We are now in the midst of yet another battle over real marriage versus fake marriage, and as is always the case, the other side seeks to make its case by copious amounts of falsehoods, misinformation, straw men and red herrings. It seems to simply make things up as it goes along.
It will toss out the most reckless of charges, the most baseless of accusations, and the most illogical of claims. I have dealt with them time and time again. Let me look at one common objection thrown our way by the militants as we seek to defend marriage from its total makeover and destruction.
We regularly make the argument that heterosexual marriage is fundamentally about the best interests of children. That is because every child has the basic human right of having his or her own biological mother and father, and to be raised by them.
The mountains of social science research on this is irrefutable. Children do best, all things considered, when raised by their own mum and dad, preferably a mum and dad who are married. However the homosexual activists will object. They will try to argue that if you deny marriage for homosexuals because they cannot reproduce, what about all the heterosexual couples who do not have children?
Marriage isn’t just about having children they will claim. Now this might sound like a good argument, but with a bit of reflection it becomes clear that it isn’t at all. Heterosexual marriage is certainly always open to at least the possibility of children, even though for various reasons not all marriages will result in children.
Peter Spriggs offers this insight on the relationship between marriage and reproduction: He asks us to simply turn the question around. That is, instead of asking “whether actual reproduction is essential to marriage, ask this: If marriage never had anything to do with reproduction, would there be any reason for the government to be involved in regulating or rewarding it?”
The simple truth is, governments do not determine who your best friends should be. But when the possibility of children arises, then governments and societies are quite concerned indeed and take an active role in it. As another commentator puts it,
“Marriage’s main purpose is to make sure that any child born has two responsible parents, a mother and a father who are committed to the child and committed to each other. To achieve this goal, it has never been necessary, and it would never be possible, for society to require that each and every married couple bear a child!”
Bear in mind this elementary truth: Sterility is the exception to the rule for heterosexual couples, while it is the norm for homosexual couples. A couple is not required to have babies when getting married, but it remains the generally expected norm.
Some couples cannot have children. Some don’t want them. But heterosexuality makes procreation possible, while homosexuality makes it impossible. By way of analogy, the fact that a book can lie on a shelf unread does not make it anything other than a book. The purpose or function of a book is to be read, but it does not become less than a book if it is not read.
Nature’s purpose or function for human sexuality is procreation. The fact that not every sexual act results in procreation does not take away this essential feature. As one American law professor notes, “Homosexual sex is never procreation; male-female sex (even in sterile couples) is always potentially and at least symbolically procreative in kind.”
George Girgis and Ryan Anderson offer another analogy here which is worth quoting at length:
A baseball team has its characteristic structure largely because of its orientation to winning games; it involves developing and sharing one’s athletic skills in the way best suited for honorably winning (among other things, with assiduous practice and good sportsmanship). But such development and sharing are possible and inherently valuable for teammates even when they lose their games.
Just so, marriage has its characteristic structure largely because of its orientation to procreation; it involves developing and sharing one’s body and whole self in the way best suited for honorable parenthood – among other things, permanently and exclusively. But such development and sharing, including the bodily union of the generative act, are possible and inherently valuable for spouses even when they do not conceive children.
Therefore, people who can unite bodily can be spouses without children, just as people who can practice baseball can be teammates without victories on the field. Although marriage is a social practice that has its basic structure by nature whereas baseball is wholly conventional, the analogy highlights a crucial point: Infertile couples and winless baseball teams both meet the basic requirements for participating in the practice (conjugal union; practicing and playing the game) and retain their basic orientation to the fulfillment of that practice (bearing and rearing children; winning games), even if that fulfillment is never reached.
On the other hand, same‐sex partnerships, whatever their moral status, cannot be marriages because they lack any essential orientation to children: They cannot be sealed by the generative act. Indeed, in the common law tradition, only coitus (not anal or oral sex even between legally wed spouses) has been recognized as consummating a marriage.
And even some homosexuals themselves realise how important a mother and a father are to children, and therefore oppose same-sex marriage. Let me cite just one example here: Irish homosexual Richard Waghorne. A big part of his argument against homosexual marriage has to do with the well-being of children. He writes:
Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman. Not all marriages, of course, involve child-raising. And there are also, for that matter, same-sex couples already raising children. But the reality is that marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not.
I am conscious of this when considering my own circle of friends, quite a few of whom have recently married or will soon do so in the future. Many, if not most or all of them, will raise children. If, however, I or gay friends form civil partnerships, those are much more unlikely to involve raising children. So the question that matters is this: Why should a gay relationship be treated the same way as a marriage, despite this fundamental difference?
A wealth of research demonstrates the marriage of a man and a woman provides children with the best life outcomes, that children raised in marriages that stay together do best across a whole range of measures. This is certainly not to cast aspersions on other families, but it does underscore the importance of marriage as an institution.
This is why the demand for gay marriage goes doubly wrong. It is not a demand for marriage to be extended to gay people – it is a demand for marriage to be redefined. The understanding of marriage as an institution that exists and is supported for the sake of strong families changes to an understanding of marriage as merely the end-point of romance.
If gay couples are considered equally eligible for marriage, even though gay relationships do not tend towards child-raising and cannot by definition give a child a mother and a father, the crucial understanding of what marriage is actually mainly for has been discarded.
What that amounts to is the kind of marriage that puts adults before children. That, in my opinion, is ultimately selfish, and far too high a price to pay simply for the token gesture of treating opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships identically. And it is a token gesture. Isn’t it common sense, after all, to treat different situations differently? To put it personally, I do not feel in the least bit discriminated against by the fact that I cannot marry someone of the same-sex. I understand and accept that there are good reasons for this.
It sure is nice when honest homosexuals come along and actually run with the evidence instead of trying to sweep it under the carpet. Children indeed do best with their own married mother and father, and deliberately denying them that most basic of rights is a type of child neglect, if not child abuse.
If this were the only reason why “homosexual marriage” should be steadfastly resisted, it would be enough. But there are many more reasons as well. I have written often on these various reasons in plenty of articles and at least three books now.
Those interested in learning more should check them out. But can we now lay to rest the useless and disingenuous childless heterosexual couples argument? It is well past its use by date.