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Marriage: One Man, One Woman

Robert H. Knight and Peter Sprigg

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Let gays "marry" and you undermine the family.

Marriage is of such importance that it is uniquely protected in the law and culture. It predates the law and the Constitution, and is an anthropological and sociological reality, not primarily a legal one. No civilization can survive without it, and those societies that allowed it to become irrelevant have faded into history.

The Meaning of Marriage

Marriage is the union of the two sexes, not just the union of two people. It is the union of two families, and the foundation for establishing kinship patterns and family names, passing on property and providing the optimal environment for raising children.

The term "marriage" refers specifically to the joining of two people of the opposite sex. When that is lost, "marriage" becomes meaningless. You can no more leave an entire sex out of marriage and call it "marriage" than you can leave chocolate out of a "chocolate brownie" recipe. It becomes something else.

Giving non-marital relationships the same status as marriage does not expand the definition of marriage; it destroys it. For example, if you declare that, because it has similar properties, wine should be labeled identically to grape juice, you have destroyed the definitions of both "wine" and "grape juice." The consumer would not know what he is getting.

Marriage, the Natural Family, and the Best Interests of Children

Marriage is the union of the only type of couple capable of natural reproduction of the human race--a man and a woman. Children need both mothers and fathers, and marriage is society's way of obtaining them.

But even childless marriages are a social anchor for children, who observe adults as role models. Besides, childless couples can be "surprised" by an unexpected pregnancy, and they can adopt, giving a child a mother-and-father-based family. Single parents can eventually marry. And marriage is a stabilizing force for all. Even when a couple is past the age of reproduction, the marital commitment may keep an older man from fathering a child with a younger woman outside wedlock.

Children learn crucial things about family life by observing our crucial relationships up close: interactions between men and women; husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and parents to children of the same and opposite sexes.

Human experience and a vast body of social science research show that married men and women, and children who live with their married mother and father, are happier, healthier, and more prosperous than people in other types of households.

It is wrong to create fatherless or motherless families by design. The drive for homosexual "marriage" leads to destruction of the gold standard for custody and adoption. The question should be: "What is in the best interests of the child?" The answer is: "Place children, whenever possible, in a married, mom-and-dad household." As homosexual relationships gain status, marriage loses its place as the preferential adoption family option. This effort is being driven by the desires of adults, not the needs of children.

Society grants benefits to marriage because marriage has benefits for society. The benefits of marriage to adults and children flow not from government recognition alone, but from the inherent complementarity of the sexes and the power of lifelong commitment. The first of these values is rejected outright by same-sex couples, and the second is far less common among them.

Defining Marriage is not "Discrimination"

Marriage laws are not discriminatory. Marriage is open to all adults, subject to age and blood relation limitations. As with any acquired status, the applicant must meet minimal requirements, which in terms of marriage, means finding an opposite-sex spouse. Same-sex partners do not qualify. To put it another way, clerks will not issue dog licenses to cats, and it is not out of "bigotry" toward cats.

Comparing current laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman with the laws in some states that once limited inter-racial marriage is irrelevant and misleading. The very soul of marriage - the joining of the two sexes--was never at issue when the Supreme Court struck down laws against inter-racial marriage.

Requiring citizens to sanction or subsidize homosexual relationships violates the freedom of conscience of millions of Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people who believe marriage is the union of the two sexes. Civil marriage is a public act. Homosexuals are free to have a "union" ceremony with each other privately, but they are not free to demand that such a relationship be solemnized and subsidized under the law.

Homosexual activists say they need legal status so they can visit their partners in hospitals, etc. But hospitals leave visitation up to the patient except in very rare instances. This "issue" is a smokescreen to cover the fact that, using legal instruments such as power of attorney, drafting a will, etc., homosexuals can share property, designate heirs, dictate hospital visitors and give authority for medical decisions. What they should not obtain is identical recognition and support for a relationship that is not equally essential to society's survival.

The Will of the People--or the Judges?

The American people do not "think marriages between homosexual men or homosexual women should be recognized as legal under the law." A Harris/CNN/Time poll asking that exact question in July 2003 found that 60% of Americans oppose "homosexual marriage," while only 33% support it. In June 2003, a Canadian court granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Ontario and the U. S. Supreme Court declared homosexual sodomy a constitutional right. Yet in the wake of this judicial activism, even support for counterfeit forms of marriage such as "civil unions" actually fell precipitously.

