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An Open Letter to the Leaders of Stand for Marriage Maine: A Strategy for Winning the Battle While Losing the War?

Nov. 4, 2009

For printing use the pdf version here.


 To Frank Schubert and other Stand for Marriage Maine leaders, 

I’m glad that you helped to overturn the gay marriage law in Maine but am very disappointed to discover today that you had supported homosexual “domestic partnership” and “sexual orientation” laws in your most recent television ad (here).[1] In that ad you say: 

Abandoning traditional marriage entails real consequences, yet we want to be tolerant of gays. Maine’s Domestic Partnership laws provide substantial legal protection for gay couples. Any problems remaining can be addressed without dismantling traditional marriage. It's possible to support the civil rights of all citizens and protect traditional marriage at the same time. 

Such a concession provokes the following questions: Why don’t you go all the way and support domestic partnerships and special civil rights protections for adult-committed polyamorous unions and adult-committed incestuous unions? Why shouldn’t these unions have the same protections as homosexual unions? Intrinsic measurable harm cannot be demonstrated for any of these three groups, only disproportionately high rates of harm.  

Moreover, polyamory and incest (adult-committed) are analogically or foundationally related to homosexual practice. It is the twoness of the sexes, designed by God in creation for sexual pairing, that led Jesus to conclude that there ought to be only two persons in a sexual union, whether at any one time or serially (Mark 10; Matthew 19). A male-female prerequisite is thus the foundation for absolute opposition to sexual unions comprising three or more partners. Incest and same-sex intercourse are alike rejected because they constitute attempted sexual unions between persons who, as far as embodied existence is concerned, are too much “same” and not enough “other,” whether on the level of kinship or the more essential characteristic of sex or gender.  

Once the benefits of marriage are granted to homosexual unions, so that only the name “marriage” is denied, it is sheer hypocrisy not to go all the way and grant the name (as the Massachusetts Supreme Court recognized, refusing to stop at homosexual domestic partnerships). In addition, “sexual orientation” laws enable the state, private employers, and academic institutions to take the view that persons critical of homosexual unions are the moral equivalent of racists, motivated by blind prejudice. Support for these laws makes “gay marriage” inevitable, if not today then sometime very soon. Why would you support measures that establish your opposition to homosexual practice as rooted in prejudice and bigotry? 

You won the battle yesterday but you may have lost the war. Your support for homosexual “domestic partnership” laws and “sexual orientation” laws may insure the defeat of your cause in the near future. Or, to switch metaphors, you didn’t lose the store yesterday but you did so mortgage it to the hilt as to make its long-term retention nigh impossible.  

I urge you to take a new look at this self-defeating strategy that you have adopted. Please read my online articles for further elaboration of the points that I raise above:  

“Why Homosexual Behavior Is More like Consensual Incest and Polyamory than Race or Gender: A Reasoned and Reasonable Case for Secular Society” (May 22, 2009; 7 pgs.; online:

“Why a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity ‘Hate Crimes’ Law Is Bad for You” (June 2009; 9 pgs.;

“What the Evidence Really Says about Scripture and Homosexual Practice: Five Issues” (Mar. 14, 2009; 7 pgs.; online:

Unless society can be persuaded that adult-committed homosexual unions are more like adult-committed incestuous and polyamorous unions than heterosexual unions, both in terms of violation of a nature argument and disproportionately high rates of measurable harm, there is little likelihood of long-term victory in this struggle.




Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Author of: The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon) and co-author, Homosexuality and the Bible (Fortress)




  © 2009 Robert A. J. Gagnon