In response to my recent piece “Throuples, Twincest, and Remembering,” one commenter asked this tiresome question: How has same-sex marriage personally affected YOUR marriage?” I responded, “How would marriages between brothers affect YOUR marriage?” My response was viewed as a “deflection,” so I will offer a more substantive response, which I hope will result in a substantive response to my question.
The question, “How will the legalization of same-sex ‘marriage’ affect any particular existing marriage” is not merely tiresome. It’s also a silly question with no bearing whatsoever on the issue of whether government should legally recognize same-sex unions as marriages. The legalization of same-sex marriage will not affect my marriage. Similarly, the legalization of plural marriages or marriages between close blood relatives would not affect my marriage.
Many in society have concerns about the radical redefinition of marriage that go beyond the personal and parochial. We’re concerned about the rights of all children, the rights of parents five, ten, or twenty years in the future. And we’re concerned about religious liberty for our children and our children’s children. What animates us is far greater than our immediate self-interests.
Jettisoning the central constituent feature of marriage will affect society’s understanding of marriage. It will affect how and what public education teaches about marriage (and homosexuality). It will affect children, in that the redefinition of marriage necessarily denies that children have a right to a mother and father.
President Obama has issued multiple Mother’s and Father’s Day proclamations in which he asserts that mothers and fathers are essential to the lives of their children, and then he incoherently endorses a form of “marriage” that embodies the fanciful assumptions that mothers or fathers are interchangeable or irrelevant.
Predictions about future effects can be based on research, including unreliable sociological research, but they can also be based on reason. One of the problems with not just “progressives” but many on both the Left and Right is their failure to think philosophically. We don’t take the time to think through the logical outworkings of an idea (as opposed to a fallacious slippery slope).
For example, those who argue that marriage has a nature but that nature does not include sexual complementarity and further that marriage is centrally or solely constituted by intense romantic feelings have to offer reasons why plural unions should not be legal. In fact, they need to justify with reasons why marriage should be limited to only those in romantic relationships. Why should government-sanctioned marriage recognize only romantic unions as marriages? What is the relevance to the common good of inherently sterile romantic/erotic unions? If marriage has no inherent connection to reproductive potential and it’s constituted solely by love, then there is no more reason for the government to be involved in it than there is in the government being involved in recognizing other types of non-reproductive loving relationships. There is a logical outworking of the idea that marriage has nothing to do with reproductive potential and is only constituted by love.
For those who look to sociological research as the ultimate arbiter of morality, there are decades of studies that show that children fare best when raised in an intact family with a mother and father. The Left likes to say that the sex of caretakers is wholly irrelevant and that all that matters is the number of parents, but that’s an assumption based on virtually nothing. Why is the number two essential to marriage while sexual complementarity is not?
Chai Feldblum, lesbian, former Georgetown University Law professor, and current member of the EEOC, has written—that is to say, predicted—that when same-sex marriage is legalized conservative people of faith will lose religious rights. She argues that this is a zero-sum game in which a gain for homosexuals means a loss for conservative people of faith (“Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion”). In her prediction, she used as an illustration, Christian bed and breakfast owners who will suffer a loss of religious liberty for their refusal to rent their facilities out to homosexuals, an issue we’re seeing right here in Illinois.
It seems reasonable to predict that encoding in law the idea that marriage has no inherent connection to sexual complementarity or reproductive potential will increase the practice of homosexuals creating children to be intentionally motherless and fatherless. It seems reasonable/logical to predict that some years from now, these children will feel the kind of sorrow and resentment at being denied their birthrights that adults who were products of anonymous sperm or egg donations now feel. We are commodifying children, and that is fraught with tragic cultural implications. Read what Alana Newman says in her article, “What Are the Rights of Donor-Conceived People?”
A photographer in New Mexico who refused to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony lost her court case, which was not a religious liberty case but a speech rights case. Law professor Eugene Volokh writes that “Creating expressive works such as photographs…is a constitutional right. People who want to preserve their First Amendment rights to be free from compelled artistic expression cannot be required to surrender their First Amendment rights to engage in artistic expression in the first place.” So, the legalization of same-sex faux-marriage will affect the First Amendment religious and speech rights of people of faith.
Here are some other predictions based on logic:
- Once marriage is severed from any inherent connection to reproductive potential, once the revisionist view of marriage as a private relationship constituted solely by the deep feelings of those seeking to marry, it becomes meaningless as a public institution. Neither the government nor society has any vested interest in affirming intense feelings—romantic or platonic—between two (or more) people.
- As fewer heterosexuals choose to marry and increased numbers of children are raised by single mothers or lesbians, greater numbers of children will grow up fatherless, which will increase the myriad and tragic harms that result from being deprived of fathers.
- The law will support and propagate the radical, destructive, and fallacious idea that children have no inherent right to know and be raised by their biological parents.
- The law will support and propagate the radical, destructive, and fallacious idea that mothers and fathers are interchangeable and that mothers or fathers are expendable.
- Public Schools—including elementary schools—will expose children to non-objective homosexuality-affirming beliefs about homosexuality.
- Public schools will censor all competing (i.e., conservative) views of homosexuality.
- Children will be taught that traditional beliefs about what marriage is are hateful, bigoted, and ignorant.
- Parents of children in public schools will lose the right to be the sole determiner of what their children learn about homosexuality and when they learn it.
- Laws currently presume that the spouse of a woman who has given birth is the father. When homosexuals are allowed to marry that presumption becomes irrational. The government will become ever more entangled in issues related to legal parentage. Economist Jennifer Roback Morse has written extensively about this effect.
For many homosexual couples, particularly male couples, sexual monogamy isn’t part of marital fidelity—not even in theory. Their ideas about what marriage is will permeate the culture. Homosexuals like Andrew Sullivan and the morally vacant Dan Savage have explicitly stated that heterosexual couples should learn from homosexual couples about the value of non-non-monogamy.
On what basis does the Left predict that severing marriage from sexual complementarity and reproductive potential will have no deleterious effects on marriage, children, or religious freedom?
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.