Sunday, April 6, 2014

Abandoning Dead Faith

It has been noted by many that most world religions contain an ethic of reciprocity or Golden Rule. These come in two basic forms-- the negative rule, sometimes referred to as the Silver Rule, "Don't do to other people what you wouldn't want done to you," and the positive rule, "Do to others as you would want done to you."

The negative or silver rule is a passive rule that doesn't take as much effort. As long as you're not hurting someone, you can do what you want.

The positive rule such as the Christian golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is much harder because it is an active ethical position. It's not good enough to not harm people. We are actively called to help. This is the underlying principle of loving your neighbour as yourself and, therefore, the basis for all Christian morality.

The problem with much of the modern church is we've forgotten that our call is to an active faith.

For many Christians-- conservative, moderate, or liberal-- not doing the things the people we demonise do makes us good, or at least good enough.

  • "I'm not a homosexual. They are terrible, lust-filled, perverse, and un-self-controlled people. I am not. My beliefs are better than those other people. I'm a good, true Christian."
  • "I have gay friends and relatives, and I tell them I love them all the time, even though I won't condone their sinful lifestyle. I would never hurt a person for being gay, though. I'm not like those bullies who beat up gay people. My beliefs are better than those other people. I'm a good, true Christian."
  • "I'm not sure if the Bible condemns gay people or not. People should just live their lives and stay out of it. For me this is just a political issue, and Christians shouldn't be involved in an issue that's so divisive. I would never deny a person housing or a job or service for being gay. I'm not like those jerks. My beliefs are better than those other people. I'm a good, true Christian."
  • "I'm sure the Bible doesn't condemn gay people. I'm not one of those crazy Westboro loonies with their hurtful signs. They are terrible, hate-filled people. I am not. My beliefs are better than those other people. I'm a good, true Christian."
  • "I'm not a pro-abortion activist. They are terrible, baby-killing people. I am not. My beliefs are better than those other people. I'm a good, true Christian."
  • "I think there are some times when abortion is okay. For me this is just a political issue, and Christians shouldn't be involved in an issue that's so divisive. I would never deny a woman access to abortion or birth control. I'm not like those people who want to control women. My beliefs are better than those other people. I'm a good, true Christian."
  • "I'm not an anti-choice activist. They are terrible, anti-women people. I am not. My beliefs are better than those other people. I'm a good, true Christian."

    And the list goes on. We get to be holy while sitting on our keisters doing nothing but congratulating ourselves on how our beliefs are more righteous than the other guy's.

    But Christians aren't to be measured by their right beliefs, but by their loving actions. Do we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the unclothed, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, seek justice for the oppressed, care for widows and orphans, and otherwise act with lovingkindness toward all, whether they "deserve" it or not? At those times, we are acting as true Christians.

    Everything else is empty posturing.

    Worship, which derives from "worth-ship", isn't about sitting in a church, singing a few songs, and listening to a sermon on a Sunday morning, but putting into practice the command to love our neighbour. Only in this way do we show the true value we hold for the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Let us all lay aside measuring ourselves against the imperfections of others, and instead seek to reflect the perfect grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Thursday, April 3, 2014

    Two Sons: A Parable

    Once upon a time, there was a mother who had to travel out of the country for some time. She had two children, a college-aged daughter and a son who was several years younger. She left each of her kids as well as her husband notes on what things she usually did that they each needed to do while she was gone. Among the tasks, the husband was to give the dog his nighttime food. The daughter, whose college classes ended before her brother's, was to make sure he did his homework as soon as he got home, cook the evening meal, for which she had detailed menus, and feed and water the dog in the morning.

    The son was tasked with setting and clearing the table, washing all the dishes, and sweeping the kitchen floor. In his note, the mother had also left her son some personal reminders and instructions. She reminded him that until their dad got home in the evening, his sister was in charge and that he needed to help her out with getting dinner ready if asked. She explained that he shouldn't be feeding the dog unless his dad or sister forgot because that would result in it overeating. She told him not to spend all his evenings playing video games and to not get into the food in the cabinet next to the stove, as that's where the food on the menu for the week was located. "Make sure you brush your teeth, comb your hair, and take your Adderall every morning," she reminded. "Be sure to spend extra time on your English. Get that grade up, and maybe we'll see about that iPod you wanted."

