Should a Christian refuse to issue a gay marriage license?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

The clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, Kim Davis, has caused a national controversy with her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Davis states that her Christian convictions will not allow her to in any sense endorse gay marriages. Davis was temporarily incarcerated for refusing to obey a judge's order for the county clerk's office to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Is Kim Davis doing the right thing by refusing to issue gay marriage licenses?

On one side of the argument is Romans 13:1-7, which instructs Christians to obey the government or face the consequences. The only instance in which a Christian is biblically justified to disobey the government is if a decree of the government contradicts God's Word (Acts 5:29).

On the other side of the argument is the biblical truth that homosexuality absolutely is an immoral and unnatural sin (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9) and that gay marriage is not, in God's eyes, a marriage.

The question, then, is whether issuing a gay marriage license is an endorsement of homosexuality/gay marriage. Davis thinks that it is. Therefore, Davis is making the right decision, for her, by refusing to issue gay marriage licenses (Romans 14:23). If she is not fully convinced that it is the right thing to do, she shouldn't do it (Romans 14:5). Do I agree with Davis that issuing gay marriage licenses is an endorsement of homosexuality? I am not sure. As a result of my uncertainty, and according to the principles contained in Romans 14:5 and 23, I would have to make the same decision and refuse to issue gay marriage licenses.

At the same time, if I were a county clerk faced with this decision, I would likely resign rather than fighting it to the point that I was thrown in jail. Why? Because as a government employee my job would be to do what the government tells me to do. My job would be defined by the government. I would not apply for a job that would require me to violate my convictions. So, why would I stay at a job when the job has become something that would require me to violate my convictions?

Yes, I am aware of all the arguments that the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage is unconstitutional and/or that with no codified law on gay marriage, Davis is not technically disobeying a law. To me, this is legal mumbo-jumbo that is simply avoiding the issue. According to the US Constitution, the Supreme Court is the highest court in the country. We the people elected the presidents that appointed them and the senators who approved them. If we disagree with their rulings, the course of action is to have Congress impeach the Supreme Court justices and have new justices appointed. Pretending that the Supreme Court ruling is invalid is pointless. As much as I strongly disagree with its decision, according to the Supreme Court, it is illegal to not allow gay couples to marry. Therefore it is illegal for county clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

So, while I admire Davis for standing by her convictions even to the point of being thrown in jail, I also think that the government has the right to punish her for refusing to do her job and for violating the law. Having her thrown in jail for standing firm in her religious convictions seems extreme. But, at the same time, it is precisely what Jesus predicted (see Luke 21:12).

How long before pastors are jailed for refusing to perform gay wedding ceremonies? How long before bakers and florists are...oh wait...that has already happened...How long before Christian internet ministries are forbidden from saying that homosexuality is a sin due to it being considered "hate speech"?

What Davis is experiencing is simply a small foretaste of what Christians will experience in the future. Persecution is here and greater persecution is coming (John 15:18-25). Someday, following Christ will cost us our lives, not just fines and jail time. Christians in the USA are just now starting to experience what the vast majority of Christians in the past 2000 years have experienced — living as a minority in an anti-Christian and ungodly nation.

All the more opportunity for us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).

Image Credit: Robert Occhialini; "Marriage License"; Creative Commons

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Published 9-9-15