Why Conservatives Should Oppose Gay Marriage
Recently, the California Supreme Court overturned California’s ban on gay marriage. The law was a referendum overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2000, but was reviewed by the Supreme Court of California. The court found a “fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship,” although such a right didn’t seem to be found in the text of the state’s constitution. Rather, the California Supreme Court relied on the equal-protection clause, which is a very liberal (in the sense of “loose”) interpretation of the clause.
The California Supreme Court decision is an absurd attempt to circumvent the will of the voters, but there is a good chance that it won’t matter. Conservative religious groups have submitted a petition that would set the ban on same-sex marriage as a state constitutional amendment. If passed, the amendment would overturn the new state position on gay marriage, and place the matter outside the reach of the state courts. Polls indicate that there is quite a good chance that the referendum will pass.
Most conservatives oppose gay marriage—but many of them don’t seem to know exactly why. Some (many fundamentalist Protestants seem to fall into this category) seem to be under the impression that homosexuality is some great, unprecedented evil, which must be resolutely opposed at every turn. This idea is absurd. To Christians (or at least to Roman Catholics, which are the only branch of Christianity I can speak for), homosexuality is a serious sin—but not quite as serious as some believe.
In Catholic ethics, homosexual acts are considered wrong because, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “they close the sexual act to the gift of life.” This is precisely the same reason that the Church considers birth control immoral—and most Christians (including most Catholics) have absolutely no problem with birth control. So it is not as if homosexuality is a crime so dreadful that no society could even dream of countenancing it.
(Other Christian churches may have other reasons for opposing homosexuality, but any other grounds for considering homosexuality are beyond me, other than the simple fact that the Bible forbids it. But that doesn’t answer the question of the underlying reason for such a prohibition.)
Social conservatives consider homosexuality wrong, but why is it worth opposing legal recognition of such a relatively (note the use of the word “relatively”) minor transgression? Only a tiny proportion of the population is gay, and only a small proportion of them want to marry. So why trouble?
Because an official recognition of gay marriage would destroy the concept of marriage. Marriage is a remarkably stable civilizational concept—it is quite similar around the world. One of marriages most important purposes is to provide a stable family unit, and to provide children with a stable home.
A state recognition of gay marriage negates this concept. If gay marriage is recognized, then marriage is a meaningless idea—any combination of individuals wishing to get married would have that right. There would be logical basis upon which to prohibit polygamy or polyandry. Even incestuous relationships could be justified, since as, the California Supreme Court pointed out, there is a “fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship.” A case (not a very good one) could even be made that bestial marriages could be recognized if someone wanted to build a “family” with his pets. Homosexual marriage probably would have little initial effect (remember, the number of gays whom actually wish to be married is fairly small), but such recognition would ensure that marriage would become meaningless as a legal and social concept. There would be no identification of the long-established purpose of marriage.
Of course, homosexual marriage is hardly the greatest threat to traditional marriage. In many Western nations, it could be argued that marriage already is a meaningless concept. In many European countries, illegitimacy rates are sky-rocketing, many couples are electing to forgo marriage for a permanent state of cohabitation, and many view the very idea of marriage an old-fashioned and outdated concept. Even in America, the federal government contributes to the breakdown of traditional marriage by increasing government handouts to single mothers, which means that many couples forgo marriage for federal funds. Gay marriage is indeed a threat to marriage—but hardly the only such threat, and not nearly the most serious one.