A Case Against Same-Sex Marriage (3)

The final post in a series responding to requests that I explain my opposition to same-sex marriage. Read parts 1 and 2.

The potential effects of gay marriage on the culture’s view of marriage. For the entirety of our country’s history, marriage has been understood as the union of one man and one woman, which is why advocates of gay marriage are having to fight to change this historical definition. I’m under no illusion that if gay marriage becomes legal, my marriage will be in danger-Melissa and I will both be as heterosexual as ever. But I have concerns about what will happen to the cultural view of marriage if gay marriage is legalized. I don’t want it to be assumed in our culture that there’s no difference between the legal, emotional and physical union of two men or two women and that of a man and a woman. To be sure, some would consider that a step in the right direction. That’s where questions about morality and absolute standards would come into play.

A common argument in Christian circles is that legalizing gay marriage will cause a downward spiral in terms of how marriage is viewed, that the number of marriages will drop, that the expectations of monogamy in marriage will suffer, etc. I’m not sure that legalizing gay marriage would cause such a trend, because I believe we’re already in it. But I think the legalization of gay marriage would be one more step in that trend, and that we should be seeking to move in the opposite direction. Again, many people would disagree with me here because of different ideas about what marriage and morality should look like. That’s where, again, things will come down to worldview issues, ultimate standards, and the like.

Possible logical conclusions. For all of our legal history in this country, marriage has been interpreted as the union of a man with a woman. So it’s not only gay marriage that’s been outside the bounds, but also polygamy, incestuous marriages, and the like. If two men or two women are allowed to marry each other, should a brother and sister be allowed to marry? What if a group of five people wanted to all be married to each other? Or a 30-year-old and a 10-year-old? Or what if a man wanted to marry his dog, or his motorcycle? It seems to me that you could make some of the same arguments for these arrangements that are made for gay marriage: Who are we to deny two people who love each other from making it official? If the objection were raised that with gay marriage we’re talking about “consenting adults”, we’d have to ask, why do they have to be consenting adults? What’s the basis of that rule? In short, I believe that opening marriage to same-sex couples will lower the bar for what marriage is, and what commitments are involved. And I think that’s a bad thing.

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Comments

  1. The potential effects of gay marriage on the culture’s view of marriage.

    OK, stop. What is a culture? It is “the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization”. Altering a viewpoint or changing a law will natural change society. Isn’t that a good thing though? Shouldn’t we desire a society that is tolerant and isn’t hypocritical?

    For the entirety of our country’s history, marriage has been understood as the union of one man and one woman

    What is a few hundred years to the history of the human race? A blip, an aberration of intolerance. We should not base the future on the rule that “we’ve always done it that way”. Shouldn’t we consider that the way we have always done it might not be the best way of doing things.

    I have concerns about what will happen to the cultural view of marriage if gay marriage is legalized

    Too late, it is legal as of this point in time. Honestly though could the cultural view of marriage not stand up to a bit of change. Shouldn’t it be about love and commitment rather than the expectation that society places upon it’s members? Change it, bloody right it should.

    I don’t want it to be assumed in our culture that there’s no difference between the legal, emotional and physical union of two men or two women and that of a man and a woman.

    You’re right. It shouldn’t be about man and man, woman and woman or man and woman. It should be about person and person. Forget all the gender rubbish and make it equal, truly equal.

    Possible logical conclusions.

    Polygamy, other than being biblically acceptable, is available to many cultures. Anyway, the point is that rules of law are there to protect members of society from harm including exploitation by others. The harm of forced or coerced sexual conduct is fairly obvious as is the sort of conduct that is inherent in human beings and other animal forms than cannot make informed decisions. You are talking about different things.

    Why do they have to be consenting adults?

    Simply because we desire a society where we are treated in the same way that we treat others. I don’t want anyone to force me to do anything that I don’t want to and I suspect that you are the same way. Equally we don’t want to be tricked into something through ignorance so we limit adults to certain parts of society on the assumption that they will be better prepared for it.

    I would have thought this was fairly obvious. Now, does same sex marriage force or fool anyone involved, does anyone suffer a loss that they could reasonably be expected not to in other circumstances, as a result? If the answer is negative then the law simply has no place in limiting social behaviour. Apply this to incest, bestiality or rape and you’ll see where the law’s involvement is justified.

  2. I said “the entirety of our country’s history” because we’re talking about laws in our country, and what the Constitution requires and allows. We could go back a lot further than that, and actually I don’t know of any culture that hasn’t been centered on the marriage of men and women
    (even if homosexuality was accepted, as in ancient Rome). As I said, that’s physically necessary to the culture’s continued existence.

    You are assuming that there’s no difference between the genders, no difference in how a mother raises a child and how a father does, no difference in one’s relationship between his (or her) father and his (or her) mother. That’s all very PC, but it’s a fairy tale. Children need mothers, and they need fathers, and the two are not the same thing.

    The fact that polygamy occurs in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s biblically acceptable. The Bible narrates the sins and failures of most of its heroes.

    – Creation shows that God’s ideal was for one man and one woman to have each other. God only created one wife for Adam and one husband for Eve.

    – The first man to have two wives, Lamech, was part of the ungodly line and was also the second murderer; he is certainly not presented as an example to follow.

