In the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark. When I was young this struck me as incongruous. I thought marriage was a good thing, but these verses seemed to associate it with the unrighteousness of times when the wickedness of men had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually. Why would marriage be a feature of fallen times? Why would people keep marrying when they were otherwise setting themselves up against God?
Now that I am grown, I find less incongruity. Many marriage ceremonies do not create a matrimony. Some are the portal to vicious personal domination and violent rages. Others merely punctuate an amorphous sexual relationship that begins with shacking up, slides through periods of consensual infidelity or covert betrayal, and ends, if that’s the word, in no-fault divorce. Marriage ceremonies and marriages of the first or second type are in no way incongruous with a general decline into sin. After yesterday we can add Massachussetts Marriage to the list.
The marriage debate has subsided for a time. Massachussetts Marriage will make the marriage debate again go public. We saints have a role to play in fighting sins, this sin among them, and so we ought to participate in the debate. We ought to know the good arguments for why marriage should remain a real commitment between a man and a woman and for why the community ought not to legally encourage other arrangements. To that end, I’m posting a summary of Eve Tushnet’s remarks when she came out to address the St. Thomas More Society here at Notre Dame.
[Note: what I'm calling Massachussets Marriage she calls SSM. Others call it gay 'marriage', with or without the quotes, or homogamy.]
People get bogged-down thinking about SSM because they start by asking what the the definition of marriage is. These definitions are always partial. A better starting question is Why have the institution of marriage at all, and why should society care?
Marriage does more for society than even very close friendships. Marriage provides a responsible vision of manhood and links men’s affection, time, and money to their children (our 30-year experiment in unmarried fathers is a failure–see Jenifer Hamer, What It Means to Be A Daddy–). Marriage mediates the sexual differences between men and women and provides a way for gender differences [sex differences, for all you academics out there]; women without fathers tend to be more promiscuous because they haven’t seen that men can be asked to stay. Finally, society has an overwhelming interest in children (who are unconsenting and unresponsible parties, so even libertarians can be pro-marriage). Marriage is the best and least intrusive way of protecting children. Children need to grow up in a stable home with a mother and a father. Historical gay roles didn’t include marriage probably because gay relationships didn’t serve these ends, especially the latter.
In the last half-century, irresponsible heterosexuals have undermined these purposes of marriage and thus prepared the way for SSM. They’ve done it by trying to define marriage as about adults, love, and freedom–to the exclusion of children and duty. They’ve also done it by trying to treat men/women differences as cosmetic and their roles as fungible. Both of these new ways of thinking led to easy divorce, the exaltation of single parenthood, and many other marriage ills. Ultimately, however, treating marriage as just about love between fungible adults removes any real societal justification for the institution [ed.-to see why, read Orson Scott Card'sthe Marriage of True Minds ]. Society is now starting to recognize this; the marriage movement is poised to reverse some of the recent bad trends in law and stigma.
Unfortunately, SSM is a product of the bad heterosexual thinking that got marriage into trouble in the first place. Even worse, SSM wants to redefine the central case of what a marriage is. Divorce and single parenting, bad as their acceptance is, are not seen as ‘just as good.’ But SSM wants to be seen as ‘just as good.’ Despite its rhetoric, SSM is a demand that the government get in our bedrooms and legitimize our relationships. SSM will detrimentally affect marriage because it models marriage as primarily about love and affection between two adults. People live by models and roles, so SSM would only not affect marriage if viewed as something entirely different. But it won’t be, because gays themselves want to be seen as the same.
SSM advocates often argue that if children really are the societal reason for recognizing marriage, then we ought to forbid old people, and couples not planning on having children, and apparently infertile couples, to marry. However, these relationships can model the behavior that promotes good childrearing–fidelity between a man and a woman. They also provide a safe setting for accidental or unintended pregnancies. In contrast, gays cannot have children accidentally or model fertile unions. [Ed.-As Mormons, of course, we know that every union willing to be fertile can become so in the Lord's day, and every union not so willing will be dissolved.]
These were the notes I took from the discussion we had with her. Blame my notes and the format, not Miss Tushnet, for any problems in them.
