Much Ado About Sex; Nothing to do With Race

Barb Wire

By Carolyn Moynihan

A mixed race couple demonstrating for gay marriage hold up a sign saying, “Once our marriage was illegal too.”

Is that a just comparison? Is opposition to same-sex marriage at all like opposition to interracial marriage? Does protecting the freedom to speak and act publicly on the basis of a religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman amount to the kind of laws that banned interracial marriage?

No, and no, says Ryan Anderson, a U.S. expert on the marriage issue, in a background paper published by the Heritage Foundation. First, because the belief that marriage is a man-woman union is a reasonable belief, and second, because when they lead their lives and run their businesses in accordance with that belief, citizens deny no-one equality before the law.

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A reasonable belief…

Great thinkers throughout human history—and from every political community up until the year 2000—thought it reasonable to view marriage as the union of male and female, husband and wife, mother and father. Indeed, support for marriage as the union of man and woman has been a near human universal.

This view is based on human nature and what marriage is for:

The conclusion that marriage is the union of man and woman follows from a proper understanding of human nature. Rightly understood, marriage is a comprehensive union. It unites spouses at all levels of their being: hearts, minds, and bodies, where man and woman form a two-in-one-flesh union. It is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are distinct and complementary, on the bio­logical fact that reproduction requires a man and a woman, and on the sociological reality that children benefit from having a mother and a father.

Historically, even where homosexuality was accepted the idea of same-sex marriage did not arise:

Far from having been devised as a pretext for excluding same-sex relationships—as some now charge—marriage as the union of husband and wife arose in many places over several centuries entirely independent of and well before any debates about same-sex relationships. Indeed, it arose in cultures that had no concept of sexual orientation and in some that fully accepted homoeroticism and even took it for granted.

The idea that different races should not marry came late in history and arises from prejudice, not reason:

Searching the writings of Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, Maimonides and Al-Farabi, Luther and Calvin, Locke and Kant, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., one finds that the sexual union of male and female goes to the heart of their reflections on marriage but that considerations of race with respect to marriage never appear. Only late in human history does one see political communities prohibiting intermarriage on the basis of race. Bans on interracial marriage had nothing to do with the nature of marriage and everything to do with denying dignity and equality before the law.

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The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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