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Monday, March 25 2013

The Inequalities of “Equal” Marriage

By Mary Fielding Summerhays Notify me when this author publishesComment on Article
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This week the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing the oral arguments about California's Prop 8 and The Defense of Marriage Act.  Their decision, which is expected in June, will have an enormous impact on our future, the stability of family and religious freedom.  If you live in Utah, you are invited to attend a Celebration of Marriage, Tuesday night at 7:00 at the Capitol Rotunda. If you want to take a stand for marriage, please come.

For more information about Utah’s Celebration of Marriage, click here.

The oft-repeated and oft-unanswered question “How does gay marriage affect you personally?” seems to be a rhetorical trump card. Talking heads in the media rarely have the time in our sound-byte driven news cycle to give a thorough answer to that question. Here I will explore why gay marriage, or the more legal terms of “genderless” or “equal” marriage, affects everybody. It has potential to redefine what it means to be a mother, a father, and a child. It places the rights of natural parents at risk. Genderless marriage may actually affect heterosexuals more than homosexuals, for it dismantles traditional family law and replaces it with a new paradigm of genderless union.

Savvy legal minds once insisted that gendered marriage and genderless marriage could co-exist, that everybody could enjoy their rights without interruption or impedance. It is now obvious that such a utopia doesn’t exist. A loss of rights is already taking place. “Equal” marriage is not so equal after all.

Defining Gendered Family

Marriage as an entity is designed to protect those made vulnerable by procreation. First on that list are the infants that are born to women. As Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, has stated, “The child is entitled to a relationship with and care from both of the people who brought him into being. Therefore, the child has a legitimate interest in the stability of his parents’ union. But no child can defend these entitlements himself. Nor is it adequate to make restitution after these rights have been violated. The child’s rights to care and relationship must be supported proactively, before harm is done, for those rights to be protected at all.” (Hearings from the Minnesota state legislature,)

Besides children, women who carry the burden of pregnancy are obviously at greater risk than men in the childbearing process. Historically, gendered marriage has tied men to their children and to the mothers who sacrifice to create them. This arrangement not only overcomes but also compliments the biological differences of men and women.

Finally, gendered marriage addresses the rights of fathers. Fatherhood is the most fragile biological relationship in the father-mother-child triangle. The bond between mother and child is obvious. The father less so. Marriage closes this gap by legally binding a father to a mother and child, giving him both rights and responsibilities in a relationship that, by the way, dramatically affects the successful socialization of children.

I interviewed a lawyer once and asked her to imagine a world without legal marriage. She abruptly responded: “It would be chaos. Women and children would be chattel. They could be abandoned without the slightest thought. They would have no legal recourse.”

By traditional definition, marriage is the protective sanctuary that allows children to have a relationship with both father and mother. That relationship provides them with the stable and long-term care and nurturance they deserve. “Without this public purpose,” Dr. Morse explains, “marriage would cease to exist as a distinct social institution.”

Naturally, these protections regarding procreation cannot be extended to a homosexual union because that union cannot procreate. The solution to the problem cannot be to add protections to a power that does not exist. The only way that these non-procreative unions can become legally equal is to remove several biological protections—protections that that the law extends to the procreative unions found in traditional marriage.

Thus, the invention of genderless marriage has the potential to affect the nature of traditional relationships more than the nature of gay relationships. According to this new definition of equality, court judgments are already being handed down that strip biological distinctions and hence ignore biological rights.

States that have ratified homosexual marriage have done so by removing gender from the law, stripping rights from children and fathers and, in some cases, from biological mothers. For example, Illinois effectively instituted gay marriage by removing any reference to gender from their marriage laws. Likewise, Massachusetts’ marriage certificates recognize not bride and groom, but Party A and Party B.

Whose Rights are Threatened by Genderless Marriage?

The first casualty in the gender battle is the primary and essential purpose of marriage, which is, according to Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, “to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another.”

In order to justify genderless marriage, the courts have redefined marriage, eliminating the above obligation. For example, Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California's Prop 8 by broadly pronouncing: “Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents.” (Finding of Fact #34, page 67, as quoted in remarks of Dr. Morse to the Illinois State Legislature hearings on SB 10.)

