Editors note: This is part two of a two-part series called "Faith and Homosexuality."
Is a same-sex preference part of one's nature, or does it go against the natural order of life?
Opponents of gay marriage believe same-sex relationships should not be legally binding. Yet, the country as a whole seems to be more open to gay marriage. By July, 11 states officially will have recognized such unions.
Sam Rohrer, a former state representative and president of the Pennsylvania Pastors' Network, questions that action.
"At the end of the day, should we be redefining marriage? No, we must not be redefining marriage, particularly by the government. Marriage is established by God."
The idea of one man and one woman coming together to form a family came from creation, he said.
"It's not in the jurisdiction of government to redefine that definition," said Rohrer of Berks County.
Rohrer believes that most people who profess to be gay are not saying that they want their relationship to be recognized as a marriage. He believes they are saying they do not want to be denied government benefits.
Marla, a lesbian whose name has been changed for this story, does not see it that way.
She said she would want to marry a partner "to show her how much I love her."
Although she is not in a relationship now, Marla, who lives in the Altoona area, has had two long-term relationships.
"I guess I'd be divorced twice by now if I could have married," she said, affirming her belief in marriage for all couples.
She said she has no issues with God concerning her attraction to other women.
"God makes no junk," she said. "God made me the way I am. I don't have a choice."
"I knew I was different growing up," she said. "I became aware of it when I was 18."
Marla said she met a woman who made a difference.
"She set off alarms that a guy should have set off," she said.
Genetics or choice?
The president of the oldest and largest Christian organization dealing with homosexuality agreed that people do not set out to be gays or lesbians.
"It's not something we choose or ask for," said Alan Chambers, leader of Exodus International, based in Orlando, Fla.
Chambers said while no research has turned up a genetic link for homosexuality, a component exists that compels the attraction in addition to nurturing that occurs in childhood.
"Many researchers, Christian and secular alike, have tried to boil the issue down to simple choice or genetics," Exodus International states on its website. "We believe that both fail to convey the complexity of the issue and only serve to invalidate the people who are same-sex attracted."
Chambers said Exodus International works with and educates churches about the complexities of the issue and equips them to be the primary places where gays and lesbians can seek understanding.
"Traditionally, churches have not been a friend to people with same-sex attraction," he said.
Addressing his own journey, Chambers said he left the church in his early college years because he had enough of the judgmental attitudes and hypocrisy.
"But God called me back," he said, "to help it be the church and covenant people."
He said the church has a long way to go to reflect the song, "They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love," by Jars of Clay.
Chambers added that a new kind of church is emerging - one that is welcoming to everyone and anyone. Mainline, traditional and liturgical churches are contacting Exodus International in droves, seeking ways to be more accepting, he said.
"They really want to impact and reach young people and people who have been marginalized," Chambers said.
He said the organization helps churches to not just focus on homosexuality, but to consider heterosexual struggles, such as pornography and people with multiple-sex partners.
"Don't point the finger at same-sex relationships and say that it is worse. That's an egregious misunderstanding of Scripture."
Pastor Gary Dull of Faith Baptist Church in Altoona believes same-gender relationships are not acceptable, but he also believes there should be no finger-pointing.
"If I point a finger at you, I have three pointing back at me," he said.
He does not believe it is worse than other behaviors. He said it is a sin among other sins such as lying, stealing and other forms of immorality.
Dull said Scripture teaches that people are not to judge others because everyone sins and falls short of the glory of God.
He said gays and lesbians have attended services at Faith, and none of them have expressed being uncomfortable with the service or the people.
"It's a place for comfort and rest," Dull said of the church.
Tracing gay roots
Dull said he has counseled people who have a same-sex orientation, and they desire to change. He believes it is a choice that is nurtured during the preschool years when children explore their bodies and develop a comfort zone with others of the same sex.
People believe homosexuality is ingrained in them because of what is being taught in the public square, he said. In kindergarten and preschool, children are taught that it is a valid alternative lifestyle, Dull said.
He believes sex was designed for intimacy between a man and a woman.
"If you take the way the body is made, it is made for a heterosexual relationship," Dull said.
He said according to Genesis 1:27-28, sex was designed for reproduction and pleasure.
"God wants us to be happy people, and it is pleasurable in the context of marriage between a man and a woman," he said.
"Homosexuality has been recognized throughout history as a sin of immoral conduct [Romans 1:18-32]. Through right choices and dependence on the Lord, it can be overcome," Dull said.
The Roman Catholic faith also considers homosexuality a sin if a person indulges in the behavior.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in its "Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations," being inclined to a homosexual lifestyle but not acting on those desires is not a sin.
While Catholicism does not condone the lifestyle, the bishops emphasize that the person should not be marginalized.
It states: "It is important that Church ministers listen to the experiences, needs, and hopes of the persons with a homosexual inclination to whom and with whom they minister. Dialogue provides an exchange of information, and also communicates a respect for the innate dignity of other persons and a respect for their consciences."
Noting that homosexuals often feel unwelcome and rejected, the ministry encourages the parishioners as well as clergy to be examples of Christian love.
The Catholic church defines marriage as a union between a man and woman and does not support same-sex marriage or blessings.
Rohrer said same-gender partners are aggressively attempting to gain benefits that the government has granted that are not in the government's jurisdiction. He said the U.S. Constitutional rights are limited and specific.
"If the government would follow them, we wouldn't have these issues," he said.
Government creates laws to fix other laws, he said, which raises controversies. He compared it to a doctor who treats symptoms but does not get to the root of the problem.
If you go to the root of the problem, it tends to be resolved, Rohrer said.
Rohrer believes that marriage is defined as one man and one woman, committed to one another to raise a family.
But with 50 percent of the heterosexual population living with a partner outside of marriage, he said they deviate from that definition as well.
"Some people say: 'I ought to be able to live with another adult in whatever form I want,''' Rohrer said. "They already do. They don't need a stamp of approval."
Mirror Religion Editor Linda T. Gracey is at 946-7448.