Pastor Pam Fickenscher has served Lutheran parishes in the Twin Cities since 1997 and has served Edina Community Lutheran Church since 2002. She lives in south Minneapolis with her husband and two children.
In his recent commentary ("Why the definition of marriage matters," May 18), B. Gehling makes the stunning claim that the "definition of marriage" has been stable and fixed for most of history. Therefore, he argues, the definition currently upheld by the Roman Catholic Church should be enshrined in the Constitution. We should accept his claims neither on historical or religious grounds.
Marriage has taken a number of shapes through history, many of which would not be supported by Minnesota law, as any child carefully reading the Old Testament will discover. In many times and places, legal definitions were much more concerned with the orderly passing on of wealth than with the welfare either of a mother or her children.
Gehling makes vague reference to stepparenting as problematic for children. But a constitutional amendment defining marriage would do nothing to prevent divorce, remarriage, single parenting or stepparenting. He further asserts that "real" marriage is about bodily union open to the possibility of procreation, but neither Minnesota law nor, I would venture, most Minnesotans support forbidding marriage to those who are disabled or past the age of procreation.
Marriage, as understood in my Lutheran religious tradition, is a social good that, while not right for everyone, provides a stable framework for lifelong faithfulness and love. In such stability, indeed, children can flourish, if that stability is anchored in love and forgiveness. But it is the lifelong commitment and faithfulness of the partners and the support a community provides to a relationship that create that stability — not the inborn gender of the two people involved.
Five out of six Minnesota synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have already voted this spring to oppose the proposed amendment's limitation on freedom. Most of these Lutherans, I would venture, are in "traditional" marriages themselves. But they understand that Christians are called to seek the good of their neighbors, even neighbors different from them. This amendment does nothing to actually aid those traditional marriages while damaging the welfare of those whose loves happen to be the same gender.
I have been married (to a man) for more than 13 years and raise my children in a congregation where every family is honored and supported. For the sake of my neighbors whose families don't fit the man-woman model, and for the sake of my children who I hope will understand marriage as lifelong loving faithfulness, I intend to vote no.