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Saturday, January 21, 2006

What About Same-gender Marriage?

I have to admit to being conflicted over the gay marriage issue. I’m one of those that doesn’t think homosexuality is normal, or proper, but I’m also one of those that is tolerant of what other people do, so long as they don’t hurt anyone else.

What brings this up for a post is yesterday’s ruling by a Maryland Circuit Court judge that the state’s 33-year-old ban on same-gender "marriage" is unconstitutional. The state holds the position that marriage is not a fundamental right but a privilege and that the 1973 law does not discriminate based on sex because both men and women are prohibited from entering into same-sex "marriage." The legal aspects of this are more than I want to get into here and now.

But discussion of the concept of same-gender (or homosexual) marriage is worthwhile.

My opinion is that if two men or two women want to have sex with each other, that’s their business, and if they want to move in together, that’s their business, too.

On the other hand, I have great regard for marriage as a cultural institution, and for its longstanding ability to hold our society together. I think the traditional family unit is a good thing for kids and for society. I recognize that there are a lot of non-traditional families around these days, but I don’t think that is any reason to change the definition of marriage. In fact, I see the disintegration of the traditional family as a decidedly negative force in society. I think our societal rules ought to discourage divorce and out-of-wedlock children. We were a stronger society a few decades ago when divorce and out-of-wedlock births were in short supply. We need to get back to that condition.

I can see that two people that are committed to each other should, out of a sense of fairness and equality, be eligible for certain “benefits” or legal prerogatives, regardless of whether they are a man and a woman, two men or two women. But when we talk about same-gender unions, and we want to call them “marriages,” I have a problem with that.

So, if we as a society believe that we ought to create some legal standing for same-gender couples, fine. But, I will strongly resist redefining marriage to include not only a man and a woman, but also two men, or two women, or a man and a sheep, or a woman and a dog, or any other combination of beings.

Call it something else; don’t call it marriage.

Opinions, either pro or con, are encouraged.

5 comments:

Buffalo said...

No matter how hard I try I simply can't understand how the union of same sex couples in matrimony threatens anything.

If the responsibilities and benifits were identical to those 'enjoyed' by heterosexual couples, yet was called something else, it would still be marriage.

My motorcycle is a Harley. Calling it a scooter doesn't make it a Honda.

James Howard Shott said...

To me the difference is that marriage has for centuries implied "family," and same-gender relationships do not, and cannot produce a family.

If we are, therefore, going to establish a formal relationship among people who cannot produce a family--a wholly different relationship--then give it a wholly different name.

To paraphrase what you said, no matter how hard I try I simply can't understand why the union of same sex couples ought to be considered the same thing, and called the same thing as the union of a man and a woman that has been around a thousand years.

Calling your Harley motorcycle a scooter doesn't make it a Honda, but it does grave discredit to the concept of what a motorcycle is.

It's the same with marriage.

Buffalo said...

Same sex couples often do have children. Some choose natural childbirth, some adopt and others bring children that are the fruit of a previous relationship into the union.

Traditions fall when they are no longer useful. There was a time when a woman was a chattle, a black a slave, etc., etc., et al.

Calling a Harley a scooter discredits it not in the least. If I were riding a Honda I would call it a motorcycle, not a scooter.

slyght said...

i agree with buffalo here. producing a family and having a family shouldn't be differentiated. by that analysis, infertile women/men shouldn't be allowed to marry because they cannot produce a family.

when two people fall in love, want to be monogamous, grow old together whatever, they shouldn't be held back just because those "two people" weren't of the opposite sex. a family is made of two people and love, from there it can branch into many different forms of a family, but a family nonetheless.

another problem i see that seems to be improving more recently than the allwance of same-sex marriages is benefits to same-sex partners. it seems that companies are beginning to recognize that homosexual employees shouldn't be penalized the benefits a company provides simply because they are attracted to the same sex.

i think this country will come around, not soon enough, but soon. the liberals are graduating and the conservatives are moving to rest homes. thanks.

zac
http://slyght.blogspot.com

James Howard Shott said...

Welcome, zac.

A couple of comments:

Buff said: “Same sex couples often do have children.”

And zac said: “producing a family and having a family shouldn't be differentiated.”

Families are produced. A man and a woman get married and have children and, presto!, you have a family. That is the tradition of the family. Simply because children become part of a relationship between two people in some other way doesn’t mean that the traditional definition of a family needs to be discarded, or even modified. If a man and a woman can’t have children, they can adopt. That still fills the basic, traditional definition: A “father,” a “mother,” and one or more children.

When two men or two women get together and adopt one or more children, you do not have a traditional family—a father, a mother, and kids—but you may have an acceptable environment for raising children that produces normal adults. None of that changes the fact that for centuries a family has generally meant a mom, a dad, and some number of kids.

Buff said: “Traditions fall when they are no longer useful.”

True enough. But I challenge you to show factually that the traditional family concept is no longer useful. I don’t think it is a good enough reason to do away with the traditional family just because one/tenth of the population prefers to have a same-gender partner. That just doesn’t cut it.

Zac said: “another problem i see that seems to be improving more recently than the allwance of same-sex marriages is benefits to same-sex partners.”

Here I think we can agree, at least on some of the issues that are part of this argument. However, no part of that situation requires that we call the union between two people of the same gender a “marriage.” No compelling argument has yet been made to justify that.

Buff said: “Calling a Harley a scooter discredits it not in the least.”

Credit my ignorance about motorcycles on this one, but I thought it would be an insult to call a Harley, which I regard as the king of motorcycles, a scooter, which is a child’s toy. I know a few Harley owners, and they have a real attitude about Harleys being compared with Hondas and Suzukis and such. I guess that if you can call a Harley a “bike,” and that isn’t an insult, calling it a “scooter” is no worse.

I don’t know about you, zac, but Buff and I grew up in and witnessed the 60s and 70s when a bunch of snot-nosed kids rejected virtually everything they encountered in the society for no better reason than that they thought they were smarter than their parents and everybody else in the “older generation,” and they wanted to create their own social order on their own terms. They failed to win that war, but they won several of the battles, and severely damaged our society as a result. (Buff may disagree with that statement.) More than a few of those counter-culture warriors (including me) have since recognized the error of their ways, and now rue those days and what they (we) did.

So, sorry gentlemen, just because Joe and John or Mildred and Mary want to live together does not compel us to label their relationship a marriage. Call it a “union” or a “partnership,” an “amalgamation,” a “merger,” or an “affiliation,” but a marriage it ain’t.