“Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change.” Masha Gessen (Lesbian and gay rights activist)
The conjugal view of marriage asserts that marriage is not infinitely malleable or plastic
In our earlier article, ‘Why Gay Marriage is a Public Threat (part 1)‘, we saw that changing the definition of marriage will affect EVERY family, effecting making all of us wards of the state. We saw that when a state presumes to legalize same-sex ‘marriage’ they thereby imply that both marriage and family are little more than legal constructs. Because of this, I suggested that same-sex ‘marriage’ threatens every marriage in the land, reversing the gravitational field between the family and state.
This article will build on those considerations by showing additional specific ways that same-sex ‘marriage’ is a public threat.
Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Will Make the Government MORE Involved in Family Life
In his article ‘Why Gay “Marriage” Will Affect Everyone Else’, Father John Whiteford describes some of the practical ramifications that every family could experience if same-sex ‘marriage’ is legalized. He is describing realities that touch us all that no amount of talk about church-state separation can alter:
It has become trendy for even many conservatives to argue that the government should either get out of the “marriage business” entirely, or else to argue that gay “marriage” won’t hurt us, and so we shouldn’t care about it. Such people do not understand what a fundamental revision of family law will be required to accommodate gay marriage. For example, in my secular job, I work for the state child support agency, and so deal with questions of paternity and marriage regularly. In our current legal system, the law presumes that any child born within a marriage is the child of the married couple — that presumption can be rebutted with evidence to the contrary, if the husband wish to make that case in court (usually in a divorce), but that is the presumption. When I was born, I did not have a DNA test to prove who my father was, and when my children were born, they did not have a DNA test. We also did not need to go to court to establish that I was the father, because by law, that was presumed to be the case. If you have two lesbians that are married, can we presume that the other woman is the father of the child if their “spouse” has a child? And if they later divorce, and the other spouse wanted to rebut the presumption that they were the parent with DNA (which obviously would not be hard to do), should they be let off the hook when it comes to child support? Does the actual biological father have no rights in such a case? Should such a child have two parents on their birth certificate, or three? These are the kinds of questions that will rewrite our family law if we throw this monkey wrench into the works.
Suppose the government did get out of the “marriage business”. Do you really think that in the case of a religiously married couple who live together and raise their children together, but who fail to execute a will, and then one of the spouses dies unexpectedly, the religious spouse should have no unique claim to the property of her husband without having to go through a probate court? Should she have no more claim than his fishing buddy to his car, retirement accounts, or other property? Well, if the government was out of the marriage business, the fishing buddy would have just as much a claim, and the government would be who decided the matter.
And should his children have to have a court order or DNA evidence in order to claim any life insurance or Social Security survivor benefits from a deceased parent? Should they have to have a court order order or DNA evidence to make any inheritance claims?
The fact is that if the government gets out of “the marriage business” it will result in the government becoming more involved in our personal lives rather than less, because the government will have to set up new laws and new mechanisms to deal with issues that we have always dealt with by basic principles of family law that automatically come into play when a man and a woman are married.
Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Will Undermine Friendships
In their book What is Marriage?, Girgis, Anderson and George show that “it is not the conferral of benefits on same-sex relationships itself but redefining marriage in the public mind that bodes ill for the common good.” But why? Why does redefining marriage threaten the common good? One reason is because it undermines friendships. By redefining marriage to be simply an emotional union of persons, the difference between marriage and friendship becomes purely quantitative rather than qualitative. As Girgis, Anderson and George explain,
Misunderstandings about marriage will also speed our society’s drought of deep friendship, with special harm to the unmarried. The state will have defined marriage mainly by degree or intensity – as offering the most of what makes any relationship valuable: shared emotion and experience./ It will thus become less acceptable to seek (and harder to find) emotional and spiritual intimacy in nonmarital friendships. These will come to be seen not as different from marriage (and thus distinctively appealing), but simply as less. … A critical point here is that marriage and ordinary friendship do not simply offer different degrees of the same type of human good, like two checks written in different amounts. Nor are they simply varieties of the same good, like the enjoyment of a Matisse and the enjoyment of a Van Gogh. Each is its own kind of good, a way of thriving that is different in kind from the other. Hence, while spouses should be friends, what it takes to be a good friend is not just the same as what it takes to be a good spouse.
Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Makes Marriage Meaningless
The revisionist view of marriage that forms the ideological basis of same-sex ‘marriage’ makes any remaining restrictions on what can count as marriage merely arbitrary. Significantly, dozens of people have now given assent to the public statement that “The struggle for same-sex marriage rights is only one part of a larger effort to strengthen the security and stability of diverse households and families.” How diverse? We get some idea of the answer to this question by attending to those nations that have already legalized same-sex ‘marriage’, as we showed in our earlier article ‘Gay Marriage and the Slippery Slope.’
These types of warnings are often objected to on the grounds that it is a fallacious ‘slippery slope argument.’ But as Girgis, Anderson and George remind us,
“there is nothing wrong with arguing against a policy based on reasonable predictions of unwanted consequences. Such predictions would seem quite reasonable in this case, given that prominent figures suchas feminist icon Gloria Steinem, political activist and author Barbara Ehrenreich, and New York University Law Professor Kenji Yoshino have already demanded legal recognition of multiple-partner sexual relationships. Now are such relationships unheard of: Newsweek reports that there are more than five hundred thousands in the United States alone. In Btazil, a public notary has recognized a trio as a civil union. Mexico City has considered expressly temporary marriage licenses, The Toronto District School Board has taken to promoting polyamorous relationships among its students. We could go on….
As we deprive marriage policy of definite shape, we deprive it of public purpose.
Rigorously pursued, the logic of rejecting the conjugal conception of marriage thus leads, by way of formlessness, toward pointlessness: it proposes a policy for which it can hardly explain the benefit.”
The formlessness of marriage is now being acknowledged by an increasing body of public figures and was reflected by Jillian Keenan in an article for Slate earlier this week titled, ‘Legalize Polygamy! No. I am not kidding.‘ Listen to what she writes:
“The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet”
(Some gay activists have been upfront that their true aim is to destroy the institution of marriage. See ‘Gay Marriage Activist Reveals Movement’s True Agenda: Destroy Marriage‘)
Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Will Undermine Liberty
In their book What is Marriage?, Girgis, Anderson and George explain that legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’ will undermine freedom and liberty. They write that “Redefining civil marriage will further erode marital norms, thrusting the state even more deeply into leading roles for which it is poorly suited: parent and discipliner to the orphaned, provider to the neglected, and arbiter of disputes over custody, paternity, and visitations. As the family weakens, our welfare and correctional bureaucracies grow….” Moreover, if gay “marriage” is ever legalized, it is likely to result in unprecedented restrictions on freedom of speech and even thought. This was a point that S. T. Karnick drew attention to back in 2008. The Director of research for The Heartland Institute pointed out that,
The issue, it’s important to remember, is not whether society will allow homosexuals to ‘marry.’ They may already do so, in any church or other sanctioning body that is willing to perform the ceremony. There are, in fact, many organizations willing to do so: the Episcopal Church USA, the Alliance of Baptists, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Unity School of Christianity, the Unitarian Universalists, the Swedenborgian Church of North America, the Quakers, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, and the United Church of Christ, among others. Such institutions either explicitly allow the consecration or blessing of same-sex ‘marriages’ or look the other way when individual congregations perform such ceremonies.
No laws prevent these churches from conducting marriage ceremonies—and nearly all Americans would agree that it is right for the government to stay out of a church’s decision on the issue. Further, any couple of any kind may stand before a gathering of well-wishers and pledge their union to each other, and the law will do nothing to prevent them. Same-sex couples, or any other combination of people, animals, and inanimate objects, can and do ‘marry’ in this way. What the law in most states currently does not do, however, is force third parties—individuals, businesses, institutions, and so on—to recognize these ‘marriages’ and treat them as if they were exactly the same as traditional marriages. Nor does it forbid anyone to do so.
An insurance company, for example, is free to treat a same-sex couple (or an unmarried two-sex couple) the same way it treats married couples, or not. A church can choose to bless same-sex unions, or not. An employer can choose to recognize same-sex couples as “married,” or not. As Richard Thompson Ford noted in Slate, ‘In 1992 only one Fortune 500 company offered employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners; today hundreds do.’
In short, individuals, organizations, and institutions in most states are currently free to treat same-sex unions as marriages, or not. This, of course, is the truly liberal and tolerant position. It means letting the people concerned make up their own minds about how to treat these relationships. But this freedom is precisely what the advocates of same-sex ‘marriage’ want to destroy; they want to use the government’s power to force everyone to recognize same-sex unions as marriages whether they want to or not.
