Proposition 8: The Same-Sex Marriage DebateCulture, Family Issues, Other Religions, Politics — By Dustin R. Steeve on October 30, 2008 at 7:24 pm
Recently, I posted a number of posts about California Proposition 8. This is an emotionally charged issue with good thoughts on both sides. Not surprisingly, my posts sparked debate in the comment sections where a number of excellent questions were raised. Richard Hollis is one commentator who raised especially thoughtful questions. As a result of the questions raised, especially by Richard, I have decided to write my thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage from the ground up and have asked Richard to respond. Below is my essay followed by Richard’s response. Please note, when I sent Richard my essay, I had not yet added links to my sources. Richard and readers of Evangelical Outpost – thank you for your thoughtful read and consideration of this post. – Dustin Steeve.
The upcoming proposition amending the constitution in the state of California to affirm marriage gives us opportunity to pause and reflect. Since 1970, marriage has endured a series of devastating attacks. In January 1970 the Family Law Act was signed by California Governor Ronald Reagan and “no-fault divorce” was written into law. Reagan would later cite this as one of his greatest regrets. The intent of the law was to help Californians separate amicably without having to contrive reasons for obtaining a divorce. As the explosive increase in divorces since 1970 attests, the effect of the law was that it hurt marriage.
Presently, proposition 8 is giving Californians a rare opportunity to stop further tampering of marriage through law. As we consider the proposition, reason, empirical evidence, and morality ought to inform us. Each of these has led me to the decision to affirm marriage by voting yes on proposition 8.
Marriage is a fundamental building block of society. That phrase is often used but seldom explained. When I say “fundamental building block of society” I am referring to marriage’s natural creation of families. Families build societies through the natural birthing and rearing of children. Without children, societies cease to exist. Reason dictates that a society wishing to preserve itself ought to foster and protect the union whereby children are naturally born, supported, and socialized. For marriages where child birth is not possible, married couples have the option to adopt children who do not have the protection and support of their biological parents. Current laws support this natural and healthy system. Allowing same-sex couples to become a normal part of this system is unhealthy and unwise for the following reasons.
According to A. Dean Byrd, Ph.D, “There is no fact that has been established by social science literature more convincingly than the following: all variables considered, children are best served when reared in a home with a married mother and father.” Psychological evidence shows that children have needs which are met uniquely by parents of opposite gender. From the way mothers and fathers uniquely hold children, to the way they uniquely play with children or discipline children, a child’s need for love, support, and personal well-being are met uniquely by parents of the opposite gender. By definition, same-sex couples cannot meet these unique needs. Furthermore, no reputable psychological theory or empirical study denies the importance of mothers in a child’s development. Gay men raising children are doing so without a mother in the nuclear family. Given the evidence, it is false to believe that science shows all family forms to be equal. Out of love for our children and for our fellow citizen, we ought not to solidify this false belief by writing into law and teaching it to our children.
If we chose to ignore the number of needs a same-sex couple by definition cannot provide to the state or to the life of children, the same-sex culture still has elements of great concern which we ought to consider before we introduce these elements into marriage. Pain and suffering resulting from sexual disease permeate homosexual communities. According to ex-gay speaker Mike Haley, the odds of a straight man contracting AIDS after one heterosexual encounter are 1 in 165,000 as opposed to 1 in 175 for gay men after one homosexual encounter. These tragic statistics on HIV/AIDS seem to be confirmed by the Center for Disease Control estimates on HIV prevalence. Multiple differences in lifestyles account for this including the greater likelihood of drug use among gay men as well as a higher average sexual partner rate. Domestic abuse occurs much more frequently within the homosexual community more than within heterosexual relationships. 78% of lesbians have reported domestic abuse related problems. Gay and bisexual men experience violence at a rate of 2 to 5. In addition to the problems of disease and violence, the homosexual community has a concept of “commitment” that is very different from marital commitment. Currently, monogamy is the norm and is socially expected among married couples. Only 25% of heterosexual men and 15% of heterosexual women report sexual infidelity; 17% of marriages end in divorce as a result of infidelity. However, within the homosexual community, infidelity is the norm. Recent studies show that 95.6% of gay men report infidelity in their current relationship. Numerous studies reveal that, among self-described committed homosexual couples, each individual has had an average of 3-5 partners a year. Apparently, marriage can get worse.
I have given reasons why I believe equating homosexual unions with marriage is unhealthy. Upon these grounds, I believe a rational decision can be made. However, before I go further in the argument, I want to be clear on the following point: anyone who suggests you keep your morality out of the marriage question is making a dangerous proposition. Laws are filled with moral presuppositions and prescriptions. Though law and morality are not the same, laws are written by people and every person follows a moral compass. At its core, the decision to affirm marriage is a moral matter.
