It is the “greatest social conservative movement of our time.” That’s how Jonathan Rauch describes same-sex “marriage.” And he summons no less than Edmund Burke to support his claim.
From Burke’s “Reflections on the French Revolution,” Rauch quotes, "Society is . . . a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born." Therein lies a “mighty stream of tradition,” Rauch claims, that “gays are asking to join” in their bid for marriage.
I suspect the father of modern conservatism would beg to differ, given his reflection in the same essay that “religion is the basis of civil society” and that, as Burke explained elsewhere, it is on the Christian religion that “all our laws and institutions stand.” (My emphasis.)
An inconvenient truth
Indeed, marriage as a primal institution defined by nature, upheld by Christian teaching, and practiced throughout recorded history is a mighty stream of tradition that the pseudotrimony of homosexualism flows against, not with.
It is an inconvenient truth that Rauch unwittingly acknowledges when he expresses his grievance that “No matter how hard gays work to be true to our life partners, we don't qualify for marriage.” That’s because it is design, not work—or desire, sincerity, commitment, or love—that qualifies a person for marriage.
The design of marriage reflects the design of Nature, whereby multiplication and flourishing result from difference, not sameness. The hand-in-glove architecture of human sexuality enables a heterosexual couple to fulfill an essential biological function that no single individual or same-sex pair is equipped to fulfill: reproduction.
What’s more, the union of a man and woman in a lasting, exclusive, covenantal bond is uniquely able to attach children to their biological parents (who, intrinsically, have their best interests at heart), produces a stable home environment, and safeguards society from the pathologies of divorce, STDs, and out-of-wedlock births.
By design, homosexual couples are incapable of such a union and, thus, by design, disqualified for marriage.
The yearn to bond?
To read Rauch, one would think that the deepest desire of same-sex couples is to get married. As Rauch puts it, marriage is a bond “gay and lesbian Americans yearn for.” The data tells a different story.
According to a recent study on same-sex “marriage” in North America and Europe, interest in marriage within the homosexual community is at best, tepid.
As reported by lead researcher Patricia Morgan, “In the Netherlands, which has had same-sex marriage as a legal option for the longest period (since 2001), 2%-6% of homosexuals entered marriages in the first five years.”
The study gives similar percentages for Sweden and Denmark, at 5 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. And in Canada, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, less than 14 percent of homosexual adults have tied the connubial knot.
In Massachusetts, the first state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex “marriage,” 10,000 same-sex couples have married, out of roughly 100,000 gay and lesbian adults in the state, according to the 2010 U.S. Census data and estimates from the Williams Institute, a pro-LGBT think-tank. Thus, in the seven years since legalization, 20 percent of homosexual Massachusians were married. Considering that many of those came from out of state to get married, the actual percentage is surely much lower.
By the numbers, the yearning for gay “marriage” appears to have more to do with symbolic significance than participation.
Another inconvenient truth
Nevertheless, Rauch goes on to suggest that, given the high divorce rate among straight couples, homosexual “marriage” would serve to improve the state of our unions. Again, the data is not kind to his suggestion.
While the divorce rate among heterosexuals hovers around 50 percent, the 2003-2004 Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census reports that only 14 percent of homosexuals remain together 11 years or more (substantially less than necessary to rear children to adulthood), and only 5 percent stay together 20 years or more.
Patricia Morgan reports that, in Norway, gay couples are 1.5 times (and lesbian couples 2.67 times) more likely than straight couples to break up, with similar comparisons holding for Sweden.
Although Rauch is right about “how shabbily straights treat their vows,” another inconvenient truth for “marriage equality” proponents is that same-sex couples are even more cavalier about their unions.
Thus, the answer to stronger and more stable marriages is not in redefinition and alternative family structures but, rather, in the restoration of marriage—from a legal contract between any two people, before the state, for as long as both shall love, to its original essence as a sacred vow between one man and one woman, before God and community, for as long as both shall live.
And yet if one LGBT activist has her way, the “marriage equality” express will not stop with redefining the institution, but with abolishing it.
The end of marriage
At the Sydney Writers Festival, Masha Gessen coolly told her audience, “It is a no brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.” Instead of howls of protest or even gasps of disbelief, her hearers erupted into spontaneous applause and hoots of affirmation.
After her shocking statement failed to shock, the emboldened speaker breezily aired a dirty little secret: “Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do when we get there.” Yes, lying. Hmm. Might that mean emoting over marriage as a bond “gay and lesbian Americans yearn for” while shrugging off concerns about the next stop on the marriage equality express, legalized polygamy, or the final stop—legalizing any and every cluster of relationships man can imagine—as products of slippery-slope homophobia?
The reason marriage has to go, Gessen explained, is that it doesn’t accommodate the reality of her family situation—one that includes three children and “five parents, more or less.” Her audible snicker after that “more or less” betrayed her own confusion about the nature of relationships in her entangled family; yet, she trusts that the legal system will sort it out in way that will please her? Good luck with that.
Perhaps the real reason that folks like Masha Gessen want marriage gone, is that every time they see a man and woman wearing wedding bands and pushing a stroller, it is a reminder—however faint or subliminal—that their relationships, no matter how loving, committed, publicly accepted, and legal, are abnormal, unnatural, and disordered against Nature and Nature’s God.
Wards of the state
Yet Masha Gessen unknowingly points to the fallacy in Rauch’s central claim.
Instead of restraining the reach of government, gender-neutral “marriage” encourages—no, requires!—the expansion of government. As Caesar extends to his subjects the right to marry whomever they love with parentage no longer settled by biology, his arm must intrude ever further into the private sphere, deciding the nature and number of legal partners and parents and adjudicating disputes between myriad parties with legal standing over property and child custody.
The result, as Douglas Farrow points out in his smart essay “Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage?” is that every citizen will become “a ward of the state,” with “his or her most fundamental human connections [turned] into legal constructs at the state’s gift and disposal.”
And that is something that flows not from the stream of Burke’s conservatism, but from the gutter of radical individualism.
Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.