Thursday, April 11, 2013

Answering Questions about Marriage

Honest debate is important in a fee society. This is especially true of issues that deal with the most fundamental aspects of human experience...freedom, justice, equality, life, death, family, and the topic of this post - marriage. Below you will find a conversation between me and a supporter of gay marriage. This was not an actual conversation, in the sense that it is not a verbatim exchange that I had with a single individual, rather I have constructed this exchange from several conversations I have had over the years, including most recently during the Supreme Court hearings over the issue of homosexual marriage. I have edited together some commonly asked questions about traditional marriage, along with my responses to those questions. Hopefully it will present a cohesive argument in favor of marriage between man and woman.

Please take  note of one thing in particular... The argument in favor of traditional marriage can be won without relying on religious reasoning. That is an important fact to remember when engaging in any kind of public debate. Now personally I have a deep religious commitment to marriage between one man and one woman. My faith firmly supports this traditional view and if I were to make the marriage argument to any fellow Christian I would appeal to God, Scripture, and faith. But we must remember that when arguing in the public square, many people will simply reject outright any faith-based argument. Instead we must make a solid case for traditional marriage based on sound reasoning that even an atheist can accept. Otherwise we have lost the fight altogether.

So we begin. The questions I present below are paraphrased (though in some cases exact quotes) from actual conversations I have had with friends who support gay marriage. So they represent the real thoughts from those on the other side of this issue. My response to each question follows...

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Question: Don't you think that two people who are in love but happen to be of the same sex should have the same rights as two people of the opposite sex?

People of the same sex have every right to be in a sexual relationship. I'm not saying that homosexuals should not be allowed to be together.  But "marriage" is not just about allowing a certain freedom... it is about the State regulating a specific behavior. People have relationships (even sexual ones) every day without State involvement. So, the question is: why should the State regulate a sexual relationship?
The fact is that heterosexual sex produces children. The State has an interest in protecting and encouraging couples who produce new citizens. Homosexual sex does not produce children. There is no reason for the State to be involved - no new citizens can be produced through homosexual sex.

Question: But homosexual couples could adopt. Shouldn't the State be interested in encouraging them to raise adopted children?

For that matter, single people could adopt too. There are any number of possible alternatives to care for children who cannot be with their biological parents. Orphaned children can live in group homes and foster care (not ideal, but it does happen). Often grandparents and aunts and uncles take in children whose parents have died or for some reason cannot care for their kids. There are many ways that society tries to help these children in need. And this is an important service to the community as well as to the children involved. But all of that is a separate issue from the question of "what is marriage?"
The role of adoption or caring for children outside of the natural father-mother unit is not the point here. The point is not "who can care for a child when parents cannot." Marriage is not the back-up plan for children without homes. It is THE PLAN for children to have homes in the first place. This is why the State encourages one particular sexual relationship over all others. The ideal situation is for a child to be with his or her natural parents. And the State recognizes this very natural fact by elevating heterosexual sex in the institution we call "marriage." Only one type of sex produces children - heterosexual sex - and that fact ought to set apart heterosexual couples in the eyes of the State. If we truly care about children, then we would want to elevate the sexual relationship that gives us children. It is the basis for forming children into happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults.
Bottom line: "Marriage" has always been the institution in which babies are made...citizens are produced. THAT is why the State issues a marriage license - to encourage a stable relationship where citizens will be produced and the population will grow.

Question: Marriage isn't about producing new citizens anymore. Times are changing. Marriage is because you love someone enough to stand up in front of your family and friends, and take a vow to be true to that person. Aren't you a little "behind the times" if you really think that marriage is about babies?

Sex is a natural act. Biologically speaking, heterosexual sex can produce offspring. There is nothing old-fashioned or behind the times in acknowledging the scientific facts about sex. The State recognizes heterosexual sex as a benefit to society because heterosexual sex produces new citizens. If we redefine marriage to mean only "love" (without any regard to children, and only for the happiness of the spouses), then why have State-controlled marriage at all. If that's the case then the State should get out of the business of marriage altogether. Why should the government regulate love?

Question: What about couples who are infertile? They are not able to produce citizens. Should the State deny them the right to marry?

No. The idea behind marriage is to hold up heterosexual sex as unique. Only sex between a man and a woman can produce a child. A man and woman who are infertile (for whatever reason), or a couple who choose to not have kids, still meet the requirement for heterosexual sex in the eyes of the State. If they are incapable of having children or choose not to, then that is between the man and woman and their doctor. But the State still has an interest in the potential for children and an interest in preserving the institution of male-female marriage.
A similar example would be driving a car. The State issues a license to drive a car the same as it issues a license to marry. I both cases, you must first meet the requirements to receive your license. To drive you must pass a written test, an eye exam, a driving test, etc. To marry there must be a man and woman; they cannot closely related; neither can be currently married, etc.; some places require a blood test, and so on. Now, once you receive a driver's license no one forces you to drive a car - you can drive or not drive as you wish. The same is true of marriage. You receive a marriage license from the State, but you are not forced to consummate your marriage or produce offspring. The license is not there to compel you to have sex or reproduce. It is there to recognize a sexual relationship that is unique.

