Marriage is of such importance that it is uniquely protected in the law and culture. It predates the law and the Constitution, and is an anthropological and sociological reality, not primarily a legal one. No civilization can survive without it, and those societies that allowed it to become irrelevant have faded into history.
The Meaning of Marriage
Marriage is the union of the two sexes, not just the union of two people. It is the union of two families, and the foundation for establishing kinship patterns and family names, passing on property and providing the optimal environment for raising children.
The term “marriage” refers specifically to the joining of two people of the opposite sex. When that is lost, “marriage” becomes meaningless. You can no more leave an entire sex out of marriage and call it “marriage” than you can leave chocolate out of a “chocolate brownie” recipe. It becomes something else.
Giving non-marital relationships the same status as marriage does not expand the definition of marriage; it destroys it. For example, if you declare that, because it has similar properties, wine should be labeled identically to grape juice, you have destroyed the definitions of both “wine” and “grape juice.” The consumer would not know what he is getting.
Marriage, the Natural Family, and the Best Interests of Children
Marriage is the union of the only type of couple capable of natural reproduction of the human race-a man and a woman. Children need both mothers and fathers, and marriage is society’s way of obtaining them.
But even childless marriages are a social anchor for children, who observe adults as role models. Besides, childless couples can be “surprised” by an unexpected pregnancy, and they can adopt, giving a child a mother-and-father-based family. Single parents can eventually marry. And marriage is a stabilizing force for all. Even when a couple is past the age of reproduction, the marital commitment usually keeps an older man from fathering a child with a younger woman outside wedlock.
Children learn crucial things about family life by observing our crucial relationships up close: interactions between men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and parents to children of the same and opposite sexes. Human experience and a vast body of social science research show that children do best in married, mother-father households. It is wrong to create fatherless or motherless families by design. The effort is being driven by the desires of adults, not the needs of children.
The drive for homosexual “marriage” leads to destruction of the gold standard for custody and adoption. The question should be: “What is in the best interests of the child?” The answer is: “Place children, whenever possible, in a married, mom-and-dad household.” As homosexual relationships gain status, marriage loses its place as the preferential adoption-family option.
Defining Marriage Is Not “Discrimination”
Marriage laws are not discriminatory. Marriage is open to all adults, subject to age and blood relation limitations. As with any acquired status, the applicant must meet minimal requirements, which in terms of marriage, means finding an opposite-sex spouse. Same-sex partners do not qualify. To put it another way, clerks will not issue dog licenses to cats, and it is not out of “bigotry” toward cats.
Comparing current laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman with the laws in some states that once limited inter-racial marriage is irrelevant and misleading. The very soul of marriage-the joining of the two sexes-was never at issue when the Supreme Court struck down laws against inter-racial marriage.
Requiring citizens to sanction or subsidize homosexual relationships violates the freedom of conscience of millions of Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people who believe marriage is the union of the two sexes. Civil marriage is a public act. Homosexuals are free to have a “union” ceremony with each other privately, but they are not free to demand that such a relationship be solemnized and subsidized under the law.
Homosexual activists say they need legal status so they can visit their partners in hospitals, etc. But hospitals leave visitation up to the patient except in very rare instances. This “issue” is a smokescreen to cover the fact that, using legal instruments such as power of attorney, drafting a will, etc., homosexuals can share property, designate heirs, dictate hospital visitors and give authority for medical decisions. What they should not obtain is identical recognition and support for a relationship that is not equally essential to society’s survival.
The Legal and Social Fallout
If same-sex relationships acquire marital-type status in the law, several things will occur:
Businesses that decline to recognize non-marital relationships will increasingly be punished through loss of contracts and even legal action. This is already occurring in San Francisco and in Canada. Other groups, such as bisexuals and polygamists, will demand the right to redefine marriage to suit their own proclivities. Once the standard of one-man, one-woman marriage is broken, there is no logical stopping point. As society rewards homosexual behavior, more young people will be encouraged to experiment and more will be discouraged from overcoming homosexual desires. Popular understanding of what marriage is and what it requires will undergo change. Homosexual relationships, which usually lack both permanence and fidelity, are unlikely to change to fit the traditional model of lifelong, faithful marriage. Instead, society’s expectations of marriage will change in response to the homosexual model, thus leading to a further weakening of the institution of marriage. Some homosexual activists have acknowledged that they intend to use marriage mainly as a way to radically shift society’s entire conception of sexual morality. (See appendix.)
Americans are reassessing their stance toward homosexuality and homosexual activism. Major polls show a reversal of “acceptance” of homosexuality and homosexual so-called “marriage” and “civil unions.”
A Gallup Poll1 in May showed one of the highest opposition to “gay marriage” in several years with a margin of 57-40 percent. One of the highest was in 2005 with a margin of 59-37 percent against “gay marriage.” A USA Today/Gallup Poll2 of 1,015 American Adults gave an overwhelming response when asked whether allowing two people of the same sex to legally marry would change our society for the better, worse, or have no effect. Forty-eight percent said it would be worse, 38 percent said no effect, and 12 percent said better. A Quinnipiac University Poll3 in April asked 2,041 registered voters nationwide if they would support or oppose a law in their state that would allow same-sex couples to get married. Fifty- five percent said they would oppose the law, 38 percent would support it, and 7 percent were unsure. A Quinnipiac University Poll4 in April asked 2,041 registered voters nationwide if they thought that the government was paying too much, too little, or about the right amount of attention to the needs of gays and lesbians. Forty-one percent said too much, 22 percent said too little, and 26 percent said about right. The same group from the Quinnipiac University Poll5 was also asked whether they thought that society was paying too much, too little, or about the right amount of attention to the needs of gays and lesbians. Forty-nine percent said too much, 21 percent said too little, and 22 percent said about right.
“Marriage” for same-sex couples (or the counterfeit equivalent under pseudonyms such as “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships”) is being promoted as an extension of tolerance, equality and civil rights. But all these devices are really wedges designed to overturn traditional sexual morality and to win official affirmation, celebration, subsidization and solemnization of behavior that is harmful to the people who engage in it and to society, and that is still viewed as morally wrong by a majority of the American public.
For the well-being of children and of society, we must not allow the creation of government-imposed counterfeit “marriage” by any name. Marriage is civilization’s primary institution, and we tamper with it at our own peril.
Updated 6/21/2009. Robert H. Knight is the former director of the Culture & Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America. Mr. Knight was a draftsman of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the current law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for all federal purposes and allows states to resist demands to recognize counterfeit “marriage” licenses. Some references were drawn from “Questions and Answers: What’s Wrong With Letting Same-Sex Couples ‘Marry?'” by Peter Sprigg, Family Research Council, InFocus, Number 256, August 14, 2003.
Gallup Poll of 1,015 randomly selected American adults, reported by Jeffery Jones, “Majority of Americans Continue to Oppose Gay Marriage,” at http://www.gallup.com/poll/118378/majority-americans-contine-oppose-gay-marriage.aspx, May 27, 2009. Gallup Poll of 1,015 randomly selected American adults, “Same-sex Marriage, Gay Rights,” at http://www.pollingreport.com/civil.htm, June 12, 2009. Quinnipiac University Poll of 2,041 registered voters nationwide, “Same-sex Marriage, Gay Rights,” at http://www.pollingreport.com/civil.htm, June 12, 2009. Ibid. Ibid.