The decision to allow homosexuals to marry is a moral matter because at the core of homosexual marriage is homosexuality. Your answer to the question of whether homosexuality is moral is going to determine your view of whether homosexual marriage should be accepted. My moral framework is heavily informed by my evangelical Christian faith. I believe the Lord clearly speaks against homosexuality through scripture. I recognize that the claim is controversial and worthy of its own post, but for the sake of brevity, I cite I Corinthians 6: 9-11 as evidence. I believe an appropriate Christian response to homosexuality is one which recognizes that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, its holiness. Christians ought to respond to homosexuality as they ought to respond to all other sins: pursuing holiness and lovingly calling others to pursue holiness likewise.
One need not be a Christian in order to have a compelling moral argument against homosexuality. For example, you might be Aristotelian. If so, you might consider the anatomical design of men and women and conclude that homosexual sex is against the proper function of humans. Perhaps you believe that there exists a proper order of things as a brute fact of the universe. Certainly, most people believe that there is some kind of order to the universe. If you hold the universe to be ordered, then you might look at the numerous physiological complications resulting from gay sex, such as the need for colostomies, and conclude that the activity is disordered and therefore not good. These are just a few of the many moral frameworks from which arguments against homosexuality can be levied. Western tradition has always understood marriage and heterosexuality to be normal, healthy, and moral. Advocates for homosexual marriage claim that homosexual marriage is equally normal, healthy, and moral. Just as in formal debate the burden of proof rests on those presenting challenge to the status quo, so the burden of proof rests on the advocates of homosexual marriage to prove its morality.
Marriage is a fundamental building block of our society. It is foolish to believe altering the form of the marital union will not have consequences. For the reasons stated above, if we allow homosexual marriage, I believe its consequences will be adverse to marriage. Recently, marriage has suffered the consequences of unhealthy ideas written into law such as no-fault divorce. Now we can put a stop to that trend. I hope that you will apply reason to an examination of the evidence, that you will allow your moral framework to play a role in your decision. I believe that I have done so and have come to the conclusion that it is my responsibility, morally and for reasons pertaining to the health of my society, to vote yes on proposition 8 and affirm marriage.
by Dustin Steeve
Your essay begins by talking about the ‘devastating attacks’ that have been waged against marriage since 1970, citing no-fault divorce as an example. The impression it seems to convey is that marriage is a sacred institution that has stood immovable and implacable for eons, but now recently faces threat. This is something of a fallacy.
The Bible itself (a popular reference point for those who traditionally oppose same-sex marriage) shows us that different attitudes to marriage have been in vogue in different times. The Israelite patriarch Jacob, for example, married both Rachel and Leah, daughters of Laban.
“And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.” -Genesis 29:28
Jacob ended up with four wives, and was far from the only polygamist in the Bible. Others include Gideon (Judges 8:30), Elkanah, father of the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:2), and kings such as Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:21), Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:21), and Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:3). Most famously, Solomon himself had “seven hundred wives… and three hundred concubines” (2 Kings 11:3). None of these royal polygamists were chastised or punished by God for this – except for Solomon, but even here the exception proves the rule. According to the Bible, Solomon’s sin was not that he married many wives, but that he married foreign wives who turned him away from worshipping Yahweh (11:4).
Of course, these were times when women were considered merely property, and the New Testament moves much closer to our traditional ‘one-man-one-woman’ view of marriage (though it never actually condemns the polygamists of the Old Testament). But it does show that the concept of marriage has changed, and is culturally specific, rather than an institution with clear rules handed down by God and thriving unchanged throughout human history since Creation.
For an example closer to our time, consider interracial marriage. In 1967, Mildred Loving and her husband Richard, an interracial couple, were arrested at their Virginia home for violating that state’s anti-miscegenation law. The couple pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to a year in prison. The appeal went all the way up to the Supreme Court, which lead to an end to bans on interracial marriage. Today the fight to end the ban on same-sex marriage mirrors the one to end the ban on interracial marriage. Gay couples, just like mixed race couples, seek exactly the same thing: to be allowed to marry the ones they love. It is a parallel which many supporters of the ban find uncomfortable, since racism these days is so widely regarded as bigoted and unacceptable. Homophobia, unfortunately, is less so.
Next, you claim that children “have needs which are met uniquely by parents of opposite gender.” I am sorry that, being a draft essay, there is no link for me to follow, but let me cite the following for examples of many, many studies which show insignificant or no detrimental affects on children having been raised by same-sex couples. If the sources you cite turn out to be valid, we can only conclude that the results from research and studies are, at best, mixed.
It is also worth considering the sort of people that society does allow to marry and procreate. Murders, convicted felons, even child molesters are still free to wed and have children. They do not lose these rights through their actions. In the eyes of the law, they are still considered capable of loving another person and their own children, while homosexuals are not. This should be obviously ridiculous to anyone who has ever met a single homosexual. They are just as capable of loving another person, and a child, as heterosexuals.
