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Marriage: Why It Matters

I’m astonished – and gratified – that today, the California Supreme Court recognized its responsibility to uphold the law.

The vast majority of my Facebook friends are predictably aghast, and the whole issue is likely to return to the ballot box, where, eventually, defenders of traditional marriage will lose. This issue has moved beyond the realms of an activist judiciary and into the ballot box, where traditional marriage opponents have managed to frame the issue as one of fundamental civil rights. Americans are a tolerant, kind, and essentially decent people, and those who would redefine marriage have managed to exploit that good will to bypass critical thought on an issue that matters more than just about anything else.

It matters more than high taxes or high deficits; it matters more than what the military is doing; it matters more than just about anything else that any government anywhere can possibly inflict on us.

This is the erosion of the foundational principles of civilization, and by the time that is universaly recognized, it may be too late to save it.

In terms of the language, we’ve already lost the battle, and most likely the war. Every time someone says “gay people can’t get married,” they’re not telling the truth. I think very few of them are openly lying; most are simply mistaken. But when I say, as I have on this blog numerous times, that gay people can get married anywhere, anytime, anywhere, people look at me like I’m nuts. It never occurs to them that accepting the premise that homosexuals are somehow banned from marrying requires them to abandon any fixed definition of marriage.

Suppose, for instance, that I were to complain that I have no right to sing. You might scoff, but I would insist that it’s true – Simon, Randy, Paula, and that new chick won’t even give me the time of day. The more we talked, the sooner you’d realize that I define “singing” as “performing on American Idol,” and you would point out that they’re very different things. Not so, I say – we’re all singers, and it’s just not fair that some singers and younger, more talented, and better looking than I am – why should they get to go on Idol, and I can’t? For that matter, why should Kris Allen get to win the thing, and not Adam Lambert? I still think Melinda Doolittle was better than all of them, and she came in third two years ago!

This analogy is deeply flawed, but the premise is that I don’t get to choose what “singing” means when I complain about how my right to sing is being denied. Yet the Left has convinced even many who disagree with them that the word “marriage” no longer means what it has always meant – a unique relationship between a man and a woman who stand at the head of a family. No one’s civil rights are being denied here. A gay man is still a man – should he choose to find a woman to join him at the head of a family, he has as much right to enter into a marriage as any other man on the planet. We’re not talking about seperate water fountains or sitting in the back of the bus. The institution of marriage is what it is; we choose whether or not we want to participate.

So what happens when gay men don’t want to be shackled to a woman to whom they are not physically attracted? They demand the rules be changed. They won’t come to the institution of marriage; they demand that marriage come to them. They have a right – not just to marry, which they’ve had all along, but the right to determine what marriage is. And by conceding that somehow something has been denied to them, we who support traditional marriage unwittingly throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Folks, marriage is not solely an expression of love. It provides the most basic structure in which we live our lives – the family. Since the beginning of recorded history, human society has acknowledged that the ideal circumstances involved in the raising of children involve a mommy and a daddy. Marriage provides that framework. It also tames men into caring for their children and eschewing multiple sex partners, things for which they are not biologically hardwired. Marriage requires considerable sacrifice from both parties. It is not trophy or a shiny toy. It is a demanding institution that often requires us to do things which are difficult, uncomfortable, and unpleasant – because that’s often what your spouse or your child needs you to do.

When did marriage become the equivelant of getting pinned, of going steady, of going to the prom?

Implicit in the assumption that marriage can be redefined is the assumption that both a mommy and a daddy are unnecessary. Two mommies is the same thing. Two daddies are the same thing. Maybe three daddys – or one mommy. (Most single mothers will still concede just how daunting a task it is to raise a child without a father.) Or no parents at all – let the state raise your kids!

These concepts would have been unthinkable fifty years ago. Now, they’re part of the mainstream.

I know the names that are coming for those who disagree. I’m a bigot; I’m a homophobe; I’m filled with hate. You learn to live with that kind of scorn. This is an issue that has now passed outside the realms of rational discourse, so no one realizes just how shaky the intellectual premise of “gay marriage” is.

They will, though. It’s coming, and so are the inevitable consequences.

Eagles in Concert
Religion, Politics, and Holy Matrimony

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  1. All good Government is strongly rooted in the family. Agree that this is the most important decision facing us today, with the deepest and most lasting implications for society.