Question: On a personal note, is that the reason you married…to make babies? Did you get married to make new citizens? How insensitive of you to call the beautiful babies that come from a marriage "new citizens." Is that what you call your kids?

I got married because I love my wife AND because we wanted to "make babies." The State was involved for the second of those two reasons: because our sex can produce children. Otherwise I would not have involved the State in the matter at all. I do not want the State to regulate my LOVE…but I do recognize that the State has a responsibility to encourage  the birth of new citizens.
No, I do not refer to my children coldly as little "citizens." But you can bet that the State does. The State rightly views me, my wife and my children as "citizens" and that is why my marriage is regulated by the State. Because frankly that's what the government does: it regulates, sets limits, writes laws and sets boundaries. The State does this for heterosexual marriage only because heterosexual marriage produces citizens. But why should the State regulate homosexual love? If marriage is only about love (as you say), then why should the government be involved at all? You realize that, (without the possibility of producing new citizens) the gay community is asking the government to regulate their LOVE. That is a frightening power to give to the State.

Question: Well, you said earlier that marriage is a way for the State to encourage a "stable relationship" - gay people are just like everyone else and can have long, monogamous relationships just like straight people. The marriage license is to know who is attached to the whom in a stable relationship for tax purposes so that gay partners can enjoy the same tax breaks as heterosexuals. Why not give gay people the same tax breaks?

Why should the State give you tax breaks for sexual love? Or, why does the government give tax breaks for marriage in the first place? -- Answer: to encourage couples to stay together and produce offspring. Again, this comes down to producing the next generation of citizens.
The State gives tax breaks for many things. And these tax breaks are generally to encourage a certain behavior which then benefits the State and society at large. So, for instance, the State gives a tax break to people who put insulation in their attics because this activity saves energy and lowers the cost for others and so spurs the economy and helps the environment and so on. There is an obvious benefit to the State and to society - a direct benefit - and so the tax break rewards this behavior.
Now we are back to what I have been saying all along: the State is benefited by heterosexual sex because it produces a stable population and generates new citizens. Therefore the State gives tax breaks to encourage heterosexual marriage. It's a give-and-take. The State is benefited by the production of citizens and the married couple is benefited by the tax savings. Homosexual marriage does not produce new citizens...there is no benefit to the State, so why give a tax break?

Question: The gay community needs the government regulation of their marriages because some people won't marry them and recognize their union legally. Some churches won't marry gay couples, nor will most town halls and civic organizations and the like because it's not legal. Shouldn't the State be interested in expanding marriage as a civil rights issue? It's just like interracial marriage being prohibited decades ago.

No it is not! Why should the State require other groups to marry homosexual partners? Sex is a private act. No one should be required to officially recognize a sexual preference which happens behind closed doors. The only reason heterosexual sex is publicly recognized in marriage is that it can produce new human life, and that makes heterosexual sex unique - it means that heterosexual sex can impact the population outside of the bedroom. Homosexual sex does not have direct implications outside of the pleasure that the two partners experience. And frankly the State has no interest in forcing other people to officially accept private sexual pleasure.
Interracial (heterosexual) marriage is different. It most definitely should be legal (as it now is) because men and women from different races can have sex to produce offspring and raise children just like same-race couples. Laws that prohibited interracial marriage were certainly a violation of civil rights. But homosexual sex is not a matter of civil rights, but rather a case of biological facts. Gay sex does NOT produce babies…and it never will. You have the right to engage in homosexual sex, but you have no authority to force others to accept your private behavior in some public institution.
(The fact that you would even suggest that CHURCHES should be forced to perform gay marriages is frightening. Religious freedom is a Constitutional right that is explicitly spelled out and protected. Gay marriage is not!)

Question: Well, I still say that marriage is not about making babies anymore. Marriage is about love and staying together through thick and thin, working on problems together and being in a long-term relationship. How can you oppose such a relationship being recognized publicly?

Many relationships are based on what you described: "love and staying together through thick and thin, working on problems together and being in a long-term relationship " Heck, I can have that relationship with my dad, with coworkers and friends, with my own children.
But marriage is unique, because it creates human life. Love is a beautiful thing, and should most certainly be present in every marriage. All of the things found in a loving committed relationship should be present in marriage. But the traditional definition of marriage includes love AND procreation...because marriage implies SEX and heterosexual sex produces LIFE.
The really sad thing about this current marriage debate is that LIFE is being pushed aside in favor of sexual pleasure. It all comes down to human life, and sadly your definition of marriage removes life from the picture. For thousands of years the relationship between man and woman has been held up as sacred and unique, precisely because it produces new life. Now you are saying that we should do away with this whole "baby" thing because it's outdated. Marriage isn't about that anymore. You say that we can have the pleasure of sex, the love between two people, the commitment and companionship, without the mess of new human life. Marriage isn't about babies anymore.
That's a dangerous road to go down. The State (and society) ought to value human life. Marriage is the prime institution where human life is protected, nurtured, and cared for. The State that rids marriage of its life-making purpose is the State that is on its way to a slow extinction.

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