Dr. Morse comments: “Under this definition, marriage doesn’t have anything at all to do with children, permanence, sexual exclusivity or even sex itself. Some college roommates could call themselves married under this definition. The essential public purpose of marriage has vanished, and has been replaced with inessential private purposes. Instead of being a bedrock social institution, marriage becomes nothing but a government registry of friendships, a pointless legal convention that frankly doesn’t deserve any government benefits or recognition at all.”

Once we change the essential public purpose of marriage, genderless marriage effectually goes on to legally declare the following: (1) that marriage is about meeting the private emotional and romantic needs of adults; (2) that contrary to nature and science alike, children do not need or deserve the protection, service, and socialization of both a male and female parent; and (3) that government, rather than biology and the procreative act, will determine the roles in relationships.

This legislation retires mothers and fathers, at best leaving only de facto agents of the state, who are, in the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, “joined in an economic partnership” to “support one another and any dependents” in their custody, as long as their “feelings about one another” motivate that action.

This type of definition undermines familial relationships, whether in divorce court or just over the dinner table. “After all,” the Catholic theologian Bishop Paprocki explains, “if marriage is an emotional union meant for adult satisfactions, why should it be sexually exclusive? Or limited to two? Or pledged to permanence? If children don’t need both their mother and father, why should fathers stick around when romance fades?” And why should there be legal recourse to mother and child when that father abandons them? He’s only a romantic attachment.


