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.