Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Defense of Traditional Marriage

I live in Connecticut, which just became the third state in the Union to legalize gay marriage. Already the homophobes are mobilizing to amend the state constitution to ban such marriages, as they have already done in 27 other states.

The opponents of gay marriage don't like to be called homophobes. They insist they aren't, that theirs is a more nuanced position derived from their concerns that marriage, the fundamental building block of civilization, is being dismantled and marginalized.

I'm not an entirely unreasonable person. I too think it is cause for concern if a fundamental building block of civilization is dismantled and marginalized. So, let's take the "defense of traditional marriage" crowd at face value for a moment.

Here's a quote from an article about Traditional Marriage Defense (TMD) on the website of James Dobson's Focus on the Family:

Family is the fundamental building block of all human civilizations, and marriage is the foundation of the family. The institution of marriage is unquestionably good for individuals and society, and the health of our culture is intimately linked to the health and well-being of marriage. Unfortunately, the standard of lifelong, traditional marriage as the foundation of family life in our nation is under attack.

Battered by high rates of divorce and cohabitation, unwed child-bearing and the push for so-called same-sex "marriage" and civil unions, marriage is in a state of crisis. Recent cultural changes without historical precedent have influenced an increasing number of Americans to view this fundamental institution as optional, disposable and open to redefinition. In this context of marital decline, political and ideological battles rage between those who view marriage as a transient human invention –- ready for updating and revision -– and those who regard marriage as natural and fundamental to humanity – essential to a flourishing civilization. [emphasis mine]

This doesn't seem so unreasonable to me. At least it acknowledges that there are other threats to traditional marriage besides just gay marriage. However, this quote came from the "Overview" section of the article. Check out this line from the "Talking Points" section of the same article:

Only a federal amendment to the U.S. Constitution can fully defend the institution of marriage: protecting states from having same-sex marriage imposed upon them by the federal judiciary. [emphasis mine]

Purely from a Constitutional perspective, this violates one of the ostensible precepts of conservatism, i.e. sovereignty of the states. They claim the threat comes from "the federal judiciary," yet all three of the states that have allowed gay marriage have done so by exercising their own sovereign right to govern themselves, which is exactly what a careless reading of the above sentence will lead one to believe they are arguing for. It was Connecticut's own Supreme Court, not the federal Supreme Court, that rendered this ruling.

But putting that aside for a moment, the more revealing lapse of logic is in the bolded portion: marriage will be fully defended by banning gay marriage. What about the more even-handed list of threats outlined in the overview?

The funny thing is that if you were to produce a ranked list of legitimate threats to the sanctity of traditional marriage, the #1 entry would be something that receives no mention in the entirety of Focus on the Family's whitepaper: marital infidelity. I can see how some could interpret, say, premarital cohabitation as an affront to the tradition of marriage, but even the most ardent anti-gay-marriage activist would have to concede that marital infidelity is a far more serious impugning of that institution's sanctity. Also, it's ubiquitous: for every gay couple that wants to marry, there are dozens of straight husbands and wives who are already busy cheating on their spouses.

So to me, this is proof that despite their claims of noble intentions, despite their professed concern for the perpetuation of civilization as we know it, the TMD crowd really are just a bunch of homophobes. If they were legitimately concerned with TMD, they would be pushing for a federal constitutional amendment to outlaw infidelity within existing marriages, since that is demonstrably the largest threat to the sanctity of traditional marriage. But instead they just keep up their incoherent yodeling about Adam and Steve.

P.S. Bonus Trivia Question: I wonder how many straight married people who are against gay marriage are also involved in an extramarital affair?

1 comment:

Joe Hafeman said...

IMHO, the government has no business defining marriage at all. Marriage, from a government perspective, is purely a legal entity. It allows for the definition of laws for taxes, property sharing, child custody, disbursements, etc. As a result, why call it marriage? The legal term for all legally joined couples should be different (civil union works fine, too). It's really a contractual thing. They even give you a "legal" document for it in the marriage license.
From that perspective, we should allow any two people to enter that kind of contract. In doing so, that couple agrees to follow the laws and regulations that apply to legally defined couples. Who cares what gender the two people are? It makes no difference at all.
Marriage between a man and a woman may be something that can still be pursued through religious venues, however, the religious union should have no relationship to the legal union. In fact, if my wife passes away, I will probably never enter into a legal marriage again. It would be financially unadvantageous to do so at my age. I would consider having a priest perform a marriage ceremony with no marriage license involved. Would that make me married? I guess so, but, there would be no government record of a legal union.