There is a picture currently running around Facebook and other social sites and blogs that is being cheered as a “gays fight back” moment. The problem is… it isn’t correct. Here’s the picture.
The problem is that the sign maker took some verses out of context… and drew conclusions without the benefit of the context (both historical and biblical). Now don’t get me wrong, the anti-gay’s do this all the time. But just because one side cheats doesn’t mean the other should.
At no point in the passage referenced by the sign does the bible say “A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin.” It does however say that “If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed” but that is taken completely out of context. (Not that killing women looks all that better in context.)
Here is the text quoted on the sign:
13 Suppose a man marries a young woman and later he decides he doesn’t want her.14 So he makes up false charges against her, accusing her of not being a virgin when they got married.
15 If this happens, the young woman’s parents are to take the blood-stained wedding sheet that proves she was a virgin, and they are to show it in court to the town leaders.16 Her father will say to them,
I gave my daughter to this man in marriage, and now he doesn’t want her.17 He has made false charges against her, saying that she was not a virgin when he married her. But here is the proof that my daughter was a virgin; look at the bloodstains on the wedding sheet!
18 Then the town leaders are to take the husband and beat him.19 They are also to fine him a hundred pieces of silver and give the money to the young woman’s father, because the man has brought disgrace on an Israelite woman. Moreover, she will continue to be his wife, and he can never divorce her as long as he lives.
20 But if the charge is true and there is no proof that she was a virgin,21 then they are to take her out to the entrance of her father’s house, where the men of her city are to stone her to death. She has done a shameful thing among our people by having intercourse before she was married, while she was still living in her father’s house. In this way you will get rid of this evil.
Good News Translation
Now go back and read that again. At no point is the marriage considered invalid. Now you might be able to read, without any other context, that a wife must be a virgin at the time of the marriage. But that’s not true. If we go forward a mere two chapters, there are some verses concerning divorce and remarriage.
1 Suppose a man marries a woman and later decides that he doesn’t want her, because he finds something about her that he doesn’t like.[a] So he writes out divorce papers, gives them to her, and sends her away from his home.2 Then suppose she marries another man,3 and he also decides that he doesn’t want her, so he also writes out divorce papers, gives them to her, and sends her away from his home. Or suppose her second husband dies.4 In either case, her first husband is not to marry her again; he is to consider her defiled. If he married her again, it would be offensive to the Lord. You are not to commit such a terrible sin in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Good News Translation
I’m not arguing here that women are treated fairly in the laws of Moses. That’s a whole other issue. However there is nothing in this text that would indicate that a woman must be a virgin at marriage. In fact, there is no problem with a woman having a second husband, just that she can’t remarry her first after being divorced or widowed.
So what’s going on in Deuteronomy 22? Simple. Women didn’t have the right to pick who they would marry. Their father or brothers did. It was a contractual arrangement often with money or land or livestock changing hands over the deal. A larger bride price was gathered for a virgin bride. So this is less about the virginity of the bride and more about how the family needs to ensure that they have the correct proof of virginity so they can back up their end of the contract.
So the sign is wrong. A marriage can and was valid even if the wife wasn’t a virgin. And there was only one situation where the wife not being a virgin could end with her death. However that punishment wasn’t because she wasn’t a virgin, but because she and/or her family lied about it.
Now if you want to use the bible to support gay rights, that’s quite possible. Starting with the fact that it takes the same kind of out of context usage of bible verses to find the where the bible condemns homosexuality in the first place. At least that’s how I see it. Your milage may vary.