  1. Thank you so much for this article. It is starting to seem like a losing battle to support traditional marriage. With all the "compassionate" ads running I haven't known how best express my support for tradition marriage. This has really helped me.
  2. Excellent points made. Gay activists want to promote this issue as one of civil rights, but the author is correct to frame the debate as one about the definition of marriage. And one thing that worries me is that these activists see gay marriage as only a stepping stone to their final agenda, which is to eliminate any speech that claims there is a difference between a heterosexual relationship and a homosexual one. Their end-game is intolerance, not tolerance - the squelching of any speech that might make them feel uncomfortable. That is where this gay marriage issue is headed - you can see it in states like California and Massachusetts which are two of the most "progressive" states on this issue.
  3. I would like to see a follow-on to this article with more rigorous legal scholarship. There were too many "so what?" situations presented that, to me, weaken rather than strengthen the argument against non-gendered marriage. It is hard to argue a case when the opposition can just yawn and say, "so what?"
  4. Thank you for the best legal description of same sex marriage I've ever seen published. The general public rarely understands the long-term effect of any new law. Thus, we have the potential to do great harm if we don't research long-term effects before passing ANY law.
  5. A license is: A right given by some competent authority to do an act, which without such authority would be illegal. ( Vide Ayl. Parerg, 353; 15 Vin. Ab. 92; Ang. Wat. Co. 61, 85. Bouvier’s Law Dictionary) A marriage license alleges the man/god and his government/priesthood is a superior being to the once sovereign heir of the Eternal Father with authority that God or his heirs does not have. By what lawful nexus did the servant representative become the sovereign individual's god/superior with such intimate and inalienable rights as to able to authorize marriage, parenting, etc. ? Marriage is a religious sacrament for the endowment and protection of the family. Carnal government has no rights but duties only to act within the secular laws of nature and of nature's god. For government to medal into the religious ordinance of marriage, by any fashion, it is outside of and, violates D&C 98:4-15 and 134:. . . There are generally 3 realizations or philosophies of law. First, natural law, is matter or otherwise's defined action (gravity, physics, fiscal law, that which defines man's secular freedom - murder, larceny, etc.) that are in harmony with that which the Eternal Father has endowed order. It is corporeal man's duty to discover those laws and create codes, conventions, decrees, ordinances, regulations, rules, statutes, etc. that most accurately depict and harmonize therewith. The States united was to be in toto a natural law nation. As Samuel Adams so clearly stated: The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on Earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of any, but only to have the law of nature for his rule. The second philosophy of law is legal positivism. Legal positivism is where man, as a god, can perform ex nihilo and create laws out of nothing, victimless crimes, etc. That god/man philosophy crowns its supreme divinity with the title of law maker(s) - relying on the craftiness and philosophy of men. The god/man lawmakers then enforce their codes, conventions, decrees, ordinances, regulations, rules, statutes, etc. as absolute law (superior to natural law). In the case of the god/man lawmakers mingling man's philosophies with scriptural and otherwise religious ordinances, marriage for example, injustice and chaos are the results. The third philosophy of law is legal realism. That is where an entity can get away with anything it says, legal, lawful or not - such as is the judiciary of today.
  6. Why can't we get anyone to consider the possibility of removing Marriage from the legal system? We're fools. We tie all of these legal and technical "decisions" to the concept of marriage, and they don't belong there at all. It made sense, or so it seemed, but it doesn't work. I'm 100% for heterosexual relationships, and against homosexual on several fronts, including the welfare of the children. That said, if two friends simply share an apartment, why can't one visit the other at the hospital? If they share rent, why can't one go on base with the other? If only one works and the other takes care of a child (not married, and NOT living imorally), why can't they file jointly? Marriage shouldn't be a part of the discussion. There are ample reasons why marriage should be a religious principle, outside the purview of the courts, and protected by the sanctity of religious faith. Let anyone worship how where or what they may, at least my concept of Marriage would then not be found "legally false," right? Yes, the battle is on, but it shouldn't be. Marriage shouldn't be the yardstick for anything legal - at all. Thanks for a good article.
  7. I find the information put forth in this article to be chilling. Who suffers from the consequences of genderless marriage are children. I don't live in Utah or I would attend the event on Tuesday. From what is shown on TV it looks like an innocent request for homosexual marriage. There are many facets that will affect all people.
  8. I would like to add another point. The whole gay-marriage issue revolves around what some people feel are their rights or entitlements. Reviewing The Family: A Proclamation to the World, I find references to a few rights, but only once does it list one directly: "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. " Who is entitled to what? Children are entitled to birth in a marriage to a mother AND father faithful to each other. Contrast that to Korihor's teachings in Alma 30:27-28; he claims the people are stripped of their rights because of religion and belief in an inexistent God. Sound familiar?
  9. Reply to Thomas Baird "Why can't we get anyone to consider the possibility of removing Marriage from the legal system? We're fools. We tie all of these legal and technical "decisions" to the concept of marriage, and they don't belong there at all" I believe the very beginning of the article addresses the need for legal marriage. Marriage brings together the idea of commitment, sex, and procreation. Why is this of public interest? Consider that the state is obligated to enforce parental obligations and rights in issues like paternity, custody, and child support. Yet, no matter what it does, the state cannot compensate through court order what both parents can accomplish when they cooperate. That cooperation and commitment is priceless, and individuals, including children, and the public bear burderns when parents deviate from that. Therefore, promoting commitment among heterosexual partners is in the indivdual and state interest. In fact, without what individuals willingly do, the state would not be able to bear the burden.
  10. Sorry, no. Marriage was not "designed" or "created" to protect those who are vulnerable (i.e., children). Marriage as an institution was invented by man to protect property (i.e., when a man died, his property went to his children). Formerly, man lived in extremely egalitarian societies (to include sharing lovers, children, etc.--there were no monogamous relationships as such). The only reason marriage became necessary was because men started to lay claim to land and eventually other property. In order to keep it in the "family" they had to institute a relationship designed to protect paternity. Hence marriage. Prior to that, the vulnerable populations were taken care of by the whole group or tribe. Try science next time... See "Sex at Dawn" for more information, or talk to an anthropologist or biologist.
