The Privatization (And Trivialization) Of Marriage
By Mark Tooley
A new movement called the Alliance for Marriage is urging a new constitutional amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is a response in some states, most successfully in Vermont, to give legal recognition to same-sex couples.
There seems to be a misunderstanding as to why traditionalists object to legal recognition for homosexuality. The objection, especially as it comes from traditional Christians and Jews, is against the effort to legitimize and even subsidize non-marital sexuality, whether homosexual or not.
Christians and Jews, and others who are guided by the teachings of those faiths, believe that sexuality is neither recreation nor sport. It is rather a divine gift for both procreation and the sealant of a loving bond between a man and a woman who are committed to each other for life. For Christians, the permanent physical bond between husband and wife is a representation of God’s fidelity to His people, of Christ to His church.
Monogamy, as it is now popularly interpreted, implies exclusive but transitory sexual commitment. It largely means we’ll confine our sexual relations to each other, for now. But monogamy, even lifelong, is not the ideal presented by Christianity and Judaism. The ideal presented by Christianity and Judaism is lifelong heterosexual marriage.
Secondly, opponents of a marriage constitutional amendment report that "gays" are now seeking marriage, implying that most homosexuals want lifelong monogamy. It is true that nearly all "gay" organized political groups are seeking legalized same-sex unions. But is this because most homosexuals want to be married, or is it because they simply want enforced societal approval of homosexual behavior?
I strongly suspect the latter. Although Vermont remains the only state where same-sex couples can procure full legal recognition, same-sex couples everywhere have the option of seeking religious or community ceremonies to solemnize their bonds. Few homosexuals live in such remote areas that they cannot visit a Unitarian Church or liberal Jewish synagogue to celebrate their "marriage." Yet such ceremonies remain rare. Liberal local jurisdictions that grant benefits to same-sex partners usually report that relatively few take advantage of the offer.
How many homosexual couples co-habit together for more than a few years? Very few. And how many of them, especially the male couples, are exclusively monogamous during their ostensible union? Andrew Sullivan infamously admitted that most homosexuals’ understanding of the sexual commitment in a "marriage" is considerably broader that what nearly all heterosexual couples would tolerate.
The Christian and Jewish ideal is not simply monogamy within heterosexual marriage but also chastity outside of marriage. I am aware of no homosexual spokesperson or group who speaks in favor of this notion of chastity, whose demands further elevate the importance and sacramental nature of marriage. This is another important divide between the traditional understanding of marriage and the approach preferred by same-sex union advocates.
Marriage is a public act. It is a covenant not just between a man and a woman. It represents also a promise by that couple to their families, their communities, and their society that they will fulfill certain responsibilities to each other that transcend their own selfish interests. Nearly every society in recorded history has recognized the inherent state and societal interest in fostering and sustaining marriage as the union of man and woman.
All people, married or not, benefit from a society where most men and women seek a permanent heterosexual marriage. Would anyone want to live in a culture that is built around largely single people, whether heterosexual or homosexual, flitting from one "monogamous" arrangement to the next? Picture a gay bar, a male college dormitory, an army barracks, a sorority house, or the domestic arrangements portrayed on most prime-time sit-coms? Does any serious Christian really want to live in such a culture?
Heterosexual marriage is a transcendent moral arrangement and public institution requiring civic affirmation. It is organically based upon the complimentary nature of men and women, essential to the rearing of children, and central to the harmony of any well-ordered culture. By civilizing men and providing security to women, marriage provides a core unit around which society can organize itself.
Marriage involves the whole of society, not just two people who have decided to share meals, a checkbook and a bed. For this reason, among others, it deserves legal protection, which may very well necessitate a constitutional amendment.
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