What’s the Big Deal About Same-Sex Marriage?

When my daughter Virginia was younger, she and I had a conversation concerning girls’ names, during which time she commented that Virginia is a very common name. I said, “No, it isn’t honey,” to which she replied, “Yes it is, I hear it all the time.”

Obviously our viewpoint, on matters of greater or lesser signifance, is shaped by our personal perspective and the information that is available to us. When it comes to homosexuality, we find ourselves frequently surrounded by propaganda and societal pressures, and even misinformation.

Over a half-century ago Alfred Kinsey estimated that 10% of the population is homosexual. That percentage has long since been discredited. The actual percentage is closer to 2%, and maybe much less than that in our experience if we’re not part of the “gay subculture.”

This presents a real challenge for us to avoid “us” and “them” stereotypes. I remember discussing homosexuality on the Internet a couple months ago, and a gay activist kept saying “you people,” lumping me in with a wide range of people who opposed his viewpoint, including some people with whom I personally disagreed. I found that expression very off-putting, and I can’t help but think that that expression–and even more the attitude that underlies the expression–is at least as off-putting when the shoe is on the other foot.

Truth and charity opposite sides of the same coin, and so it’s crucial to be ever mindful of the person, even as we discuss homosexuality on a broad, societal level. Empathy skills tend to get us farther than biting rhetoric.

At the same time, we cannot afford to abandon the playing field out of a false compassion, indifference, or even fear.  Let’s be clear: Same-sex marriage poses a serious threat to the very fabric of our society. For example, writing for Out Magazine, a leading voice in the gay community, Michaelangelo Signorile comments:

“The trick is, gay leaders and pundits must stop watering the issue down—’this is simply about equality for gay couples’—and offer same-sex marriage for what it is: an opportunity to reconstruct a traditionally homophobic institution by bringing it to out more equitable queer value system, . . . a chance to wholly transform the definition of family in American culture. . . . Our gay leaders must acknowledge that gay marriage is just as radical and transformative as the religious Right contends it is.”

Similarly, Paul Ettelbrick, professor of law at NYU and Columbia, writes:

“Being queer is more than setting up house, sleeping with a person of the same gender, and seeking state approval for doing so. . . . Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality and family, and in the process transforming the very fabric of society.”

So the stakes are high, and we need to bring our “A game” both intellectually and spiritually if we’re serious about defending traditional marriage. 

7 responses

  1. Kinsey stated that about 2-3% of the male population is exclusively homosexual (and that was circa 1949). He said that about 10% of the male population is predominately homosexual. The man who marries a woman, divorces her, then lives with another man does not fit into that initial 2%.

    Honestly, I have no idea what Signorile or Ettelbrick are talking about.

    Let’s get specific: In what real way does same-sex marriage hurt heterosexual couples? What real harm can you ascribe, not “poses a serious threat.”

    Because honestly, I can talk about actual tragic stories occasioned by a lack of state recognition of same-sex couples.

    To give one simple example: If my partner were to die, I would have to pay a huge tax burden on his estate. If our marriage were recognized by the federal government, the tax burden would be exactly $0.

    There’s a death tax for you. How is that just?

  2. It is just because it is just the same for you as it is with any other two unmarried people – you have all the same rights, to marry a woman, that any other man has.

    The state is under no mandate to give you special rights to inherit tax free from another man because of your sexual tastes. My father can’t do that either.

    gay marriage = special rights.

  3. Asimplesinner summarizes the tax issue well. Marriage is admittedly a wealth-creating institution that increases human and social capital, and thus is still given some special tax advantages. So it begs the question of whether society wants to redefine marriage, which obviously has legal effects such as these.

    Further, as for whether the tax advantages given to married couples should be applied to homosexual partners, that could be done by either expanding the tax break or by redefining marriage so as to include homosexual partners. Either approach is a bad idea, but the latter one is worse, because marriage has an objective meaning that endures irrespective of agendas, politics, and the like.

    If marriage were merely a private matter, which it is not, then recognizing John’s relationship as a “marriage” wouldn’t much affect anybody else’s family. But marriage is a most public institution that is regulated by civil as well as Church law.

    Our laws speak to the values of the community, which in this context includes the nature and dignity of men and women, their complementarity, the importance of marriage (as universally, traditionally understood) as the basic building block of society, and many related values as set forth at length in the books I’ve been recommending in this series.

    Conversely, a law requiring the citizenry to treat a “gay marriage” as a real marriage is repugnant to most people and is an expression of social engineering, not the values of the vast majority of people.

  4. Sorry, but it is YOU who perpetuates the “us vs. them” state, with your continued “we’re not part of the “gay subculture” nonsense.

    YOu find the “you people” epithet “off-putting”? Well, so do WE find your “gay lifestyle” chant off-putting. But not nearly as off-putting as your outright LIE: “Same-sex marriage poses a serious threat to the very fabric of our society.”

    This is a lie from the pit of hell. Your “defense” of marriage lacks a lot, but mainly it’s reason and the “compassion” you claim (but do not have) that is missing. It isn’t endangered – at least not from gay people. From your Britney Spears and her 55 hour “marriage”, maybe. Or from Darva Conger and Rick Rockwell who reduced marraige to a TV game show prize, maybe. Or from Mickey Rooney and his 8 (count ‘em) wives, maybe. Or from the John McCains and the Newt Gingriches who leave their wives for newer models, maybe. But certainly not from committed couples like my husband and myself.