    Each of the notes also expressed her love for them, reminding them that she would love them forever.

    After the mother made it back home after her trip, the daughter and husband discarded their notes, but the son kept his, not wanting to throw away his mother's expression of love and pride in him.

    A few months later, the family adopted another son, a couple years younger than their first son. The mother poured a lot of love and care into their adopted son, making sure he knew that he, too, would be loved forever.

    The following year, a family emergency caused the mother to need to travel out of state. She didn't have time to write each of them notes, so she instead talked to them while she was packing, leaving the daughter once again in charge of the household in the afternoons before dad got home. "Be sure to do what your sister asks," she told the two boys. "I'm counting on you."

    The kids and dad divided up the tasks between them-- cooking, cleaning, dishes, dog.

    The day after their mother left, the older son pulled out the note his mother had left him the year before. While the situation was different and his tasks weren't quite the same, it served as a useful reminder. The younger son found the note and read it as well.

    The next day, the dad found the younger son trying to take the older son's Adderall. "Mom said I should," he defended.

    That afternoon, the sister noted that no one had fed the dog, which they had all agreed would be the younger son's job. "I'm not supposed to feed the dog. You and Dad are," he declared.

    The following day, a note came home from the school saying he hadn't turned in his math homework. "I spent too much time on my English homework," he explained at dinner.

    "But that isn't due till next Monday," the daughter pointed out.

    "I need to get my English grade up."

    "But you've got a B+ in it and a C- in math," the dad said, bewildered.

    "Mom said. If I get my grade up, she might buy me an iPod," the younger son answered, then left the room.

    That Friday, the older son had a friend stop by with a new video game. They played for quite some time while enjoying some crackers from the cabinet next to the stove. The younger son yelled at his older brother for disobeying their Mom by playing video games and getting into "that cabinet."

    And so a week passed in confusion until someone discovered the younger son consulting the letter written the year before to the older son. The dad sat his son down and explained that the note was written to his older brother and was intended as advice and instructions only for him, and only for that particular time and situation.

    "But it says it's to her son and that she'll love him forever. Mom is always saying she'll love me forever, and I'm her son, so the note is for me, too, and not just him. I'm just obeying what Mom wrote."

    Once upon a time, inspired by God, prophets and rulers wrote down advice and instructions for the people of Israel in various situations. Once upon a time, Jesus gave advice and instructions to his disciples for their time and place. Once upon a time, various early Christian writers penned letters to specific congregations full of teachings, advice, and instructions for their situations.

    Many of these writing have universal advice, good guidelines for our behaviour. But just because we Christians are God's adopted children, just because he loves us, does not give us ownership over the promises or rules he set up for his older chosen children. Just because we are followers of Christ doesn't mean the advice given to a group of Christ-followers will apply as well to us. Just like the younger, adopted son, we must be discerning of which rules and instructions are universal to all God's children and which were intended for specific people, at specific times, or in specific situations.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    An Open Response to Indiana Rep. Mike Delph

    Mike Delph wrote in an editorial in the Indianapolis Star entitled "Opponents of Christian values don’t fight fair":

    'With the flurry of federal litigation regarding Indiana’s marriage statute, a law that has been on the books since 1986, it appears that our Hoosier society is on the verge of walking through a door never negotiated. Homosexuality is probably the most discussed sin in a sea of hundreds.'

    Really? Because the Bible never mentions it at all. The Bible has hundreds of passages on caring for the poor, standing for the oppressed, and loving your neighbour. Why is the sin of apathy toward the others not discussed and why are we making up sins to justify oppression?

    'You see principles of self-government were always predicated on a strong moral foundation usually anchored by our value system based in large part on the Bible. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Back then, it’s hard to imagine these rights included gay marriage or civil unions. Especially when the Creator referenced is the same Creator from the Bible, the same Bible that references homosexuality as “an abomination in the sight of God.”'

