Alan Shlemon continues our series: "Are we really depriving homosexuals the right to marry the
person they love? Yes. But there’s nothing unusual about that. Nobody has the right to marry any person
they love. Everyone has restrictions.
When you take an honest look at the marriage law, it turns
out that there is nothing unfair about it. Homosexuals have the same rights and the same restrictions as heterosexuals. For example, there is no
legal right granted
to a heterosexual that does not apply in
exactly the same way to every homosexual. Both can marry in any
state. Both can marry someone of the opposite sex. Both can receive the
benefits that come with legal marriage. Heterosexuals and homosexuals are treated
There is also no legal restriction for homosexuals that does not also apply in exactly
the same way to every heterosexual. Neither one can marry their sibling. Both
are prohibited from marrying someone already married. They can’t marry a child.
And neither has the freedom to marry someone of the same sex.
The marriage law applies equally to every person, whether they
are homosexual or not. Everyone is treated the same.
Homosexuals cry foul, of course, because the kind of person
they are legally entitled to marry is not a person they love. They believe this
is a restriction that is limited to them. But it’s not. There isn’t a person in
the United States that has unfettered freedom to marry anyone just because they
love them. There are numerous parings of people who love each other and can’t
I have a male friend who I’ve known for over a decade. We
have a long-term, committed relationship. We talk every week, we make
sacrifices to visit one another, and we’re there to meet each other’s needs. We’re
not sexually involved, but I routinely say I love him and he says the same to
me. I can’t marry him even though he’s someone I love. I’m restricted. The
state won’t recognize our relationship.
Brothers and sisters usually develop strong bonds. They love
one another and often have deep, meaningful relationships that can last a
lifetime. Their commitment to one another is significant. But they can’t marry
one another. Though they love each, they state won’t recognize their relationship.
The same is true of two brothers or two sisters.
Fathers and daughters also have long-term, committed
relationships. There’s a special bond between them that develops and lasts for
years. I can say that the love I feel towards my daughter has a unique texture
to it. It’s taught me an aspect of love that, until I had a daughter, I never experienced.
There are things that I’ve done and would do for her that virtually no one else
on the planet can make me do. And like many fathers and daughters, our special
relationship could last half a century or more. But guess what? The state
doesn’t care about us as a couple. It doesn’t matter how much we love each
other. We can’t get married.
There are dozens of more examples of pairs of people who
develop strong, meaningful, and long-term relationships. These people love each
other, but that doesn’t mean the state is required to recognize them within the
definition of marriage.
Sometimes people point out that in these examples there is no
sexual activity and that’s why it’s not the same as a homosexual pair. But why
does that matter? Why do we have to use our sex organs with one another to
qualify for marriage? Isn’t it enough that we love each other and are
committed? Making sexual activity a requirement for marriage is arbitrary.
So what do all these relationships (and many others) have in
common? None of them produce the next generation. Committed male friends,
siblings, and parent-child relationships don’t have kids.
There is one kind of couple that, throughout all of human
history, is known to produce children: heterosexuals. Long-term, monogamous, heterosexual
unions as a group and by nature produce
the next generation. They create families that become the building blocks of
civilization. These families are the most stable
and advantageous environment for
raising children. They not
only stabilize society, they make society
possible. That role can’t be underestimated.
Notice that I said, “As a group and by nature.” As a group, heterosexual
couples have kids. There may be exceptions, but the group’s tendency is to
produce children. Laws are designed to generalize for the group. “By nature” is
a reference to the fact that heterosexual unions produce children by the
natural function of their sexual activity. Unlike male friends, siblings, and other
relationship couples, it is biologically natural for heterosexuals to produce
The government, that normally has a hands-off policy to most
relationships, gets involved in sanctioning these long-term, heterosexual
unions. It creates a group of privileges and protections for these male-female couplings
because it recognizes their role in creating and stabilizing society.
But the government doesn’t get involved in any other
relationship pair. It doesn’t legally sanction two male friends, siblings, or
father-daughter relationships. That’s because, though there are exceptions,
they don’t as a group and by nature produce the next generation. They might
love each other – deeply and for a long period of time – but that is irrelevant
to the government. The state has a concern to perpetuate and protect our
civilization and that explains its vested interested in heterosexual unions.
So why does the government not sanction the relationship of two
homosexual males? For the same reason it doesn’t sanction the relationship of
male friends, siblings, or a father and daughter. Homosexual couples don’t as a
group and by nature produce the next generation. Although, theoretically,
homosexuals can adopt, this is the exception. Most same-sex lovers don’t pursue
parenting. Furthermore, children don’t naturally result from their sexual
Instead, the state must intervene and grant them children. As
Jennifer Roback Morse explains, “Same-sex couples cannot have children. Someone
must give them a child or at least half the genetic material to create a child.
The state must detach the parental rights of the opposite-sex parent and then
attach those rights to the second parent of the same-sex couple. The state must
create parentage for the same-sex couple. For the opposite-sex couple, the
state merely recognizes parentage.”
A common objection is that marriage can’t be about children
because not all married couples have kids. First, although that’s true, every
child has a mother and father and a right to know them. These children have a
vested interest in the union and stability of their parents. But that’s not
something they can protect. Society needs to secure that right for kids so far
as we are able.
Second, even if some marriages don’t produce children, it
doesn’t nullify the natural tie of marriage to procreation. The purpose of
marriage remains regardless of whether married couples actualize it or not.
Books are meant to be read even if they collect dust on a bookshelf.
Third, marriages create the optimal environment for raising
children. Same-sex marriage intentionally creates the condition where a child is
denied their mother or father or both. This is not healthy, a claim that has
been long noted by researchers.
The push for same-sex marriage is not primarily about the
right to marry the person you love. No one has that right because everyone –
including heterosexuals – is restricted. Nor is it to secure the right to adopt
children. Homosexuals could be granted every legal right and privilege of
marriage, but they would still demand the right to legal marriage.
That’s because this battle is not principally about rights,
but about respect. Homosexuals demand
public approval for their lifestyle and relationships. As Time magazine wrote, same-sex marriage advocates, “want nothing
less than full social equality, total validation—not just the right to inherit
a mother-in-law’s Cadillac. As Andrew Sullivan, the (also persistently single)
intellectual force behind gay marriage, has written, ‘Including homosexuals
within marriage would be a means of conferring the highest form of social
Make no mistake about it. Redefining marriage will impact our
culture. It won’t be today, next week, or next year. It will be in the long-term
because ideas have consequences. When you sever the natural tie of marriage to
procreation and no longer require that children be attached to their parents, you’re
doing violence to a vital institution. Marriages start families and families
produce the next generation. This is how we secure and stabilize society. That’s
why you can’t take a sledgehammer to the core of civilization – the family –
and expect that no harm will come."
Think Christianly with Jonathan Morrow
[i] “Will Gay
Marriage be Legal?” Time, 2/21/00.
Labels: Alan Shlemon, Faith and Politics, Law, same sex marriage, Tough Questions - Homosexuality, Worldview