If you oppose gay marriage should you also oppose gay divorce? This is the very real dilemma faced by conservatives in Texas. A recent court ruling in Texas would allow a couple legally wed in Massachusetts to divorce in Texas but some are opposing this ruling.

This story began in 2006 when two men were married in Massachusetts and then moved to Texas. Now they want a divorce. In January the couple reached an agreement re: property and the dissolution of their legal marriage. But when they went to court to formalize their decision the Attorney General of Texas sought to stop the divorce. His argument? Same sex marriage was not allowed by a constitutional amendment in Texas so same-sex divorce could not be legal in Texas. A judge saw it differently and granted them a divorce. She argued that the state's law violated the federal right to equal protection under the law. The Attorney General then appealed the case to "defend traditional marriage." A gay spokesman said, "the irony is that the anti-gay forces are so opposed to gay relationships that they won't even let us out of them."

There are, so it seems to me, several issues involved here. People get married under state law but when they move into another state they are not legally unmarried. There is a principle of comity that states have recognized for a long, long time. But some states do not extend this to gay marriages. Indiana and Rhode Island have denied divorce to gay couples married in other states. New Jersey has allowed it.

You might suggest this couple move back to Massachusetts but they would need to live there for one year to then get a legal divorce. Other issues arise in this messy context as well. If a man has a husband in Iowa, he might take a wife in Texas without being guilty of bigamy. In fact, a gay "dead beat dad" could run off on his partner (and potentially their family) and escape to Texas and not be charged.

The irony in Texas is that the very people who oppose same-sex marriage are trying to hinder a same-sex couple from breaking up. Do not be mistaken, we have unleashed a legal whirlwind. This is not likely to be resolved until we have a national law one way or the other. I cannot see a national law anytime soon so I expect the legal mess will only get worse.

Maybe the first place Christians should focus their attention is on addressing this issue within the church. We are already confused enough there and every day we seem more confused. Changing the culture on this point, at least anytime soon, is less and less likely given all the data we have about this extremely complex social/moral issue. I am not suggesting we sit this out but I am suggesting we might be "wise as serpents" when it comes to how and where we invest our energy in such battles. My guess is calmer minds and hearts need to prevail but the more emotional this all becomes the less likely it is that we can win the big battles on truly moral grounds.

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  1. Bradley Cochran October 22, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Great insight and advice John.

  2. Charlie J. Ray October 22, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Well the complications you mention were the plan imagined by gay/transexual activists all along. So your solution is to just let the culture go and hope the church doesn’t conform to culture on this?
    Seems to me that Evangelical churches have a poor track record on this. Evangelicalism has for ages been accommodating to culture rather than prophetically challenging it.

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