    1) Thomas Jefferson was a deist and had a number of disagreements with the Bible. To suggest that "the Creator" mentioned in the Declaration was the God of the Bible is in conflict with much of the writings and thoughts of the Founding Fathers, including Jefferson. 2) Our principle of governance is not based on a moral foundation, but the idea of EQUALITY for ALL PEOPLE. When you promote laws that oppress a group of people, you are directly opposing the very basis of our law. 3) Back then it's also hard to imagine those rights included interracial marriages or women being able to sue for divorce. 4) The Bible doesn't reference homosexuality as an abomination in the sight of God. First, homosexuality is never mentioned in the Bible because the concept was NOT KNOWN at the time. Period. Second, the term translated "abomination" in the Bible, to'ebah, was an indication that something rendered you ritually unclean. Abominations included cutting the corners of your hair, having a tattoo, planting a field with two crops, wearing mixed fabrics, and remarrying a woman you had previously divorced. None of those are sins. None of those apply to anyone but covenant Jews. None of those are things we would legislate against.

    'Rights come from God and are inalienable, meaning they cannot be taken away by man, or more important, by government.'

    Indeed, not even by government-sanctioned oppression, such as the 1986 law.

    'Governments are instituted among men to protect those rights. Not even courts have the power to create or remove rights. So how can a right exist that does not come from our Creator and what modern rights do we honestly believe are divinely inspired as opposed to invented and imposed by a left-wing orthodoxy?'

    Courts aren't creating rights, but recognising that the right already exists. Just liek straight people, LGBT people have the right to life-- to live without fear of being murdered for who they are or denied critical needs such as medical treatment and housing-- and to liberty-- to live as equals in all areas including employment, harassment-free education, and legal protections of their families in all matters including medical decision-making, inheritance, and co-parenting-- and the pursuit of happiness-- including the right to make their own decisions based on their own belief system, rather than yours. What other "sin" do you propose to use to justify withholding rights from a portion of society? Maybe you'd like to suggest that Muslim marriages, since they aren't Christian and are, therefore "sinful" should also not be recognised and protected in the state of Indiana? Or how about atheists? Or Christians who marry non-Christians? Divorcees?

    'Probably the biggest mess of all was when the government started involving itself in marriage. Tax benefits, estate planning benefits, societal legitimacy are all things traditional marriage brings participants. Even so the stability of society from traditional two parent families has served our state and nation well for years. This is what we are walking away from in our unquenchable thirst for political correctness and false tolerance.'

    Shedding oppressive laws isn't false tolerance or political correctness.

    'Now there is evidence that not only will businesses be sued for operating according to their own faith traditions, but churches themselves can be sued if they refuse to ordain a union their God rejects.'

    This is patently untrue. You are fear-mongering, sir, and should be ashamed of yourself. True love casts out all fear. It is obvious you do not practice Christ's call to love or you wouldn't be bearing false witness in such a craven manner.

    'Social order has been inverted and no one knows the impact, not even the staunchest advocates for this hard turn to the left. I recall a lecture in Bloomington when I was in college by William F. Buckley. He was answering a question regarding the legalization of marijuana, something to which he seemed sympathetic. He said that until societies truly understand the social costs and benefits of public policy and know that the benefit outweighs the cost, they should tread carefully.'

    We are not speaking about public policy. We are talking about justice and equality. Human dignity cannot be placed on scales. The costs of oppression are manifold and terrible. How dare you compare the degradation and pain meted out to LGBT members of our society every day to a recreational drug.

    'No one knows the end of the path we now walk.'

    That was also true when we as a society decided that people of colour deserved equal rights, when we decided women deserved equal rights, when we decided that interracial marriages deserved equal protections. That's no excuse to forego justice.

    'Perhaps we should consider this in the case of opening the floodgates to traditional marriage. No one with a soul wants someone harmed or discriminated against for being gay. But they also don’t want more than 200 years of social norms flushed down the drain without knowing the impact on the world. This is our dilemma.'

