Because I believe in limited, secular government – not secular society, and not the separation of values and government – but in the existence of a limited government that does not favor any particular religious affiliation or beliefs about God, nor interferes in the life of citizens except where absolutely necessary.
For example, I am not in favor or school-led prayers in public schools. However, I am all for individual prayer, student led prayer, and even extra-curricular religious groups that are led or mentored by school faculty. But having officials inculcating religious (or anti-religious) ideas and practice is indoctrination and promotion.
With regard to gay marriage, I think we are in a legislative gray zone – on what grounds do you define or limit marriage? Practical? Biological? Moral standards, and whose?
I know the standard Christian arguments, sometimes summarized under the heading ‘natural marriage,’ and I agree with them mostly. I guess the question becomes, “When does the state have an interest in regulating familial arrangements, and what is that interest?” Let me attempt to talk plainly about this.
1. The Supreme Court has ruled that moral approbation is not grounds for defining marriage.
As per Justice Scalia’s minority opinion in the 2003 anti-DOMA decision:
If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is ‘no legitimate state interest’ for purposes of proscribing that conduct … what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples?
So, the question becomes, on what bases do we circumscribe or define public marriage? Before we answer that, let’s look at the other impacts of this decision.
2. There is now no compelling moral argument to limit the gender or the number of marriage partners.
Let’s be honest – this isn’t just about gay rights – this is about all potential non-traditional relationships. Unless we have some reason, like a threat of direct harm (such as the likelihood of deformity to children of incest), all other non-traditional unions must now be accepted as alternate norms – polyamory, sibling marriages if unable to have children (sterilization), post-puberty consenting minors, even consenting adult-minor relationships.
To feign horror at such things, or claim that the gay marriage logic does not apply to these is being either dishonest or self-deceived and naive.
For example, polygamists are already celebrating the DOMA ruling:
“I was very glad (after the ruling) … The nuclear family, with a dad and a mom and two or three kids, is not the majority anymore,” Anne Wilde, a vocal polygamy advocate, told Buzzfeed. “Now it’s grandparents taking care of kids, single parents, gay parents. … It seems like if more people are accepting of gay marriage, it would follow that polygamist marriage wouldn’t be criticized quite so much.”
3. There is now no compelling moral argument to limit ‘marriage’ to sexual love.
If two friends care about one another, but don’t feel like making a lifetime comittment, why not secure the benefits of marriage until they actually meet their life partner? I loved my friends before I got married, and still do. We could have saved a bundle on taxes, so why not? Who is to say that we don’t have that same ‘right’?
4. What is the purpose of public marriage in the first place?
Besides inheritance and medical rights, which are important, the other social interest in marriage is for the care of children.
But if we are so concerned for children, why do we allow hetero divorce? Because the reality is, people are messed up – and so, even if we think that gay marriage is ‘messed up,’ that’s not enough to disallow it if the potential for a loving, non abusive gay or polyamorous parenting situation exists.
5. Non-moral arguments against homosexuality, polygamy, incest, or adult/minor relationships?
Assuming that no one IN the relationships is directly harmed, what rule could we use to criticize such unions? Only a few, and many will not find these compelling:
- Tradition – we all know that tradition and culture are NOT sacrosanct – cultures have enshrined a host of civil rights violations across history until a moral reform swept them away.
- The Bible – we live under a secular Constitution, not to mention a post-Christian society, so any appeals to specific holy books is out of the question. In fact, I have argued that public policy ought NOT to be based on such appeals, though it is proper to be motivated by whatever authority you value, be it the Humanist Manifesto or the Bible.
- Protecting and Optimal Childraising – this is one of the prominent arguments used by Tradionalists, and studies do seem to indicate that the ideal developmental home situation for children is with loving biological parents. But does that mean we should not allow, or not support other family configurations? Good question.
- Creating Children / Biology – one of the best arguments against the ‘naturalness’ of non-traditional gender choices (GLBTQIA!) is the fact that they can never produce progeny. We view infertility among hetero couples as a dysfunctional exception to the norm – it would seem, by the same rule, that with hx, the norm is the dysfunction, so perhaps the entire endeavor is so. That’s the argument.
6. Civil rights v. the power of the people to vote
The good precedent being followed here is this – there is a higher law than the people – and it is nowhere captured better than in the U.S. Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Even if the people want to own slaves, or prevent gay marriage, or kill the unborn, the civil rights of the individual OUGHT to be inviolable.
7. Only miscreants can disagree with civil rights
One of the dangers, however, in wielding the hammer of Civil Rights is that those who then disagree with such absolute claims must logically be demonized – wish for the days of slavery, hetero marriage, or abortion? Logically, you are defying the self-evident moral law of the cosmos, and are either a simpleton or a miscreant. There is no other real conclusion.
And so, in their minority opinion, Justice Scalia observed:
“In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement,” To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence — indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.”
8. We can only hope that the violation of the civil rights of the unborn will garner such approbation
The sauce that is good for the goose is good for the gander. This double-edged sword of using human rights as a trump card is a good, even proper one. But many of those who are for gay rights are also for abortion rights, which arguably take away the LIFE of the unborn. I suspect it is only a matter of time before the momentum of the various human rights movements (including immigrants) sweeps them all to legislative victories.
And I can live with that – it is a small concession to me to give gays the legal right to marry if I can keep children from being murdered. That’s how I put this in perspective.
9. The coming persecution of those who don’t agree
One down side to legal sanction of gay marriage is the real risk of lawsuits against Churches and other organizations that will continue to criticize the morality of the GLBT lifestyle. Will they be treated like modern day racists? All indications say ‘yes.’
But again, be warned. This same ‘anti civil-rights’ view will also be applied to those who are pro-abortion when the Pro Life side wins in the court of the public opinion and in the SCOTUS.
I am not against allowing some form of gay marriage. I do feel for those whose affections take that course. They are asking for a lot, but I think there are reasons to allow it, even if we disapprove.
I WILL be affected though – it’s another moral ‘wrong’ that is sanctioned by my society (like promiscuity, materialism, and marijuana) that I will have to address with my kids, and hope that my ‘wisdom’ gets through to them on these subjects. The culture is working against me here.
And I will continue to advocate for the things I think are even more important – the life of the unborn, the need for all people to hear the gospel, and the need for a mature, loving, truth-filled Church. May God grant us all wisdom in these contentious times.
Articles worth reading on this subject:
- The Supreme Court’s Marriage Decisions by the Numbers (Heritage Foundation)
- The Facts on Marriage Laws in America (Heritage Foundation)
- “Waiting for the Other Shoe” — The Supreme Court Rules on Same-Sex Marriage (Albert Mohler)
- The Right Side of History Is Full of Rewrites (Christianity Today)
- Court Declares Marriage Defenders ‘Enemies of the Human Race’ (Godfather Politics)
- Sex Without Bodies (Christianity Today)
- Prop 8, DOMA, and the Christian Response (Christianity Today)
- Let’s end the Cultural War with a Compromise: Legalize Gay Marriage, End Abortions ()
- Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat on Gay Marriage (New York Times)
- Transcript for The Future of Marriage with David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch (onbeing.org)
- An Exchange on Same-Sex Marriage – William Bennett and Andrew Sullivan