image In my recent defense of Iowa Family Policy Center, I was asked a question that really deflected from the topic of that post.  I wanted to provide a more detailed answer in a separate blog post as this type of question I one I’ve gotten more than a few times.

Erich asked, “how (does) hating gays preserve opposite marriage?”

I reject the premise of the question that defending the traditional definition of marriage is “hating gays.”  I could flip that around and ask why do those who disagree with my and others defense of that definition demonstrate intolerance toward my position and hatred toward me?  So let’s drop the rhetorical nonsense and get to the heart of the issue.

I’ve also been asked before how letting homosexuals marry impacts my marriage.  It doesn’t.  That’s not the point.  My defense of the traditional definition of marriage isn’t about me.  It’s about my kids, my grandkids and society in general.

I’d like to look back at an excellent article written in 2003 by Maggie Gallagher for The Weekly Standard that addresses this very issue, looking at the purpose of marriage as far as the State is concerned.  Though this was written prior to any state officially having same-sex marriage (this was at the cusp of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling) I believe that the points made still apply.

Gallagher states:

Marriage is the fundamental, cross-cultural institution for bridging the male-female divide so that children have loving, committed mothers and fathers. Marriage is inherently normative: It is about holding out a certain kind of relationship as a social ideal, especially when there are children involved. Marriage is not simply an artifact of law; neither is it a mere delivery mechanism for a set of legal benefits that might as well be shared more broadly. The laws of marriage do not create marriage, but in societies ruled by law they help trace the boundaries and sustain the public meanings of marriage.

In other words, while individuals freely choose to enter marriage, society upholds the marriage option, formalizes its definition, and surrounds it with norms and reinforcements, so we can raise boys and girls who aspire to become the kind of men and women who can make successful marriages. Without this shared, public aspect, perpetuated generation after generation, marriage becomes what its critics say it is: a mere contract, a vessel with no particular content, one of a menu of sexual lifestyles, of no fundamental importance to anyone outside a given relationship.

The marriage idea is that children need mothers and fathers, that societies need babies, and that adults have an obligation to shape their sexual behavior so as to give their children stable families in which to grow up.

Essentially – all kids deserve a mom and a dad, and Gallagher notes that, “Marriage is the place where having children is not only tolerated but welcomed and encouraged, because it gives children mothers and fathers.”  She notes that there are couples who fail to live up to this ideal, but that shouldn’t mean we chuck the ideal.  She then goes on to say:

If marriage is just a way of publicly celebrating private love, then there is no need to encourage couples to stick it out for the sake of the children. If family structure does not matter, why have marriage laws at all? Do adults, or do they not, have a basic obligation to control their desires so that children can have mothers and fathers?

What will the passage of same-sex marriage do in the long-term?  Polls that have asked Iowans whether they have been impacted by the recent Iowa Supreme Court decision are terribly short-sighted.

Ways in which same-sex marriage will negatively impact society and the family are ultimately for the protection of children.

  • It would enshrine in public judgment that the desire of adults for families of choice outweighs the need of children for mothers and fathers.
  • It would give sanction and approval to the creation of a motherless or fatherless family as a deliberately chosen "good."

What about marriages that are childless?  I’m sure somebody will ask that question, and Gallagher answers:

It is also true, as gay-marriage advocates note, that we impose no fertility tests for marriage: Infertile and older couples marry, and not every fertile couple chooses procreation. But every marriage between a man and a woman is capable of giving any child they create or adopt a mother and a father. Every marriage between a man and a woman discourages either from creating fatherless children outside the marriage vow. In this sense, neither older married couples nor childless husbands and wives publicly challenge or dilute the core meaning of marriage. Even when a man marries an older woman and they do not adopt, his marriage helps protect children. How? His marriage means, if he keeps his vows, that he will not produce out-of-wedlock children.