    It's only a dilemma if you consider people's lives as less important than a harmful and oppressive social tradition.

    'We are becoming a society and world without boundaries. Anything goes if it has a market.'

    So you are suggesting that LGBT people should have boundaries imposed on them that straight, cisgender people do not? How is this anything but injustice and bigotry? This isn't a matter of a "market". People are not property. Their lives are not for sale.

    'The liberal indoctrination is endless as we watch cultural elitists attack traditional values and bedrock American social norms.'

    Oppression is not a value. If injustice is a bedrock American social norm, we should all be ashamed, not proud, and certainly not working to uphold it.

    'Mickey Maurer, owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal, and John Krull, journalism director at Franklin College and publisher of The Statehouse File (and former head of the ICLU), have used their positions and media outlets to promote intolerance of traditional social norms, including long held Judeo-Christian views.'

    Opposing intolerance is not intolerance. Telling a bully to stop bullying is not bullying. You are not being oppressed when someone tells you you can't oppress someone else just because you can justify it with a few verses taken out of all context. That was true of equal rights for women. It was true of equal rights for people of colour. It was true of legal protections for interracial marriage. And it is true now in recognising the equality of LGBT people.

    'Political reporters Brian Howey and Jim Shella reinvent the chic diet of false entitlement, false rights and false fairness while attacking proponents of traditional values suggesting a seemliness and dirtiness for those who cling to their guns and Bibles.'

    Oh, dear sir, we do not need to suggest anything. All we have to do is point to your "traditional values" of oppression and injustice, and everyone can see the score. Your "values" are unseemly and dirty. Open your eyes.

    'And they are all supposed to be friends of the American experience, friends of freedom when it agrees with their perverted worldview.'

    Your worldview is that all are not created equal and that the government should not extend to all equal rights based on your faith. It is your worldview that is perverted, not the view of those who oppose your injustice.

    'It’s past time that we consider removing marriage completely from the confines of government, and let the church and other faith-based institutions marry according to their own belief systems and traditions.'

    So, are you okay with your in-laws having the right to make medical decisions for your wife? Are you okay with them banning you from your wife's hospital room if they feel like it? Are you okay with having no say on funeral decisions, obituaries, etc. if your wife dies? Are you okay with your wife paying crushing inheritance taxes on your property upon your death as if you were legally strangers, potentially leaving her unable to remain in your home? Are you okay with only one of you being able to legally adopt a child? Are you okay with no one being able to get any sort of accommodation for their foreign spouse to enter, remain in, or seek citizenship in the US? Are you okay with the US military stopping paying any sort of benefits to the spouses of our brave men and women who serve?

    'If I have learned anything over the last months in the HJR-3 debate, opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values don’t fight fair or with honor.'

    Injustice is not a traditional Judeo-Christian value, for it does not fit with the greatest commandment to love, the commands to treat our neighbours as we wish to be treated, the commands to love everyone, even our worst enemies, and to do good to all, even those who we believe would do us harm. When you propose that oppression, bigotry, injustice, and cold-heartedness are "traditional Judeo-Christian values," you reveal that you do not understand or practice The Way of Jesus Christ.

    'They fight to win, and to date have been very successful.'

    Of course they fight to win. They are fighting for justice, for peace, for liberty, for equality, for love.

    'I have to give the devil his due. But the issue is still unresolved and thinking members of faith still have time to engage.'

    Thinking members of faith have engaged. And they have concluded that this matter of justice and equality means they should stand for the rights of LGBT people. Those opposed to it are those harbouring bigotry or a financial or political agenda.

    'There is hope for an outcome where we all can win.'

    Indeed. That would be equality for all. For, you see, when some are not free, none are truly free. Your opposition to marriage equality threatens my quite traditional marriage and my religious freedom.

    'By then we may have a better understanding of the net social cost or benefit from the path we march down.'

