Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Fundamentals of Marriage--the core argument of Prop 8

Between all of the information presented from both proponents and opponents of proposition 8, it is easy to fall prey to a focus on the tangents of the issue rather than the core. As the final days before the election pass, I feel that it is necessary to return to the core issue concerning the definition of marriage. While side issues may prove interesting, it is the core of the matter which matters most.
There have been many comments left upon my blog by individuals who are both pro and anti proposition 8. I appreciate each of you taking the time to leave comments, and I have left all of them on my blog for all to read. There have been individuals who have made astute observations for both sides of the issue. There have also been individuals who have made comments that are inflammatory for both sides of the issue. I should like to respond in a respectful manner, recognizing that people are entitled to their opinions and that while our opinions may differ, we may be civil to one another. At the end of the day, we are all Americans, we are all human beings, and we are all children of God. I hope that each of you will take the time to read through the entire argument that I am about to present. You are free to comment and I will be sure to read and consider your arguments. What I do ask is that each person who reads this entry, will do so with an open mind and an open heart, simply considering the perspective from which I am coming, making an attempt to understand my perspective, just as I will attempt to understand others perspectives in return.
Let me preface my remarks with this one fact: I do not support nor harbor any ill-will toward anyone who happens to be gay or lesbian. I am religious and sincerely believe that every human being is a son or daughter of a loving Heavenly Father who cares for each of his children, whether they be gay or straight. I am not homophobic and I do not live in an isolated bubble of conservative values. I am acquainted with many individuals who happen to be gay or lesbian. I have been camping with and slept in the same tent as an acquaintance who happens to be gay--believe me, I do not fear such people and I do not treat them differently. That having been said, I am in support of a "YES" vote on proposition 8, and I honestly feel that it does not make me intolerant, bigoted, hateful, homophobic, anti-gay, or any other derogatory term that some have labeled me. Nor do I believe that voting "Yes" on proposition 8 denies anyone of any basic human rights. Allow me to explain.
To come to an understanding from both sides of the issue, we must first and foremost explore what constitutes the institution of marriage. A simple appeal to the dictionary states: "Marriage (n): the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife." This has been the basic definition of marriage for thousands of years, recognized by billions of people, and extending through a multiplicity of cultures. Marriage, traditionally, has been a religious ceremony, which has been extended into civil practice. Many view the institution of marriage as a sacred covenant between a man and a woman, in connection to God. ". . .Marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God and the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of his children" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). The primary purpose of a traditional marriage in a Judeo-Christian society is to promote chastity (according to the laws of God), promote procreation between a man and a woman (the perpetuation of the species), provide the optimal environment for child-rearing, create a stable financial environment for an individual who may choose to stay home in order to rear children, to teach and promote the time-honored and tested values that promote one's greatest chances for success and happiness, and 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. Obviously, this is not what everyone thinks of marriage, but it is certainly the roots of its institution. Knowing this, we may begin to understand why some feel that the institution of marriage is under attack.
Nobody denies that there are inherent qualities that are unique to both men and women. There is much that the sexes have in common, but there are also many differences. The optimal care of children, the ideal, the standard, as is proclaimed both by God and nature is for a child to have both a mother and father. David A. Bednar states, "[Gender] in large measure defines who we are, why we are here upon the earth, and what we are to do and become. For divine purposes, male and female spirits are different, distinctive, and complementary. . ." (Ensign Magazine, October 2008, 67). While there is much good that a same-sex couple may bring to a child's life, there are innate qualities that are complimented by two parents of the opposite sex that cannot be duplicated from a same-sex couple. Every child deserves to be reared in such an environment. It is the optimal environment and will afford the child the best chance for happiness and success. Some would argue that there are families with single parents--the tragedy that comes with the death of a parent, divorce, out of wedlock births, and etc. We sympathize with such, and many single parents are doing a remarkable job with the circumstances that they have been given. But just because single parents exist, does not make single parenthood the standard nor the ideal. It would be ludicrous for us to promote single parenthood to children. Can you imagine: "Sally, when you grow up you should strive to be a single mom." That is not to say that we are degrading single mothers or single fathers. We appreciate the work that they do. But it is not the standard--it is not the goal. We should promote the institution that will best accommodate the needs of children. That institution is marriage between a man and a woman. Likewise, it is ill-advised to promote same-sex marriage. This creates a new standard for which individuals may strive--a standard that is not the optimal.
