Thursday, March 6, 2008

In Defense of the Traditional Values of Marriage

Bigotry (noun)--Bigoted attitudes; intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.  

It will not surprise me if some will label me a bigot because of my belief in the traditional values of the marriage covenant.  It will not be the first time; after-all, I was labeled such back in 2000 due to my support of California's Proposition 22, which added to the state constitution the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.  The irony with those who point the finger and cry "bigot" is, according to the definition of bigotry, they are bigots themselves--intolerant of someone who simply has a differing opinion.  In 2000 I was a Junior at Cal Poly Pomona, majoring in English Literature.  I wrote an article in defense of marriage, supporting Proposition 22, which was published in the school newspaper.  Following its publication, I attended my Spanish class, and as the professor took roll, she came to my name and said, "Brett Hall--are you the Brett Hall that wrote that article in the paper?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Shame on you!" my professor scowled as she pointed an accusatory finger.  
Some students on the campus went about making signs that essentially stated anyone who was in favor of Proposition 22 was a bigot, and other articles arose in the school press denouncing my position.  So be it.  We live in a country that values freedom of speech, and I have no problem with people freely expressing their opinions in opposition to my own, even if I am falsely accused of being a bigot.
Needless to say, Proposition 22 was voted upon by the citizens of California and it passed with overwhelming support.  The people of the great state of California had spoken, and marriage was officially declared to be strictly between a man and a woman.
So, one might imagine my surprise when on the news yesterday I learned that special interest groups within the state of California have brought the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage to the California Supreme court.  There are a minority of citizens within the state that feel differently about the issue than what the majority has legally added to the state constitution.  I have no problem with these individuals and groups expressing their opinions, that is their right.  What I do take issue with is their attempts to override the fundamental principals of democracy by imposing their ideology upon the majority by changing the laws through the courts.  This is a dangerous move that should concern every citizen, regardless of one's position on the issue of same-sex marriage.  If judges are allowed to create laws, rather than to interpret and enforce laws (which is their true role and authority), then we create a society for ourselves that is governed by the elite rather than by the people.  If the courts create and impose law, what then is the role of democracy?  What then is the value of the peoples' votes?  Who then is left to stop judges from implementing additional laws that run contrary to the will of the people?  Is such action far different from fascist, communist, or dictatorial rule--the ceding of power from the people to an elite group of individuals who in turn decide what is and what is not best for the people?   This is a scary development which potentially could lead to the downfall of American Government as we know it.  
Aside from the issue of government, what I wish to address is the defense of the traditional values of marriage.  I wish to be clear that I have no animosity towards gays or lesbians.  I respect all human-beings, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or sexuality.  I honestly believe that everyone is a child of God and that God loves every person.  It is my aim in life to become like God; therefore, it is a logical conclusion that I should not hate anyone.  As such, I plead with my readers to not misinterpret my position or intention on this issue.  I sincerely believe that it is possible to be in disagreement with someone without harboring ill will or feelings towards the person.  So it is with my defense of the traditional values of marriage.

To understand the defense of traditional marriage, we must first explore the history and purpose of marriage.  Marriage is a seemingly universal rite.  It is not unique to a single, or even a few, cultures.  The rite of marriage springs from various cultural religious ceremonies.  The concept of civil marriage followed the example of religious marriage.  The question becomes, what is the purpose of marriage?  The answer may vary dependent upon culture, but being that our roots are Judeo-Christian, we shall explore the fundamental purpose accordingly.  

