In the last year I’ve seen a lot of illogical arguments in favor of gay marriage. I’ve also seen a lot of politicians pandering in their attempt to appear ‘open minded.’ Here’s my essay, although if I wrote it again, I’d put more emphasis on the cultural harm we’re doing to marriage already.
Maybe all of us can be loving parents. Of course the answer is that we can. Then what’s wrong with children having two mommies? In fact, what’s wrong with gay marriage? “Rosie O’Donnell, one of the world’s most famous lesbian mothers, told Diane Sawyer in an ABC Primetime Live interview that her little boy Parker sometimes asks, “Mommy, why can’t I have a daddy?” According to Rosie, she answers him by explaining that she is the kind of mommy who wants another mommy” (qtd. in Stanton).
Rosie’s response is both politically correct but also a denial of the question. Like a great percentage of adopted children trying to reach closure and often a primal relationship, Parker will one day grow up and try to find his father, whether the doctors and lawyers and medical facilities have made that impossible (for Rosie’s benefit) or not. And as Parker gets older and better understands how children are born, his question will loom even larger. But there is another issue highlighted by Rosie’s answer. Parker will never have a father because her Mother doesn’t want one. Parker and the father’s concerns, now or later, are not so much secondary as precluded altogether. In many ways, there is no more to be said.
Homosexuals have been reaching for legitimacy in society for a long time. In almost all cases they have found it; there are openly gay politicians, judges, writers, professors, etc. and in general they are “treated fairly with respect to employment and housing” (Baer). In their quest they have challenged the rules and regulations of many established institutions: the Church, the Military, and even the Boy Scouts, to name a few. For the last several years they have been focusing on one of society’s most important institutions; marriage.
As a solution to this very important debate, I propose that gays develop their own institutions which define their own unique and separate identity, rather than requiring the huge majority, some of them religious, to redefine a fundamental institution that predates governments, ensures the propagation of society and is the primary care giver for our children. Future generations will struggle enough in hopes of avoiding extinction, without further attacks on their only institution.
In all successful cultures, the concept of family and marriage is present. Marriage is present in societies before governments form. It is the most basic element of any civilized society. It encourages longer life, male purpose, role models for children, stability through monogamy, and general happiness. With these benefits and responsibilities also come burdens: laws are in force to share income and debt, child rearing practices and limits on how the union is broken, to name a few.
Traditionally this institution involves a man and a woman, although some cultures have allowed both same sex and multiple partner unions. Childless citizens in Ancient Rome paid higher taxes probably because the state realized that raising children was in the state’s interest. The Nazis prevented Jews from marrying so that all their children would be born out of wedlock; a dehumanizing tactic according to the norms of the time. Today, we have religious groups who only two generations ago viewed homosexuals as sinners who now recognize them as clergy, much less legitimate members of our society. Does that mean we should allow them to also get married? Should we redefine marriage so that gays will be seen as normal? What about the children?
Many gay people claim that marriage is primarily a legal contract of love and so it is discriminating not to allow them to marry. But this is only part of the definition of marriage. Marriage is also about making a commitment and a safe environment for children. Our society and culture depends on children for our future. This is the biggest responsibility of married couples. This is the primary reason that governments have laws about marriage. No other relationship has laws; there is no law telling us how to relate with our grandparents, or our uncles or cousins or neighbors. The government has a very big interest in marriage, because it is the only relationship that produces new generations. Governments usually give tax considerations to couples with children to make it easier to nurture them. But gay people can’t have children. And even though there are a lot of arguments that some heterosexual couples also don’t conceive children, there is still a difference. First, it is still the ideal. Second, most heterosexual couples want children, and even those that don’t have them don’t change the essential meaning of marriage. If gay marriage is accepted, this meaning is lost. New generations must grow up believing marriage is just about sex (Kolasinski).
Some gay couples say they can adopt children and provide them with a loving and supportive environment like any other family. The problem with that argument is that we know the ideal for a child must include a mother and a father (qtd. in Kolasinski). In some ways children’s need for the opposite sex parent outweighs their need for a role model.
Too much of the homosexual argument denies the importance of children in this fundamental institution. Some groups even say that the world is already overpopulated, so why worry about gay couples’ inability to conceive children? To many married parents, these statements are proof that childless people have no understanding of parenthood, and should be given little weight in the marriage discussion. Most parents argue that instead of spending so much time and energy on the question of gay marriage, we should be more concerned about creating a stronger environment for new families and not weakening it more than we already have.
The pressure is certainly here; almost all journalists on TV and in newspapers imply that you are prejudiced if you deny gay marriage. Judges and politicians are attempting to redefine marriage even though all polls show that the majority of people are against it. In researching this paper, the bookstores are full of books on why gay marriage should be allowed. No bookstore had one arguing that it should not.