Some claim that by denying marriage for same-sex couples we are denying one of their basic human rights. This is an interesting argument and I can understand why they would think this way. On the surface it has the appearance that human rights are being violated, but the reality is to the contrary. In a comment to one of my blogs, Merrie stated: "Is Proposition 8 a human rights argument or a legal rights argument? Let's look at the differentiating characteristics between the two. 
1) Human rights are considered to be of a purely moral or ethical character, which hold that we obtain certain rights from nature that cannot be legitimately modified by any legislative authority. 
2) Legal rights are considered to be of an artificial, man-made character, which are arbitrary human constructs, created by legislative authority and always subject to change. 
Proponents of Proposition 8 assert that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and therefore is a divine or natural right. Opponents of Proposition 8 assert that marriage is a man-made concept and therefore subject to legislative change.
This leads us to [the] essence of the argument: should human/natural rights take precedence over legal rights? In the case of Proposition 8 the answer is an unequivocal yes." If one is still not convinced that same-sex marriage is a legal right rather than a human right, then we must consider this question: is it a human right for a child to be reared by both a mother and a father? I proclaim that it is. Just as one would say that human rights are being violated by disallowing same-sex marriages, another may say that human rights are being violated by denying a child of a mother and a father. After all, same-sex marriage is man made while child-bearing is natural and requires both a male and female. Whose rights then trump the other? If there are two rights that seem conflicting in nature we must side with the rights of a child over the rights of an adult. The child is still developing and needs the protection of the law, whereas an adult, relatively speaking, can cope with the situation without any adverse effect.
Furthermore, marriage is an institution. Like all institutions there are requirements that are associated with the institution. For example, a university is an institution. Not everyone may obtain a degree simply at the wanting of one. Each individual must follow the rules, procedures, and requirements to obtain the desired degree. Some choose not to pursue a degree while others may not have the natural ability to obtain a degree, yet we do not say that universities are denying human rights to those who do not participate. Only those who have followed the requirements of the institution are permitted to dress in the ceremonial gowns and participate in the graduation, having their degree conferred upon them. Universities do not lower their standard in order to be inclusive. Rather, they strive for the optimal performance of those who choose to participate. we do not call them intolerant, bigoted, prejudiced or the likes simply because there are those who do not have the ability to participate. Marriage, likewise, has its own requirements. These requirements are not meant to be prejudiced or mean-spirited any more than a university or any other institution's requirements are designed. They are in place in order to create the optimal environment for a child's upbringing, to foster love in a traditional family relationship, and to promote the design and function that God has deemed essential to the destiny of humanity throughout the eternities. There are those who may not like for what this institution stands. But that is no reason to change the fundamentals of the institution.
An individual's rights are not impeded by disallowing same-sex marriage. As Jennette has pointed out on her blog: "Registered domestic partners share the same legal rights, protections, and benefits as married couples under the California Family Code Section 297.5." This is already in place for same-sex couples. Why then must we redefine marriage? All rights and privileges have been extended to same-sex couples and they have equal protection under the law. Hence, there is no need to fundamentally change the institution of marriage. There is no need for redefining marriage. After all, what purpose does the redefining of marriage serve?
Lastly, think on this argument. Let us turn the table to see this issue through another lens. There are many institutions and causes that exist throughout the world. Some good and some bad. Let's take one that many feel is a just cause--a free Tibet. While many may work to bring about human rights in Tibet and allow its people its own autonomy, it is not the same as the movement to promote gay and lesbian rights. Now imagine if those people promoting a free Tibet, having generally the same motivation in promoting human rights, decided to demand that their movement be titled "gay and lesbian rights" and to use the existing symbols and platforms of the gay rights movement. This would fundamentally change what it means to promote gay and lesbian rights. It would change the focus from one group, who has established their ideals and what they choose to promote, to a new set of ideals. Those promoting a free Tibet might claim, "you can still promote your values while we promote our own," but the effectiveness of the message would be lost, drowned out by a new philosophy or movement. So it is with marriage. By redefining marriage, the message of marriage is lost, the sanctity is lost, the foundation is lost, and hence marriage is truly under attack.
Keep in mind, this is just one perspective on marriage, and obviously one that is rooted in religion. There are others who promote "YES ON PROPOSITION 8" for other reasons, many of which are not religious at all. The point is this, everyone must research the issue carefully, looking at all angles, and vote according to both knowledge and conscience. Whether that is a "Yes" or a "No" is up to the individual. My humble plea is that we do not change the traditional meaning of marriage. I truly believe that it is ordained of God to be between a man and a woman and anything other mocks marriage and by extension mocks God. While I understand the opposition's argument that we should not impose our beliefs upon another, I do not see how their promotion of same-sex marriage is anything different than imposing their own beliefs upon another in return. This is truly an issue of morals, values, and ideals, and each of us must figure out where we stand.