  2. I am not really anxious to argue any side of this issue….. it is not very high on my list of concerns. And I certainly do NOT consider you to be a homophobe or a bigot. I greatly respect your intellectual acuity and personal integrity. However, I do have some questions about some of what you wrote.
    It seems to me that your stated concerns are for:
    — your belief that the historical definition (accepted by the vast majority of people) deserves to be weighed heavily in to whatever the legal definition will / should be in the future
    — the advantages that children have when raised in the traditional nuclear family (with a mother and a father)
    — the tenet that marriage, in its long accepted pattern is one of the “foundational principles of civilization”

    Here are my questions:
    How much is your point of view influenced by your specific religious beliefs? It is hard to think of a religion which holds the family in as high and everlasting esteem as Mormons do. However, the idea of some generally accepted definition of marriage has usually included the concept of “til death do us part.” (The phrase dates back to at least Classical Greece.) The LDS concept of Celestial Marriage (as part of Temple Sealings) is quite unique and NOT generally accepted by anything approaching a majority of the population either today or in the past (despite the LDS interpretations of Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18.). Wouldn’t it be wrong for the law not to recognize LDS marriages simply because so many others view the “traditional definition of marriage” differently?

    Of course my view is: since LDS definitions and interpretations don’t interfere with anyone else’s ability to define marriage for themselves (and their religion), let the law allow Mormons, Catholics, Hindus, Scientologists, and others to define it however they wish FOR THEIR RELIGION’S DEFINITION AND RECOGNITION OF THE TERM.

    Kids! Of course YOU ARE RIGHT. Anyone who denies the advantages for children (ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL) being raised by a mother and a father is in some kind of denial…… or just being dishonest about it. Certainly it is better for kids to be in the traditional nuclear family. However, that isn’t very relevant since “all other things being equal” is an impossible standard to measure or meet. Some children are raised in poverty or without adequate medical care, or are provided an inferior education, or raised in crime ridden communities. I assume you wouldn’t preclude the marriage of poor people, illiterate people, etc.

    So, absent the religious belief that the purpose of marriage is to procreate (and your very interesting assertion that it serves to “tame” the beast that males essentially are), what function is served by having the civil law decide who to include or exclude? And you can spare me the response about incest. (I mean half of the Oklahoma Panhandle would already be ……… no wait I better not finish that thought. Although, I am reminded of the old joke about “What do you call a 13 year old girl in Alabama who can run faster than her 14 year old brother?” ……. Answer: a virgin)

    The other question I have is: How do you determine which “foundational principles of civilization” are so immutable that they are beyond evolution, refinement, or even outright abolition? Certainly things like slavery, polytheism, women as chattel, primogeniture, and many other concepts were historically considered to be foundations of civilization. Later we came to realize that changing or eliminating them were the true measures of a civilized society.

    Surprisingly, I really don’t feel that strongly, either way. I was just asking some questions. I would like to understand your perspective better. Personally, I think those with the most to gain from the legalization of gay marriage will be divorce lawyers!
    Respectfully, POUNDS

  3. I have a question for any gay marriage proponent who reads this:

    What is the justification for gay marriage that cannot be equally used to justify polygamous marriage?

    I’ve never heard anything approaching a reasonable answer to that question. And it’s a meaningful question, because the pro-gay marriage community is vehemently against legalizing polygamous marriages. Yet I don’t see the distinction between gay and polygamous marriage (in terms of why one should be legal and the other not). (And for the record, I’m not in favor of legalizing either.)

    That is, marriage is currently defined as a union between (a) two individuals who are (b) of the opposite sex. What is the rationale for doing away with requirement B that can’t also be applied to requirement A?

    Yet, despite all this, gay marriage opponents (like me) are labeled as “haters” or “discriminators.” I guess we are all haters and discriminators (yes, even gay marriage advocates), we just direct our hate and discrimination at different groups, I guess….

  4. I agree with you – gay marriage will be one day be recognized (though it is shocking that legalized discrimination still exists today) and Melinda Doolittle remains the best Idol contestant ever!!

    Shame on California voters who voted for Prop 8… what does it harm you if gays get married. Give me a break. It’s out and out discrimination.

  5. *sigh*

    Anonymous, your comment is deeply discouraging. Did you read anything I wrote?

    (Although I’m glad we see eye to eye on the Doolittle issue.)

  6. My take, for what it’s worth:

    This is a battle that, while worth fighting for, has already been lost by the pro-traditional marriage side. One basic principle of a political battle is that the side that defines the other will win. This has turned into a battle of “equality” and “basic rights” vs. “bigots” and “hatemongers.” The media is allowing this to happen. Prop 8 will be law in CA until Nov. 2010, when it will be overturned at the ballot box. The pro-tradtional marriage crowd will then go quietly, and the pro-gay marriage will declare the battle over and won. The courts and media will agree, and the issue (at least in CA) will be moot. Other states will, either through legislation or judicial fiat, soon follow suit. The traditional marriage crowd will not have the energy or resources to fight this battle in all 50 states or at the federal level. Gay marriage will be legal throughout this country. Utah will probably be the last state to allow it, but it will get trumped by federal law.

    Now, what will the impact be? Will my marriage be affected? Not directly. But marriage as an institution is doomed. The floodgates have opened, and they will soon burst. By removing the caveat that marriage must be between a man and a woman, there is really no end in sight, legally speaking. Polygamy will soon be legal (Andy makes a great point), as will other extremes. The arguments that the gay marriage crowd use now can certainly be applied by polygamists and others.

