Friday, February 27, 2004

Protect Marriage, Not From Gays, But From Government

Protect Marriage, Not From Gays, But From Government

I think that the current homosexual marriage debate is just what the authors of the Constitution were fearful of when they wrote the First Amendment. Although it’s doubtful that their 18th century minds could have imagined that someday the country they were founding would be conducting a debate regarding the merits of same-sex marriage, the truth is that marriage is originally a religious institution that the government should never have had a role in.
Throughout the millennia, marriage was a union between a man and a woman sanctified by a religion. It has its origins in legitimizing children and establishing family lineages. This is one big reason why mainstream religions treat sex before or outside marriage as a sin.
When the religious institution of marriage became a part of our secular law, it was inevitable that it would become an issue debated by politicians and tampered with by courts. A democratic government naturally reacts to popular culture and should never be entrusted with something so timeless as marriage.
It may be argued that government involvement in marriage has contributed to its loss of sanctity. Once upon a time, a marriage could not proceed without a pastor. But these days, a marriage conducted by a representative of the government has the same legal standing as a religious ceremony. Because of that, a growing percentage of the population has grown comfortable with unions formed without religious vows. About 40% of all heterosexual marriages today are nothing more than civil unions, performed before a government clerk or in a Nevada quickie wedding chapel.
Like almost anything else that government touches, marriage has been coarsened and cheapened. A marriage without religious commitment is literally worth nothing more than the paper it’s written on plus the fees a divorce lawyer charges. The decline of society’s esteem for marriage is manifested in the rapidly growing proportion of children born out of wedlock.
While I cannot imagine that permitting civil unions between committed homosexuals will do anywhere near the damage to marriage that Britney Spears or Larry King have already done, civil unions do need to be defined. And, while I have the greatest respect for and do not doubt the sincerity of such advocates of homosexual marriage as Andrew Sullivan, none has yet answered the argument that awarding homosexual marriage equal legal status simply opens the door to any definition of marriage. If we define marriage to be a union between any two people regardless of sex, then aren’t we discriminating against bisexuals who might want to make a marriage composed of three so both sexual appetites might gain legal blessing? For that matter, somebody show me where in the Constitution the government has the authority to ban a lonely old spinster who wishes to marry her cat so that she can have it by her bedside while she’s in the hospital. And limiting marriage to any two people could be considered religious discrimination as Islam permits one man to take as many as four wives. And the Mormon religion once permitted a single man to marry as many women as he wished. By asking that government sanction a union by any two monogamous people regardless of sex, then homosexuals are simply asking to be on the same side of discrimination that heterosexuals now occupy alone.
This last week, President Bush, after watching the legal excesses of the Massachusetts Supreme Court and the administrative irresponsibility of the mayor of San Francisco proposed that the Constitution be amended to define marriage. This is an unfortunate response, but it is difficult to imagine another reaction. Government involvement in marriage has corroded the institution and it’s difficult to conceive of any cure other than to forbid government from tampering with the institution.
It’s somewhat amusing to hear many of the same leftists who for decades equated the concept of state’s rights with hostility toward civil rights now argue that states should be permitted to define marriage piecemeal.
Would such an amendment be discriminatory? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. But so would a law permitting homosexual marriage but forbidding polygamy or incestuous marriages.
I fail to see what homosexuals in a loving committed relationship will gain from having their relationship sanctified by something so cold, gray and impersonal as government. Real love does not require government approval.


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