A few days ago, the nation was briefly agog over Barack Hussein Obama’s announcement that his position on same-sex marriage had "evolved," and that he now advocates State recognition of such unions as marriages on an equal basis with conventional heterosexual marriages. There was a lot of talk about it at the time: from the Right, which was scornful of this convenient (and financially productive) "evolution;" and from the Left, which did a lot of hand-wringing over what effect this sop to the homosexual-activist community would have on the critical Negro vote. Subsequent events have largely taken the heat off the subject, but discussions of it and expressions of opinion have not, and probably never will.
The most interesting relevant phenomenon since then concerns this brief video, originally posted at YouTube, in which teenager Madeleine McAulay expressed her differences with the president's "evolution," and in a most eloquent manner. The video was an instant sensation, recording over 20,000 playings in a single day...before YouTube banned it as "hate speech."
I exhort all Gentle Readers to watch the video and scrutinize it for the least iota of "hate speech." Then reflect on the sort of fear that animates YouTube's management, and what propels it. For it is well documented that a posted video only attracts YouTube's wrath when the item in question expresses a conservative or traditionalist opinion.
Miss McAulay's opinions are founded on her understanding of the Bible. If I had to take a wild, swinging guess, she might have had this passage from the Gospels in mind:
Now when Jesus finished these sayings, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan River. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Then some Pharisees came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matthew 19:1-6]
For a sincere Christian, certain of the authority of Christ, that settles the matter. But then again, there are Americans who aren't Christians or religionists of any sort, and these have asked for secular reasons why homosexual couples should not be allowed to marry on an equal basis with heterosexual couples. Inasmuch as the United States is Constitutionally a secular polity, and freedom of conscience is guaranteed by the First Amendment, the question is worth exploring.
First, let's be clear about the subject matter. Homosexual couples can "marry" in any state in the Union. They merely have to find a sect which performs such "marriages" and enlist its assistance. There are many such sects, including a few that call themselves Christian despite considerable divergences from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The subject of controversy is whether state governments should "redefine" marriage as the union of any two persons minded to "marry" one another, and treat such "marriages" as equivalent to conventional heterosexual marriages.
The affirmative proposition rests on assumptions that aren't always clearly stated:
- That governments have the authority to perform such a redefinition;
- That marriage has no purposes of importance that would be cross-cut by such a redefinition.
(Any talk of a "right to marry" should be snorted away ab initio, contemptuously and with prejudice. There cannot be a "right" to do anything that requires the assent and cooperation of another person. Persons who fail to understand this are in serious need of remedial education. There are many such persons in America today; they call themselves "liberals" or "progressives," in further demonstration of their ignorance.)
My contention is that the assumptions above are both false:
- Governments cannot redefine marriage: they lack both the authority and the power to do so;
- Marriage has two purposes of overriding importance, which gave rise to the institution long before governments came to exist. They would not be served, and might be disserved, by the treatment of same-sex unions as "marriages."
Grab a fresh cup of coffee and settle back; this could be a long one.
The written history of Mankind goes back some three to six thousand years, depending on whose reckoning we use. In either case, the institution of marriage predates the emergence of government by at least a millennium. In all records of the pre-government era, marriage is described as a union between one man and one woman. Most notably, marriage was taken very seriously in the pre-government era. Its properties were universally agreed upon; its solemnity was seriously enforced.
(No doubt this will come as a surprise to any leftists reading Liberty's Torch; such persons treat government as the be-all and end-all of goodness, and the ultimate definer thereof. Nevertheless, enforced standards of conduct do predate the State. They gave rise to government, not the other way around.)
A colleague of mine has called marriage a "social institution." This is a neat encapsulation of the institution and its genesis. For until the most recent 150 years, it was never the case that the State proclaims who is married or to whom, except in a handful primitive theocracies that conflated temporal and sacred authority. That evaluation has always been the province of one's neighbors.
To be blunt, you're married if your neighbors deem you married; if not, not.