The central argument for gay marriage is that it is a classic example of civil rights. In his book “Why Marriage Matters” Evan Wolfson takes a whole chapter to compare gays’ fight for marriage rights to both the Women’s movement and the Black civil rights movement in America. He begins the chapter by quoting San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom who was issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. He said, “Rosa Parks didn’t wait for the courts to tell her it was all right to ride in the front of the bus” (qtd. in Breslau and Stone 40). Wolfson spends several pages making sure we understand that although Black discrimination was much more terrible and violent and pervasive, the discrimination is comparable. One was the discrimination of race while the other of sexual preference. In response to anticipated objections that one is a state of being and the other is a behavior, he argues that the hostility about the behavior “becomes prejudice and discrimination based on gay ‘status’ or identity” (Wolfson 175). To help his argument, he quotes Professor Henry Gates Jr., the chair of Harvard’s African and African-American Studies Department who says, “Disapproval of a sexual practice is transmuted into the demonization of a sexual species” (Wolfson 175). Wolfson goes on to argue that this hostility is pervasive, not based on any actual conduct or lifestyle, and is then used to deny gays basic ordinary lifestyle choices: “commit to partners, care for others, take on responsibilities, join the community, and marry” (Wolfson 175). This argument seems to be his central theme in arguing that gays are being denied their civil rights. And while the discrimination may not be as brutal as for Blacks, Wolfson makes the case that “most gay men and lesbians are not born into families and networks that share our difference. Rather, we have to make our way on our own, often after years of hostile socialization not only from society, but from the very institutions other minorities usually rely on for self-worth and solidarity, including even our own families” (Wolfson 177).
Too much of this argument is disingenuous. First, marriage is not in the Bill of Rights, so how can it be a civil rights issue? Second, like other important institutions marriage is exclusive by its nature. As Peter Sprigg argues, we do not allow close relatives, minors, or more than two unmarried people to get married! If we decide to increase the legal age of marriage to twenty-five, we might not agree with the decision, but it would not be a civil rights issue. In fact, we want to build institutions that “build bridges to bring men and women together… and serve the health of society (Sprigg).
Third, gays are not in any way a sexual species; they can not procreate! So why would we redefine society’s most important institution but deny the true nature of a group that must by biology always remain a minority? Wouldn’t it be better to develop unique institutions that celebrate their difference? It is readily admitted that gays want marriage for acceptance. If that is the goal, let’s work together to develop further acceptance and other ways to give gays self-worth. I would propose one of them could be a civil union that has many of the legal benefits of marriage and defines in a real way a commitment. These civil unions might not have monetary benefits since without the ability to reproduce the state receives no obvious benefit.
Before we tinker with such a large institution we might consider Jane Galt’s words in her thought provoking essay regarding gay marriage:
…in the late fifties, a debate began over whether to extend benefits to the unmarried. It was unfair to stigmatize unwed mothers. Why shouldn’t they be able to avail themselves of the benefits available to other citizens? The brutal societal prejudice against illegitimacy was old fashioned, bigoted, irrational. But if you give unmarried mothers money, said the critics, you will get more unmarried mothers. Ridiculous, said the proponents of the change. Being an unmarried mother is a brutal, thankless task. What kind of idiot would have a baby out of wedlock just because the state was willing to give her welfare benefits? (Galt)
Now roughly 70% of our children are born to one parent families. And we have all the emotional and behavioral scars and especially wayward boys that go with it.
For this reason and many others the smallest society that sustains all other parts of our civilization is greatly weakened. We are already only having enough children to just replace ourselves. Our society is paying a terrible cost to nurture children who don’t have a father and mother. Let’s not further risk the welfare of our children so that we can make 3% of our population feel included. Let’s be especially careful since the majority of people are against it, and many religions frown on it. Instead, let’s help gays develop their own institutions, so we can celebrate their unique contributions.
Baer, Richard, “Same-Sex Marriage: Not a Civil Right, Not Good for Children”
Breslau, Karen and Brad Stone, “Outlaw Vows,” Newsweek, 1 March 2004: 40.
Galt, Jane, “Gay Marriage,” Asymmetrical Information, 2 April 2005
Kolasinski, Adam, “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage,” The Tech, 17 February 2004
Popenoe, David, “Life Without Father,” New York: Free Press, Inc., 1996.
Sprigg, Peter, “Same-Sex “Marriage” Is Not a Civil Right,” Family Research Council, 27 January 2005
Stanton, Glenn, “What’s the Deal with Same-Sex Marriage?” Breakaway, September 2004.
Wolfson, Evan, “Why Marriage Matters,” New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.