Jimmy Carter Supports Gay Marriage: “Jesus Never Said Gay People Should Be Condemned”

In his new book, NIV Lessons From Life: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter, the former president discusses how to apply a faithful and thoughtful reading of the Bible into a modern worldview. The Huffington Post’s religion vertical chatted with Carter and brought up the gay question:

Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things—he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.

I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn’t require them to.

Plaudits to Carter, married for 65 years himself, for reconciling his Biblical faith with the reality of the modern world.

Carter has also signed on to the inclusion of marriage-equality language in the 2012 Democratic National Platform, alongside fellow ex-prez Bill Clinto, almost-prez Al Gore, 22 Democratic Senators, and other leaders across the nation.

Photo via Talk News Radio News Service

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  • Caleb

    President Carter has always been a class act.

  • Robert in NYC

    The essence of a true christian.

  • 1equalityUSA

    If we are authentic and truthful about ourselves, deceit collapses. Let’s respect each other enough to be genuine. Honesty, especially in the face of hate, is admirable. Thank you, President Carter, for your tender words.

  • Joetx

    I’m not going to give Carter a lot of credit. There is NO LAW requiring churches to marry anyone. A church can refuse to marry an interracial opposite-sex couple w/o repercussions from the government.

    To make that an issue says a lot about Carter’s knowledge (or lack thereof).

  • Bob

    He didn’t say the WAS a law. He said he would draw the line at MAKING IT a law.

  • B

    No. 4 · Joetx wrote, “I’m not going to give Carter a lot of credit. There is NO LAW requiring churches to marry anyone. A church can refuse to marry an interracial opposite-sex couple w/o repercussions from the government. To make that an issue says a lot about Carter’s knowledge (or lack thereof).”

    I don’t think Carter was making an issue of it. Rather, as a former president, he’s used to having anything he says taken out of context and was simply making sure nobody had an excuse to do that. BTW, one of Mark Leno’s bills (probably vetoed by Arnold) explicitly exempted religious organizations from having to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Leno did that because supporters of Proposition Eight were claiming that Proposition Eight was necessary to prevent religious organizations from having to perform such ceremonies even though the California Supreme Court ruling overturning Proposition 22 and allowing same-sex marriages explicitly stated that religious organizations did not have to perform ceremonies that went against their beliefs. Leno wanted a simple law one could point to rather than asking the voters to wade through hundreds of pages of a legal decision to find a single sentence. The intention was to make it easier to run an initiative campaign to repeal Proposition Eight (this was before any court had ruled that Proposition Eight was unconstitutional).

  • Shungaboy

    Thank you President Carter for your support of our community.

  • GayGOP

    Mr. President, there’s a lot of bad things I can say about you, but I have to credit you for this one. Good going, and Our Lord, I am sure, is proud of you.

  • greenapples

    Carter: Terrible president, fantastic post-president.

  • Wes

    So Carter is discounting creation; namely Adam and Eve. Carter does not believe that the bible is the truly inspired word of God, he does not believe that God would protect his word through the ages. He is therefore making the bible convenient and fashions it to his interpretation whereas the bible expressly forbids homosexuality in many passages. I would think that man cannot even fathom God let alone interpret it speculatively. His inspired word eg: through the writings of Paul for example, who may I add was personally approached by God/Christ himself, would the inspirations of his letters all of a sudden be a betrayal of his encounter. Homosexuality is a sin, and I believe is a perverted act of man himself, and was never inspired by God, and also was never documented or given consideration in the bible as such!

  • 1equalityUSA

    The entire 33 years on the planet, Christ Jesus never mentioned a word about gays. He did, however, speak frequently about being judgmental and spoke about divorce, conveniently set aside. We, who were born this way and chose not to deceive others, may even have a purpose. We could lie and be inauthentic to make others more comfortable, however, judgmental people will cast their eyes upon others, usurping the Reader of Hearts, still. For those who have made it their mission to point fingers at gays, err on the side of love, it’s safer for you and in line with God’s plan. If you hold one part of the population up to such high scrutiny, be willing to apply it to all.

  • Robert in NYC

    @Wes: Really? Sounds as if the majority of religious denominations conveniently ignore references in the old testament which would not comport with 21st century standards. Polygamy, incest, stoning of women to death for adultery, killing of children for insolence. Abraham married his sister (incest). None of it was condemned. Adam & Eve must have committed incest with their children, otherwise, how on earth could the planet have become populated. Not a word against incest in the bible either.