She also addresses those who liken laws that ban same-sex marriage to laws that banned interracial marriage:

Some who criticize the refusal to embrace gay marriage liken it to the outlawing of interracial marriage, but the analogy is woefully false. The Supreme Court overturned anti-miscegenation laws because they frustrated the core purpose of marriage in order to sustain a racist legal order. Marriage laws, by contrast, were not invented to express animus toward homosexuals or anyone else. Their purpose is not negative, but positive: They uphold an institution that developed, over thousands of years, in thousands of cultures, to help direct the erotic desires of men and women into a relatively narrow but indispensably fruitful channel. We need men and women to marry and make babies for our society to survive. We have no similar public stake in any other family form–in the union of same-sex couples or the singleness of single moms.

The institution of marriage from a secular perspective, and the laws that surround it are ultimately for the protection of children.  To undermine it because of the sexual interests of adults is not only selfish, but as Gallagher notes, would be “morally callous and socially irresponsible.”

13 comments
  1. Shane, I think you are missing the point. Plenty of heterosexual marriages set a bad example for society–think of someone getting married just for money, or a man dumping his wife for a much-younger woman, or Woody Allen marrying his common-law wife’s daughter. But we do not seek to block legal recognition for such marriages, and we do not deprive those couples of the benefits of civil marriage.

    Why can you not be satisfied with your church passing judgment against same-sex marriages, the way Catholic churches still do not recognize most divorces and remarriages? Why do you also insist that the state should keep civil marriage rights away from gays and lesbians, because you feel their lifestyle sets a bad example for the children?
    .-= desmoinesdem´s last blog ..We Need a Poll of the Iowa Republican Primary for Governor, NOW =-.

    1. I acknowledged that plenty of heterosexual marriages set a bad example for society, and allowing same-sex marriage will help this how?

      You obviously missed the point of my post when you asked your why question – that is the point of the post. You just don’t like the argument I give.

      It isn’t about setting a bad example for children, even though it does. It’s about the deterioration of an institution that is meant to protect children. The proponents of same-sex marriage ultimately place the needs of adults above kids. That’s wrong.

      Regarding the “rights” of homosexual couples to marry. I like how Greg Koukl’s answer to that objection:

      you have made a common mistake in assuming this issue is about limiting the freedom of homosexuals. There is nothing that stops homosexuals from making lifelong commitments to each other. Gays already are allowed to make the same commitment. In fact, it’s done all the time. They already have the liberty to do what they want with their own lives. A marriage license, however, goes a step further than providing liberty. It doesn’t give liberty, it gives society’s approval of that union, which homosexuals don’t presently have. Homosexual marriage is not about what homosexuals are being forced by others not to do, but what society is being forced to do by homosexuals: approve.

      Source: http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5255

    2. It’s a problem because you’re scapegoating us. You’re saying, look, there are all these problems with marriages these days, but rather than deal with all the problems we actually have (high divorce rates, delinquent and missing fathers, domestic abuse), you’re singling out the one group that has had no contribution to this mess at all – gay people – and saying that by banning them from ever being able to marry, we’re somehow protecting marriage. You’re saying, the sins of heterosexuals be what they are, heterosexuals can do anything they want to and call it marriage, but any homosexual couple, no matter how great they may be, can never get married. It’s a huge double standard, and one that is not based in any sort of fact or reason, but just your gut intuition. It is flawed reasoning – you are punishing us for your sins.

      1. Who says we aren’t dealing with those problems? Gallagher’s point is that we are (and I can attest to much work being done in that regard), but how is this going to help?

        I’m saying we protect society. We put the need of children to have a mother and father ahead of the needs of adults to satisfy their love interest.

        It has absolutely nothing to contribute – marriage between one man and one woman undergirds the institution of a family.

        Again, you are making my point for me – it isn’t about YOU or ME, its about what is best for our society. The gay marriage argument is an inherently selfish one.

  2. It’s interesting to me that many homosexuals and advocates insist there’s no problem with denying a child his/her right to be raised by biological parents, but yet so many want to have a biological child…and insist on that right?

