The Really Upsetting Thing about the Respect for Marriage Act

This week, with great celebration, President Biden signed into law a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. This new law is also called the “Respect for Marriage” Act. The act seeks to normalize monogendered unions with federal protections against discrimination. It requires states to recognize any union (in other states) between two individuals, regardless of gender.


The fanfare on the White House lawn honored attendees. Those honored with invitations included gay nightclub owners, advocates for LGBTQ+ efforts, and a number of prominent drag queens. The music and the speeches all rejoiced over federal approval of these activities.


This may upset those who disagree that monogendered unions are good for people. It also causes concern to those who see in the law portents of religious freedom demise. But, on that score, the act contains language about having “no impact on religious liberty or conscience” and there are those who fear that it doesn’t really address religious bigotry.


But fearing any of these things misses the most frightful thing about this week’s scene. What is really scary is viewing the White House celebration against the backdrop of Chapter 1 of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, where the apostle describes the unwinding of creation and the revelation of God’s just wrath:


21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.


24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.


26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.


28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.



Note carefully in this passage that rampant homosexuality and gossip and murder are not the inciting problem. They are the punishment (v24, v26). The dissolution of gender in relationship (among other sin listed in vv29-31) is not the wrong that angers God. It is the consequence.


The real sin incurring God’s wrath is un-thankfulness (v21). We do not honor God as God for the wonders of what we enjoy every day. We gaze continually upon His gifts without lifting our eyes to the Giver. We do not acknowledge Him and so take His place. That’s the problem.


The scary part is what God does at the end of His patience: “giving them up” (v24, v26, v28). This tells us that the greatest expression of God’s wrath is leaving us alone. That should be frightening. Not because of a political loss–it is much worse than that.


Paul is not saying that every person w/gender dysphoria is unthankful to God, or that a same-sex attracted person is under God’s wrath. But, rather, from an unthankful society He eventually, simply, removes restraint. Then when someone has a disorder or a temptation away from God’s healthful way, that society will encourage the tempted in their temptation rather than give them the help they need. They will drown out those who can untie the knots of the tempted. It will be a place where envy is encouraged, where strife is normalized, where malice is applauded (v29). And yes, where gender is drained from relationship. Society is left to “give approval to” the very things that bring people down (v32). They celebrate them on the White House Lawn. That is the judgment.


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

If we are fearful, we should take this passage to heart. Things are not out of control. God is very much engaged. The passage also teaches us how we can help. If we spend all our energy trying to get people to stop sexual sin, we are fishing too far downstream. If God is giving a people over, help them to give thanks to Him instead. Give a different way to those with an ear to hear. Help them to see what Christ has done in coming for us. As Paul explains in Romans, it is seeing what God has wrought through Jesus Christ that will bring hearts back to worship and serve the Creator.


Let us proclaim the marvels of what He has done this Christmas.



  1. Keith Gallagher

    Deep read Sam as usual. Every day I pray to our God that He will not remove his restraining Grace from our country. There are days…

    There is much to unpack here, but the change in the title of the marriage act is fascinating to me. A change of one word, from ‘Defense’ to ‘Respect’

    In Peter’s 1st letter believers are instructed to ‘always be prepared to anyone who calls upon you to account for the hope that is in you’. (3:15) In other words, to give a defense.

    If we use ‘Respect’ as a transitive verb, we ‘refrain from interfering with’. That is interesting…

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