The Legal and Social Fallout

If same-sex relationships acquire marital-type status in the law, several things will occur:

  • Businesses that decline to recognize non-marital relationships will increasingly be punished through loss of contracts and even legal action. This is already occurring in San Francisco and in Canada.
  • Other groups, such as bisexuals and polygamists, will demand the right to redefine marriage to suit their own proclivities. Once the standard of one-man, one-woman marriage is broken, there is no logical stopping point.
  • As society rewards homosexual behavior, more young people will be encouraged to experiment and more will be discouraged from overcoming homosexual desires.
  • Popular understanding of what marriage is and what it requires will undergo change. Homosexual relationships, which usually lack both permanence and fidelity, are unlikely to change to fit the traditional model of lifelong, faithful marriage. Instead, society's expectations of marriage will change in response to the homosexual model, thus leading to a further weakening of the institution of marriage. Some homosexual activists have acknowledged that they intend to use marriage mainly as a way to radically shift society's entire conception of sexual morality. See appendix.

Conclusion

"Marriage" for same-sex couples (or the counterfeit equivalent under pseudonyms such as "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships") is being promoted as an extension of tolerance, equality, and civil rights. But they are really wedges designed to overturn traditional sexual morality and to win official affirmation, celebration, subsidization and solemnization of behavior that is harmful to the people who engage in it and to society, and that is still viewed as morally wrong by a majority of the American public.

For the well-being of children and of society, we must not allow the creation of government-imposed counterfeit "marriage" by any name. Marriage is civilization's primary institution, and we tamper with it at our own peril.

Appendix: In Their Own Words

Homosexual activists have long understood the radical power of achieving official recognition for homosexual relationships as "marriage." Here is a sample:

"A middle ground might be to fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely, to demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society's moral codes but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution."

--Michelangelo Signorile, "Bridal Wave," OUT magazine, December/January 1994, p. 161.

"[E]nlarging the concept to embrace same-sex couples would necessarily transform it into something new....Extending the right to marry to gay people -- that is, abolishing the traditional gender requirements of marriage -- can be one of the means, perhaps the principal one, through which the institution divests itself of the sexist trappings of the past."

--Tom Stoddard, quoted in Roberta Achtenberg, et al, "Approaching 2000: Meeting the Challenges to San Francisco's Families," The Final Report of the Mayor's Task Force on Family Policy, City and County of San Francisco, June 13, 1990, p.1.

"It is also a chance to wholly transform the definition of family in American culture. It is the final tool with which to dismantle all sodomy statutes, get education about homosexuality and AIDS into public schools, and, in short, usher in a sea change in how society views and treats us."

-- Michelangelo Signorile, "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do," OUT magazine, May 1996, p. 30.

"Being queer is more than setting up house, sleeping with a person of the same gender, and seeking state approval for doing so. ... Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality, and family, and in the process, transforming the very fabric of society. ... As a lesbian, I am fundamentally different from non-lesbian women. ...In arguing for the right to legal marriage, lesbians and gay men would be forced to claim that we are just like heterosexual couples, have the same goals and purposes, and vow to structure our lives similarly. ... We must keep our eyes on the goals of providing true alternatives to marriage and of radically reordering society's view of reality."

--Paula Ettelbrick, "Since When Is Marriage a Path to Liberation?", in William Rubenstein, ed., Lesbians, Gay Men and the Law (New York: The New Press, 1993), pp. 401-405.

And there's this from pro-pedophile author Judith Levine:

"Because American marriage is inextricable from Christianity, it admits participants as Noah let animals onto the ark. But it doesn't have to be that way. In 1972 the National Coalition of Gay Organizations demanded the 'repeal of all legislative provisions that restrict the sex or number of persons entering into a marriage unit; and the extension of legal benefits to all persons who cohabit regardless of sex or numbers.' Would polygamy invite abuse of child brides, as feminists in Muslim countries and prosecutors in Mormon Utah charge? No. Group marriage could comprise any combination of genders."

-- Judith Levine, "Stop the Wedding!: Why Gay Marriage Isn't Radical Enough", The Village Voice, July 23-29, 2003. Levine declines to mention that the 1972 Gay Rights Platform also called for abolishing age of consent laws. This is a curious omission since Levine herself has written in favor of lowering the age of consent to 12 for sex between children and adults in her book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex (p. 88).

Robert H. Knight is director of the Culture & Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America. Mr. Knight was a draftsman of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.

Peter S. Sprigg is director of the Center for Marriage and Family Studies at the Family Research Council. Some references in this paper were drawn from Mr. Sprigg's "Questions and Answers: What's Wrong With Letting Same-Sex Couples 'Marry?'" (Family Research Council InFocus Number 256, August 14, 2003).

Read this article on the Family Research Council website. Reprinted with permission.



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