This has been another eventful month regarding the national conversation surrounding same-sex marriage (SSM). Last week, Ohio senator Rob Portman had a “change of heart,” coming out in support of SSM as a result of his son’s recent confession of being gay.
This week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and famed, former mega-pastor Rob Bell both came out in support of gay marriage. Clinton, preparing for a presidential run in 2016, justified her position by saying that “gay rights are human rights” and adding “I believe America is at its best when we champion the freedom and dignity of every human being.” For her, this includes marriage.
Bell, who is in the midst of his book tour said on Sunday at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral: “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
And let’s not forget the Justice Department’s amicus curia brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8, California’s ban on SSM.
Though I don’t support SSM, I think that SSM advocates will see the legal affirmation of the gay lifestyle, and marriage will be redefined. I believe this because the case against SSM hasn’t been made consistently enough to turn the tide.
In all the back and forth on the topic, there are several issues that seem to be purposely overlooked and not discussed when the topic is raised.
At the outset, most agree that the topic of SSM is an emotional one. It’s emotional for those who happen to be gay and who desire to be married. It’s emotional for those who have friends or loved ones who are gay and want them to be “accepted”- part of that acceptance is having the opportunity to be married. It’s also emotional for those who, though they may have friends and loved ones who are gay, still hold to the understanding that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Further still, it’s emotional for those who struggle to remain faithful to their religious worldview that impacts their understanding of marriage.
It’s precisely because of emotionalism that reason hasn’t prevailed.
The one issue that’s repeatedly raised when discussing SSM is the notion of “rights.” Advocates of SSM argue that marriage is a basic “right” that is denied to gays and, as such, is illegal. Therefore, in the interest of fairness, marriage (by law) should be extended to gays in the same way that it is extended to non-gays.
This sounds convincing. To deny a basic right to one group of people while extending it to another group of people is wrong and discriminatory. And if that’s what the law does, it should be rescinded.
But that isn’t what the law does. First, marriage isn’t a “right.” It’s a civil institution that all societies in history have used and have recognized as the best way to legitimize, protect, and raise children as well as to solidify familial and political connections.
Second, the law doesn’t deny basic “rights” to a particular group unfairly. When the law defines and recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman, it doesn’t exclude any gay person from marrying. The law treats non-gay people the exact same way it treats gay people in regards to marriage: both are prohibited from marrying a person of the same sex. This means that under the law, a gay person would have to marry the same way everyone else in society has to marry – someone of the opposite sex. As it relates to all unmarried persons in America, the law is extended equally and doesn’t discriminate based upon sexual preference.
Furthermore, there is no “right” to marry- civil or otherwise- found in the Constitution. Every single time a person or court claims the denial of the “right” to marry is “unconstitutional,” they’re lying. The Constitution says exactly nothing about SSM. When this claim is offered as a defense of SSM, as is currently being done before the Supreme Court, it’s legally unfounded.
Consequently, when gay advocates and gays assert that legal refusal to marry someone of the same sex is a denial of rights that exists for everyone else, it simply isn’t true. What they’re actually claiming is a new “right” that doesn’t exist anywhere for anyone regardless of orientation- the right to marry someone of the same sex. The “right” for a person to marry someone of the same sex has been denied to everyone.
Another claim that’s continually offered is that people should be allowed to marry whom they love, especially if they’re consenting adults. Unfortunately, this also isn’t credibly defensible, and here’s why. Technically, gays can marry other gays. These ceremonies happen all the time. Numerous clergy members of varying religions are more than willing to perform these ceremonies. The only thing that the newly married won’t receive is governmental and societal affirmation and recognition of being “married.”
But if SSM is legalized, how can that law be defended when society arbitrarily moves the discriminatory lines of separation, and how is it justified? If it’s okay for gays to marry other gays because of love and consent, why don’t we allow/legalize polygamy when the parties involved are in love and consenting? Why not aunts and nephews or uncles and nieces when the same requirements of love and consent are present? If it’s discrimination against gays, why wouldn’t it be discrimination against these other parties if SSM is legalized? And if it is discrimination, how is it justified in light of the qualifications that are used in favor of homosexual marriage? If we’re to be intellectually honest, legalizing SSM means legalizing a number of other relationships based on the same criteria used for homosexual marriage.
In the end, the law doesn’t take into consideration love when defining marriage- and rightly so. If it did, the relationships above would have to be legalized, normalized, and accepted as equal.
Yet another claim SSM advocates use for legalizing SSM is to claim it’s a “civil rights issue.” To equate the struggle of gays to selfishly redefine marriage with the struggles that black Americans underwent to gain civil rights undermines their argument because it trivializes the misery and misfortune blacks suffered through to gain the level of acceptance that exists today. There are no “gay only” bathrooms, drinking faucets, or entrances; gays aren’t relegated to sitting in the back of the bus or forced to say “yes sir” and “no ma’am” to their non-gay equivalents. There is no gay equivalent to Jim Crow laws; gays aren’t having fire hoses or dogs used on them merely because they’re gay – and thank God for that. So the similarity falls short.
Rob Portman, Hillary Clinton, and Rob Bell have compassion for gays and rightly so. But to radically redefine an institution that has existed for all of human history and sacrificing reason for sympathy- while forfeiting responsibility for the repercussions-is cowardly and transparent.
Photo credit: khalid Albaih (Creative Commons)