BRISTOL — That marriage is between a man and a woman is like saying the sky is blue, as Dwight Gosser sees it.
"This is the norm and the standard," said the pastor at the non-denominational New Life Christian Center, east of Bristol. "It goes without saying that marriage is between a man and a woman."
Times change, though, and more and more U.S. states are permitting same-sex marriage. The issue has emerged here in Indiana, as well, embodied in House Joint Resolution 3, initially approved by Indiana lawmakers earlier in the legislative session. But the push via HJR-3 is in the other direction — to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, thereby precluding gay marriage.
All the better, Gosser thinks, because if steps aren't taken to do so, the consequences will be dire.
"Do we just legalize (same-sex marriage) and let everything go?" he said from his church office, adorned, at the entrance, by a door mat reading, "Caution! You are entering a no spin zone."
"That's just anarchy," he said.
The forces against HJR 3 — including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and their allies — are adamant. Accordingly, Gosser warns of a slippery slope — if Hoosiers don't put their collective foot down and define marriage in the Indiana Constitution as a monogamous, heterosexual union, as called for in HJR 3, the opening remains to allow same-sex marriage in Indiana.
That, perhaps, could lead to polygamy, letting adults marry children and worse. Carried to the extreme, he cites the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah, the biblical cities destroyed by the hand of God due to rampant sin.
"We're opening doors that are going to cause confusion and will deteriorate society," said Gosser, who views homosexuality, to cite biblical terminology, as an "abomination."
As such, backers of HJR 3 and foes of same-sex marriage say they need to remain vigilant. Advocates like Gosser aren't necessarily attuned to the intricacies of the political debate over HJR 3. In fact, there was little vocal campaigning here in Elkhart County for HJR 3 as lawmakers debated the measure in January and February. The Bristol area pastor, though, is an admirer of Eric Miller, the conservative Christian activist who's pushed hard for HJR 3.
And homosexuality and same-sex marriage are key concerns in his church, reflecting attitudes in many churches across Elkhart County and elsewhere.
"I think the issue is probably the No. 1 issue of today," said Gosser. "It comes up quite often because that segment of society is really stressing society."
The debate over HJR 3 is done, for now. But the proposed constitutional amendment will likely come up for consideration by the Indiana legislature again in 2015 or 2016, per the complicated process to amend the state's Constitution. If lawmakers give it a second round of approval, it would go to voters for final consideration in the November 2016 ballot.
Michael Johnson, pastor at Trinity Holiness Tabernacle in Goshen, also backs HJR 3. He suspects a majority in Elkhart County and Indiana would vote for it if put to them on a ballot question.
For him, it's a historical matter. Marriage has historically been a male-female institution. Allowing anything but "just opens a can of worms," he thinks. What's more, he thinks children do better under the parentage of male-female couples.
That said, the same-sex marriage issue hasn't been a burning topic in his Pentecostal church. "I didn't make a big discussion of it in the pulpit," he said.
For the burning passion, Gosser's the guy, and he laments what he sees as an unwillingness among some religious leaders to be publicly vocal on issues like same-sex marriage. Representatives from some other Elkhart County churches contacted declined comment on the matter or didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.
"Most churches are afraid to say anything about anything that has any substance, especially (political issues). Most pastors don't want to say anything because they're afraid, they're afraid they'll lose their tax-exempt status," he said. That, or they worry about losing church members and their donations.
Gosser has no such reservations and he offers up the biblical verses that back his views, grouping homosexuality with alcoholism, adultery and more. "You give yourself over to these things," said Gosser, himself a recovering alcoholic, and it's up to individuals to have the wherewithal to halt the activity in question, find salvation.
Later he sends an email, clarifying his stance: "I don't care what people do in their bedrooms or who they love. It's their business. But when they try to change our laws, God, bible and our church, then we as Christians have to take a stand."
Even so, it's hard to soft-peddle his views. If Indiana, by some turn, started permitting same-sex marriage, Gosser said he'd leave. He views states that do permit such unions with scorn. "I think it's ridiculous. That's why I don't live in those states," he said.
And he won't back down on the same-sex marriage issue. It needs to be addressed head-on.
"You can't sweep things under the carpet. They won't go away," Gosser said. "We're going to have to deal with this. We're going to have to face this."