But that is rather beside the point, because when discussing whether a same-sex marriage is a healthy environment in which to raise a child, you are really talking about gay adoption and parenting. This is an entirely new argument (though one in which I’d be happy to participate). Even if it were shown that a same-sex household was not a suitable environment in which to raise a child (and I am not agreeing with that statement at all), then that would still not be have any relevance on whether we should allow gay people the right to be joined in matrimony to their partner. Unlike the case of interracial marriage where children are generally an inevitable consequence of marriage, for same-sex couples they obviously are not.
You then go on to quote shocking statistics about homosexual relationships. I have to be honest, but when I read them I laughed. This is exactly the kind of homophobic nonsense which simply does not stand up to real-world experience of homosexuals. “78% of lesbian relationships are riddled with domestic abuse… Only 25% of heterosexual men and 15% of heterosexual women report sexual infidelity… 95.6% of gay men report infidelity in their current relationship.” Again, I only wish I had the links available to me to read up on these studies, but as it is I simply do not believe they are accurate or reliable. The implications are clear: homosexuals are dirty and diseased, totally unable to control their lusts and their relationships are all dysfunctional. In actual fact, you only need to spend a little time on the gay scene to realise that homosexuals are people, just like heterosexuals. Relationships are just as complicated and complex as they are for heterosexuals. Perhaps homosexuals are a little more inclined to promiscuity (though I find the statistics you quote grossly exaggerated), but -and this is the point- you still find love between homosexuals. Plutonic love, fraternal love, but also deep, caring, romantic love. And the fact is that these couples cannot marry.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in several countries for years, so we can, to a limited degree, measure the effects of same-sex marriage. Denmark, for example, legalised it in 1989. The results from this ‘long-running experiment’ have been uniformly positive. Opposition to the Danish law was led by the clergy (much the same as in the States). A survey conducted at the time revealed that 72 percent of Danish clergy were opposed to the law. It was passed anyway, and the change in the attitude of the clergy there has been dramatic – a survey conducted in 1995 indicated that 89 percent of the Danish clergy now admit that the law is a good one and has had many beneficial effects, including a reduction in suicide, a reduction in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and in promiscuity and infidelity among gays.
But again, this rather misses the point. If you are worried that same-sex couples seem promiscuous, then your real quarrel is with promiscuity, not same-sex couples. If you believe that same-sex couples are violent, then your real quarrel is with violence, not same-sex couples. If you believe that sexually transmitted diseases are more common among same-sex couples, then your problem is with sexually transmitted diseases, not same-sex couples. To refuse marriage to all same-sex couples on these grounds is simply to be a bigot and tar all homosexuals with the same brush.
You then go on to talk about laws being rooted in morality. This I do agree with. Laws are entirely human constructs, and we make and revise them as we see fit. We do look to our own moral compasses to guide us in deciding what activities should be criminalised in our societies, and which should not.
However, you then state that your own morality is rooted in your religion, and that you object to homosexuality itself for religious reasons. This, of course, is your choice. You may base your beliefs on whatever you wish, and I don’t doubt that religion is a popular choice for many people. But when your religious beliefs lead you to actively support a ban which has deep and fundamental consequences on other people, you are effectively enforcing your own religious beliefs onto other people. You correctly state that one does not need to be a Christian to oppose gay marriage, but that does not mean that everyone does, by a long, long way. Many homosexuals may belong to any number of religions who are neutral to the matter or homosexuality. Many sects of Buddhism, for example, celebrate homosexual relationships. In reality it is their religious freedom which is being infringed. The state should not be trying to enforce a religion on its citizens, which is essentially what is happening if same-sex couples are forbidden to marry for religious reasons. Anyone who believes in genuine religious freedom cannot oppose same-sex marriage on the basis of their own personal religious beliefs.
“Just as in formal debate the burden of proof rests on those presenting challenge to the status quo, so the burden of proof rests on the advocates of homosexual marriage to prove its morality.”
This, I am afraid is simply not true. The burden of proof is not on anyone challenging the status quo. Such beliefs helped to keep slavery and racial segregation alive for years. To quote from Wikipedia: “Under the Latin maxim necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit, the ordinary rule is that “the necessity of proof lies with he who complains.” For example, a person has to prove that someone is guilty (in a criminal case) or liable (in a civil case) depending on the allegations; a person is not required to prove his or her own innocence, it is rebuttably presumed.” In the case of homosexuality, the burden is on ‘they who complain’, i.e., the people who object to it. Just as we should assume arrested men are innocent until shown guilty. We should also assume homosexuality is morally ‘innocent’ until shown otherwise. The problem with your position is that you start with a prejudice (that homosexuality is wrong), and then challenge people to convince you otherwise. This is back to front. Can you see the problem if I stated that I think all black people are immoral and then challenged people to prove me wrong (just to be clear, I don’t actually think that)?
To conclude, allowing same-sex couples to marry will not bring about the destruction of marriage, families and society in general. All homosexuals are asking for is the right to be united with their loved ones, and to have that union recognised for what it is: in every aspect, just as moral, loving, legitimate and worthy of respect as those undertaken by heterosexuals. By what right do we deny them this?
By Richard Hollis