Are we really depriving homosexuals the right to marry the person they love? Yes. But there’s nothing unusual about that. Nobody has the right to marry any person they love. Everyone has restrictions.
When you take an honest look at the marriage law, it turns out that there is nothing unfair about it. Homosexuals have the same rights and the same restrictions as heterosexuals. For example, there is no legal right granted to a heterosexual that does not apply in exactly the same way to every homosexual. Both can marry in any state. Both can marry someone of the opposite sex. Both can receive the benefits that come with legal marriage. Heterosexuals and homosexuals are treated alike.
There is also no legal restriction for homosexuals that does not also apply in exactly the same way to every heterosexual. Neither one can marry their sibling. Both are prohibited from marrying someone already married. They can’t marry a child. And neither has the freedom to marry someone of the same sex.
The marriage law applies equally to every person, whether they are homosexual or not. Everyone is treated the same.
Homosexuals cry foul, of course, because the kind of person they are legally entitled to marry is not a person they love. They believe this is a restriction that is limited to them. But it’s not. There isn’t a person in the United States that has unfettered freedom to marry anyone just because they love them. There are numerous parings of people who love each other and can’t marry.
I have a male friend who I’ve known for over a decade. We have a long-term, committed relationship. We talk every week, we make sacrifices to visit one another, and we’re there to meet each other’s needs. We’re not sexually involved, but I routinely say I love him and he says the same to me. I can’t marry him even though he’s someone I love. I’m restricted. The state won’t recognize our relationship.
Brothers and sisters usually develop strong bonds. They love one another and often have deep, meaningful relationships that can last a lifetime. Their commitment to one another is significant. But they can’t marry one another. Though they love each, they state won’t recognize their relationship. The same is true of two brothers or two sisters.
Fathers and daughters also have long-term, committed relationships. There’s a special bond between them that develops and lasts for years. I can say that the love I feel towards my daughter has a unique texture to it. It’s taught me an aspect of love that, until I had a daughter, I never experienced. There are things that I’ve done and would do for her that virtually no one else on the planet can make me do. And like many fathers and daughters, our special relationship could last half a century or more. But guess what? The state doesn’t care about us as a couple. It doesn’t matter how much we love each other. We can’t get married.
There are dozens of more examples of pairs of people who develop strong, meaningful, and long-term relationships. These people love each other, but that doesn’t mean the state is required to recognize them within the definition of marriage.
Sometimes people point out that in these examples there is no sexual activity and that’s why it’s not the same as a homosexual pair. But why does that matter? Why do we have to use our sex organs with one another to qualify for marriage? Isn’t it enough that we love each other and are committed? Making sexual activity a requirement for marriage is arbitrary.
So what do all these relationships (and many others) have in common? None of them produce the next generation. Committed male friends, siblings, and parent-child relationships don’t have kids.
There is one kind of couple that, throughout all of human history, is known to produce children: heterosexuals. Long-term, monogamous, heterosexual unions as a group and by nature produce the next generation. They create families that become the building blocks of civilization. These families are the most stable and advantageous environment for raising children. They not only stabilize society, they make society possible. That role can’t be underestimated.
Notice that I said, “As a group and by nature.” As a group, heterosexual couples have kids. There may be exceptions, but the group’s tendency is to produce children. Laws are designed to generalize for the group. “By nature” is a reference to the fact that heterosexual unions produce children by the natural function of their sexual activity. Unlike male friends, siblings, and other relationship couples, it is biologically natural for heterosexuals to produce children.
The government, that normally has a hands-off policy to most relationships, gets involved in sanctioning these long-term, heterosexual unions. It creates a group of privileges and protections for these male-female couplings because it recognizes their role in creating and stabilizing society.
But the government doesn’t get involved in any other relationship pair. It doesn’t legally sanction two male friends, siblings, or father-daughter relationships. That’s because, though there are exceptions, they don’t as a group and by nature produce the next generation. They might love each other – deeply and for a long period of time – but that is irrelevant to the government. The state has a concern to perpetuate and protect our civilization and that explains its vested interested in heterosexual unions.
So why does the government not sanction the relationship of two homosexual males? For the same reason it doesn’t sanction the relationship of male friends, siblings, or a father and daughter. Homosexual couples don’t as a group and by nature produce the next generation. Although, theoretically, homosexuals can adopt, this is the exception. Most same-sex lovers don’t pursue parenting. Furthermore, children don’t naturally result from their sexual activity.
Instead, the state must intervene and grant them children. As Jennifer Roback Morse explains, “Same-sex couples cannot have children. Someone must give them a child or at least half the genetic material to create a child. The state must detach the parental rights of the opposite-sex parent and then attach those rights to the second parent of the same-sex couple. The state must create parentage for the same-sex couple. For the opposite-sex couple, the state merely recognizes parentage.”
A common objection is that marriage can’t be about children because not all married couples have kids. First, although that’s true, every child has a mother and father and a right to know them. These children have a vested interest in the union and stability of their parents. But that’s not something they can protect. Society needs to secure that right for kids so far as we are able.
Second, even if some marriages don’t produce children, it doesn’t nullify the natural tie of marriage to procreation. The purpose of marriage remains regardless of whether married couples actualize it or not. Books are meant to be read even if they collect dust on a bookshelf.
Third, marriages create the optimal environment for raising children. Same-sex marriage intentionally creates the condition where a child is denied their mother or father or both. This is not healthy, a claim that has been long noted by researchers.
The push for same-sex marriage is not primarily about the right to marry the person you love. No one has that right because everyone – including heterosexuals – is restricted. Nor is it to secure the right to adopt children. Homosexuals could be granted every legal right and privilege of marriage, but they would still demand the right to legal marriage.
That’s because this battle is not principally about rights, but about respect. Homosexuals demand public approval for their lifestyle and relationships. As Time magazine wrote, same-sex marriage advocates, “want nothing less than full social equality, total validation—not just the right to inherit a mother-in-law’s Cadillac. As Andrew Sullivan, the (also persistently single) intellectual force behind gay marriage, has written, ‘Including homosexuals within marriage would be a means of conferring the highest form of social approval imaginable.’”[i]
Make no mistake about it. Redefining marriage will impact our culture. It won’t be today, next week, or next year. It will be in the long-term because ideas have consequences. When you sever the natural tie of marriage to procreation and no longer require that children be attached to their parents, you’re doing violence to a vital institution. Marriages start families and families produce the next generation. This is how we secure and stabilize society. That’s why you can’t take a sledgehammer to the core of civilization – the family – and expect that no harm will come.
[i] “Will Gay Marriage be Legal?” Time, 2/21/00.