Gay Marriage: Doing Without the Bigotry
With the exception of the final outcome of the final judgment, I’m not one to predict the future. But I’ll say this: it would surprise me if, within a generation, the fundamental legal understanding of marriage in our country is not significantly changed. The purpose of this essay is to offer a rebuttal to the claims made in the debate over “Gay Marriage” that those of us who oppose it are bigots, discriminatory, or any number of derogatory expressions equal to the verbal acumen of the person using it, regardless of its accuracy or appropriateness. The purpose for this essay is not to defend marriage or argue for it to be changed. As stated above, I believe the groundwork has already been laid for the definition of marriage to be fundamentally changed within a generation.
I believe this essay will encourage those who are arguing for a change in the definition of marriage to consider the consequences of their rhetoric and unintended consequences of their rhetoric once (or if) they achieve their goal of redefining marriage. I will state at the end of this essay what I believe their rhetoric could lead to. I also believe this (short) essay will help clarify what the debate over the definition of marriage is truly about, and what it is not in a very specific and important area. So let’s begin.
The accusation has been made almost as often as the topic as been discussed that those of us who do not favor changing the definition of marriage to include two men or two women are discriminating against persons of various sexual persuasions. The argument is then made that people should be able to marry whomever they want.
As the law stands, marriage equally applies to straight men as it does to gay men: both may marry a woman of legal age. Similarly, the law also equally applies to straight and gay women: both may marry a man of legal age. The law makes no distinction or recognition of sexual identity. In the same way, marriage laws equally prohibit straight and gay men from marrying another man, it does not single out only gay men from marrying other men. Likewise, marriage laws prohibit straight and gay women from marrying another man, it does not single out only gay women from marrying other women. So to say that those of us oppose “gay marriage” somehow want to discriminate against homosexuals is to fundamentally misunderstand the definition of discrimination.
This leads to the second argument: that people should be able to marry whomever they want. Actually, the word “want” is not used as often as the word “love”: people should be able to marry whomever they love. However, this assumes that current marriage laws revolve around love. They do not. They revolve around a tax status and joint ownership of property, inheritance status, etc. (Now, it would be foolish to marry someone you did not love, but love is not a legal requirement for marriage in the eyes of the state.) The state does not care about love; it has no vested interest in either promoting or discouraging love.
To argue that homosexuals should be allowed to marry because they are in love makes the faulty assumption that the state grants marriage to heterosexual couples because they are in love. Love is not the basis for marriage in the eyes of the state. I would caution those who argue for love as the basis for marriage in the eyes of the state that you are opening a Pandora’s box of dangerous unintended consequences. If love is the only necessary condition for marriage the state needs to ask for, what would prohibit polygamy, bestiality, pedophiliac relationships, and so on except for laws enacted to prevent such relationships, at which point justified claims of discrimination could be made against them?
In the debate on “Gay Marriage,” it would be honest for those who want to change the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples to say: “we want to change the definition of marriage.” Using phrases like “Marriage Equality” and “Civil Rights” will score public approval points in the short term, but at a very high cost in the long term that will prove disastrous. Your rhetoric, in an attempt to win the debate on what could be called “style points” overshot the mark (and the truth) and will open the door to the possibility of granting marriage status to relationships that are currently illegal.
To those who want to see “Gay Marriage” become the Law of the Land, personally, I hope you do not succeed. From a theological point of view (which I do not expect many of you to understand or agree with), I do not believe you (or anyone) has the authority to change what God has created in the way you seek to change it. And from a practical point of view, very soon after you get what it is you want (and again, I think you will within a generation), you will begin to see that this is actually more harmful to the people you thought you were helping than it is good for them.
In closing, let me say this. The debate over “Gay Marriage” is one that has polarized people and turned friends into enemies. The debate is an important one; the consequences are significant and far-reaching. But it is for these reasons that we should speak in measured tones and with civility, patience and love to one another, avoiding the harsh rhetoric that unnecessarily polarizes. There is more to marriage than tradition; there is more to a person than their sexual identity.
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