    More Gay Men Choose Surrogacy to Have Children
    http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/OnCall/story?id=4439567&page=2

    “But many gay men, like lesbians and some single women, want a biological connection to their child.”

    Gay couples find surrogate mothers in India
    http://www.laredosun.us/notas.asp?id=5092

    1. Name me a single gay couple which has actively taken a child from his loving heterosexual parents. Doesn’t happen. Gay people just want the right to be able to take in and raise children whom heterosexual society has already chosen to abandon.

      1. Sorry, it isn’t what is best for the kids… and her point is homosexual couples trying to have what they naturally can’t have.

        Also I know plenty of heterosexual couples who would like to adopt. Adoption laws and red tape (and sometimes children’s psychological needs) keep kids from being adopted, not a lack of heterosexual couples.

  3. “The institution of marriage from a secular perspective, and the laws that surround it are ultimately for the protection of children. To undermine it because of the sexual interests of adults is not only selfish, but as Gallagher notes, would be “morally callous and socially irresponsible.”

    And therein lies the problem with your whole article and premise of the haterosexuals. It’s not about sex. Get your minds out of the gutter…sinners!

  4. Shane,
    You pose a semi-rhetorical question “What Marriage is For” and then go on to argue that the purpose of marriage is procreation. Shane, marriage has nothing – shocking I know – but absolutely nothing to do with procreation. The formation of the next generation is a sidebar to the celebration of marriage. While I agree that the two concepts are often related together in culture “then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage”; it is wise to remember that each are distinct unto themselves.

    Neither is required for the other to occur.

    It also is quite a leap to then propose that gay marriage will destroy procreation which will then in turn damn society. I had no idea society was so weak, having survived for several thousands of years so far. Pardon my sarcasm!

    I have a question, how exactly does gay marriage cause this great societal upset. You quote an unreliable source at best – Maggie Gallagher – who is well known for postulating yet lacking any proof to substantiate her opinions. Your (and Maggie’s) argument seems to boil down to: if gay marriage is allowed kids will no longer have a mom and dad? Exactly how does that happen? Exactly what about a couple of guys getting hitched will make a guy and gal decide not to. Or are you saying that gays getting married will so undermine the institution that it will lose it’s attraction to the straights?

    Again I catch your point, my point is that your logic “gay marriage will prevent straights from committing to a relationship that is best designed to rear the next generation” is fallacious at best!

    Allowing gays to marry is NEVER going to alter the dreams of little girls to find their prince charming and walk down an aisle in a while gown. Allowing gays to marry is not going to stop a young couple from buying rings, exchanging vows and starting a life together (with or without children). Allowing gays to marry is not going to stop the human race from going on.

    Allowing gays to marry will change society, I agree, but I see only good when society is more inclusive. It is the exclusive societies that history has shown will fail.

    Inclusive societies grow because they are not a stagnant ideal. Society is supposed to be in constant metamorphosis from day to day, year to year, generation to generation.

    Don’t be the rock, be the water!

    1. You make the same mistake that you are accusing me of. What evidence do you have?

      I have historical record. One example:

      ive effects may not be immediately apparent, but the cumulative damage is inescapable. The eminent Harvard sociologist, Pitirim Sorkin, analyzed cultures spanning several thousand years on several continents, and found that virtually no society has ceased to regulate sexuality within marriage as defined as the union of a man and a woman, and survived.

      In the short-term we may not see much of an impact, but I don’t think you grasp what the long-term impact diminishing the definition of marriage will have on our society.

