(Posted to my MySpace Weblog on April 22, 2006)
[I wrote this in July of 2004. Some of the references are dated, but I post this here for two reasons: 1) this debate is still raging, and 2) I have nothing else to post. It should be noted that the debate has had at least one new wrinkle in the nearly two years since I wrote this: a few advocates of gay "marriage" have not only conceded the link between the legalization of gay "marriage" and the decriminalization of polygamy but are now loudly advocating the rights of polygamists. Progress in civil rights!--PSR]
The Dangers of Gay Marriage
The Catholic Bishops of Missouri recently issued a Pastoral Letter to Catholics encouraging them to support an amendment to the Missouri Constitution at the polls on August 3, 2004, which would have Missouri Law recognize marriage as existing only between a man and a woman. The Bishops call Catholics to recognize the dignity of persons with same-sex attractions and reject any disrespect or hate towards them. This pamphlet wishes to re-iterate that point. But respecting the human dignity of homosexuals does NOT entail the re-definition of marriage.
Unquestionably one of the most controversial social issues of our time is the issue of gay marriage. Opponents of gay marriage insist that there can be no such thing because marriage is between a man and a woman. Proponents say that marriage is a fundamental human right and, therefore, the exclusion of gays and lesbians from marriage is an injustice. Opponents answer that such an expansion of rights will do irreparable harm to society.
Thereupon, advocates of gay marriage commonly ask, How will the legalization of homosexual marriage undermine or harm in any way heterosexual marriage? They pose this question as a rhetorical one, simply assuming it is enough to stump their opponents. They know that no married couple is going to say, If gay marriage is legalized, then we are getting a divorce! Thus, they show the opposition to gay marriage to be silly. This is certainly a clever tactic, but just because the legalization of gay marriage probably won't in the short run cause an avalanche of divorces among heterosexuals does NOT mean that it will do no harm. Actually, it will do immense harm. The legalization of gay marriage is socially harmful, and this brief pamphlet will explain why.
The dangers to society that gay marriage poses are many, but this pamphlet will focus on only three of them. These three dangers are:
1) it will further erode societys understanding of love, ultimately
rendering it meaningless,
2) it is an ominous step towards totalitarianism, and
3) it will necessarily lead to a further marginalization or even
outright suppression of traditional religion.
1) The erosion of love
The American legal system rests on the theory that law is simply a tool with which to prevent feuds and violent anarchy. As it is understood in our American system, the civil law does not establish cultural norms or a moral code. This is why we often say or hear that the law does not legislate morality. The task of establishing morality is supposed to fall to our churches, faiths, and philosophies. But precisely because in our multicultural society there is little or no agreement among these sects, churches, synagogues, mosques, and ethical societies, it falls then BY DEFAULT to the civil law to determine the content of our public morality. It is the civil law alone that binds us diverse Americans together.
Therefore, laws concerning marriage will necessarily have a powerful effect upon how Americans think of marriage. For instance, no-fault divorce laws have certainly led to the widespread notion that marriage is not as permanent an institution as it used to be and have consequently contributed significantly to a high divorce rate and an increase in adultery. When the law makes it easier to break a marriage, then it is easier to think of marriage as breakable.
Despite all this, we still associate marriage with love. In fact, the two are nearly synonymous, so much so that a change in the understanding of one will effect a change in the understanding of the other. Precisely because of no-fault divorce laws, marriage has more or less lost its claim to permanence, and many of us have become cyinical about marriage as a life-long commitment. The legalization of gay marriage will only make this cynicism worse by forcing a radical re-definition of marriage.
Our society (with the now unfortunate exception of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) still regards marriage as fundamentally linked to the beginning of a family--this despite the widespread practice of contraception. Such a notion of marriage obviously has no room for gay or lesbian couples, who cannot have families except by adoption or technological contrivance.
Thus, the legalization of gay marriage requires a re-definition of marriage as such. Gay rights advocates freely admit this and argue that we should define marriage not as an institution whose purpose is the union of the spouses AND the procreation of children but simply as a union or, as one gay marriage advocate puts it, a partnership of mutual caregivers.
By in effect denying the procreation of children as an essential purpose of marriage, gay marriage advocates are saying that marriage can be deliberately and obstinately sterile. Instead of a union that is open and ready to love and care for new human life, marriage will be nothing more than a quid pro quo relationship--you care for me, and I care for you. Marriage will become merely the result of the calculation between two self-interested parties. If we still choose to associate marriage with love after this, then we will have to understand love as simply another term for the calculated self-interest that motivates an individual to form an economically beneficial partnership. This then is the primary danger of gay marriage, namely it will transform LOVE into SELFISHNESS.
2) Step towards totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a system of government that claims authority over all aspects of human life. It is common to associate such government with the presence of a secret police, such as the Gestapo or the KGB, ready to stamp out dissident thought at any given moment. This is no doubt the ultimate effect of a totalitarian state, but it is not what brings one into being. No, the beginning of a totalitarian society is the arrogance in thinking that truth is whatever the society says it is, be it by dictatorial, judicial, or even democratic command.