This "social institution" arose because of the asymmetries in power and capacity among men, women, and minor children. Men of good will have always deemed it evil to abuse those weaker than oneself -- those who have no defense against such abuse. The imbalances among the aforementioned three categories are significant enough that a counterbalancing pressure is required to prevent them from tearing large holes in the fabric of human society:
- Men are naturally superior to women in overall economic capacity.
- Women are vulnerable to impregnation, whereas men are not.
- Women are naturally superior to men at child-rearing, but while occupied by it are largely helpless to support themselves or their kids.
- Until very recently, a man who suspected that his wife had conceived a child adulterously had no recourse but to accept the child as his obligation, equally to his other children. Even today, many men are commanded by the family courts to accept full moral and financial responsibility for such a child.
These are well-established facts. They're statistical facts, to be sure, applicable to the sexes as aggregates and capable of being violated by exceptional individuals; at the tail ends of the male and female distributions, the statistical pattern will not always hold. Nevertheless, they are facts. They arise from the laws of nature and five thousand centuries of human evolution. You can only reject them by denying both natural law and the history of the human race as we know it. (That won't stop the committed "progressive," of course.)
Marriage as we know it arose specifically to protect men and women from one another's abuse, and minor children from both. Adultery, which is and has always been understood as the violation of the marital vow of sexual fidelity, was condemned for that reason. The obligation of a man to provide materially for his wife and children -- and only for his wife and children -- is similarly founded. Long before there were governments, stable communities enforced the obligations of marriage rigidly, even ruthlessly; that's whence the term "shotgun marriage" derives. For if the community should fail to enforce those norms, obligations that properly belong to the husband or wife would fall upon unconsenting others: their neighbors, who, as good people, would be unwilling to see women and children starve to death.
If it were not for the facts cited above, marriage would not have arisen. It would have been as pointless as the friendship ring.
It should be clear from the above that same-sex liaisons produce none of the asymmetries that gave rise to marriage:
- A homosexual couple is nominally composed of two persons of comparable economic capacity.
- Neither of the partners can impregnate the other in a natural fashion.
- The acquisition of children by such a couple requires third-party assistance and / or technological means.
- Were either member of a homosexual couple to engender a child, it would be clear that his same-sex partner had nothing to do with it, and therefore could not, absent deliberate contractual provisions to the contrary, be deemed responsible for that child's support and upbringing.
What could be less relevant to such a couple than marriage? But of course, this compels us to ask why homosexual activists have insisted so stridently upon the redefinition of marriage to include their liaisons. What is it about marriage that makes the term "marriage" itself, shorn of all the institution's rationales, so important to them?
This is where it gets interesting, Gentle Reader. I have no doubt that some persons will derive offense from what follows. That's their problem -- and ours, if we permit it to warp our opinions and our society.
Western societies are founded on the marital bond. A community seldom admits single adults to its ranks on an equal basis with married persons. The married are regarded as being more stably joined to the community; they're deemed to have a stake in the protection of its quality and the defense of its norms. That stake will be larger for couples with minor children, but even childless marrieds are viewed as full partners in the social order. Singletons, in contrast, exhibit a far greater tendency to transience, and therefore less of an interest in the defense of the community, its members, and its ways.
It's no exaggeration to state that conventional families -- husband, wife, and minor children if any -- are the atomic elements of a stable society. I treated with this phenomenon in fictional form in my novel Which Art In Hope. In discussing Twenty-First Century America's plague of abortions and hostility to "large" families, a sociologist in a Stateless society commented thus:
"The structure of that society was far distant from ours. Extended families and clans such as we admire were very few. Even intact nuclear families had become exceptional. Many children never knew their fathers. Many couples consciously averted the possibility of conception their whole lives long. A great many women regarded childbearing and child rearing, not as a fulfillment and an honor to be cherished, but as costs, nuisances, and impediments to commercial achievement, or artistic expression, or social access.
"My Bakunin colleague would say that the typical family was limiting its total economic exposure by having very few children or none, since the expense of child-rearing in a heavily regulated State exceeds any other expense by a considerable margin. Parents wanted their children to 'have it all,' as the saying went, but with such a large State burden, which not only reduced the family's effective earnings but dramatically increased the price of every good for sale, most couples couldn't square that desire with a family of Hope's typical size.
