October 22, 2012 / Perspective
In this essay, Roy Barsness offers a Christian perspective on politics and citizenship; that of loving our neighbor as oneself.
October 10, 2004
Many observers of the current debates over homosexual “marriage” assume that the only real reason anyone would oppose it is because of religious convictions—specifically, those informed by the teachings of the Christian Bible on the subjects of marriage and homosexuality. However, enacting such a religious definition of marriage into law is taken by some as a violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition of “an establishment of religion.”
I would argue, however, that limiting marriage to unions of one man and one woman does not impose a religious viewpoint at all. One can easily infer that marriage should be heterosexual and monogamous from the facts of human reproduction alone, without any reference to the divine.
One little-know piece of evidence that opposing same-sex marriage does not constitute imposition of a religious (or, for that matter, and “anti-gay”) perspective is the little-known fact that many homosexuals in the past have not supported the notion of homosexual marriage, and many still do not today.
Homosexuals opposed to homosexual marriage fall largely into two camps. One are those who see homosexuality as counter-cultural and rebellious by its very nature, and want no part of an institution they see as archaic, patriarchal, and clearly designed to meet the needs of heterosexuals, not “gay” people.
Other homosexuals, on the other hand, oppose homosexual “marriage” not because it poses a threat to the libertine homosexual lifestyle, but because they are intellectually honest enough to recognize the unique contribution to human society that is made by marriage between a man and a woman. Canadian scholar Paul Nathanson of McGill University is perhaps the most articulate of these.
Nathanson and his colleague Katherine K.Young have written an article noting that “the burden of proof is always on those who want change” (in this case, the advocates of homosexual marriage), and they ask “why take the risk of a massive experiment?” They then come to the heart of their argument:
Because heterosexuality is directly related to both reproduction and survival, . . . every human societ[y] has had to promote it actively . . . . This has always required a massive cultural effort involving theology or myths, rituals, rewards, privileges, and so on. Heterosexuality is always fostered by a cultural norm, in other words, not merely allowed as one “lifestyle choice” among many. . . .
. . . The result . . . is a “privileged” status for heterosexuality. Postmodernists are not wrong in identifying it as such, but they are wrong in assuming that any society can do without it.
In fact, I would argue that even one of the groups least likely to support “an establishment of religion”—secular libertarians—should oppose homosexual civil marriage. There are three key reasons for this.
Homosexual Marriage is not a Privacy Issue
There is one major problem with using the “privacy” argument with respect to the marriage issue. Respect for the “privacy” of homosexuals is an argument for abolishing sodomy laws—not an argument for recognizing homosexual “marriage.”
The problem is—that is a battle that the homosexuals have already won. In a landmark ruling on June 26, 2003, the U. S. Supreme Court, in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, struck down sodomy laws as unconstitutional.
If homosexual activists, having won their battle for the legal “toleration” of their sexual behavior, had been willing to stop there—instead of continuing to push for official affirmation, celebration, subsidization and solemnization of their behavior—we might have had the basis for a de facto compromise that would have allowed homosexuality to recede somewhat as a major public policy issue.
Homosexuals seek to turn marriage into another Big Government entitlement program
One of the key arguments often heard in support of homosexual civil marriage revolves around all the government “benefits” that, according to homosexuals, are denied to them or to their partners. Many of these “benefits” involve one thing—taxpayer money that homosexuals are eager to get their hands on. For example, homosexuals want their partners to be eligible for Social Security survivors’ benefits when one partner dies. Homosexuals who are employed by the government want to be able to name their homosexual partners as dependants in order to get the taxpayers to pay for health insurance for them. This is in spite of the fact that such payments were originally intended to benefit extremely traditional families in which one spouse (usually the wife) has stayed home to keep house and raise children—an arrangement that is extremely unusual among homosexual couples.
In addition to the cost to the taxpayer, consider also the impact that homosexual marriage would have upon private corporations and other private employers. Such organizations already have the right and ability to offer benefits to the “domestic partners” of their employees if they choose.
Unfortunately, the same respect for freedom of choice within the marketplace has not been shown by homosexual activists. A significant majority of those corporations that offer domestic partner benefits have done so only because of a gun to the corporate head in the form of what is called an “equal benefits ordinance.” Such laws deny government contracts to any corporation that does business with the government unless it provides benefits to the homosexual partners of their employees.
Any practice that allows more people to feed at the public trough, while trampling on the rights and freedoms of both religion and the marketplace, should be vigorously opposed by any true libertarian. Homosexual marriage would be exactly such a practice.
Then there’s one final nail in the coffin for any argument that libertarians should support homosexual marriage.
Homosexual Activists Want Judges to Make Laws, Not the People or Their Elected Representatives
There is a significant irony in the debate over homosexual marriage. Normally, if the nation perceives a need to enshrine certain “rights” as part of our political system, we amend the Constitution to make those rights explicit. The founders of our nation did that by adding the Bill of Rights to the original Constitution. After the Civil War, the rights and freedoms of black Americans were written into the Constitution in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. The principle of equality for women was endorsed when women were given the right to vote—by constitutional amendment.
If homosexual activists want to have homosexual marriage declared to be a fundamental right within our political system (or to outlaw “discrimination” based on sexual orientation), then they should be the ones seeking a constitutional amendment.
The situation we face instead is one in which social conservatives have been forced to seek a constitutional amendment merely to preserve the definition of our most fundamental social institution which has prevailed since the founding of our Republic, and for millennia before throughout Western Civilization. This is not because the legislatures of the respective states, which have normally borne responsibility for marriage law, have begun passing laws to grant civil marriage to same-sex couples. Not a single state has ever passed such a law, and only a few have granted marital-type benefits.
No, the reason why social conservatives have now found it necessary to amend the Constitution to state the obvious (that marriage is between one man and one woman) is because arrogant, activist judges have taken it upon themselves to re-write marriage law and constitutional law to fabricate a “right” to homosexual marriage.
State Supreme Court justices in Alaska and Hawaii did so in the 1990s, but those decisions were overturned by state constitutional amendments. Then in Vermont, the State Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide all of the same legal rights and benefits as marriage under state law—forcing the adoption of “civil unions.” And in 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts decided that the state Constitution (written by John Adams) included a right to homosexual marriage.
Even with homosexual civil marriages legal only in Massachusetts, couples who marry there will seek recognition in other states. This will inevitably lead to a federal court case, in which activists will seek to force other states, and perhaps the entire nation, to recognize homosexual marriages.
The only way to protect marriage from such activism—and to do so at all levels of government—is to change the U. S. Constitution itself to remove any ambiguity about the definition of marriage.