The Religious Argument
If one were to ask the average citizen what is the purpose of marriage, I imagine that the response would be something to the effect of, "to manifest one's love for another individual."  While this statement may be one modern reason for marriage, it certainly was not the fundamental purpose traditionally.  The real purpose of marriage is three-fold: (1) to provide a fundamental unit (the family) through which couples may pro-create, offering children a stable environment from which to be reared, (2) to uphold chastity according to the Law of God, (3) for a man and woman to enter into a covenant with one another to love, support, and cherish one another, whereby they may work together in the process of perfecting one another in the pursuit to become like one's Heavenly Parents.  The concept of civil marriage followed suit, focusing less upon the laws of God and the religious pursuits associated with marriage, yet still upholding the purpose of providing the stable environment in which children could be reared and husband and wife may experience true fidelity.
Hence, the fundamental problem with same-sex marriage is that it does not meet the criteria for any of these purposes.  First, same-sex couples do not have the power to pro-create.  Second, the same-sex couples are clearly in defiance of God's stated laws regarding sexuality (that sex is justified only between a man and a woman who are married together--this does not mean that God loves these individuals any less; rather, it manifests his love for them by allowing them to choose for themselves--God does not force anyone to follow his laws, but he provides his laws as a guide on how to become like Him).  Third, same-sex couples fundamentally cannot emulate their Heavenly Parents.  
One key argument that might be made by some same-sex couples is that they do not believe in the traditional concept of God and His laws; hence, such laws are not applicable to them and their relationships.  If such is true, why then do they feel compelled to be married (marriage being a law of God)?  Why would they desire to be a part of a tradition (or law) in which they fundamentally do not believe?  From a religious standpoint, it is clear that homosexuality is opposed to the teachings of the Judeo-Christian religions.  Marriage, according to this tradition, stems from Adam and Eve, with the first and great commandment to multiply and replenish the earth (in other words, to have babies and rear children in order to populate the earth).  Homosexuality runs contrary to this commandment, thus defeating the primary purpose of marriage.  The second purpose of marriage, to preserve chastity according to the law of God, would also be defeated through same-sex couples.  If chastity is defined as having no sexual relations with anyone other than his or her husband or wife of the opposite sex, then homosexuality is unchaste, just as fornication is unchaste and contrary to the will of God.  Simply masking this behavior under the banner of "marriage" is not going to suddenly make homosexuality any more chaste according to the law of God.  On the contrary, it mocks the law of God just as "common-law-marriage" mocks true marriage (the law of God).  Same-sex marriage would be a marriage in name only, lacking the substance of true marriage according to Judeo-Christian principles and doctrines.  Hence, from a religious perspective, same-sex marriage is fundamentally wrong.  
What then of those who believe that they are homosexual by birth--the argument that "this is the way God made me"?  Well, this is certainly a debatable point.  But let us imagine that this argument is true--that there is a natural disposition that is beyond one's control.  Could not others make the same argument?  Pedophiles could make the same claim, yet we do not justify their actions.  Serial killers could make the same claim, yet we do not justify their actions.  And the list could continue on and on, yet we require such to curb such "natures."  Of course, this is an unfair argument on my part.  Killers and pedophiles pray on innocent victims whereas homosexuality is a behavior of consent.  I do not wish to classify homosexuals with pedophiles and murderers.  However, the point is that "being born this way" does not always justify one's actions.  It certainly does not justify the need for same-sex marriage.
I am not here to debate the nature vs. nurture argument.  The truth be known, I believe that some people are born, by nature, homosexual while a greater number become homosexual by nurture (which explains the explosion in the numbers of gays and lesbians, particularly among people who claim to be bisexual).  For example, I have an acquaintance who is gay who says that he has always been attracted to other men.  He doesn't want to be gay, but he is.  This is an example of nature, yet he has made a conscious choice not to practice his homosexuality.  Since he is not attracted to women he simply chooses to be celibate.  This is a tough choice, no doubt, yet it is his choice, despite his nature.  I'm not saying that all homosexuals should choose to be celibate.  People may live as they choose--that is the agency that God has given to each of us.  I may not agree with the practice of homosexuality, but I am not going to treat an individual unfairly as a result.  In my view, God does not approve of the practice of homosexuality, but He still loves the individual, and therefore it is my obligation to love and care for the rights of the individual.  Yet, this does not justify changing the traditional practice of marriage as being between a man and a woman.  No rights are being violated in upholding this practice.  

The Evolutionary Argument
Of course, there are many who will reject the religious argument and steep their beliefs in nature and the scientific theory of evolution.  Such may dismiss God and Adam and Eve and place their beliefs and trust in evolution and the learning of man.  I have heard some point out that through the observance of the natural world we may view other species involved in homosexual activity.  They use this point to argue that homosexuality is natural, and thus justified.  Let us say that we concede this point for arguments sake.  Could we not make the counter-argument that other species do not marry? Could we not also argue that other species have multiple partners or different partners dependent upon the season?  If we use this nature argument, could we not also justify the killing of our own children (after-all, have we not observed some species of animals to do just that)?  Can we not also justify incestuous, polygamous, and other untoward practices that are observed in the animal kingdom?  Can we not also justify the abandoning of orphaned children through the example of the natural world?  It is obvious that this argument does not hold up against scrutiny.  Of course, this is a neophyte argument.  Let us look at something more advanced within the nature argument.
A more sophisticated argument might be made by some same-sex couples that they are homosexual by nature (not the same nature referred to above that deals with the lesser animal kingdoms, but born with the natural disposition to be gay--in other words, they cannot help but feel the way that they do.  They are by nature gay but also by nature more advanced than other mammals).  The validity of this argument has been, and continues to be, debated, yet I will concede this point for arguments sake.  Let us say that homosexuality is natural.  Does this alone justify same-sex marriage?  After-all, if it is natural, and we are so advanced, why would one want to submit to a man-made institution such as marriage?  If we are merely advanced mammals in the evolutionary chain, would it not make more sense to follow the natural course of mammals--namely, the reproduction of the species without the institution of marriage?  What reason then to bind ourselves to such an institution?  This would be counter-productive to the freedom that we have by nature.  Ah, but we are more advanced than other mammals and marriage is a sign of our advancement, one might say.  So be it.  But if we are so advanced, why have an institution without a purpose?  What then, by nature, is the purpose of marriage?  Would it not be to provide the best possible means by which to rear children in order to offer them the best chance at success in life?  Is it not true that children fair better when they are reared in a two-parent home.  So, even by nature, marriage becomes important, but really it is only important as it relates to family life.  By nature, same-sex partners cannot have offspring.  If nature wanted it so, would human-beings not have evolved in order to do so?  Hence, even the argument by nature does not justify same-sex marriages.  By nature, marriage fulfills the needs of heterosexual couples with the ability to reproduce.  It does not fulfill any such need in same-sex couples.  