    – There are other more positive examples of patriarchs who took more than one wife, but it doesn’t appear to be under God’s auspices. Abraham took a second wife in disbelief of God’s promise to provide a son through Sarah. Jacob was tricked into his first wife; he really wanted her sister. David and Solomon took multiple wives, but David had been warned not to take multiple wives, and Solomon’s many wives led him astray from the worship of God. On a closer look, polygamy looks a lot more like something God tolerated, but never endorsed, and if you look at the regulations for marriage, including Jesus’ and the rest of the NT’s, they assume one man and one woman.

    At any rate, my point in the logical-conclusion argument is that I can account for why I’m against all these things; your logic is arbitrary. You say forced sexual conduct is harmful, but why should we care about that? Who are you to tell me I can’t “harm” others sexually? On what moral basis do you make that claim? If we assume a naturalist view, then all I’m doing is following my instincts. Where does all this moral talk come from?

    We do have a lot of the same ideas: our personal freedom doesn’t come at the cost of others’, the golden rule, etc. My point is that I can explain why I believe those things: I think there are moral absolutes in the universe that reflect the character of an absolute God. If you think everything just evolved out of nothing, with no direction from any outside source, then whatever moral code you believe in is hanging in midair; there’s nothing to back it up.

  3. Vicki Baker says:

    Hi Jake:

    I came here from Friendly Atheist and have been following the discussion.

    If you feel your religion gives you a firm moral foundation, great. Your right to practice it should be sacrosanct, as long as it doesn’t impinge on the civil rights of others.

    The fact is though, that our form of government doesn’t allow you to say “because the Bible says so’ as the basis for civil law. You have to make a case that is not based on a specific religious justification. You have tried to do that, by saying that gay marriage will undermine the abric of society, etc. etc. To support this claim, you’ve only made assertions. To those of us who have relatives, friends, and co-workers, who are in long-term same-sex relationships, this argument simply doesn’t hold water. We know these people as loving, stable pillars of the community. Their children are well-adjusted. wonderful people who will make positive contributions.

    As to the idea that same-sex marriages are something new in history – so what? The idea that owning other humans is wrong was also a new idea in its day. To their credit, many religious people became so disgusted with the faux-Biblical justifications for chattel slavery, and with the hypocrisy of leaving the phrase “let no man put asunder” out of slave marriage ceremonies, that they became some of the most fervent abolitionists.

  4. Suetonius’ Life of Nero in the first Century reported same sex marriages within the Roman Empire. There’s your precedent.

    As for the US Constitution, please point to the amendment that denies homosexuals the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals. As we stand the law is clear that same sex marriages are equal to marriages between a man and a woman, at least in parts of the country.

    Children need mothers, and they need fathers, and the two are not the same thing.

    Is the presence or absence of dangling genitalia important to the role that a parent has? Are breasts vital to providing a loving and supportive environment? Is the fact that I shave my face important to my daughters or my son except as a passing curiosity? No, that’s just silly.

    The fact that polygamy occurs in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s biblically acceptable.

    The fact that homosexual bigotry occurs in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. In fact the Bible has many faults beyond treatment of homosexuals, women and other races. That is really irrelevant to the argument for granting civil rights to people. I could certainly spend a lot of time pointing out Biblical errors and cultural idiosynchrocies but they are really besides the point.

    On what moral basis do you make that claim?

    Respectfully, this is a different argument that is well covered elsewhere. Suffice it to say that following a literal biblical moral code would probably get you arrested in the 21st Century western world. We both adhere to secular morality as codified in law and rules of conduct within society. We have some small variation without a doubt but again, that is irrelevant to this topic.

  5. Jake, we’ve put some counter arguments forward for you. Do you maintain your opposition to gay marriage for the reasons that you’ve given?

  6. Yes. Here’s a smattering of responses:

    As to gender differences, it is a lot more than the presence of breasts or a penis that makes a man and woman different. There’s a difference between being a father and a mother, and all the feminism in the world can’t erase that fact. Men and women parent in different ways that are complementary, and the best environment for a child is a home with a father and mother. The fact that a man and a woman are necessary to reproduction in the first place should clue us in to this fact.

    The fact that homosexual marriage has a historical precedent doesn’t make it good. Infant girls were often left out exposed in Rome in order to kill them; I don’t think that means we should kill unwanted children today (although we do).

    Homosexual “bigotry” doesn’t occur in the Bible; a prohibition against homosexual behavior does. That’s only bigotry if you presuppose that homosexual behavior is morally good or neutral, and that the Bible is therefore wrong to prohibit it. That’s your stance, but you have no moral footing on which to make that claim. If you’re a naturalist, you shouldn’t really be making any moral claims in the first place. I mean, we’re all just highly evolved animals; where does all this talk about morality come from? Does morality evolve? Who gets to decide whose morals are right?

    See, Vicki is underestimating my claim. It’s not just that my religion gives me my own private moral footing. It’s that without an absolute God, there’s no explanation for any moral absolute. The sense of “oughtness” that you have on this issue is just based on an arbitrary moral code with nothing to back it up. People have rightly pointed out that the word ought shouldn’t be in an atheist’s vocabulary.

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