    If one more LGBT child is kicked out on the street by "Christian" parents to make their way by petty crime and prostitution, the price is too high. If one more LGBT person is beaten, stabbed, run over, shot, or doused with gasoline and burned to death, the price is too high. If one more LGBT husband or wife is unwelcome at their spouse's hospital bed or funeral, the price is too high. If one more LGBT child is driven to despair by bullying and your bigoted rhetoric into killing themselves, the price is too high. If one more LGBT widow or widower and their children lose their home to inheritance taxes, the price is too high. If one more LGBT person cannot be a proper and legally-recognised parent to their spouse's children, the price is too high. If one more LGBT child drops out of school because of the intolerance of fellow students, teachers, and staff, the price is too high. That's my cost/benefit analysis to the question of whether we should treat some of our citizens as second-class and undeserving of equality. We have seen the social cost of oppression. We will not tolerate it any more. If you are truly a man of Christ, you would not tolerate it either.

    'Delph, R-Carmel, represents Indiana Senate District 29.'

    I am not in your district, or I would be voting you out of office for your cold-heartedness and mockery of Christian faith.

    Saturday, March 29, 2014

    Religious Freedom and Marriage

    A lot of folks who oppose same-sex marriage claim they are protecting their religious freedom in doing so. We are told they aren't opposing rights for LGB people, but are protecting traditional marriage.

    I'll admit that logic mystifies me. Opposing marriage equality for LGB people to protect your own traditional marriage seems like protecting your children's education by opposing equal education for other children. It doesn't help your own children and it harms others.

    Furthermore, establishing a legal precedent that gives state-sanctioned preferential treatment for one religion or set of religious traditions-- even if that religious tradition is yours-- endangers all religious freedoms. This is because it places in the hands of the state a power it should not have-- the power to dictate religious belief, to sanction some faiths and oppose others.

    One needs only look at the history of the shifting oppression of Catholics, then Protestants, then Catholics again in England, as well as the Colonial American religious persecution of Quakers and those of differing Christian beliefs by the Puritans, to see that belonging to some branch of Christianity does not guarantee freedom for Christians within Christian states. Go look at the online comments of Christians to any contentious issue within the modern-day church and how often they accuse those of a different opinion of not being "true Christians." Then imagine giving the power to decide whether your beliefs are orthodox to a government official.

    One of the most contentious issues today is the definition of marriage. Marriage, by its nature, is an expression of a person's most profoundly-held beliefs. Atheists do not seek a full Catholic wedding mass. Catholics do not find a Muslim imam to marry them. Muslims don't find a Pagan high priestess to perform a hand-fasting. Those who marry outside their faith believe such unions are acceptable. Those marrying a person of another race or nation sincerely believe interracial and/or international marriages are not immoral. Likewise, anyone marrying a person of the same gender holds to a faith or belief that recognises such unions.

    When we insist the state should only recognise some marriages, but not others, we are asking the state to dictate religious belief. We are trying to hand the state power which it cannot and should not wield if we wish to remain free to exercise our own religious beliefs. We are asking the equivalent of that stranger on the internet to decide if we are a "true Christian."

    I'd much rather protect my traditional marriage by defending the rights of LGB people to marry according to their own beliefs, and not mine or anyone else's.

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    A Gay Couple Walks into a Christian-Owned Bakery: The Problem of Refusing Service on Religious Grounds

    In the news is yet another Christian-owned bakery that has refused service to a gay couple for their same-sex commitment ceremony, claiming, "As artist [sic] we must find the inspiration to create something special for our clients. When asked to do a cake for an occasion or with a theme (alcohol explicit in nature) that is in opposition to our faith, that inspiration is not found."

    This happens with sickening regularity with bakeries, inns, restaurants, and other businesses. For those Christian owners of businesses who would consider doing this to a client, let me tell you in no uncertain terms that this is not what Jesus would do.

    Jesus was very clear on how we are to behave toward everyone. We are to love our fellow Christians. We are to love our neighbours (and that includes everyone-- not just those of our faith or nation). We are to love our enemies. In fact, we are to go above and beyond for our enemies and those who force us to do things we do not want! We are told to give more than is demanded, to go the extra mile. (Didn't know that was from the Bible? Look it up.) While most of us would hesitate to label someone with whom we disagree on some religious matter an enemy, this still sets a model of Christian love, compassion, and humility.

