SDG here with some (lengthy) excerpts from a recent correspondence on gay “marriage.”
Q. Gay marriage is one area where I, as a non-Catholic, would begin to wonder if Catholic politicians who were supposed to represent me were actually trying to impose their religious hierarchs’ beliefs on me and my fellow citizens instead. The state must NOT take sides in religious disputes of this sort.
A. Religion is not the point. From a civil point of view, this is a socio-anthropological issue. To describe marriage as the union of man and woman as a “sectarian” issue or “religious dispute” is as nonsensical as defining sex or pregnancy as patriarchal inventions.
Marriage, i.e., the union of man and woman, is a fundamental cornerstone of human society as such, the common heritage of every society, every culture, every civilization. No religion invented marriage; religions, like states, merely regulate it. The universal recognition of this institution across cultural, social, community, and religious borders strongly indicates that the marriage of man and woman is irreducibly rooted in human nature and in the interest of the state and the common good.
Q. How? How is this institution “rooted in human nature and in the interest of the state and the common good”?
A. Because the union of man and woman tends to produce, and indeed is ordered toward producing, offspring; and human offspring require a high level of nurture for a long period of time; and a stable household with father and mother provides for that need better than other arrangements. Children raised in this way tend on average to be better cared for, and thus tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more productive, and better educated than children raised in other ways, and less likely to become dependents of the state, or delinquents and criminals, etc.
Society thus has, and has always had, a vested interest in supporting the stable union of man and woman in a way that it does not have, and has never had, a vested interest in other domestic arrangements. And that is what marriage as a basic human social phonemonon IS, and has always been. That is what the word refers to.
Q. Would you be equally opposed to a politician who advocated “civil unions” for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, with all the same benefits and responsibilities that presently come with “marriage”? Or are you merely haggling over who gets to own and define a single word?
The word IS of great importance, as indicated by the refusal of determined gay activists themselves to settle for a separate-but-equal civil-union arrangement.
Having said that, the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage are predicated on the historical socio-anthropological basis for marriage as a civil institution, relating to the procreation and adequate nurturing and rearing of children.
Same-sex unions not being ordered toward this end, I would say that society has no stake in supporting the stability of such arrangements, and would be opposed to any privileging of same-sex living arrangements that happen to be conjugal over other living arrangements that happen not to be conjugal, such as two siblings of same or mixed gender living together, a parent and child, platonic roommates, etc.
Q. Ah, but gay couples rear children, too. Why would we NOT encourage the stability of THOSE couples, too?
A. By the same token, there might be a child being raised within the context of any of the other domestic arrangements I mentioned. And certainly we aren’t going to stipulate the ACTUAL presence or absence of a child as the basis for whether or not to grant marital privileges and rights. So I see no conceivable reason (pun intended) to privilege gay couples above other domestic arrangements.
Q. People marry for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with children, and they often marry in circumstances where the procreation of children is impossible (e.g. where one partner is sterilized, where the female partner has already experienced menopause, etc.).
A. True, but the larger point is that if the union of man and woman were not where babies come from, and if babies didn’t require such intensive nurture for such a long period of time, marriage would not exist, either as a socio-anthropological category or as a religious institution.
In specific cases there may for one reason or another be no actual possibility of offspring, or very little possibility of offspring, or no intention of producing offspring, etc., but it is not society’s job to make such distinctions or to inquire into the likelihood, ability, and interest of this man and this woman in reproduction.
This is completely different from the case of two individuals of the same sex, which is NOT where babies come from, is not in any way ordered toward engendering and nurturing them.
Q. In what way will having two gay men down the street who are married undermine your marriage or your children growing up to get decent jobs and pay taxes?
A. For one thing, because society supports marriage as an investment, with a cost. By privileging married couples in certain legal and financial ways in order to support their stable union and potentially benefit any offspring that may result, society makes an investment in us as a couple on the understanding that we are participating in an institution that exists for the good of society, through the engendering and long-term nurture of children.
By definition, two gay men down the street cannot participate in the reality of that institution. However, it is true that society can privilege them in the same way as it does us.
This benefit to them, though, will come at an additional cost to society, and by substantially expanding the pool of living arrangements considered as “marriage,” society will have fewer resources to benefit each family individually.
Secondly, “marriages” in the gay community, because they are by definition not ordered toward the engendering and long-term nurture of children, will never offer society the same benefits and return on the social investment as true marriages of men and women.
Sociologically, too, civil acceptance of gay unions probably has deleterious consequences for marriage and family. Legal recognition of gay “marriage” further erodes the connection between marriage and child-rearing, thus creating less impetus for heterosexual couples to marry simply because they want to live together and possibly to procreate. This will lead to children being raised by couples who never bothered to marry, which will lead to more separations and more harm to the children.