It’s About the Difference between Men and Women

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 04/09/2014

In a recent Twitter conversation, I was told that opposing same-sex marriage is, by definition, bigotry:

[Y]ou are bigoted on this issue; of that I am sure. You might not be a bigot in any other part of ur life but on this you are.

I’m sure because you spell it out when you fight against equal rights for gays. Your fight makes me sure.

Leaving aside the arguments for why this issue is not about equal rights, this is what I wish our opponents would grasp: Our objection to same-sex marriage is not about a difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals. If we were saying that homosexuals were lesser people unworthy of rights, then one might have an argument for this being an example of bigotry. But the case we’re making isn’t about a difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals (it’s not even about whether or not homosexuality is morally wrong); it’s about the difference between men and women.

Mollie Hemingway’s piece in The Federalist on “The Rise of the Same-Sex Marriage Dissidents” (written in response to the Mozilla situation) touches on this:

We...have a system that is demanding conformity, uniformity and discipline—it’s not just about marriage law, to be honest. It’s really about something much bigger—crushing the belief that the sexes are distinct in deep and meaningful ways that contribute to human flourishing. Obviously marriage law plays a role here—recent court rulings have asserted that the sexes are interchangeable when it comes to marriage. That’s only possible if they’re not distinct in deep and meaningful ways. But the push to change marriage laws is just one part of a larger project to change our understanding of sexual distinctions. See, for example, the 50 genders of Facebook....

The drive to redefine marriage depends on denying the differences between the sexes, and yet these are the very differences that brought about the need for marriage in the first place:

[T]here’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system. It’s the one that involves sex between one man and one woman. It’s with respect to that system that the unit is the mated pair. In that system, it’s not just a relationship that is the union of minds, wills or important friendships. It’s the literal union of bodies. In sexual congress, in intercourse between a man and a woman, you are literally coordinated to a single bodily end.

In every other respect we as humans act as individual organisms except when it comes to intercourse between men and women—then we work together as one flesh. Coordination toward that end—even when procreation is not achieved—makes the unity here. This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense. It’s not something that’s wrong, but should be protected speech. It’s actually something that’s right. It’s right regardless of how many people say otherwise. If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together. Consider the significance of what this means for all of humanity, that we all share this.

It’s not unreasonable or bigoted to treat the unique joining of sexually complementary partners uniquely. But in order to see that this is a reasonable understanding that isn’t motivated by hate, one must first acknowledge the differences between women and men. Conversely, in order to hide its reasonableness, one must first erase those differences in people’s minds. Watch for this happening (e.g., with Facebook, see above), and make the connection.

I would say that perhaps we need to start our arguments farther back in the chain of reasoning, at the point our culture used to take for granted—the objective, unchanged-by-wishful-thinking differences between the sexes, but I actually don’t think that’s far back enough.

No, this goes back farther than that, for the questions involved here (whether gender is assigned or a matter of choice, whether there’s such a thing as male nature and female nature, whether an institution like marriage is something we recognize or create, whether the good of society lies in conforming itself to a predetermined purpose or a new vision, whether human nature is something in particular or a sea of possibilities bound only by what we can imagine for ourselves) all depend on whether we are here because of God or because of chance. In the end, it comes back to the most basic of all worldview differences: theism vs. non-theism.

So in a way, the people who accuse us of basing our position on religion are right, though it’s not in the way they think. That is, we’re against redefining marriage not mainly because we think homosexual behavior is wrong, but because we think human nature (including each person’s gender and the way that relates to marriage) is something fixed that we were given, not something endlessly changing and malleable that we can create for ourselves. (Not that one needs to believe in God to observe that human nature is unchanging. History is on our side on this one.)

Since we don’t think we have the power to defy reality and mold ourselves and natural institutions like the family into something radically new, we therefore conclude that attempts to force such a change will lead to suffering throughout our society.

That has nothing to do with bigotry.