"I see things differently. Families are the fundamental building blocks of a stable society. Extended families -- clans -- are the best conceivable environment for the rearing of children, the perpetuation of a commercial forte, and the germination of new families and their ventures. A clan like yours, Miss Albermayer, conserves a brilliant genetic line and a priceless medical specialty at the same time. A clan like yours, Mr. Morelon, makes possible a benign agricultural empire and produces natural leaders one after another while connecting Hope to its most distant origins. And all healthy families, which cherish life and bind their members to one another in unembarrassed love, can find far more to occupy and amuse them than they need....
"When Earth's regard for families and their most fundamental function deteriorated, her people ceased to enjoy the sorts of ties that had held them together throughout the history of Man. Without families, and especially without children, they groped for other things to fill their time, whether to give them a sense of purpose, or to distract them from the waning of their lives. Some invested themselves in industry or commerce, but without the sense of the family line to be built up and made prominent, those things failed to satisfy. Others immersed themselves in games, toys, fripperies, and increasingly bizarre forms of entertainment, which palled on them even faster. Still others made a fetish out of sex; there was a substantial sex industry on Earth, though it tended to operate in the shadows and was seldom openly discussed. They needed emotion and substance, but all they could contrive was sensation and novelty, and they pumped an ever greater share of their effort and wealth into seeking them. That's my thesis, for what it's worth."
I will stand on that assessment of Americans' attitude toward family and children, our youth-and-sex-obsessed popular culture, and the reasons why our society is fragmenting with ever increasing speed. If I am correct, then homosexual activists' demand to be considered "married" is mainly a demand for community inclusion on an equal basis with heterosexual couples; it has nothing to do with "love," or a "right to marry," or hospital visitation rights (a particularly absurd thrust), or any of the other claims made by the promoters of same-sex marriage.
But note: as I said earlier, there are sects, including some that call themselves Christian, that will "marry" same-sex couples. Why is this not good enough for the promoters of homosexual marriage?
Of course! A sect cannot compel acceptance under threat of punishment. A sect cannot prosecute hotels and motels, for example, for refusing to accept a homosexual couple as "married." A sect cannot insist that employers treat a same-sex couple as married for benefits and pension rights. And of course, a sect cannot compel other sects to "marry" same-sex couples, or to treat such couples and their "marriages" as indistinguishable from heterosexual couples and their marriages.
Despite decades of gradual acceptance of homosexuals as being the legal equals of heterosexuals, and a considerable body of anti-discrimination law aimed at employers and "public accommodations," many homosexuals still don't feel they've received their due from the rest of society. The activists regard marriage as the key to whatever social doors are still locked against them.
If that requires that the State usurp authority over an institution that predates the State by at least a millennium, so be it. If it requires that the institution of marriage be stripped of all its objective purposes, so be it. If it requires the imposition of still more coercion upon persons secure in their beliefs who only want to be left alone to choose their own associates, so be it.
But will it be thus? Will any degree of coercion compel heterosexuals to regard homosexuals as validly married? Or will State interference in the oldest known secular institution merely evoke a tide of resentment toward those who have called it down upon us?
Note that in the above arguments I make no mention of religious teachings or principles. Note also that I have eschewed discussion of such tangential subjects as any correlations that might exist between the normalization of homosexual marriage and any social pathology. Though these things are interesting in themselves, they are unnecessary for the construction of reasoning sufficient to invalidate the notion of State-recognized same-sex marriage.
This won't put an end to homosexual activists' screeching over the subject, of course. But I challenge anyone, of whatever political or religious persuasion, to counter the above argument with an equally rational approach to marriage that validates State recognition of "marriages" between persons of the same sex.
Frankly, I don't think it can be done. Consider the gauntlet thrown. To those who choose to pick it up, be advised that I will insist that you identify yourself unambiguously. I will spare no one's feelings in my replies; I've had enough of leftist idiocy and misuse of the English language. The farce of whiny demands for "rights" no one can possibly possess has gone on long enough.