Marriage: more than “equality of love”
On Valentine’s Day, 2011, gay lobby group Australian Marriage Equality, in partnership with the progressive activist group, GetUp!, released a short video advertisement1 promoting gay “marriage” in Australia. Predictably, they used the standard term employed by gay “marriage” advocates, “marriage equality”, serving the perception that there is nothing equal about the current legal status of marriage. While intentionally innocuous, the term “marriage equality” is nevertheless stuffed with worn-out and rebadged rhetoric: why oughtn’t two people who love each other be allowed to marry?; gender has nothing to do with marriage; its not fair that John and Jim can’t marry each other, but that Dean and Denise can.
Yawn. I’m getting sleepy already.
Yet the proud tag line on Australian Marriage Equality’s website2 follows that same hum-drum line: “Marriage is about love and commitment, not your partner’s gender.”
Further, GetUp!3 state on their website for this campaign that “all love is equal and all relationships deserve recognition.”
Well, no. Not all (romantic) love is equal, and neither is marriage founded on love and commitment alone. Marriage is very much a gender-based institution no matter how much organizations like Australian Marriage Equality or GetUp! espouse the “love is all” card.
In the advertisement, we are introduced to the twin brothers, David and Paul. David is married, Paul is not. The brothers relate to the audience how the two of them used to share and do so much with eachother during their growing up. But now, or so we’re told, they cannot share in the experience of marriage. See, Paul is gay and speaks fondly of his homosexual partner whom he can’t legally marry.
Cue the emotional rhetoric.
David: “So why are we different now? I can get married, and Paul can’t. Who you love should have nothing to do with that.”
Paul: “Yeah. It shouldn’t matter.”
Ignoring the fact that Paul can indeed marry with the same restrictions as what his brother David can (sounds equal to me!), do you see the presumption that’s made? Marriage is based on love? No, sorry, gentlemen. Marriage is not fundamentally about love. The state is not all that concerned about the love between prospective spouses else it would mandate this as a requirement. Frankly, the state doesn’t really care.
And nor should it.
The purpose of marriage: what gay “marriage” advocates avoid
Marriage is not, as the vast majority of gay “marriage” advocates often spout, a social construct or even a religious institution. Marriage, in all its forms and in all known cultures across the world and throughout history, predates both governmental and religious regulation and has always been about the uniting of the sexes4. That being the case, the best that governments and religious institutions can do is describe, or recognize, natural marriage, but they are never capable of prescribing what marriage is.
As Greg Koukl says on the Stand to Reason blog, “Either there’s a natural teleology to marriage or there isn’t.”5 Either marriage is constructed by the societies we live in or our societies have natural marriage as their very foundation of existence.
Marriage is public. It is public because marriage impacts how society is shaped and how society views marriage impacts the health and prosperity of that society. In the words of promiment natural marriage proponent Dr Jennifer Roback Morse, “The essential public purpose of marriage is to associate mothers and fathers to their children and to one another.”6 Marriages are the seedbed for families and it is the family unit that utlimately builds our societies. That’s the core obligation of marriage: parental responsibility to all children resulting from the union.
Love in marriage is important, but it is at best a property that individuals bring into or cultivate within the marital union, not a property only obtained by marriage. Therefore, on the viewpoint of social conservatives like myself, marriage has a critical societal function of which the love between the spouses in marital union only serves. While Paul may sincerely love his same-sex partner, their romantic love cannot contribute in the same manner to society as the romantic love of a man and woman can. Period. But not being able to legally marry does not prevent Paul and his partner from continuing to love each other.
So family is the real purpose of marriage. While it is now common place to have other types of family variations (such as single-parent families, step-parent families, biological co-habitating parent familes, etc.) studies show that children from families where their biological parents are married perform better on just about every measurable indicator7. This reason alone is sufficient to retain marriage as an exclusively heterosexual union.
A marriage license is not a license to love; if anything, it is a license of parental obligation. And it’s this obligation that the gay “marriage” lobby constantly shy away from.
Same-sex unions are not the same as opposite-sex unions
Like it or not, there is a very natural and objective difference between the romantic love of heterosexual couples and the romantic love of homosexual couples: one sexual act lends itself towards procreation; the other cannot. One couple combines complementary genders (also important for the healthy development of children8); the other comprises members of the same gender (which intentionally deprives any children involved of at least one of the biological parents). To argue that the heterosexual and homosexual couple are the same really borders on the preposterous and ignores sound scientific data.
As I’ve argued, marriage is not about love, romantic or otherwise. Romantic homosexual love is qualitatively different from romantic heterosexual love. On such a basis there can never truly be any such notion as “marriage equality”. Further, if the conservative position on marriage is that it is fundamentally a public institution wherein the highest social obligation is that it bonds fathers and mothers to their children and to each other, gay “marriage” advocates have done little – if not next to nothing – to allay these concerns. Australian Marriage Equality‘s advertisement is testament to that fact. What’s more, if the gay “marriage” lobby truly desire to alter the definition of marriage, then the burden of proof rests squarely on their shoulders to demonstrate how such a redefinition will not harm society but benefit it. Saying marriage is only about love ignores the positive, historical underpinnings of marriage on society and cheapens the debate. Further, pronouncing defenders of natural marriage as religious bigots and / or homophobes is not only intellectually dishonest but incredibly disengenuous and a veiled attempt of silencing debate. The claim that marriage ought only consider whom you love is equally unfounded and is no more than the West’s skewed romanticization of the marital institution.
If, as a group, as a whole and by nature, the natural marital union create families, it is in society’s best interests to protect, promote and strengthen the age-old institution of man-woman marriage. And if children do best in households where their biological parents are married to each other, it therefore stands to reason that marriage should hold a unique value in society. Marriage – all things being equal – is a child-centered institution while, in contrast, the concept of gay “marriage” would be an adult-centered institution by necessity.
It continues to mystify me that there are segments within our society that would seek to redefine marriage which, as it stands, provides the best environment for the rearing of the next generation. Natural marriage, therefore, is healthy for all members of society. Whether you are gay or straight, it is in the individual’s best interests (and their social duty as members of society) not to define marriage to be anything other than the life-long, sexually-exclusive union of one man and one woman.
As GK Chesterton says, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” The marriage debate is no different.
- Same Love / Same Rights
- Australian Marriage Equality
- Equal Love
- “[If] you spun a globe and randomly stabbed your finger down on any inhabited landmass and went there to observe its family model at any time in history, you would find that they do marriage as a heterosexual union between men and women. You would never find one that didn’t. There may be other differences, but the nature of marriage bringing male and female together is constant and universal”, Marriage on Trial, GT Stanton and Dr B Maier, 2004, p.48
- Same-sex Marriage
- The Purpose of Marriage
- Are Married Parents Really Better for Children?
- “Overall, father love appears to be as heavily implicated as mother love in offsprings’ psychological well-being and health”, RP Rhoner and RA Veneziano, The Importance of Father Love: History and Contemporary Evidence, ‘Review of General Psychology’, Vol. 5, 2001
Use of Terms:
- Natural marriage – gender-based marriage, opposite-sex marriage or marriage between a man and a woman
- Gay “marriage” – the reason I surround the word marriage in quotes is because the concept of gay marriage is oxymoronic. The very definition of marriage is that is a sexual union between members of the opposite sex. Therefore, “gay marriage” is the equivalent of saying that “marriage is the sexual union between members of the opposite sex of which the members are of the same gender.” You can no more redefine the word “marriage” any more than you can redefine the word “circle” to describe a shape that has four equal sides