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SAME-SEX MARRIAGE RULING: CELEBRATION, OPPOSITION

Couple believe decree is at odds with God's plan

May 16, 2008|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

Besides her faith, family is at the center of Cathi Unruh's life.

That is, family as defined by their understanding of God's will: a husband, a wife and their children.

The El Segundo native even home-schooled her four children to more firmly root them in the family's evangelical Christian faith.

So for Unruh, the quick translation of Thursday's ruling by the California Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage is simple. It goes against God's plan.

A union between a man and a woman is "God's standard of what is best, what's most healthy, physically, spiritually and emotionally," she said.

She and her husband, Kris, who met while touring with an evangelical music group, believe homosexuality is akin to sins such as adultery and stealing. Although the couple would readily vote for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, they don't support bullying those who don't share their values.

"I don't sit and smack them upside the head with what I believe," Unruh said Thursday in her home. "It comes down to a personal relationship, just caring about them as an individual. I would share what I believe."

The Unruhs are hardly alone in their thinking. They are among the 61% of voters who decided eight years ago to ban gay marriages in California, a sentiment shared by a broad cross-section of people for a range of reasons.

For the Unruhs, it's religion. More recent polls show the state is much more evenly drawn on the matter.

The couple have debated the issue with their 22-year-old daughter, Heather, a professional dancer in Portland, Ore., who has argued with her parents about the possibility of homosexuality as a genetic predisposition.

"Do I believe there's a homosexual gene? No more than I believe there's a promiscuous gene," Cathi Unruh said. "I believe homosexuality is a choice, just like extramarital sex is a choice."

That hasn't stopped her from welcoming her daughter's gay friends into their El Segundo home. She raised her daughter and other children to think for themselves. "Our faith will take them nowhere if they don't own it," she said of her children.

Although she taught her two daughters and two sons a Christian worldview, Unruh also assigned philosophical works by Plato and Nietzsche, and contrasted intelligent design with evolution, to expose them to different ideas they would encounter in the world.

"Scripture is the standard . . . what God's said as opposed to what our culture or society says is true," said Unruh, 47, who still teaches her youngest daughter, in addition to leading Spanish classes and helping families through the college admissions process at her church, Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach. "That's the standard we always go back to for how we should be living."

When it comes to home schooling -- or most other issues -- Unruh and her husband believe government should stay small. In this case, they say, the court overstepped its authority.

"It's discouraging that a body . . . of a few are making public policy as opposed to just ruling on law," said Kris Unruh, 49, who works as a business analyst for Boeing Co.

"They're overriding the will of the people," he said, referring to the 2000 ballot measure in which voters supported defining legally recognized marriage as between a man and a woman.

For the couple, married for 27 years, their union represents a sacred partnership intended to produce children and one created by God. Their shared love of music and biblical teachings brought them together. And they believe heterosexual marriage is supposed "to give us a picture of the relationship [God] desires to have with us," Kris Unruh said.

"Once we start redefining marriage too, it opens the door to 'Where else can this be taken?' " Cathi Unruh said.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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