Friday, April 12, 2013

Gay Marriage and Family Values

In Canada even marriages among heterosexuals were
affected once gay marriage was legalized.
Republicans who now support gay marriage have been keen to emphasize that it is consistent with “family values” and that it will strengthen rather than undermine the institution of marriage.

Senator Rob Portman reflected this idea when he came out for gay marriage. During his CNN interview, Portman said he now accepted same-sex marriage “for reasons that are consistent with my political philosophy, including family values, including being a conservative who believes the family is a building block of society, so I’m comfortable there now.” Portman echoed these thoughts in his article for the Columbus Dispatch, saying,
“One way to look at it is that gay couples’ desire to marry doesn’t amount to a threat but rather a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution…. the experience of the past decade shows us that marriage for same-sex couples has not undercut traditional marriage…. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society.”
In this post I would like to argue that it is actually a myth that gay marriage will not undermine the traditional family. Indeed, the experience of Canada shows that after gay marriage is legalized, it affects EVERY marriage in the land, and not simply those of same-sex couples. The argument I will present is a condensed version of what I have argued in more in my Christian Voice article 'Why Gay Marriage is a Public Threat.'

It isn't simply a question of whether or not states can recognize the union of two homosexuals as being 'marriage.' It is also a question of what type of relation government has to EVERY marriage in this land.

The state which legalizes gay marriage is a state that has assumed the god-like power to declare which collections of individuals constitute a ‘family.’ But by this assumption government declares that both marriage and family are little more than legal constructs at best, and gifts from the state at worst. In the former case, marriage and family lose their objective fixity; in the latter case, we become the wards of the state.

Consider, without the intervention of government, there is no a priori existential state of affairs that mark certain types of same-sex relationships out as being marriage within a state of nature. Unlike heterosexual marriage, which exists in nature and is then recognized by the state, homosexual marriage is an abstract legal entity with no natural or existential existence. The only way that a committed and loving relationship between two people of the same sex can be upgraded into marriage is if the state steps in and declares that relationship to be a marriage, in much the same way as the state might declare something to be a corporation or some other legal entity.

By contrast, traditional marriage has and could exist without the state’s recognition because it is fundamentally a pre-political institution. Marriage is pre-political in the sense that it has intrinsic goods attached to it, not least of which is the assurance of patrimony and thus the integrity of inheritance. Such goods do not exist by the state’s fiat even though the state may recognize, regulate or protect them.

By rearranging the very nature of what it means to be married, gay marriage raises the question of whether family and marriage can be considered pre-political institutions on the basis of natural and biological realities and intrinsic goods. This is because such natural and biological realities are being expunged from the essence of what we are now told marriage now is and always has been, namely the union of persons..

Since consummation is unnecessary for a same-sex union to be called a complete marriage (even putting aside the question of what would count as consummation within a same-sex context), then what determines whether or not a heterosexual marriage is complete? Either we can have two separate non-equal definitions of marriage, or we can realize the logical consequence of same-sex marriage and say that the only thing left to determine what actually makes something a complete marriage or a legitimate family is the law itself. But have we really considered the implications of saying that traditional marriages and families are entirely the construct of the law?

There is no escaping from this problem. If homosexuals and heterosexuals are really “equal” before the law, then logically heterosexual marriage must collapse into being little more than a legal construct as well. Indeed, marriage and family become mere adjuncts of the state after the removal of the de facto conditions that make the traditional family a pre-political institution in the first place. No longer is family something that precedes and exceeds the state. No longer is the family a hedge against the totalitarian aspirations of the state because no longer can we say that family is prior to the state (at least, if we are being consistent with the principles of same-sex 'marriage').

This is not mere hypothetical speculation about what ‘might’ happen if same-sex marriages are legalized. Canadian theologian Douglas Farrow has shown that after Canada legalized same-sex marriage, even traditional marriage began to be spoken about as little more than a legal construct. In his book Nation of Bastards, Farrow criticized warned that by claiming the power to re-invent marriage, the Canadian state “has drawn marriage and the family into a captive orbit. It has reversed the gravitational field between the family and the state… It has effectively made every man, woman, and child a chattel of the state, by turning their most fundamental human connections into mere legal constructs at the state’s disposal. It has transformed those connections from divine gifts into gifts from the state.”

Most people are not aware of how gay marriage will undermine the traditional family because it does so in ways that are subtle and ubiquitous. However, once gay marriage is introduced into a nation, it undermines the integrity of every family and every marriage in the nation. It does this by rearranging the family’s relationship to the state in the way described above.

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