Dissecting the Argument for Traditional Marriage
Since the Supreme Court is hearing the cases on gay marriage, of course there are piles of blogs, columns, and media commentaries about the oral arguments that were made in Court. In all honesty, I had no intentions of weighing in on this issue – at all – until a short exchange on Twitter with Charles Petz (@repub9989) and the social media person over at The American Spectator (@AmSpec.) The whole conversation started because I had re-tweeted a link to Quin Hillyer’s piece on the matter – “The Insufficiency of the “Procreation” Argument Against Homosexual “Marriage”. It’s a long title for a short piece of work that Hillyer freely admits really does need a much longer treatment. And he does point readers to James Taranto’s long-winded opinion on the matter. Of course that would have been much more useful if it had been a bit more simplistic.
Kudos to Taranto for engaging in an admirable performance of legal and linguistic acrobatics, however Justice Elena Kagan’s “trick” question had an answer that should have literally leaped into the mind of anyone that currently has, or previously had been a widow or widower over the age of 55 in the family (or even a really close friend.) Anyone currently receiving or about to become eligible to receive Social Security benefits knows this little gem. If a beneficiary is receiving payments due to a deceased spouse, those benefits are forfeit in the case of re-marriage. So, while procreation may be a logical reason to defend heterosexual marriage (and deny same-sex marriage) among younger citizens, Kagan’s argument about older citizens marrying is relatively rare anyway. Widows don’t tend to want to give up the benefits they receive even for the sake of love, so the new trend among seniors is co-habitation. If nothing else, it would have been priceless to see the looks on the faces of the Justices if Charles Cooper had replied with something akin to, “well, with all due respect, because individuals of that age could stand to lose governmental benefits if they chose marriage, they tend to choose to ‘live in sin’ instead – there aren’t very many people in that age group that actually want marriage licenses in the first place.”
It would have been amusing, even a bit refreshing, to see the honest truth displayed in the highest court, but it still would not have resolved the issue at hand. Is there a real reason outside of religious philosophy that can defend traditional marriage? Is there something that is not attached to ideology or religious belief systems to counter the secular left’s desire to render all gender neutral, at least as far as marriage is concerned? It is tempting to suggest that the left has become so steeped in science fiction that they are envisioning a country with the same sort of gender neutrality the writers and creators of Star Trek tried to create. Of course the real results that they are achieving are far from that world, and include militant feminists that refuse to accept that there are biological and psychological differences between the sexes. It also includes faithful atheists that believe they follow a religion, albeit the anti-Judeo-Christian sort that apparently reduces its “followers” to the point where they can be compared with Hollywood-style vampires that are terrified of any religious article. It would be comical if it weren’t so sad – watching them fight against symbols of deities that they supposedly do not believe exist in the first place.
As an atheist, I find it particularly disturbing that I seem to regularly end up either defending deists, or the respective religions they follow. This situation is no different. As for defending the concept of traditional marriage from being sullied by permitting gay couples to legally marry, I have nothing. That is a religious affair, beyond my reach – and for that matter, it should also be beyond the reach of the Federal Government. As far as government in general is concerned, marriage is not sacred. It is already nothing more than a personal contract, and means for the government to keep tabs on taxpayers. Many years ago, I sat in a high school economics class where the teacher pointed out the entire problem with marriage. His contention was that it was far too easy to get married, and far too difficult to get a divorce. In the case of non-religious couples, at the very least there should be mandatory prenuptial agreements that must be completed before a marriage license could be acquired. I know this sounds suspiciously like increasing the work of government, but in reality, it would eventually reduce it. Imagine removing the necessity of having bureaucrats around to settle financial and custody matters for couples getting a divorce, because those matters were settled before they even got married. Yes, there would still be a need for them in extenuating circumstances, particularly in abusive relationships that fall apart. However, perhaps the process of completing the paperwork would in itself prevent at least a few of those doomed relationships from getting started in the first place. Individuals that choose to have their unions solemnized in a church would have to complete whatever their respective faiths required, and acquire a statement of permission from a priest or minister. That would be in addition to the required prenuptial agreement, since that would be the means for the state to guarantee an easy divorce. It was an interesting concept to say the least, but one that if it was in effect now, would arguably have settled this particular issue. While it wouldn’t have removed the state from the marriage business as many Libertarians are suggesting now, it would have placed a great deal of control over the process in the hands of the churches.
As Matt Lewis recently pointed out, conservatives have lost (are losing?) “ the culture war. Liberals are very big on pleasure and their right to do whatever they choose, as long as it feels good. Conservatives are focused more on the responsibilities that people must remember are inextricably linked to all rights. Instead of worrying about procreation, or even the concept of government protecting marriage from being destroyed by gays, conservatives should have shifted this argument to the realm of actions and consequences. The liberals do not play well in this arena, because they are so purely focused on self-gratification that they cannot shift gears easily to address the real consequences of their actions. Conservatives have been waging this battle for years over abortion. This argument really shouldn’t be about who may or may not get married legally, but about truly protecting the institution of marriage from the state. That old economics teacher had it right, because he recognized what religious leaders are oddly quiet about now. Instead of just saying allowing gays to marry is “wrong”, why aren’t they saying what has desperately needed to be said for years now? Why aren’t those leaders leaving the blame for the high divorce rate, and high numbers of single-parent families where it belongs? Yes, they often say it is the fault of liberal policies in government, but that idea should have been hammered home on the issue of same-sex marriage until even conservatives were complaining about the repetition. The bottom line remains that the true root cause of the erosion of the sanctity of marriage is a societal failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions. It is too easy for everyone to enter into marital relationships.
It’s unlikely that anyone would ever seriously suggest what I’ve outlined here as a solution to the problem, regardless of whether or not it actually would resolve the issue. I know social conservatives would never suggest it, at least not as I’ve stated it here, because it does not forbid same sex unions, per se. Admittedly, I intentionally avoided saying anything about that. The government has no place refusing such unions, because the state’s part in the process is purely the legalities – that is the case now, and should remain that way. Churches would be free to forbid those unions at will, and that would be protecting the sanctity of marriage – the state should not be able to dictate the actions of churches when it comes to the recognition of same sex marriage. Religion and politics do not mix well. This nation was founded because of that fact, but too many of us tend to forget that, or twist it to our own purposes. Too many people forget that the “separation of church and state” was meant to be a two-way street. It is meant to not only protect churches from interference by government, but also protect government from the same by churches. It was a good theory over 200 years ago, and it still is now.