    We are called to do for others as we would want done for us. If you were to go into a bakery run by someone who had been hurt by Christians so much that he or she believed that Christianity was immoral, and if you asked for a cake to celebrate your child's baptism or first communion or confirmation, would you want to be told that the baker didn't bake cakes for Christian events because he or she didn't agree with our beliefs or lifestyle? How would you feel?

    Would it be right for a bed and breakfast to refuse to honor the reservation of a honeymooning interracial couple because they sincerely believed the Bible says that mixing races is a sin?

    Many Middle Eastern Christians shop in grocery stores run by Muslims because it is the cuisine they know how to prepare. Should the Muslim store owner refuse to sell to Christians because he does not agree with their beliefs?

    Our Christian witness is so very badly damaged when we act loving only to those who share our beliefs and discriminate against those who don't. We are seen as hateful and prideful and hypocritical in ignoring certain sins and only refusing service based on others to which we are not subject.

    Jesus said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me." In Romans, Paul instructs us, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

    Our efforts on behalf of people with whom we disagree should be exemplary, our absolute best.

    Let it be said of us all, on the judgement day, "I needed a wedding cake, and you baked the very best one you could. I needed a place to stay, and you welcomed me so warmly. I needed a pleasant meal and time spent with my beloved, and you made sure my evening was perfect."

    Thursday, December 19, 2013

    Anti-LGBT Folks, Stop Comparing Homosexuality to Rape

    It seems like every time some news item comes out about LGB people, either as individuals or as a group trying to secure their equality, people claiming to be Christians pop out of the woodwork and compaire being LGB to practicing pedophilia or bestiality, or they quote the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    If you think this makes you look like you're taking the moral high ground, I have news for you. It doesn't. In fact, it makes you look so immoral that you can't even tell the difference between consensual sex and rape. It makes you look like a monster.

    There's consensual sex-- two adults in full control of their faculties and without coercion agree to have sex and do so. Then there's non-consensual sex, AKA rape. This includes one or more people coercing another person to have sex through force, threat, drugs, or power differential. This also includes taking advantage of a situation where the other person cannot consent to sex because they are under the influence of drugs, or are injured, unconscious, disabled in such a way as to not understand what they are consenting to, or are too young to understand what they are consenting to.

  • Pedophilia is rape. Children do not have the capacity to consent to sex. The adult is using a power differential to coerce sex.
  • Bestiality is rape. Animals do not have the capacity to consent to sex with a human. The human is using a power differential to coerce sex.
  • Sodom and Gomorrah is about rape. The men of Sodom were using their greater number and their hometown advantage to "know" the strangers. The common argument here is that this is meant sexually. It's an attempted gang rape, and a rape of non-humans at that. (There are other non-sexual interpretations of this passage, but they don't come up in discussions of LGBT people, so we'll go with the sexual interpretation here.)

    Two same-sex-attracted adults who both consent to a sexual liaison without coercion is not rape. When you compare homosexuality to bestiality, pedophilia, or the attempted gang rape in Sodom, you're demonstrating that you don't understand consent.

    If you can't distinguish consensual sex and rape, why would anyone trust you on any moral matter? Why should we trust you preaching our sermons, teaching our children, leading our nation or communities, hearing court cases, or extending aid to the vulnerable members of our communities?

    If you want to present yourselves as the moral guardians of our children and our nation, stop making arguments that paint yourselves as immoral monsters.

  • Friday, November 22, 2013

    Regarding Indiana HJR-6

    Indiana's HJR-6 proposes to amend the state constitution to add the following: "Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."

    I have a few questions.

    1) It is my understanding that this is already a law in the state of Indiana and has been since 2004, so this merely cements the law to be beyond the reach of the simple democratic process such that a laborious process would have to be undergone to modify this law in any way. This strikes me as unwise. On what grounds would you support placing modification of Indiana's marriage laws outside of simple democratic process?

