The current furor over the legal status of gay unions has caused many people to question the very definition of marriage and what it should be. While this might seem to be an isolated issue, it is actually a natural outgrowth of our nation’s steadily more permissive culture. The only surprise is that it took more than 200 years for this debate to be waged.
America is perceived by many to be a step behind Europe when it comes to social developments. What is still considered shocking in this country is standard daily fare abroad. But while “progress” occurs more slowly in this country — and with more fanfare — the envelope continues to be pushed. Those who have yet to recognize homosexuality in general as an acceptable lifestyle are considered unenlightened, if not worse. Those who bemoan the elimination of any modicum of chastity in our culture are mocked as prudes.
Indeed, those who are instinctively opposed to the legalization of marriage between homosexuals, and especially those who are opposed to homosexuality in general, find themselves hard pressed to articulate what is wrong with it. Their inability to justify their feelings only fuels proponents of gay marriage and makes detractors more hesitant to express their opposition. Is their instinctive opposition reflective of a moral truth, or “homophobia”, fear and bias toward those whose choices are different but legitimate? Gay advocates have challenged traditionalists to put up or shut up, and the traditionalists are losing badly.
The gay movement, with its current push for legalized marriage, has at its roots one simple principle: homosexuality is a personal choice, be the desire for it innate or learned, and personal choices are to be supremely protected by law in this country as long as they do not endanger the welfare of others. Consequently, if marriage, as a commitment between two consenting adults, carries with it certain legal benefits, these benefits should be extended to all those who make such a commitment, regardless of gender. Anything else would be unfair discrimination and a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, if not the letter.
This argument appears unassailable, but I submit that it is in fact deeply flawed.
First, why should we stop at gay marriage? Why can’t we extend this same argument to legalize marriage between men and women who are already married to someone else? Why should one be limited to making this commitment to one person at a time? Further, why shouldn’t this commitment be permissible between brothers and sisters, parents and children, if consenting adults wish to form such a commitment? While such arrangements might instinctively be revolting to us, we have already established that our instincts are merely reflections of inner biases that would lead to unfair discrimination.
And yet something within us continues to resist these ideas that have yet to be seriously proposed. Are we simply not as “enlightened” as our grandchildren seem destined to be, or is there some light within us that refuses as yet to be extinguished by strictly philosophical arguments?
Those who dare invoke religion in social/legal matters are generally either berated or ridiculed; berated because “separation of church and state” is interpreted to mean that religion should have no influence on these matters, lest it become an excuse to perpetrate the most barbaric of atrocities, and ridiculed because religion is perceived as something archaic or otherwise irrelevant to the modern, educated American. At best, religion is something we pay lip service to once a week (or less) so we may feel less guilty about our activities the rest of the time; at worst it is something we completely ignore in favor of each person being his or her own god and deciding between right and wrong based on individual whims – as if Man has shown himself worthy of being entrusted with such an endeavor.
But religion is something the Founding Fathers of this country took very seriously, and surely impacted the values with which this nation was created. Was it hypocritical for them to find guidance in religion, yet guarantee religious freedom through the separation of church and state? Were they behind the times in allowing their religious beliefs to impact the law of this land, subject as it is to future modification? Or is religion just as relevant today as it was in the 1700s, and just as relevant back then as it was thousands of years before?
It is no coincidence that the concept of expunging the mere mention of God from our national identity has only recently been raised; our culture is finally demanding that we choose between the chaos of each individual determining what is moral and what is immoral or humbly allowing a Higher Authority to set an objective standard. We can’t have it both ways.
The bottom line is that if religion has something to say to us, if we can find objective truth and moral guidance in the search for a real, living God, should religion not then guide us in the ever-important areas of life known as law, society, and culture? And if religion is incapable of guiding us in these ever-important areas of life, what use is it to us altogether? Either religion can guide us on the correct path, in which case we would be fools not to make maximum use of this guidance, or it cannot guide us on the correct path, in which case we would be fools to turn to it on even the smallest matter. To pay lip service to religion, as the prophet Elijah castigated ancient Israel, is to hop from doorpost to doorpost while never settling on either – and thus to never achieve true progress.
Judaism teaches that God created a natural order to the universe, and that His first commandment to humanity was to perpetuate the human race and populate the world. Whether one believes in this teaching or not, a marriage between homosexuals runs counter to the perpetuation of the human race. True, we can safely assume that homosexuality will never become popular to the extent that it would endanger the perpetuation of the human race. However, all of mankind is responsible for the betterment of the world and those around him. Choosing a homosexual lifestyle affects and effects the world both by limiting the perpetuation of the human race (however imperceptibly) and by influencing the culture at large. To say that homosexuality is a choice that impacts only the individual is a lie.
Gay advocates claim that homosexual couples can bear or raise children through third-party pregnancies or adoption, thus circumventing the above concern. However, can they really claim that children raised by two fathers or two mothers are just as well off as those who have one of each? Those who accept the religious argument – that God arranged nature to provide one father and one mother – acknowledge that this is clearly the ideal parental situation. But even the atheists among us acknowledge that the respective parental qualities of a father and mother are distinct, unique, and irreplaceable. Homosexual couples may show children equal love and concern, but the special dynamics of a mother/father relationship can’t be artificialized as can sexual unions. Whether nature is ordained or, in theory, an accident, its laws exist for reasons that should not be casually dismissed.
The argument that homosexual couples should be entitled to civil benefits just like a husband and wife who by nature can build a family is not compelling. After all, just as homosexual couples seek surrogates to produce children for them, why can they not also find someone of the opposite gender to “marry” them just for the legal benefits? Rather than distort the essence of marriage to suit the financial and social whims of a segment of society, let that segment deal with the consequences of its own choices.
It seems inevitable that the trend toward greater permissiveness and promiscuity will only continue. Those who would challenge it must decide once and for all whether religion is relevant and should play a meaningful role in our individual and collective lives. (Surely this is possible without descending to the atrocities with which we are all too familiar.) And if religion is to have no place in this argument, we must decide where, if anywhere, we are to draw the line, for gay marriage is only one step in the “enlightenment” process, with many others that would instinctively repulse us sure to follow.