  11. It is such a sad thing that people believe that marriage is only here to protect property and set boundaries for lovers. While I agree that those things are part of a marriage covenant, one who is actually married can attest to the fact that there is so much more to marriage than that! Furthermore, marriage was not invented by man, but by God. Marriage is a sacred union designed to protect and safeguard the family. Anthropologists and biologists will clearly agree that marriage is necessary to safeguard land and property. That much is obvious. But it is also obvious that anthropologists and biologists understand that most cultures believed that marriage was so much more. For example, think how much influence religion has had on marriage since the beginning of time.
  12. I agree with Rebecca and Anon. Additionally, marriage does not guarantee that a father (or mother) will still abandon their responsibilities as a parent. There are many parents out there who willingly leave their marriage and children. Who is to say that a child raised by two men or two women or transgenders would benefit less than a child raised by their biological mother and father? I've seen and met these children firsthand and I can tell you that they are completely well-adjusted persons who contribute to society. There are so many children who are raised without their fathers, how in the world would gay marriage change this fact? It will not. Even if states are removing gender from their marriage laws this does not change who is a biological parent. Children just as much love from their non-biological parents (no matter their gender) as they would from biological parents. For those that only can wrap their mind around the idea that the word "marriage" should only be between a man and woman then perhaps we shall offer same sex couples the opportunity to create a new word with the same meaning and provides them with the same legal responsibilities and privileges as those that are "married". I think we should support traditional marriage but we should also support non-traditional unions because honestly, as long as two people love each other and are loving parents if they have children,why judge?
  13. Saying that the mother-and-child bond is stronger really upsets me. My dad raised me as a single parent after my mother left us. I believe I turned out excellently (I just got accepted into a pharmacy program at the U of U), and don't think having a mother would have affected me greatly, or may have even impacted me adversely. I honestly believe the dynamic of the family unit is changing, and that single parents and maybe even same sex parents, can raise amazing children :)
  14. To Carli and Eve, There are numerous studies that show that over all, children raised in single parent households are at higher risks of social and economic disadvantages both as children and as adults. Third Way (from MIT) recently published a study on the effects of young men who were raised in single parent households. The fact that the majority of children suffer in such homes in no way precludes the possibility for exceptions to the rule nor does it mean that the remaining parent didn't love their children or do their best to raise them. Dismissing overall trends in favor of personal anecdotal experience often leads to poorly thought out decisions.
  15. Marriage is ordained by God. He is the Father of our spirits. When the spirit and body is seperated death occurs. The first commandment in marriage, is multiply and replenish the earth. Without people obeying this commandment society would cease to exist, period, Gods plan to send spirit Children to earth to recieve a mortal body would cease, Gods work would cease. His work is to bring to past the immortatilty and eternal life of men and women. The Proclamation of the Family is an inspiried document to protect the family and the work of God our Father. With one poll the majority of people believe in gay marriage, if half of the population was gay and married, society will cease to exist.
  16. Actually, civil marriage (what is being decided in the Supreme Court) is not ordained by God or any other belief system. Civil marriage is ordained by the laws of the various states and commonwealths that make up the United States. Do not confuse the two.
  17. I laugh when people say lets remove marriage from the legal system. So we make everything contractual and then what? We are back in court suing for breach of contract. So much for taking marriage out of the legal system. Get real libertarians!
  18. There will always be inequality as long as government is involved in things it should not. Rights, by their very definition, require no license or permission. Although society may falter when people do not live according to the commandments, we will get nowhere by seeking to force people to do so. But I agree that it is wise (and, indeed, an act of self-defense) to support the traditional definition of marriage in legal terms in the absence the option to remove government entirely from marriage and let churches and other institutions act according to their own religious (or otherwise) beliefs and values. - D.M. Andrews, author.
  19. I love love love this. Thanks for exposing the truth about gay marriage and how it affects society that no one else is reporting about! Everyone must read this.
  20. The claim that marriage is about property rights, as claimed by Anon, is patently false. Australian Aborigines traditionally did not recognise property ownership, and yet their culture observed marriage. Traditionally there were also punishments for those who violated marriage, including what we now would call adultery and fornication. Why? because they recognised the needs of children to be linked with their parents. Most Australian Aboriginal groups had strict rules about who could be married to who - rules devised to avoid inbreeding, while at the same time maintaining tribal kinship. Although they permitted divorce, they enforced parental obligations to care for their children. It is quite fascinating and complex, but one thing is clear - the rules of marriage were designed around protecting the next generation. This is a culture that existed for an estimated 40,000 years with minimal contact with the outside world, so their ways were not corrupted by concepts developed in the more "sophisticated" cultures. It would certainly appear to me that marriage as a way of protecting children pre-dates the idea that marriage was about protecting property rights.
  21. Equality here can be looked at another way. I am a man. In the way it has been, if I want to be married, I have to learn to get along with a woman. It has been that way for every man. Women have needed to do the of course complimentary thing to learn to get along with a man. What is so unequal about that? This pre-requisite of getting along demands the development of social skills. A child will learn these skills from parents have the skills. That social learning expands the person. Conversely,. how "convenient" it would have been to be able to pair-up with my high-school buddies. I would NOT need to learn to get along with a woman. No development of social skills there. In this case the union becomes a "special right" because it gives something not required of traditional unions. No pro-creative ability either. How limiting! Yes, marriage and procreation go together and cause one to stretch and learn. And that is what good parents are able to do, stretch and learn. No this is not done by all gendered relationships, but should be sought for. This re-definition undermines all that. And that is just one way that it harms or effects me.

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