Despite efforts to demonize opponents of gay marriage as hate-filled bigots, the fact remains that many, if not most, oppose gay marriage out of sincerely held religious belief. I count myself among this group. I believe gay sex (just like extramarital sex) contradicts God’s law, and I believe gay marriage runs contrary to God’s plan for mankind. Before you accuse me of discarding the First Amendment, let me clarify that I do not believe that religion should dictate law. But neither do I believe that the civil institutions of a country should promote or encourage immorality.
As I explained in a previous post, no one has a right to get married. Although definitions of marriage vary, virtually all of them include an aspect of formal recognition of the union by someone else. You can’t really believe in a right to get married unless you believe in a right to dictate to others what to think. Put another way, claiming a right to marriage would be like claiming a right to the good opinion of those around you. It’s absurd. Let me add that under this reasoning, heterosexual couples don’t have a right to get married either. Since marriage involves recognition by others that a valid union has been formed, a marriage depends upon the consent of the person/people whose recognition is being sought.
Of course, what thoughtful proponents of gay marriage mean when they talk about gay marriage rights is the right to equal treatment by government institutions. That isn’t a trivial argument. If our government is going to treat people differently, it must have a valid reason. We treat murderers differently from non-murderers because they have violated someone’s right not to be killed. Most everyone recognizes that committing murder is a valid reason for treating a person differently. In the case of gay marriage, the fundamental disagreement is whether the gender of the people asking for formal recognition by government of their union is a valid reason for treating them differently. In other words, the disagreement is whether the union of two men or two women is meaningfully different than the union of a man and a woman. Opponents of gay marriage say yes; proponents say no. Because this disagreement for many is motivated by religious conviction, no compromise is possible. So how do we resolve the conflict?
The obvious solution to the gay marriage dispute is to get government out of the business of marriage altogether. Why should two people need the government’s sanction to unite their lives? Why not leave marriage to private institutions like religions? That way, those that value marriage as a religious commitment will comply with the requirements of their religion to get married and those that value marriage as a something else can hold a ceremony of their own design. Eliminate marriage as a legal criteria altogether and the whole problem goes away.
I have heard some object that this would cause problems with the tax code or inheritance law. Of course there would need to be some legal adjustments, but they could be accomplished easily enough. That’s no reason to carry on a system that inevitably causes conflict. Another objection I have heard is that if the government weren’t issuing marriage licenses, the children of the couple would not be protected in the event that the marriage dissolved. This is also untrue. Child custody and child support depend upon the relationship between the child and the parent, not the relationship between the parents. A child’s father has a legal obligation to provide child support and has a right to custody regardless of whether he is married to the child’s mother.
Please don’t misunderstand. I wholeheartedly believe that a child’s best chance and happiness and success is in a traditional family, one with both a father and a mother who love, honor, and respect each other and sacrifice for their children. But government marriage has not been and will not be enough to save the traditional family. In fact, it is worth considering whether the instability of marriage in today’s culture may in part be due to its transformation from a religious commitment sanctioned by God into a legal relationship sanctioned by government.
So, do I oppose gay marriage? Yes, because as things stand today it amounts to a formal, societal stamp of approval for something that I believe is morally wrong. No judicial ruling or congressional enactment will change my opinion in that regard. However, if our society has reached a point that it can no longer recognize a meaningful difference between a homosexual couple and a heterosexual couple then I support getting government out of marriage altogether. Am I missing something? What are your thoughts?