Due to the explosion of sexual confusion in our world today, more spouses are facing questions like this one. Whether it is a husband who comes out as gay or a wife who declares she is a lesbian, the spouses who love them are broadsided with a thousand questions. Is divorce an option in this situation? Should I stay in the marriage for the sake of the children? What does the Bible say that would help a spouse know what to do when his or her “other half” comes out as gay?
Definitely, some decisions must be made when a spouse comes out as gay, but before those decisions are tackled, we need to clarify some terms. The word gay brings with it implications of homosexual encounters, but the term is often used to refer to orientation, rather than behavior. For Christians who find themselves same-sex attracted, acting on those homosexual urges is not an option. Sin is sin, regardless of how strongly we want it. Christians have chosen to die to the sin nature and live in a way that honors the Lord (Romans 6:1–6). So, if a Christian husband or wife comes out as gay, other questions must be asked: is he or she acting on those urges or simply admitting the attraction? Either way, the spouse who comes out is being honest and vulnerable. A loving partner will recognize that his or her spouse is deeply broken and needs help walking through the cascade of emotions that torment him or her.
If the spouse who has come out as gay is willing to stay in the marriage and remain faithful, dealing with his or her same-sex confusion through accountability and counseling, the marriage can be preserved. We wouldn’t leave a spouse if he or she was wrestling with other sinful temptations, so we shouldn’t leave him or her in a struggle against homosexuality. Simply having urges does not impel a person to act on them. We all have twisted desires in various areas of our lives.
A husband or wife who comes out as gay, like all who come to terms with same-sex attraction, has a choice to make. Homosexual acts are never acceptable (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Jude 1:7; Romans 1:24–27). We are not always in control of how we feel, but we are always responsible for what we do with those feelings. People who have committed themselves to honor the Lord with their bodies cannot live a sexually immoral lifestyle, and that includes homosexual behaviors (1 Corinthians 6:18–20). If a husband who comes out as gay insists on pursuing his homosexual lust, his wife is freed from her vows, and vice versa. A homosexual affair is adultery, just as a heterosexual affair is. “If the unbeliever leaves [the marriage], let him go. The believing brother or sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).
A husband or wife need not rush to a decision the moment his or her spouse comes out as gay. If the struggling spouse follows the Lord, then he or she will desire to live honorably before Him. If one spouse confesses difficulty in relating to the other sexually, the other can still provide support and encouragement in pursuing purity in thought and action. Together, they can seek biblical counseling and let Christian advisors guide them to a new understanding in their marriage. But if the one identifying as gay is ready to embrace a gay lifestyle, or if he or she abandons his or her role in the marriage, the other spouse may have little choice but to ask him or her to leave.
If the marriage has produced children, then there are other considerations as well. Parents can make two mistakes in trying to shield their children from the disruption in their family. On one hand, an angry spouse may threaten to cut off all contact between the children and the spouse who came out as gay. Except in extreme situations, that may not be in their best interest. However, equally harmful is the spouse who pretends the gay spouse’s same-sex partners are welcome in their lives and acts as if nothing is wrong. Wisdom is needed (see James 1:5).
There is no “right answer” for a Christian whose spouse comes out as gay. Every case is different, and not every person who struggles with homosexual desire does so in the same way. If both spouses love the Lord, they can seek God’s direction together and face this ordeal as they face many other difficult life situations. However, if the spouse who comes out as gay demands to act on those urges, he or she is violating the marriage covenant. The husband or wife should not be expected to validate adultery, and separation or divorce is in order.