Emboldened and energized by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s scathing and intellectually dishonest ad hominem attacks in his ruling overturning the Defense of Marriage Act at the federal level, advocates of same-sex marriage are campaigning to put the definition of marriage up to a vote in Ohio and there are also efforts under way in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania both at the ballot and in the courts. In the last example, the State Attorney General has unilaterally announced she will not uphold the state constitution. This is a serious issue which raises difficult questions, so instead of flinging insults, let’s have an honest debate. To wit, here are some reasons we should support same-sex marriage:
1. Gay Marriage is Going to Win, So Get Over It
This is called the bandwagon fallacy, or the argumentum ad populum. In any difference of opinion, both sides believe in the certainty of their cause. For example, in sports, both teams think they are going to win or they wouldn’t bother playing the game. In history, opposing armies may win and lose many battles but there are examples of wars that have gone on for decades or even centuries. Every great empire thinks it will last forever, but they never do. Unless you own a Delorean with a flux capacitor, leave your convictions about the “right side of history” to future historians.
2. Gay Marriage Doesn’t Hurt Heterosexuals
Traditional practicing Catholic families are free to have children and raise them according to Church teaching. What’s so bad about same-sex marriage, right? However, this is a dodge of the larger implications of redefining marriage. Heterosexuals have already seen great injury to families and children from welfare dependency and no-fault divorce over the past century. Same-sex couples have not been around nearly that long, so we won’t know the full impacts of redefining marriage will be for decades. In line with the first point, the only sure thing in history is that it is full of unpleasant surprises and unintended consequences. Ignoring this fundamental truth invites only misery and suffering. We disturb long established precedents at our peril.
3. If We Accept Gay Marriage, Peace and Love Will Reign
Advocates of same-sex marriage have not managed to come up with a rigorous limiting principle of what they think the essential character of marriage should be. Even though the same-sex marriage battle is far from over, some proponents are already talking about polygamy. What is the next battle after that? Will bisexuals claim that limiting marriage to only two people is unfair because it makes them choose which partner will get the benefits of legal recognition? In the absence of any limiting principle, same-sex marriage advocates respond to innovations like polygamy and polyamory either with outright excitement or else with the defense, “No way, that’s gross!” People used to say the same thing about same-sex couples. Before we redefine marriage, let’s decide what the new definition is actually going to be first.
4. Marriage Is About Love and Commitment
See point two. Marriage is already in rough shape. “Until death do us part,” now has an escape clause, “or one of us decides to hire a lawyer.” The corollary of this argument is that heterosexuals have no right to lecture homosexuals about marriage because so many marriages already end in failure. However, this is a great example of the tu quoque fallacy, because as it happens, same-sex couples are much more likely to have affairs than heterosexuals. See point three, again, what is marriage supposed to be if not an exclusive partnership? It would be great if our laws recognized marriage as a lifetime commitment, but they do not. Redefining marriage to make the institution even weaker is not going to help.
5. Couples that Don’t Have Children Still Get Married
More families than ever are missing a mother or a father. Others, often through no fault of their own, are childless. Some couples who are unable to conceive choose to adopt. Others may dedicate their lives to helping others. Unfortunately, because procreation has become detached from marriage in our culture, there are also couples who wait to have children until it is almost impossible to do so. They then go to incredible efforts to conceive a child through in-vitro fertilization and other techniques which results in the commoditization of life. Instead of bringing life into the world, this leads to the destruction of life at its most delicate and vulnerable. There is already talk in California of making this unethical and immoral practice an entitlement for same-sex couples who are obviously unable to beget children in the usual way. Procreation needs the boundaries of marriage just as much as marriage needs the boundary of procreation. The two are inextricably linked.
The arguments for same-sex marriage sound easy and simple, but they hide difficult and disturbing questions. Heterosexuals have been grappling with marriage for thousands of years and it’s still not easy. It takes a lot of work, a lot of patience, and a lot of sacrifices. It’s impossible to discuss marriage honestly without acknowledging that there are no easy answers and nothing is straightforward. Indeed, this timeless truth reveals the greatest error of the same-sex marriage cause: there can be no such thing as marriage equality because there is no equality in marriage.
Men and women have different strengths and weakness, different abilities, different fears and different needs. By combining these complementary forces, marriage makes the couple stronger than they would otherwise be on their own. Homosexual couples on the other hand will inevitably have many of the same strengths and weaknesses in common. Instead of making them stronger together, the redefinition of marriage will only amplify their weaknesses, just as it reveals the weakness of the logic behind their arguments. Redefining marriage is fundamentally about eliminating the wonderful and beautiful distinctions between men and women–and especially the greatest difference of all: the ability to perpetuate the human race, and not only through procreation, but in every respect as parents and members of society at large. Pace the old feminist saw about fish and bicycles, men need women and women need men.
This is really what is at stake. Marriage is an essential force in our society because it makes you become a better person. This is only possible because of the encounter between the opposite sexes which reveals how little we know about the human condition and how much we have to trust what we cannot experience and cannot ever know in order to truly love another person. Redefining marriage as a genderless institution robs it of the very essence that makes it worthwhile in the first place. Even if same-sex marriage advocates get their way, little good will it do them.