  • Wes

    Christ’s driven and complete message was forgiveness of all our sins; this is why he came, to redeem us. There are many things that were not mentioned or recorded; but should we speculatively take anything; for example “homosexuality” and interpret this as being indicative of Christ’s intent(s) while knowing that this is contrary to his nature as the “creator”? We as man want to justify homosexuality so that we can fashion it and make it convenient for our chosen way of life? I think the answer is easy to surmise as to whether homosexuality is a sin or not. Yes, we as Christians; Christ taught us tolerance and forgiveness of our fellow man; but he also taught us the “ways” of the Lord. Is it our excuse now to be “naive”?

  • Robert in NYC

    @Wes: As usual, so called “christians” like you ignore or avoid responding to the points I made. FYI, we do NOT choose our sexual orientation, but religious people choose their beliefs. Nobody comes into this world that way. If anything, you choose to cherry pick verses in the bible and discard those that make your chosen lifestyle so incompatible with reality. If any of you really believe the bible to be the word of God, then you must believe in everything therein without exception.

  • Wes

    Then show me where “homosexuality” is permissible in the bible; show me where it is written, as a believer in the infallible word of God? And yes, explain to me the “true” essence of a Christian? If the “essence” is tolerance and forgiveness, then yes, as we are all sinners in any respect; not only in the act of homosexuality. I believe “homosexuality” is a choice, and in all of our sinful ways we want to invent belief systems to alleviate and change it to make it convenient for what we believe to be true of ourselves, and in this case you say “born this way” which is “cherry picked” according to your version of context and it is not biblical! I did not “cherry pick”, it states homosexuality is a sin and a abomination to the Lord in many passages; tell me, which passages were “cherry picked” and why is that “not” reality? Well whether you were born this way or not, it is sin and contrary to God as written in the bible! It is your turn to answer my questions?

  • Robert in NYC

    @Wes: Again, you conveniently ignore the comments I made in regard to verses you and your kind deliberately ignore. If you believe the bible is the world of God, you must also believe that stoning one’s wife for adultery until she is dead is acceptable, as well as the killing of children for insolence, the Adam and Eve nonsense and their prolific incestuous relationship with their children, Abraham marrying his sister, Lamech committing polygamy in Genesis, Lot’s daughters having sex with their own father, another beauty from Genesis and the list is endless.

  • B

    No. 14 · Wes wrote, “Then show me where “homosexuality” is permissible in the bible; show me where it is written, as a believer in the infallible word of God?” It’s in Genesis, which credits “God” with the creation of the universe.

    Now jump to the 20th and 21st century, where after millennia of work, we started to understand particle physics. There is a rule jokingly called “The Gell-Mann totalitarian principle” sometimes formulated as “That which is not forbidden is compulsory.” I.e., if a rule of nature does not prevent some reaction between particles, it happens with some non-zero probability. Since there is nothing in the Bible that bans homosexuality, it is allowed by the laws of nature that “God” set up when the universe started.

    Now, there are mistranslations and misinterpretations that might superficially suggest otherwise to you. For example

    1. The Sodom and Gommorah story – roughly 3 to 5 percent of the population is gay, yet they have every male in town wanting to “know” Lot’s guests. They more likely wanted to know who they were and why they were their, and intended to beat the information out of them or just humiliate them so they’d know who is “boss”.

    2. Leviticus – the last sentence states that it is a set of rules for the “people of Israel”, not anyone else. Also the local pagans had rites that included men having sex with male temple prostitutes, and Leviticus tries to discourage participating in those pagan ceremonies.

    You can read details at – you’ll find both “conservative” and “liberal” Christian viewpoints, which would not differ so much if the original meaning was obvious.

  • Randy

    I am not one of you, but I am your loving brother and have stood against gay-bashing for 40 years+. The bible has many passages which do or may oppose homosexuality, but the sin of Sodom and Gommorha was clearly one of inhospitality to those whose ways were “strange”. Jesus always chose the outcasts as his companions and taught a doctrine of love and inclusion.

    The scriptures have come to include much ambiguity and nonsense, but Christ’s message shines clearly through it all and I am not at all surprised that a man of Carter’s spiritual conviction and social probity would choose good over evil. I hope Jesus does come again because I would love to see the faces of my hate-filled neighbors at the Westboro Baptist Church.

  • ben

    Nice of him to say that, but to use the things a fictional person has said or not said is downright alarming. It is perfectly normal, it doesn’t limit any other person in their freedom or rights…so there is not a single reason to say anything against homosexuality . Easy as that.

  • Anthony

    Why would i believe a politician on the on any matter pertaining to faith or God? As far as i’m concerned most politicians use religion as another form of getting the masses to like them.
    Seems this guy isn’t any different.

  • d bigham

    Lets say for a moment that I believed homosexuality a soon I ask why is it that we condemn homosexuals over any other “perversions”why don’t churches condemn alcoholics our murderers equally? Its because we are human and we are incapable of accurate literal interpretations.

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