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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Anonymous Rudis said...

Would you also push to disallow marriages between man-woman couples in which one partner is infertile? Would you have mandatory fertility tests before granting a marriage license?

What about older couples, post-menopause women, couples who don't ever plan on having children? Should they be allowed to get married?

What about couples where the man stays at home and the woman provides for the family? Should those marriages be voided because the woman does not require protection?

What do you say to the small business owner who has to pay for a female employee's husband's health care benefits? Let's go one step further and say that the employer does not approve the idea of stay-at-home dads. Poor guy.

Unless you also champion illegitimization of other marriages that do not fit your very limited criteria for the purpose of marriage, then regardless of how careful you are to craft a secular argument that fits your religious beliefs, it's still just a hypocritical attack on a lifestyle that you do not approve of.

Where does the idea that marriage is about protecting women and children come from anyway, other than just an invention to support your argument? Why would a counter argument that says the purpose of marriage is to sanction healthy, long-lasting relationships between people who love each other for the good of society be any less valid than this one? Anybody can make up their own valid-sounding reasons for why marriage exists and craft an argument around it. It doesn't actually say anything.

It still comes down to the only argument against same-sex marriages is that a certain segment of the population doesn't want the government to sanction something that they see as wrong or sinful.

That's not to say that this is not a valid reason to disallow same sex marriage. After all, it is the government's job to represent the people. If a majority of people are strongly against homosexuality in this country, then it makes sense that homosexuality would not be encouraged or supported. But to try and put this into silly straw-man arguments like this is just misleading.

Blogger kace said...

rudis, It's refreshing that you support democracy anyway. But, this really is not a straw-man. The government must have some purpose to be involved in marriage at all. Government certainly wasn't always involved in marriage. And we've got ask why? Is it just to say, "Congratulations! Here's a certificate!!" ?

Of course, I think it's quite irrelevant whether a man-and-wife can or intend to have children. (Talk about a straw man!) But, one man and one woman having children is the cornerstone of civilization and the only way to carry on the human race (so far, anyway :) ). When people say, "hey, let's make this a marriage too!", I think it's very important to step back and consider the implications first, which is what I'm trying to do. Hopefully, I'll do some follow-up articles on this subject.

Thanks a lot for commenting!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"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?"

That comment is horribly sexist. It infers that Men are the "bread winners" and women are unable to "fend for themselves". Though society is not equal in regards to pay and opportunity for men and women, strides are being made to bring forth this equality. Supporting a position that civil unions are only for the impoverished and that the impoverished can only be women and children is, for lack of further analysis, backwards and damaging.

The fact that this piece of cultural remains is evidence that we ought support gay-marriage to break-down the stereotype that women are weak and in need of protection by the greater male gender.

Of course, gay marriage would also cover female-female marriages and could even consist of people of different abilities, or even ethnicities. This could disadvantage one of the people in the relationship and make them "dependent" on the other- this, then, debunks, further, your silly, backward, and damaging notion that the purpose of civil marriages is to defend women and children exclusively.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now ask yourself, isn’t odd that, if as homosexual apologists claim, they are only concerned about “fairness”, “equality”, and “love”, why aren’t they also advocating changing our “prejudices” and “out-dated laws” to also include polygamist marriages (which have far more historical precedence) and advocating for their bi-sexual bedfellows to have the right to marry both a man and a woman of their choice? I mean, how narrow-minded and bigoted is that on the part of these eloquent haters of the traditions of normal society?

We’ve been asked, “How would the ‘marriage’ between two homosexuals in love cheapen your marriage or negatively affect society?” Of course this isn’t an argument but merely a loaded question because it can be similarly asked, “How would the marriage between a man and his pet goat or his grandmother negatively affect society?” It may not, but it still doesn’t make it permissible or desirable in a civil society.

It will only be a matter of time before “progressives” begin asking, why shouldn’t a loving son not be able to marry his widowed mother, especially since it would extend the son’s health and insurance benefits to her! Or, how about a divorced father and his 18 year old daughter getting married so they can both benefit from the “married filing jointly” tax break? With “progressives” whose hatred can justify virtually anything in the name of “love”, you can bet it will soon come to that.

It’s a strange people indeed who have also tried to humanize Islamic terrorists yet refuse to extend the same courtesy to those men and women in our government who are doing their imperfect best to keep us safe from them. Such is their twisted worldview, their opinion above all that is decent and sane. Think about it.



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