    2) Approximately 1 in 200 people are intersex-- having characteristics of both male and female. Given the census data of 6,483,802 people in Indiana in 2010, this would indicate that Indiana has over 32,000 intersex individuals living here. Are these individuals barred from getting married in Indiana, or having their out-of-state marriages recognized and protected in Indiana, because they are neither fully male or female?

    3) A female-to-male transsexual married while he was still legally female. Now that he is male, would his marriage be invalid and unrecognized because it consists of two men? Or, since he entered the marriage when he was legally female, would his marriage be recognized in this state? I have friends who were both assigned female at birth, but one considers himself to be male, though he has not transitioned. They are planning to get married soon in a state that allows same-sex marriages. If he were to later transition to male, would his marriage become recognized in the state of Indiana? How would the state then handle the period of time where his marriage was not recognized as valid in Indiana? Was it still not valid for that period of time?

    4) If a same-sex couple married in another state were to seek a divorce, could they do so through the Indiana court system? Are children born to same-sex couples married out-of-state considered to be born out-of-wedlock? If the state refuses to recognize same-sex marriages, does this remove parental rights from one of the parents of children of these marriages? How do you determine which parent loses parental rights? Can schools recognize the parental rights of both parents, or is that recognizing a legal status substantially similar to marriage? How about hospitals?

    5) If a person in a same-sex marriage is hospitalized and unable to make medical decisions, is the hospital prevented from recognizing their spouse's right to make medical decisions for them due to this law?

    6) Would corporations who offer same-sex partner benefits be unable to do so in Indiana because it is a violation of the state constitution? Would state-funded universities who offer same-sex partner benefits be stopped from offering them? Corporations or hospitals who take state funds?

    7) If a man and woman in a common-law marriage were to get into a domestic dispute, could they seek relationship counseling and mediation from a state-run agency or would their relationship-- unmarried but identical or substantially similar to marriage-- disqualify them? If the dispute were to turn violent or abusive, will state agencies proffer help to the abused partner-- police and courts treat the case as a domestic abuse case and shelters for victims of domestic abuse recognize it as such-- or are they regarded as strangers in the eyes of the law due to this amendment?

    8) The same questions as number 7, but for a same-sex couple legally married out-of-state but residing in Indiana.

    9) Are you okay with losing employment opportunities for Hoosiers if corporations choose to leave the state or not move factories or offices to the state due to this constitutional amendment? Are you okay with losing tourism and university students and staff? Are you okay with a brain drain of artists, musicians, scientists, engineers, doctors, and other highly educated professionals who may choose to leave Indiana or not move here in the first place because it negatively impacts their family or personally offends their ethics of legal equality?

    10) A native American two-spirit enters into a same-sex marriage in a state that legally recognizes them and then later moves to Indiana. Would the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion outweigh the law such that his marriage-- legal in his state and recognized by his religion-- would be recognized and valid in Indiana? What about a person legally recognized as a Hijra in India who now resides in Indiana? Because India recognizes her as a third sex and neither male nor female, is she unable to marry in Indiana? Or is she regarded as a woman for purposes of this law because of the female pronouns and social roles? Or is she male because her birth sex is male? A same-sex couple, legally married in their home nation, enters Indiana as tourists. Is their status as a married couple protected or does the state offer no protections to them? Does this status change if they remain as legal immigrants?

    11) Can you give me a non-religious reason (as our constitution guarantees freedom of religion) for this amendment? Please, note, I do not consider a state interest in procreation as a valid reason for this restriction unless the state also restricts non-fertile couples from marriage. Please, explain why a prohibition of some sects of the Abrahamic religions is preferred over the beliefs of other religions which recognize and embrace same-sex couples.

    Please, keep in mind I am a straight, cisgender Christian who has been married for 26 years. I consider this legislation to be a threat to both my religious freedom and my marriage as it establishes a legal precedence for preferring the religious tenets of one religion above another and of the state empowering itself to invalidate or not recognize the status of legal marriages. If you stand for the religious freedoms and protections of the marriages of your constituents, you must oppose this amendment. Sincerely, Lynette R. F. Cowper