    Eventually, I predict that marriage will cease to be a legal contract. It will solely be a religious rite, one that is not recognized by the state. Extreme? Yes. Probable? Yes. Desireable? No way.

    Now, Pounds, do my religious views impact my feelings? Absolutely. I do not hide nor deny this fact. Others will think differently. That is their right. I strongly believe that the family is the cornerstone of society and must be protected. I recognize that all do not have a traditional family. That, however, does not change my belief that the family is critical to society, and changing the definition of marriage is a direct attack on the traditional family.

  7. Andy and George,

    I agree with you that the arguments made by those in favor of gay marriage can also be made in favor of plural marriage.

    The better analogy, however, might be: If plural marriages were legally permitted between one man and two women, should plural marriages be permitted between three women or between three men.

    Personally, I have no problem with plural marriage between CONSENTING ADULTS.

    Criticisms of plural marriage are often centered on the fact that (too often) there are young girls involved. This is an unfair criticism since it would apply equally to traditional marriage.

    The other criticism often made about plural marriage is that it is harmful for the children. That seems to be a frivolous point in today’s society where so many children of a traditional marriage have parents who are divorced and remarried (sometimes numerous times).

    Actually, I am not sure why it would be harmful to children to have three loving mothers instead of one.

    LOGICAL CONCLUSION: Allow each religion to define, perform, ratify, regulate, and dissolve the institution of marriage within their own religion. (The only limitation would be that it involve legally consenting adults.)

    The civil law would only involve the “quasi-contractual” issues of division of property, child custody, tax status, etc.

    I hope this resolves any confusion about things I included in my earlier comment.

    Sincerely,

    POUNDS

  8. POUNDS,

    You say:

    “If plural marriages were legally permitted between one man and two women, should plural marriages be permitted between three women or between three men.

    Personally, I have no problem with plural marriage between CONSENTING ADULTS.”

    You seem to be OK with calling any arrangement “marriage” as long as the arrangement is between consenting adults. Doing so, however, results in the word “marriage” having no meaning at all. If “marriage” means whatever anyone wants it to mean, it ultimately means nothing at all.

    The term “college graduate” has meaning because it refers to someone who has graduated from a 4-year college/university. If, however, it were instead used to refer to (a) those who graduated from a 4-year college, (b) those who didn’t graduate from college, but who did a few years of college, (c) those who never started college, (d) those who are left-handed, and (e) anyone else who feels disenfranchised and wants to call themselves a “college graduate”…..the term “college graduate” would have no further meaning (because it would mean anything anyone wanted it to mean). Such is the fate of “marriage.”

    If gays want to formalize their arrangement, fine. But the term “marriage” is already spoken for. It is already defined. Find a new term and a new label (like, perhaps, “civil union”). And that arrangement can have the same legal benefits marriage has. But calling it “marriage” is disingenuous.

    Actually, the fight to call gay unions a “marriage” is an attempt to normalize their lifestyle. This is not about “rights,” as most are more than happy to allow civil unions to have the same legal rights marriages have (in fact, civil unions already have most of these rights). It’s about the GLBT community trying to become more mainstream and gain social acceptance. That’s what this debate is really about (at least to them). It’s about gaining moral equivalency.

    Of course losing the battle over the “marriage” label isn’t nearly as important as the other, more weighty consequences of legalizing gay marriage. So I don’t want to lose sight of the primary issues here and the more important reasons why gay marriage is a bad idea. But it is a natural ramification of what you argue (allowing any arrangement of consenting adults assume the label of “marriage”).

  9. Andy,

    You have only partially grasped my position about consenting adults (of any number, gender, etc.) entering in to marriage.

    I am referring to the civil law’s position. Religions could each define it for themselves.

    Perhaps the position of the Catholic Church on divorce is the best example. They don’t recognize divorce within their church’s doctrine (though they often use the vehicle of annulment to achieve the same end).

    The civil laws in all of the 50 states, however, do allow divorce (technically it is “marital dissolution” in most states). The ability of the Catholics to function within this dual system (of religious and secular definitions) doesn’t seem to hinder them (or anyone else) as far as I can tell. Am I missing something?

    Your feelings are undoubtedly honest and sincerely held, and I want you to know that I respect that.

    It does seem to come down to an argument about semantics, though, since you say that “civil unions” with the same legal rights would be acceptable (“fine”) to you.

    I agree…. marriage is just a “word.” That’s why I cannot get too excited either way on this issue.

    Oh…. your concern about there being confusion about the meaning of marriage is a bit of a stretch. You use some extreme examples about the meaning of “college graduate.”

    Are you really saying that if gay marriage was legal that you would have trouble understanding what was meant if two women told you they were “married” to each other?

    Peace,

    POUNDS