The Social Argument
What about same-sex marriage as a social issue?  Is it possible to make the argument that we are denying one's civil liberties by denying them the right to marry?  The problem with this argument is that maintaining the traditional definition and practice of marriage does not impede one's civil liberties.  Will entering into a marriage covenant make a homosexual any more free than what he or she already is?  There really are no rights or privileges that would be advanced for homosexuals through the legalization of same-sex marriages.  There are already laws in place that protect homosexuals from prejudice.  Some may argue that offering same-sex couples the opportunity to be married would provide a perception of "normalcy" rather than "other" within society.  Yet if we buy into this argument are we not admitting that homosexuality is something other than normal?  And if it is something other than normal, why then should it pretend to be normal (that would be fundamentally deceptive)?  And if we already view it as being normal than why the need to cloak it in marriage (that would fundamentally be a sign of insecurity)?  Homosexuality is what it is--it doesn't need to pretend to be something that it is not.  It does not need to pretend to be a part of a tradition whose roots are religiously based and whose practices have been fundamentally opposed to the nature of homosexuality for thousands of years.  It does not need to go against what the majority of Americans define as the true definition and practice of marriage--a covenant between a man and a woman.  Besides, cloaking homosexual relationships within the title of marriage will not truly change people's perceptions of it.  Those who are biased will remain biased and those who are accepting will remain accepting.  

The Economic Argument
What about the economic impact of marriage--are same-sex couples being financially discriminated against?  There are already laws in place that prohibit such discrimination and having same-sex couples marry will not resolve any such issues that may still remain.  The one exception might be tax deductions, but such deductions are designed to alleviate the burden of families with children (children obviously not having the means to care for themselves).  Homosexual couples who are old enough to marry are also old enough to care for themselves.  By nature, they cannot have children of their own, so they have no true dependents, whereas heterosexual couples have an added expense with children who cannot contribute financially to the family.  Another argument might be concerning insurance coverage.  Once more, medical, dental, vision, and etc, may be, but is not always, extended to spouses and children.  Homosexual couples may not be able to claim one another on such coverage through their employers, but then again, what is keeping a homosexual partner from working and obtaining coverage for himself or herself?  In a heterosexual relationship, a spouse may forgo full-time employment in order to rear the children, and as we have established children cannot work, so it makes sense that such coverage would be extended in behalf of a spouse and children.  Even if one feels that homosexuals are not being treated fairly on these two issues, attempting to become equal through the redefining of marriage is an awful way to address the issue.  Why change a tradition that has been in existence for thousands of years simply to promote monetary gain?  There are other ways and means; the people may promote such issues without changing the traditional institution of marriage.

The Concluding Argument
As we see, there is no solid reasoning as to why a tradition that has been in practice for thousands of years and is rooted in religious purpose should have to extend itself into accepting a practice that it fundamentally opposes.  There is no logic behind the adoption of same-sex marriage.  The only argument that exists for adopting the practice would be "we want to be a part of it too."  And the reasoning for this argument: "marriage is an expression of love and devotion to one another."  I concede this point, but it alone does not justify same-sex marriage.  Think on it.  While it offers a couple  a means to express love and devotion, such couples cannot fulfill the other purposes of marriage--namely, to reproduce, to preserve chastity, and to provide a nurturing atmosphere in which children may be reared by a mother and father.  If all that is left is the argument that marriage should be extended to one who wishes to express one's love and devotion--if this were the soul-requirement, then what of individuals who love their pets and are devoted to them?  What of polygamists?  What of incest?  Could not all of these claim the same right to marriage?  Marriage must be and is something more, and it is our responsibility to defend it without being hateful, prideful, or disingenuous towards those who do not understand its true purpose and sanctity.  

Vice is a monster of such frightful mein, 
As to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen to oft, familiar with her face,
we first endure, then pity, then embrace.
--Alexander Pope (from "Essay on Man")


Nicole Bullock said...

What an amazing respectful, reasoned, and succinct argument on one of the most controversial issues in our society. I agree whole-heartedly. It's refreshing to read an essay where logic and religion fit together so well. Great work Brett!

Anonymous said...

I agree on all counts with Nicole, well said my friend. Even friends of mine who've left the church and have chosen that lifestyle are iffty and shifty about the whole topic. It's a dodgy one, but you've covered it beautifully!

Ms. Liz said...

Who did you have for critical writing again? Kramer? I want to send him flowers.

intern said...

Great post. I very much appreciate the straight forward and reasoned stance you take. Would it be possible to see some of the rejoinders? I'd be interested to see how people responded to your remarks specifically.

ps. Your use of "soul-requirement" might be rendered as "sole-" (of course, it could be a stylistic use of soul...I kinda like it as is)

piccolo said...

Very, very excellent defense of the traditional family. As part of my job, I defend the traditional family in public policy, and your post gave me some things to think about that I hadn't considered before.

You may want to read a dialogue that my employer recently published. It's between my boss and a gay rights attorney. It's a fascinating discussion and helps one understand both perspectives much better.

If you'd like to read, then go to my blog post on this topic and click on the links toward the bottom.