    John D, come to Canada and GET MARRIED. There is no residency requirement and the nonsense you suffer because of the unjust laws in the U.S. must stop. Please DSIREGARD the empty bomide of “you have all the same rights, to marry a woman, that any other man has”. God forbid we should actually be allowed to marry the person we LOVE, eh? Like the world needs more false marriages – NOT!

    simplesinner simply reduces your existence to mere “sexual tastes” and ignores the commitment of your relationship. It is NOT “special rights” we’re after; it is equality. That “Christians” continue to bear false witness against us speaks volumes about their values.

    Too bad you didn’t elaborate on the “objective meaning” of marriage and why you think it somehow precludes gay couples. Why is this “nature and dignity of men and women” denied to gay persons? What is this “complementarity” you speak of? Gay people (or “people with same-sex attraction” euphemism you’ve coined) find others of the same sex complimentary. I know my husband is quite complimentary to me.

  5. The Britney Spears comparison is a load of nonsense and a non sequitar.

    IMO, it doesn’t constitute a greater challenge but a capitulation to the very challenge at the root of divorce and problems of family life by enshrining destructive ideals.

    If relationships are transient with serial monogamy being a sort of neo-polygamy and “sexual gratification” by means of usurping dominion over fertility to make sterile sex the ideal… Well not only is divorce and remarriage completely acceptable if those are the yardsticks by which to measure marriage and its purpose… well we are left with no good reason to say two men who wish to set up house as domestic partners and engage in sterile sexual endeavors with each other aren’t exactly equal.

    Evangelicals who widely have accepted the first group are still reliant on vestigal distaste and discomfort over the mannerisms and mechanics of homosexuality… But as greater social acceptance (more “Will & Grace”!) becomes the norm, they too will realize (and this is happening with the “emergent church movement”) that all things being equal, “Rod & Tod” in the gentrified gayborhood downtown doesn’t at all really affect them in the suburbs with their view of marriage and marital permanence based on foregoing children to not undergo the hardship of not having stainless steel appliances, two SUVs and a granite counter-top with an exit strategy. (As one particularly sardonic priest of my aquaintance put it “No Evangelical couple on ‘the pill’ with a pre-nup can remain opposed to gay marriage for long!”)

    As Catholics it isn’t about just being “mean” or “uncomfortable” or “grossed out” by the idea of two men sharing a house and a bed. As Catholics, the elevated (if widely rejected) standards and ideals of marriage being pro-genitive and permanent is held up at least as a standard to aspire, even if some rather fail in that regard. To take the step of defining anew what marriage is on new parameters altogether in relationships that can never even shadow the ideal, is to socially abandon the ideal altogether.

    In a crude and wanting analogy that I am sure is only going to invite scorn and ad hominem critique (oh well) I would say that marriage as an ideal is not entirely dissimilar from the notion of dog breeds as an ideal. Some dogs are going to fit the description of breed characteristics to a tee and do well in the show ring or obedience challenges or out in the field. Other dogs are going to be too tall, or too small, have a wierd coat color or coat pattern but they will still be recognizeable as being a somewhat flawed variation of a breed. That may be a short, fat, dalmation with a wierd spot pattern, but it is still a dalmation! That retriever may hate to swim and when hunting never finds more than grass… it is still a retriever!

    Same-sex unions as marriage is comparable to abandoning a standard altogether and calling a poodle a doberman and a short one just as much an ideal as well, a doberman. Effectively “the threat” isn’t that homosexual people could “get married” it is that any distinctiveness of marriage will be abandoned altogether and what will be left is little more than roommies with some additional inheritance rights and tax benifits.

    I have no idea what the “False witness” charge is about, except maybe an an attempt at a sassy non sequitar couched in some Old Testament language. What exactly are we bearing “false witness” over?

    The natural dignity of men and women isn’t denied to gay people – they self deny. To take part in the complimentary roles of nature as humans are formed in for the creation of stable homes and the creation of children is a blessing and well ordered in nature.

    All the subjective talk in all the world about the “loving committed relationships” is all well and good in and of itself. Making the leap to the idea that the sterile mutual masturbatorial sex practices and options of homgenital contact between two male roommates who kiss is marriage… And than leading an effort to redefine it altogether… That is one amazing, unneeded, and precocious leap…

    So, yes it is special rights – as it stands right now, you have all the rights to marry a person of complimentary genitalia to whom you are not closely related of the appropriate age and mental capacity… Just like any other man. After that, it becomes special rights based on fetishes, predilections or personal tastes.

  6. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. But there were also husbands, wives, lovers. There were also monogamy and romance.

    “Though you probably don’t know what those are,” said Mustapha Mond.

    They shook their heads.

    Family, monogamy, romance. Everywhere exclusiveness, a narrow channelling of impulse and energy.

    “But every one belongs to every one else,” he concluded, citing the hypnopaedic proverb.

    The students nodded, emphatically agreeing with a statement which upwards of sixty-two thousand repetitions in the dark had made them accept, not merely as true, but as axiomatic, self-evident, utterly indisputable.

    -from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  7. Saying that a gay man has the right to marry the woman of his choosing sounds more like a distorted view of what marriage really is.

    The reason people choose the person they choose to marry is usually because that is the person they fell in love with. Homosexuals do not fall in love with members of the opposite sex (homo=same).

    So, who REALLY wants to alter the perception of what marriage really means?

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