Same-Sex Marriage Is the New Ideal

Continuing on the theme of yesterday’s post: Because our culture values equality, and because we (not believing in intrinsic human value anymore) think sameness is necessary for equality of value to exist, this also explains the anger many have towards the existence of gender roles in marriage. Why despise patriarchy? Because it entails one member of the marriage having a “higher” position than the other. If our value is determined by roles, and one role is deemed more valuable than the other, then the roles by nature are an expression of inequality. Equality can never exist as long as there are differences between “husband” and “wife.”

But it’s hard to deny the existence of natural gender roles when biological realities force those roles upon us. A woman gives birth, a woman nurses the child, a woman is naturally separated from the role of provider for a time. So in order to keep an equality of roles (since it’s believed equality of value depends on it), it’s argued that we need free contraception, abortion, child care, and whatever else can protect women from their unique womanly ability to have and raise children. They must be able to live their entire lives as men. That’s how equal value must be maintained in a society where intrinsic human value is rejected.

Now we come to the next step in this reasoning. If the highest ideal for marriage is sameness between the partners (not to mention barrenness), then it naturally follows that the new ideal is same-sex marriage. And in fact, I have seen articles that imply this. For example, this article from Slate argues that, unlike polygamy (which the writer considers to be a step backwards from the ideal due to increased inequality), same-sex marriage “builds upon and further strengthens the norm of spousal equality within marriage.” It does more than just “further strengthen” sameness. If sameness is the goal for marriage partners, then same-sex marriage embodies an ultimate sameness that opposite-sex marriage can never achieve, even though it strives for it.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has observed, marriage as it now exists is egalitarian: The spouses have become equal under law…. This is indeed a revolution in the law, and a recent one at that: Full spousal equality was achieved as a matter of law only in the 1970s. As a matter of fact, it is still a work in progress.

Marriage is only appealing to same-sex couples because marriage under our Constitution is now equal. As a union of equal spouses, marriage is very well suited to same-sex couples. And because the older pattern of gender-differentiated roles makes a lot less sense in same-sex marriages, the extension of marriage to gays entrenches its egalitarian aspect.

In other words, from a constitutional perspective that takes as its lodestar an ordered system of equal liberty, same-sex marriage is a very important but not a radical reform that builds on, extends, and further entrenches marriage’s egalitarian and constitutional character. This is why women’s groups have so long championed the cause of same-sex marriage. It is why patriarchal societies despise gay rights and know nothing of same-sex marriage.

It “further entrenches marriage’s egalitarian character” because it takes it a step further along the “historical trajectory” the writer claims marriage is on. It embodies what this Slate writer believes all marriages should aspire to—sameness. If sameness (what they call “equality”) is the ideal, then same-sex marriage is the ideal of the ideal. Gone are the differences between the sexes that might disturb that “equality,” the differences that result in fertility and its unequal demands on the two sexes, the differences that reality keeps forcing into our lives, disrupting our dream of sameness.

At the root of much of the craziness in our society today is the desire for equality. We have a deep human thirst for equality of value, but having removed its foundation, we have no way to ground it. Since we have denied the reality of God as the grounding of human equality, we must now deny many more obvious realities in order to enforce a cheaper equality of sameness.

This is the result of a secular worldview. Only within a worldview where God created us in His image can we affirm and celebrate both equal value and the diversity of reality.

Amy K. Hall