Here’s the take-home argument I got from our discussion:
Society’s interest in marriage is promoting a financially and emotionally stable environment for the raising of children. Modern ideas that emphasize marriage as a way of recognizing a loving relationship between adults are destructive of its rationale. SSM is the acme of these unfortunate modern ideas. SSM marriage is not about children but about adults, which is why its proponents have had such a hard time explaining why legal recognition should be extended to gay partners but not to other adult relationships. Unlike couples, gay partners cannot have children. Furthermore, the push for SSM has never been about protecting the children that gays have artificially conceived and brought into their home; it has been about recognizing the equality of adult relationships. For these reasons, SSM will reinforce the model of marriage-as-adult-relationship that has so damaged the institution. Further, to the extent that gay partners do try to adopt/artificially inseminate/embryo implant/etc. their parenthood is providing a model of marriage in which the sex of the parents is irrelevant. This further damages the mission of marriage of making men into fathers.
Related T&S Posts:
Of course any number of additional arguments can and have been made. Here are links to some the previous discussions in which we’ve explored them. Some of these posts are pro-SSM, but digesting their arguments is useful. If I’m missing anything, let me know.
Here’s a post arguing that Church silence on SSM isn’t approval: Not by my Voice or the Voice of my Servants [I posted this list of links before the Church announced its support for a traditional marriage amendment. Obviously this first link is now outdated, though it has proven correct. The Church's initial silence on gay marriage was not approval.]
Here are two related posts on the justice of excluding some gays and some philanders from the benefits of marriage if they’re constitutionally incapable of heterosexual monogamy: Polyamory and Eat, Drink, and Fling
Here’s a major post with major comments not on legalizing SSM at all, but on LDS doctrinal reasons for thinking that eternal unions must be fertile (i.e., heterosexual) unions: The Real Issue
Here’s a post on John Derbyshire’s views that homophobia has just as much historical and biological pedigree as does homosexuality: Yes, kind sir, I was made that way.
Of interest, Mr. Derbyshire has also speculated that homosexuality will end sometime in the next 100 years as genetic advances allow us to choose human nature (scroll down). [Update: Here's a related article, on the ways technology promises to up end our debates on sex. The fact that parents may be able to hormonally prevent their children from becoming homosexual is the jumping off point]
A post arguing that the Church’s explicit political positions don’t reflect God’s political priorities: Figuring Out What God Thinks
A major but inconclusive post on how the courts’ involvement with SSM has often confused arguments over SSM with arguments over the proper roles of the judiciary and of the gederal government: Obligatory Semi-Weekly Times & Seasons Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage Post, #13 (Yes, I’ve Counted)
A post arguing that gay marriage will not have the consequences predicted for it by analogy to the consequences predicted for interracial marriage, with major comments: State v. Bell and Changes to Marriage
A slippery-slope argument that legitimizing gay marriage is a step towards delegitimizing faiths that don’t embrace homosexuality: Turning BYU into Bob Jones.
Here’s a major post on what we mean when we talk about SSM threatening the moral fabric: Mormons and Lord Devlin
A post whose title says it all, with major comments defying categorization: The Importance of Gay Marriage to Conservatives
Here’s a post rebutting the view that homosexuality doesn’t occur in nature: Gay Penguins in the New York Times
A meandering discussion, entirely in the comments: Mitt Romney on Marriage
On the lack of good faith of some anti-SSM groups: AFA “Poll” and (Dis)Honesty?
A post arguing that gay relationships are as likely to be emotionally committed and sexually faithful as heterosexual relationships, and that marriage is about more than having children, with major comments: Perception of Gays
A tongue-in-cheek major post whose title says it all, with major comments: The Conservative Case for Group and Sibling Marriage
A major post with major comments on the ‘naturalness’ of homosexuality being irrelevant to the debate over its morality and the morality of SSM: Being Born That Way is Meaningless
A post suggesting that legality and morality are closely tied in the public mind, so that a legal victory for SSM will entail a public acceptance of homosexuality’s morality, with major comments: Multi-Moral America
A post on why SSM analogies to Mormon polygamy don’t work, with massive, major commentary: Mormons, Polygamy and Gay Marriage
A major post suggesting that gay marriage will actually strengthen the battered institution of marriage: Gay Marriage — David Brooks and the Conservative Case
Two major and unusually thoughtful post on whether Mormons should use natural law arguments against SSM: My (Mormon) Hang-up with (Opposition to) Gay Marriage and href=”http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000069.html”>A Whole Lot More on Natural Law
A major post arguing, inter alia, that Mormons ought not to oppose SSM, because their opposition will strengthen the hands of the Christian Right, which is fundamentally opposed to Mormonism: Should Mormons consider the “Christian Right” as friends?