex. (There may be some state law out there against that last one, but if so, it’s never enforced.) Is there discrimination? I’m sure there is. A lot of people are discriminated against for a plethora of reasons. But, that’s not the same as a lack of freedom.

            The topic of marriage is something different. Why would any government recognize a marriage? Only because that type of relationship is somehow beneficial to society as a whole. Marriage, from a legal viewpoint, has nothing to do with love or any feelings you may have for someone else. It is a contract that provides a legally binding commitment between two people that have the potential to bring about another generation. That may not be so true in our modern era of high divorce rates and single-parenthood, but I would think that such a shift would push the government to no longer recognize marriage at all (legally) than to expand it further. I do not say this as someone reaping the benefits while closing the door to others. I am a single, childless, taxpayer who doesn’t get any of those breaks. Sorry for the length…

  • Danny Wright

    l love reading short articles that leave nothing to be said.

    • Nolan

      Thank you. Of course this isn’t only about gay marriage. It’s about equality in general

      • Tom1959

        Nolan- I am with you on one thing and that is if Christians who call out homosexuality, they should also call out other forms of sexual sin, such as fornication, divorce (other than for the one reason the Bible gives). That being said, for a Christian who holds God’s Word in high esteem, whether it is homosexuality, or other forms of sexual sin; we must agree with what God says on a given issue. To do otherwise clearly betrays the God they claim to believe in.
        Understand, mistreating any person who is made in the image of God (all people), is also sin. So, obviously we are commanded to love, not hate. This however, is not ignoring truth.
        We are called to speak the truth in love and sometimes that love is going to be interpreted as hate. Love acts similar to a person trying to save a drowning man who doesn’t even know they are drowning.

      • Danny Wright

        You, sir, leave much to be said.

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  • Dan

    Dr.Murray, I recommend as Christians we stop calling it gay marriage. Marriage is between one man and one woman. This is immorality, plain and simple. When we use the worlds terminology we support their cause. Let’s stick to biblical terminology.

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  • Sheila

    What percentage of gay couples are getting married in states where it’s legal and how does that compare to heterosexual couples? Just curious on the numbers to see what a low rate is.

    • Nolan

      It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we as gay people have the equal opportunity to be married! I suspect the number is similar in proportion to the amount of gay people, perhaps slightly lower considering that common law is more popular among the gay community. Once again this isn’t just about gay marriage, it’s about equality!

    • David Murray

      Check out the statistics from the Netherlands where gay marriage has been legal for over a decade. Marriage rate is approx 20% of the rate of heterosexuals, which is 20% of an already tiny percentage of the population.

  • Jeremy

    This is an excellent piece. I did not really think of it from this angle before.

    • Nolan

      This angle is correct. It’s not just about gay marriage, it’s about abolishing discrimination. You guys may believe it is wrong, you’re free to believe that, but we also should be allowed to believe what we want. I was Christian, and am gay. I do not have a guilty confidence.
      I left the church because of the hypocrisy in my church (not saying every church is like that).

      • Lewis

        Do you still believe in God?

  • Nolan

    I’m gay. From a Christian community, and I know that the gay community is not fighting for other beliefs to be silenced, they are fighting for their right to be able to live their life without the discrimination from other groups. We are not asking Christians to change their views – if they believe homosexuality is wrong, they can believe that for themselves. And if by chance a Christian is gay, if he or she believes it’s is wrong they can fight this feeling that they were born with. How they react to this is there decision. But everyone should have the option to choose, and have the opportunity to do as they wish without discrimination. In my church community gays are the worst possible thing, and are treated horribly, while the church accepts other ‘sins’. Divorce is spoken against in the bible, pre marital sex. The bible forbids “adorning oneself with gold” but the churches choose what is allowed and what not. I have never seen anyone shunned because of an divorce, but yet someone who is gay is discriminated against. The amount of hypocrisy among the Christian population is huge, but if they choose to believe it, who am I to object? As long as their beliefs do not infringe on the freedom of others, they have their right to religion.
    Gays do not go around lobbying for the abolishment of religion and in a case which they would, it would be wrong (lobbying for change in religion to eliminate discrimination is different). However the Christian communities rally against homosexuality which is a direct discrimination.
    Let me finish: I was born gay; you were taught religion.

    • Lewis

      Thanks for your well worded comment. I’m just curious are you a Christian or at least a theist? That would help me further greatly in understanding where you’re coming from. You do speak about your church community, but as you noted, that doesn’t always reflect anything with regards to orthodox Christianity, it can reflect a sort of cafeteria set of beliefs where folks pick and choose what suits them.

      Whether we like it or not, this question about sexuality in Christendom remains the biggest, most divisive issue the Christian church has ever seen. It seems almost bigger than any other sin that has ever existed, bigger than divorce, abortion, murder.

      You brought up divorce and people not being shunned for that. I don’t think people should be shunned per se, if they are repentant. I think the point about sinning and coming to join in the body of Christ, is if you are habitually and constantly sinning but are utterly unrepentant about it, then after repeated warnings, sit downs and corrections, you are probably more toxic to that environment than you would be adding to it. Whatever the sin is, it should cause the church-goer to confront their relationship with God in the first place. Divorce (hollywood aside) is not really a lifestyle choice that one proudly unrepentantly abides in, glorifies and demands people accept. Jesus clearly spoke against it, but God is about love and forgivness for the truly repentant.

      Seems to me, the issue with homosexuality, much as I wish the bible said otherwise, it is clearly, unequivocally regarded as a sin and one that is not just a one-off offense, like say divorce to use your example. It is a lifestyle of sin that is in rebellion to God. I heard Voddie Baucham offer great clarity here:

      Anyway, these are just a few quick thoughts but not trying to sound argumentative, just clarifying some ideas.

  • Chuck

    “Given that so few homosexuals and lesbians actually marry when given legal opportunity, their vigorous and often vicious campaign for gay marriage has always puzzled me.” What is your basis for the statement implying that gays and lesbians marry at a lower rate than heterosexuals when given the legal and societal framework to do so?

    • David Murray

      Gay marriage has been legal in the Netherlands for 10 years. There the rate is approx 20% of the rate of heterosexuals, which is 20% of an already tiny percentage of the population.

      • greenpointguy

        On that point, why has gay marriage not brought the destruction of Dutch society?

  • greenpointguy

    Whatever, dude. We’re kicking your asses in the Marketplace of Ideas. Now I’m going home to my husband and our son.

  • Nathan

    LOL: There’s hardly any group in the world that has the level of public acceptance, validation, approval, and empathy now enjoyed by homosexuals.

  • @FMShyanguya

    @disqus_n1s2Dem7jm:disqus: Thank you for this article.

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  • BSDN

    Very well put. Thank you.

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