I've learned the following:
1. English translations of the Bible are not without error or mistranslation (some of it possibly mistranslated on purpose because what the Hebrew text actually translated to wasn't what the translator believed in nor wanted to hear.) I suspected this over time as I read several versions and they contradicted each other, or claimed to be a correction of a past version - well why are we correcting something that is without error??? I believe at this point that the only inspired version is the original text. The English translations are interpreted by man - who are imperfect and biased. More on bible inerracy at http://www.religioustolerance.org/inerran6.htm.
So just to be clear here - I'm not questioning God or his authority, or anything of that nature. I'm questioning man. The Church. And I've prayed and asked God to guide this process... to show me the truth. I can honestly say, I feel this is where he's lead me. This subject has been knocking at me for a period of time - and I believe God has been pushing me to seek him and the truth so that I may deliver this message. I've been told not to worry so much about it, to just "agree to disagree"... I've been discouraged, frustrated, and tempted to just forget the whole thing. I'm sure Satan just loves prejudice. He just loves listening to people bickering with each other and judging one another.
2. Homosexual relationships - loving consensual relationships are not so plainly condemned in the Bible. The verses that are against homosexual actions are when those actions include an immoral sexual act such as rape, incest, prostitution, temple sex rituals. Like all sexual behavior, it can be a sin if it is exploitive, manipulative, or not carried out safely within a committed relationship.
3. There are three passages found in Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, and Daniel that describe emotionally close relationships between two people of the same gender that appear to have progressed well beyond a casual friendship. There is, however, no unmistakable evidence that they were sexually active relationships.
4. The bible does not come outright and state that "Marriage is only intended for a man and a woman." Sure, there are many verses that can be pulled out of the original context they were intended and twisted to support this claim. I constantly hear people preach "The Bible makes is clear that marriage is between a man and woman." Well I've studied these passages along with other passages that they manage to leave out, and I fail to find this clarity they speak of.
Note: I chose these resources because ReligiousTolerance is multi-faith group who's goal is to overcome bias by explaining each point of view carefully, respectfully and objectively. And of course, the interlinear bible is an easy to use online Hebrew/Greek bible taking us back to the original text.
What is my personal conclusion? I stand by my original thoughts: who are we to cast stones? Who are we to keep equal human rights from another? Who are we to discriminate or hate? Take a look at history - slavery, equal rights for black Americans, equal rights for women. Many (not all) church's have preached against interracial marriage by twisting scripture. Women have been told they cannot be in leadership roles in the church. (Many church's still do these things today!) Couples have been told they cannot be married in a church because it is at least one of their 2nd marriage.
I took it upon myself to personally research a topic that has been bothering me for some time... How can the church preach the love of Christ along side all this condemnation? And they wonder why people are so "unaccepting" of the wonderful message of Christ... The main people who manage to twist the words and take scripture out of context to fit their personal agendas are the ones teaching it.
We are taught in John 8 that Jesus does not condemn - he forgives. We are also taught that he does not condone - he tells us to go and sin no more. We are taught we must choose to change a behavior or lifestyle that is displeasing to God. This is easily understood. The issue with this as it applies to consensual homosexual relationships is this: we as heterosexuals cannot possibly judge whether or not homosexuality is natural or not - for one we are taught not to judge others, and we are taught to love our neighbors like we love Jesus. But for two, we only know what we feel as natural heterosexuals. One person cannot possibly fathom what another person feels. Only God can truly know this answer - and the Bible does not specifically condemn these relationships (unless you take it out of context). I will not (personally) risk God judging me because I chose to blatantly judge others based on disputed scripture. And this scripture is not just disputed by atheists, agnostics, or other religious groups. This scripture is disputed between Christian people who both claim to be totally knowledgeable of the Bible and it's content. And they are all imperfect humans. Do not follow man - follow God.
The Bible should not be used to judge or condemn others. Period. When you do this, you don't look like a man or woman of God. You look like an ass. You are not living a life that people see and want to be a part of... which in turn, causes them to shy away from God and his blessings. Why would they want to live like that?