*In my next blog I shall address a comment left on one of my blogs asking how same-sex marriage will fundamentally change society.


Piper said...

First, thanks for keeping all comments as people have a tendency to keep those that only support their particular issue/blog, etc.
Second, although I realize you are morally and spiritually invested in Yes on 8, I would like to add some comments:

Your first statement: "Let me preface my remarks with this one fact: I do not support nor harbor any ill-will toward anyone who happens to be gay or lesbian." seems to negate this statement: "...believe me, I do not fear such people and I do not treat them differently."

Simply by voting Yes you are categorizing homosexuals as different, as well as by not supporting a gay/lesbian lifestyle.

Furthermore, indicating that a child's "ideal" setting for being reared only applies to heterosexual couples is also evidence that you do not view homosexuals as equal. Ellen C.Perrin, MD, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston has this to say of homosexual couples raising children: "The vast consensus of all the studies shows that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way. In some ways children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures."
Study: Same-Sex Parents Raise Well-Adjusted Kids
. I have many religious friends who are voting No because they agree with that statement, and do not feel threatened in the least by same-sex marriage.

Additionally, you claim that gay marriage is a man-made right, yet you believe that "...every human being is a son or daughter of a loving Heavenly Father who cares for each of his children, whether they be gay or straight." So the logic is that a supernatural being implemented marriage for only 1/2 of the children he supposedly loves, which leads me to the domestic partnership argument.

Yes, there is the option of domestic partnerships but they still do not cover all of the rights marriage does, such as:
- the right to sponsor a partner for immigration purposes
- the right to family-related Social Security benefits
- the right to federal income and estate tax breaks
- the right to purchase continued health coverage for a partner after the loss of a job.
- Partners cannot file joint state income taxes.
- State employees are not entitled to the same benefits under the states long-term care benefits package.

These are just some of the thousands of rights that we are not offered
FAQ's of CA Domestic Partnerships

I firmly believe domestic partnership is a step in the right direction, but it still fails to allow homosexual couples all the benefits and rights of marriage.

Although I respect your decision,
I am saddened that you will be someone who chooses to vote against equality, and as aforementioned, that decision in itself is a statement that you treat gays/lesbians differently than the rest of society.

Piper said...

I mistyped the URL in link #2, this one should work:

FAQ's of CA Domestic Partnerships

Mr. Hall said...

Thanks for commenting on my blogs. I truly appreciate your perspective--it keeps me intellectually and morally honest and challenges my thinking, which is something that I respect and enjoy. It is my hope that you will continue to post comments in order to further the dialogue of this issue.

Please allow me to clarify a few of my positions:
First, you claim that my own remarks contradict themselves. I do not believe that they do--it is really a question of semantics. For example, you state: "Simply by voting Yes you are categorizing homosexuals as different, as well as by not supporting a gay/lesbian lifestyle." This was in response to my statement of not having any ill-will for gays and lesbians and not treating them differently. You will notice that I never stated that I didn't think they were different. I said that I don't treat them differently (refering to my own interactions with people who happen to be gay or lesbian). Do I think that same-sex couples are different than heterosexual couples? Of course I do, just as I think that men are different from women. This is a scientific fact--we are not gender neutral beings. Just as I think adults are different from kids, Norwegians are different from Americans, and the list can go on and on. The fact is that this world is full of differences--that is one of the things that makes it interesting. I think that any right-minded individual would recognize that there are differences (but that does not mean that we should treat individuals whom we come across in our personal lives differently). Furthermore, you state that I am "categorizing homosexuals as different by not supporting a gay/lesbian lifestyle." Once more, we are different. A gay or lesbian desire is different from a heterosexual desire. A gay or lesbian relationship is different from a heterosexual relationship. We cannot scientifically, naturally, spiritually, morally, or in any other manner change the fact that genders exist independent of one another. Hence there is in fact a difference. Furthermore, I can respect differences without having to support them. Let's return to the analogy of the difference between a Norwegian and an American. I do not have to support Norwegian ideologies in order to allow for a Norwegian's human rights. If there is a difference in ideology we can respectfully disagree. It doesn't mean that I hate Norwegians or that I openly work to tear Norwegians down. I still treat them respectfully as a human beings, but nowhere is it required that I support them in causes the contradict my own. So it is with gays and lesbians. I don't have to support their push for marriage when it is in conflict with my own ideals concerning marriage.