  5. Proof, of what exactly?
    Shane,
    Having never read Mr(?) Sorkin’s studies, I am unable to comment on his conclusions. Although I do have a few problems using him as an authority based on what I could, or in this case, could not find out. A quick Google name search reveals nothing more than webpage after webpage of the same quote, which makes me wonder about his credentials and reliability. In this day and age to have such limited web representation leads me to believe he is not as esteemed as you have made him out to be. There is also the proliferation of his quote without links to the original study. Has anyone actually read Mr. Sorkin’s work or is he just being re-quoted (a very common occurrence on the web) without research. However my biggest problem is that his quote is removed from its context so any offering of it as proof loses credibility based on lack of framing.
    Finally, let us take a close look at the quote itself.
    Mr. Sorkin states he has studied cultures back for several thousand years and found that once these cultures stopped restricting marriage to a “man and a women” that culture ceased to exist.
    First problem – no societal culture has existed for thousands of years. To be able to study them means that those cultures and the day-to-day historical record would be available for study. That is the problem for socialist and archeologist. The day to day events are gone; we have very small windows into any historical culture. So whom did he study?
    First problem continued – Using his “several thousand years” would put us roughly looking at Bronze Age civilizations [2010 – 5000 = 3000BC]. Again the problem is that none of the civilization still exist and although people might still live in these lands and be identified by the historical civilization i.e. Egyptians. You cannot express the civilization continuity Mr. Sorkin has stated because the historical part Is gone!
    Second problem – most historical cultures did not define marriage as restrictive (single man-single woman) as Mr. Sorkin states! The evolution of Marriage to one man-one woman is a recent event on the human scale so again exactly which cultures that have only promoted one man- one woman did Mr. Sorkin study?
    Third problem, more of a question – exactly which cultures stopped limiting marriage to a man or a woman, even better which cultures did he study that allowed same sex marriage? If you are going to state that same sex marriage doomed a culture where is the historical fact? Again the day to day events of any past civilization are not recorded! Most of what is assumed happened in past cultures relies on styling their modern day descendents and formulating a hypothesis as to what the historical culture did. Reputable socialist know this and coach all their findings in light of that understanding which would again lead me to believe that Mr Sorkin’s statement has been taken out of context and grossly used to justify an end.
    Forth problem- more of an statement. All cultures fail. Short term (decades – think the Shakers), long term (centuries – think Mayan, Incan, Egyptian) doesn’t matter, all cultures have a shelf life and their downfall can be drawn out over years with a vast variety of causative agents. To empirically state that one event caused the downfall of any civilization is a gross oversimplification of history.
    Shane, I am not looking to argue questionable statements.
    My point is that I agree with you. Same sex marriage will change the face of marriage (I am not so sure about society, but am willing to get past that point). My argument, if you want to call it that, is that you’re stating that gay marriage will cause a devaluing of straight marriage and thus a catastrophic breakdown of the nuclear family- is fallacious, based on conjecture and questionable scientific study.
    I believe the change; the inclusiveness of gay marriage will strengthen the institution and make more people want to participate in its life changing benefit. Thus future generation will see it as desirable and good for all – gays and straights. Perhaps they will also understand why we make such a commitment to one person. Not because of any extraneous idea about procreation or religion or government benefit but because it satisfies a deep but mysterious need in our souls to mate. And yes, I understand that gays can do this now, however it because discrimination and wrong when the government gives a benefit to one type of marriage but denies recognition and benefit to another type, which is just as valid. And please do not slippery slope either – all false logic.
    My proof?
    My proof is the history of marriage itself. From the simple agreement of exchange of property to marriages based on love to the multi-billion dollar industry marriage is now. Think about that. Why, has marriage become such big business? Because we, as society, realize it’s worth and attempt with consumerism to make the day more special, more symbolic, and more celebratory!
    You want further proof that marriage and society will be okay.
    Go to a straight wedding and then a gay one and tell me what difference you see; and no, I don’t mean the obvious one. Look at the all the participants and tell me how they are different.
    Go and break bread with a young straight couple and young gay couple and learn about their hopes and dreams and tell me how they are different.
    Go and spend an afternoon with a married straight couple and a married gay couple and look at their home, their possessions, and their lives and tell me how they are different.
    I have done these things and that is all the proof I need.
    Again; be the water not the rock!

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