In George Orwell's celebrated depiction of a totalitarian society, 1984, the novels protagonist, Winston Smith, remarks in his diary that true freedom consists in saying that two and two equal four. By this he means that the acknowledgement of a fixed truth that remains fixed and true regardless of what society or state may say is the only source of genuine liberty. Deny the fixity of truth and the individual has no anchor. His government can do anything it wants with him. If basic arithmetic is up to the whim of a given society, then society can force a man to say two and two are five. Similarly, if the determination of basic human rights is at the mercy of the state, then the state can torture with impunity, and so on. Man's acknowledgement of a fixed truth keeps society from arrogance and, hence, from becoming totalitarian. The officials of the government in 1984 realize this and, therefore, torture Winston Smith until he acknowledges that two and two equal five. Winston Smith then becomes a good and submissive citizen of Ingsoc.
So, what does this have to do with gay marriage? The current attempt to re-define marriage so as to expand the right to marry to homosexuals is nothing less than totalitarian arrogance. Marriage existed long before the entity known as the United States of America came into existence. In fact, marriage existed long before anything now known as the state ever existed. Its nature was defined long BEFORE the state, and the basis of this definition was and has always been the complementarity of the sexes--that is, man and woman are made for eachother.
This has nothing to do with Catholicism. It is just not the case that before the Catholic Church supposedly took over the Western World and established a theocracy, there was such a thing as homosexual marriage. No, this definition comes from the purpose of the nature which mankind has discerned in human sexuality. The man and the woman naturally result in a family. This can't happen with two men or two women. Since marriage existed before the state and is based upon human nature, the state has no power whatsoever to re-define it. Any state that claims that power has in principle crossed the line into totalitarianism.
Some may ask, How can a proposal to expand a right to a minority be part and parcel with something as restrictive and repressive as totalitarianism? Gay "marriage" is liberating, it is said, because it will expand a right and, hence, a freedom. A totalitarian state is not liberating, but enslaving, does not expand rights, but snuffs them out. This is doubletalk and rests on the hidden assumption that the expansion of a right is always a good thing. If so, then the expansion of voting rights to toddlers would be a good thing. Or, better yet, the expansion of the right to work to nine-year-old girls would be an excellent thing. But, the enslavement of children in sweatshops does not go away under the misleading language of the liberty.
3) The further marginalization or suppression of traditional religon.
The legalization of gay marriage will inevitably lead to repression of religious freedom and just plain freedom. The proponents of gay marriage want us to recognize and approve the homosexual lifestyle as normal. To that end they want us to regard gay marriage as we do any marriage. To achieve this normalization scholars will have to re-write dictionaries, schools will have to re-educate us and our children, and the media or the government or both will have to marginalize dissent.
Now, gay marriage advocates are quick to point out that they do not want to change deeply held religious beliefs, but this claim is at best disingenuous. The proponents of the gay agenda liken their struggle for acceptance to that of the civil rights movement. The goal of the civil rights movement is ultimately racial harmony, and the means which have achieved considerable progress towards this goal have been re-education and marginalization of racism.
Racial harmony is, of course, a praiseworthy and necessary goal. But the point is simply to show by way of example that if a society is intent upon forming a consensus regarding some matter, it needs to marginalize or even suppress objections to that consensus. For instance, our society could not have made the progress it has towards racial harmony if, say, the mainstream of society took the rants of the Ku Klux Klan seriously. In other words, we have to stigmatize and marginalize racists. If gay marriage is to be embraced by society at large, then, the people who refuse to embrace it have to be similarly stigmatized. Consequently, orthodox Catholics will be seen to be as bigoted as the KKK.
Having said this, the question naturally arises: why should we marginalize racists in our society but not the opponents of gay marriage? We stigmatize racism because it is evil and irrational. Skin color is an accident and as such does not make any man superior or inferior to any other, nor does it render anyone to be an unfit husband or wife of someone with a different skin color. Therefore, racism deserves its stigma. Opposition to gay marriage is based upon the obvious fact that human sexuality points beyond itself in the bearing of offspring. Attacking this opposition is not a righteous condemnation of bigotry but is instead an attempt to deny what has been crystal clear and common sense to the human race for millennia, namely the uniqueness of the interlocking relationship between a male and female.
Common sense is not yet entirely extinct, and many will not take seriously the attempt to make opposition to gay marriage a social taboo. In this case the law may well have to step in to make sure the citizens respect the gay lifestyle. This is already occurring Europe and Canada where either gay marriage or gay civil unions are now legal.
This past July 6th a Swedish court sentenced a Pentecostal minister to one month in prison for inciting hatred against homosexuals after having merely quoted Biblical passages condemning sodomy in his sermon.
As of this writing the Canadian Supreme Court is deciding whether or not the government can require clergy to solemnize gay marriages. It is widely expected that the court will decide in favor of religious freedom, but given the present revolutionized climate, one can't be sure.
Anyone who has been following the news in Canada and Europe can easily extend this list of horror stories. The point is clear: Suppression of religious liberty in the West is not mere speculation. It is already happening. Right now. If we don't take action right now, we might soon see ourselves in jail simply for professing our Faith and common sense.