Next you state: "Furthermore, indicating that a child's "ideal" setting for being reared only applies to heterosexual couples is also evidence that you do not view homosexuals as equal." Once again, semantics comes into play. I view every human being as equal. However, this does not mean that individuals do not have differing behaviors or abilities. Honestly, I don't believe that a same-sex couple is equal in child-rearing to a heterosexual couple. You have referred me to an article in an attempt to persuade me otherwise. I appreciate the article--I found it interesting. I also found that the article also supports my position more than it does yours on this issue. Let me quote from the article: "Some studies showed that single heterosexual parents' children have more difficulties than children who have parents of the same sex," Perrin says. "They did better in discipline, self-esteem, and had less psychosocial difficulties at home and at school." Notice that the comparison is to a single parent, not a heterosexual couple. The article is stating that the findings of the studies show that children with same-sex parents are having relatively the same difficulties as children of a single parent. Studies also show that the benefits of having both a mother and father in the home greatly reduces a number of the stigmas that children face in today's society. In my blog I state that I appreciate that single parents are doing the best that they can, but by no means do I say that it is equal to a two-parent heterosexual family. Once more the article states of children in homes of same-sex couples: “There was suggestive evidence that there were more stresses due to the gender of same-sex parents, but the children also reported greater well-being, more nurturing, and a greater tolerance for differences.” Once again this is a comparison to broken home, single parent families, not traditional families. Hence, I am right in saying that the optimal or ideal family is one with heterosexual marriage.

Next, you state: "Additionally, you claim that gay marriage is a man-made right, yet you believe that "...every human being is a son or daughter of a loving Heavenly Father who cares for each of his children, whether they be gay or straight." So the logic is that a supernatural being implemented marriage for only 1/2 of the children he supposedly loves. . ." First, 1/2 of God's children are not gay or lesbian, but that is beside the point. God is a loving father of all of his children. That doesn't mean that he approves of all that his children do. It is just as an earthly parent. A parent (ideally) loves all of his or her children. Sometimes a child may do something with which the parent does not agree. A parent may restrict some things from a child, but that does not mean that the parent doesn't love that child. On the contrary, it proves the parent's love. So it is with God and marriage. God provided marriage, among other things, for a man and a woman to procreate and rear a family. Restricting individuals who do not have the power to procreate and rear their own family from getting married is not a sign of a lack of love on God's part. In reality, it proves his love. It shows that he loves his children enough to allow them to decide for themselves rather than forcing those who happen to be gay or lesbian into heterosexual relationships. That is the true logic of the matter.

We then move on to your case for allowing same-sex marriage in connection to the lack of rights that domestic partnerships provide. You have really done your homework here and I commend you for it! You have correctly identified that currently, gays and lesbians do not have equal rights on immigration, social security benefits, income tax, and state employee benefits. But once more this strengthens my own position regarding a "Yes" vote on Prop 8. What you are saying is, because the government is denying you of these rights, you are going to change the definition of marriage in order to obtain them! That is simply the wrong way to go about it! Your true issue is not with marriage at all--it is with government policy! That is where the true fight should be taking place for your cause. You are attacking the wrong institution. I want you to have these rights. . . I just don't want you to change the meaning of marriage as God has intended it. It has been as it is for thousands of years and it should continue to be just that. Hence, I am compelled to VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 8.

I, too, respect your decision. And I am equally saddened that you choose to vote to change the institution of marriage instead of seeking redress from the true source of your denied rights. I wish you well in obtaining them, just not at the expense of marriage.

Jennette said...

The principles for the purpose of traditional marriage that you stated explain why marriage is essential to society. Though some couples may be exceptions to one or two of these reasons (couples who marry in old age, couples who decide not to have children, etc..)these principles would be agreed upon as the fundamental purposes of marriage by the majority of people regardless of religion or race.
As I listen to the anti-Prop 8 commercials that pop up on the radio every commercial break, the argument that is made is that Prop 8 is denying a fundamental right. People naturally feel uncomfortable when they hear that a right is being denied someone, but the question that is left up to the individual, is alternative marriage (which includes gay marriage and all the other possible arrangements that do not include the one-man-one-woman definition of traditional marriage) a fundamental right?
According to Webster's, a synonym for "fundamental" is "essential". Keeping your points on the roots of traditional marriage in mind, one must decide: Is non-traditional marriage equally essential to society as traditional marriage?

Merrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Merrie said...

I have enjoyed reading the comments of all respondents whether in favor of or opposed to Proposition 8. My concluding thoughts are based on the concept of free agency, which in essence is the ability to make choices for oneself, as well as the ability to learn the difference between right and wrong. For every choice that is made there is a result which will follow. While I may not be able to persuade someone from their convictions, I can still leave my witness that there is a God who exists, who loves all of His children equally, and who only desires that they understand their potential and achieve their highest destiny.