The effects of such coercion have already been felt in some places. Adoption agencies, for example, like any other organization, ought to be able to choose whether to give children to same-sex couples, or not. But in Massachusetts, where same-sex ‘marriage’ has been declared legal, these agencies have been forced to accept applications from same-sex couples or go out of business.
What’s at issue here is not whether people can declare themselves married and find other people to agree with them and treat them as such. No, what’s in contention is whether the government should force everyone to recognize such ‘marriages.’ Far from being a liberating thing, the forced recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’ is a governmental intrusion of monumental proportions.
Should the State Get Out of the Marriage Business?
Perhaps a solution to this problem is that the state should get out of the marriage business completely. Perhaps the state should not be involved at all in publicly recognizing certain types of relationships as being marriage. This is the position taken by radical libertarians and it is an attractive solution to the ‘gay marriage’ debate, even among Christians. According to this line of thinking, once the state begins pronouncing that certain types of relationships are marriage, this itself shows that government has overstepped its God-appointed mark.
If it were true that the state has no business recognizing certain types of relationships as being marriage, then how far do we extend that? Is it wrong for the government of a nation to recognize certain types of relationships as being marriage, but okay for the government of the state or shire or county to recognize certain types of relationships as being marriage? Suppose we are consistent with the libertarian position and say that it is wrong for government to recognize certain types of relationships as being marriage all the way down to the level of village government. That would mean if there was a small tribe of a thousand people in the jungle of South America, that it be wrong for them to have formal or informal mechanisms in place for recognizing who was married and for then using those mechanisms to generate the presumption of paternity or to settle disputes about inheritance or other matters. Few libertarians would want to go that far, and yet it is hard to see how that example is qualitatively different to the situation today, where the people of the community have certain formal mechanisms in place for identifying a legal marriage. Whenever you have a community that has formal or informal mechanisms in place for recognizing a marriage, then questions of what can count as marriage will arise and have to be settled by the community. Whether that community is represented by the gathering of local chiefs, or whether there is a de facto tradition of common law that is appealed to, or whether there is the apparatus of the modern state, the basic principle is the same: the civil community has mechanisms in place for recognizing what is and is not a marriage.
But let’s suppose this wasn’t the case and the radical libertarians have a point: we should abolish civil marriage completely. In their book What is Marriage?, Girgis, Anderson and George suggest some of the consequences that would arise if such a state of affairs were realized:
Abolishing civil marriage is practically impossible. Strike the word ‘marriage’ from the law, and the state will still license, and attach duties and benefits to, certain bonds [benefits such as the presumption of paternity]. Abolish these forward-looking forms of regulation, and they will only be replaced by messier, retroactive regulation – of disputes over property, custody, visitation, and child support. What the state once did by efficient legal presumptions, it will then do by burdensome case-by-case assignments of parental (especially paternal) responsibilities.
“The state will only discharge these tasks more or less efficiently–that is, less or more intrusively. It can’t escape them. Why not? Because the public functions of marriage–both to require and to empower parents (especially fathers) to care for their children and each other–require society-wide coordination. It is not enough if, say, a particular religion presumes a man’s paternity of his wife’s children, or recognizes his fights and duties toward their mother; or if the man and his wife contract to carry out certain tasks. For private institutions can bind only their own; private contracts bind only those who are party to them. A major function of marriage law is to bind all third parties (schools, adoption agencies, summer camps, hospitals; friends, relatives, and strangers) presumptively to treat a man as father of his wife’s children, husbands and wives as entitled to certain privileges and sexually off-limits, and so on. This only the state can do with any consistency.
But more than inevitable or necessary, it is fitting that the state should do this. Consider a comparison. Why don’t even the strictest libertarians decry traffic laws? First, the orderly traffic protects health and promotes efficiency, two great goods. Second, these goods are common in two senses; private efforts cannot adequately secure them, and yet failure to secure them has very public consequences. It is not as if we would have had the same (or even just slightly less) safety and efficiency of travel if people just did as they pleased, some stopping only at red lights and others only at green. Nor would damage from the resulting accidents (and slower shipments, etc) be limited to those responsible for causing it. To ensure safe and efficient travel at all, and to limit harm to third parties, we need legal coordination. Indeed, it is no stretch to say that the state owes its citizens to keep minimum security and order: to these we have a right. Finally, unlike private associations, the state can secure these goods, without intolerable side effects. Al this makes it appropriate for the state to set our traffic laws….
If something would serve an important good, if people ha a right to it, if private groups cannot secure it well, everyone suffers if it is lost, and the state can secure it without undue cost, then the state may step in–and should.