The following is adapted from a response to an email I received regarding my column on homosexual marriage:
In an argument such as this, each side makes assumptions regarding the premises on which their argument is going to be based. Without agreed upon premises, any argument of the issue will prove fruitless, so let’s look at each of our assumptions.
Those in favor of gay marriage assume the definition of marriage to be a “union of two people.” I contend that definition is what they wish marriage to be rather than the current situation. I, on the other hand, assume that marriage is “a union of a man and a woman for the purpose of family.” I would say “a permanent union,” but that seems to no longer apply in today’s society. The fact of the matter is that for hundreds of years, marriage has meant union between a man and a woman. Definitions can change over time, but marriage currently is between a man and a woman, regardless of what you think it should be.
We also, I suspect, differ on our assumptions regarding the purpose of marriage. Although it’s typically not said directly, I presume the typical pro-gay mariage activist assumes that the purpose of marriage is to express love. While this is certainly part of marriage, this is not what I consider to be the institution’s purpose. Marriage existed long before the state began issuing marriage licenses, so the purpose is not tax benefits or hospital visitation. For much of human history, and in many societies to this day, marriage has absolutely nothing to do with love. Marriages are often arranged or take place more out of convenience than because of any mutual attraction. Our society’s conception of “courtly love” is a very recent innovation. Surely, marriage should include love, but the fact that marriage has and continues to exist wholly without love demonstrates that love cannot be the fundamental purpose. Love does not require, nor shall it ever, I hope, a government certification.
What is the purpose, then? Marriage centers around family. A man and a woman unite to produce children, but obviously, intercourse does not require marriage. When children do come into the picture, however, a marriage ensures that the children will be supported by binding husband and wife together and providing role models of each sex. Additionally, however, marriage moderates each spouse. The connection with a woman moderates the man’s natural tendency to spread his seed at every opportunity and likewise, for the woman, keeps her with one man consistently rather than seeking the strongest/richest. Love and legal benefits should certainly accompany marriage, but I disagree that they are the fundamental purpose for its existence.
If you assume, for a moment, my definition for marriage, I’m sure you will see that allowing homosexual marriage would fundamentally alter that definition. The question for me, then, is whether that would be positive.
When I began thinking about this debate, my first reaction was that government should have nothing to do with marriage at all – after all, what business does government have in my bedroom? I thought the ideal situation would be for government to issue civil unions to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, for legal benefits, while religious institutions could continue to solemnize marriages as they have for centuries.
I changed my mind when I realized that civil society does have an interest in the preservation of marriage. Making “marriage” an extraneous, out-dated religious ceremony would truly make marriage obsolete, as it has become in Scandanavia where sixty-percent of first-born children now have unmarried parents. Is this positive for civilization? Is marriage truly obsolete? Is there no advantage to being born to a married couple rather than a cohabitating one? If the answers to those questions are “yes,” then why do homosexuals want to marry? If marriage is so unnecessary, if heterosexuals have ruined it, then why do homosexuals want the same tarnished, out-dated institution? I’d like to direct anyone interested to this article (long, but worth the read) that discusses the effects of gay marriage and the current situation of marriage in Scandanavia.
My conviction that allowing gay marriage would hasten the decline of the family has nothing to do with an antipathy towards homosexuals and everything to do with the truth. If you make an institution mean less, there will be less incentive to take part in it. As has happened in Scandanavia, we’ll see cohabitation gradually replace marriage and I do not think that is positive to society. Do I think homosexuals living together and loving each other and committing to each other is bad for society? Absolutely not. Some might be surprised to learn that I have no problem with homosexual couples adopting. But I do think the effect that devaluing marriage would have on heterosexual marriages that are focused on children would be bad for society.
While the definition of marriage still includes some relation to reproduction, there is a societal expectation that children should be raised in wedlock. When that part of the definition is removed, that expectation will disappear and so will marriage as we know it. Cohabitation will become the norm and children will suffer when people stop marrying “so we can have kids” and start marrying “so we can get the spouse discount when ordering Gator tickets” or whatever other legal benefit you want to consider.
Also, when I said “gay marriage imposes morality on those of us who want our marriages to be more than just convenient arrangements for tax benefits and sexual gratification,” I was not referring to homosexuals at all so you should absolutely not consider the comment an “insult to gay people,” but rather to any couple (heterosexuals included) that would marry for those reasons. My point was that if marriage no longer has any relation to reproduction, what remains? Legal benefits, sex and, of course, love, but the latter two do not even require marriage.