23 June 2006

A secular argument against same sex marriage

What is civil marriage? What is its purpose, its history? The first question we've got to answer is why is the government involved in any way in the first place.

The short answer is that civil marriage is primarily for the protection of women and children. That is borne out by the legal ramifications of dissolving a marriage today -- namely, alimony and child support.

The problem with same sex marriage, then, is that there are no parties in need of protection. In what way does a man need to be protected from being abandoned by another man? It's a little silly, isn't it? Furthermore, there is no prospect of children from such a union so, again, no need for a government sanctioned marriage.

(One might ask, "But, what about adopted children?" or, in the case of a female same sex union, children conceived with outside assistance. But, such cases really do not distinguish themselves from the case where a single person adopts a child or a single woman has a child without being married.)

So, the problem with government sanctioned same sex marriages is simply that they do not fulfill the purpose of the government sanctioning marriages in the first place. And, let's be perfectly clear here: the issue is entirely about government sanction of the marriage. There are many churches and other places of worship that will perform a marriage ceremony for two people of the same sex. There is no law against two people of the same sex exchanging rings and vows and calling themselves married, or even legally changing their surnames. It is a free country, you know.

As an aside, I have heard troubling stories of problems arising from the lack of a legal marriage between two people of the same sex. Probably the most distressing is where a person is kept from visiting their partner in the hospital because they are not kin. Without a doubt, this is outrageous and should be stopped. I in no way want to punish people who are committed to each other. (In fact, I think most hospitals now accomodate this situation.) Still, hospital visitation is not the purpose of civil marriage, which is not the right solution to this problem. (... For that matter, one might ask what if you had no family? Or even no family near by? Would a patient have to suffer or even die alone while his best friend was kept out? This may be a problem for people other than just gay couples.)

Government sanction. Government approval. That is, I'm afraid, what this debate is really about. Over and over we're told, the government has no business making judgements or decrees on morality. But, the knife must cut in both directions. Same sex marriages do not fulfill the purpose of civil marriages. The main reason to legalize them would seem to be to propagate the moral judgement that such unions are morally acceptable. I can understand that having them not sanctioned, as things generally are now, may cause some homosexual people to feel slighted. But, are we now making laws just to sooth people's hurt feelings? The irony is that we're all supposed to live and let live, be tolerant, etc. But, by pressing for government sanctioned, same sex marriage, the gay activists have forced a sort of judgement of the undeniable differences between gay unions and straight unions. The male-female relationship is, by historical presumption, imbalanced and calls for the female to be protected from abandonment -- the same sex union is not. The straight union is, shall we say, "pregnant" with the possibility of children -- the gay union is not.

The above really settles the question in my view. But, let us address one more aspect of the issue. Same sex marriage proponents often ask, "How would you be hurt if some other people are allowed to be legally married?" And, the example that comes first to my mind would be, say, a small business owner who gets slapped with unexpected, new dependents from newly married employees. Health care costs are a big drain on businesses and a small business may or may not always offer them. A small business owner that is trying to do the right thing and help his employees with families by offering such benefits might be very unhappy to find out he's now paying out even more. ... And, let's go one further and say that this small business owner doesn't approve of same sex marriage. That's not going to matter -- if the marriages are legal, he's going to pay the same darn benefits or be sued. So, here's a case where a person is coerced to subsidize something that he disagrees with. That's "hurt" where I come from.

I've created an on-line poll on this subject. Go to this post and voice your opinion!

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