Thursday, April 30, 2009

Marriage and Civilization

From the latest edition of "National Review":

One of the great coups of the movement for same-sex marriage has been to plant the premise that it represents the inevitable future. This sense has inhibited even some who accept that marriage is by nature the union of a man and a woman. They fear that throwing themselves into the cause of opposing it is futile — worse, that it will call down the judgment of history that they were bigots.

Yet a majority of Americans continue to oppose same-sex marriage. Support for it has certainly increased over the last 15 years, but the assumption that we can predict the future in which same-sex marriage is uncontroversial by drawing a straight line from this trend is unwarranted. Even among young voters, a majority of whom support same-sex marriage, that majority is hardly overwhelming.

Our guess is that if the federal judiciary does not intervene to impose same-sex marriage on the entire country, we are not going to see it triumph from coast to coast. Rather, we will for some time have a patchwork of laws. The division will not be so much between socially liberal and socially conservative states as between those states where voters can amend their state constitutions easily and those where they cannot. Thus same-sex marriage is likely to stay the law of the land in Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, and Connecticut, and perhaps also in New Hampshire.

In two of those states, at least, democratic procedure is now being respected. Vermont has chosen to recognize same-sex marriages legislatively, and New Hampshire may do so. While free from the taint of lawlessness, these decisions seem to us unwise. Few social goods will come from recognizing same-sex couples as married. Some practical benefits may accrue to the couples, but most of them could easily be realized without changing marriage laws. One still sometimes hears people make the allegedly “conservative” case that same-sex marriage will reduce promiscuity and encourage commitment among homosexuals. This prospect seems improbable: Where governments have recognized same-sex marriages and civil unions, this recognition does not appear to have had any noticeable effect in this respect. In any case, the encouragement of commitment among homosexuals is simply not as important a goal as the encouragement of lasting heterosexual bonds.

Which brings us to the question of equality. Same-sex couples want their unions recognized by governments in large part as a symbolic affirmation of their equivalence, at least for public purposes, with traditional married couples. As individuals, of course, homosexuals are the equal of any other citizens in their rights to vote, own guns, speak freely, and so forth. But making them (or anyone else) feel valued is not a legitimate task of public policy; and their sexual relationships do not further the purposes for which governments should recognize marriage.

Both as a social institution and as a public policy, marriage exists to foster connections between heterosexual sex and the rearing of children within stable households. It is a non-coercive way to channel sexual desire into civilized patterns of living — and not just any sexual desire, but desire of the type that regularly produces children. State recognition of the marital relationship does not imply devaluation of any other type of relationship, whether friendship or brotherhood or even same-sex romantic attachments. Governments can rightly take all kinds of steps that enable people to form, and prosper in, any of these relationships. They can make it possible for them to go about their lives in peace, and make it easier for them to establish the contractual arrangements that help with running a household. In none of those cases, however, is it necessary for the government to recognize the friendship or sexual relationship as such.

State recognition of same-sex sexual relationships singles out one kind of non-marital relationship and treats it as though it were marital, and it does this for no good reason. No, we do not expect marriage rates to plummet and illegitimacy rates to skyrocket in these jurisdictions over the next decade. But to the extent same-sex marriage is normalized here, it will be harder for American culture and law to connect marriage and parenthood. That it has already gotten harder over the last few decades is no answer to this concern. In foisting same-sex marriage on Iowa, the state’s supreme court opined in a footnote that the idea that it is best for children to have mothers and fathers married to each other is based merely on “stereotype.”

If worse comes to worst, and the federal courts sweep aside the marriage laws that most Americans still want, then decades from now traditionalists should be ready to brandish that footnote and explain to generations yet unborn: That is why we resisted.

1 comment:

ProCommonSense said...

Kind of ironic, when I read this article in an obviously conservative slanted magazine, my opinion switched from opposing gay marriage to somewhat approving of it.

First off, lets us think about just what the purpose of marriage is....with the degradation of morality and ethics in todays world we often forget. Marriage "is a non-coercive way to channel sexual desire into civilized patterns of living." It is there to attempt to control promiscuity and provide an environment for proper child bearing and raising of the child. Any religious viewpoints on marriage is irrelevant due to the necessary separation between church and state.

With these stated purposes, we can see that marriage contributes to a healthy population by reducing promiscuity and therefore limiting the spread of STDs. With that said, why should we not be encouraging marriage amongst our gay population? Maybe we should...

However, when it comes to whether or not to allow gay couples to raise children...I cannot justify this I worry about the quality and ability they have to raise a child. However, simply encouraging gay couples into marriage in an attempt to reduce promiscuity and improve public health and the decision of whether to allow them to raise children our separate issues.

I think we should encourage marriage amongst all sexual partners, whether they be hetero- or homosexual. Even though the institution of marriage doesn't seem to carry as much weight as it used to considering how many people get divorced. is an independent site and is not affiliated with any official web sites, associations, or organizations associated with President Reagan. Any views expressed or content included on this site do not necessarily reflect the views, positions, or opinions of any of the organizations or individuals named, linked, or advertised.

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