Saturday, June 26, 2004

Gay Marriage

Maggie Gallagher wrote an article for the National Review where she lauded Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's testimony on Capital Hill against Gay Marriage. I think its important to dissect the article and the argument, considering that Gallagher claims its the "single most eloquent and articulate defense of our traditional understanding of marriage I have heard from an American politician."

Romney testified:
"Given the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. . . Should we abandon marriage as we know it and as it was known by the framers of our Constitution? Has America been wrong about marriage for 200 plus years? Were generations that spanned thousands of years from all the civilizations of the world wrong about marriage? Are the philosophies and teachings of all the world's major religions simply wrong? Or is it more likely that four people among the seven that sat in a court in Massachusetts have erred? I believe that is the case."

First of all, with regards to religion at least, the claim is inaccurate. Buddhists have expressed no problem whatsoever with gay marriage. While politicians like to equate the Judeo-Christian(-Muslim if they're feeling inclusive) tradition as a complete representation of the religious mainstream, millions of southeast Asians would beg to differ. Second, as marriage is different in a legal vs. a spiritual sense, its possible for everyone to be right. That is, the legal implications of marriage are defined based on constitutional and statutory law, which mandates equality amongst all people, including (as the Supreme Court has reminded us in Romer v. Evans and more recently in Lawrence v. Texas) Gay people. Thus, the benefits of civil marriage have to be open to all people regardless of sexual orientation. And while yes, technically homosexuals can still marry (just of the opposite sex), forcing them into such an arrangement raises all sorts of separate moral issues (what about the partner who is faced with a spouse that isn't attracted to them? Is sex outside of marriage ok in this case? Etc). Merely asserting that this issue was resolved a long time ago doesn't resolve the issue today.

"Marriage is also for children. In fact, marriage is principally for the nurturing and development of children. The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother."

Though marriage also provides an environment for raising children, Gov. Romney would do well to brush up on his facts. There is no social science research that suggests that homosexual parents fare worse in raising children than heterosexual ones, indeed, the American Academy of pediatricians writes in its policy statement on the matter
The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual.

Most studies that conservative "family" groups cite have rhetoric along the lines of "studies show that children do better when they have a mother and a father." Why don't they just say "studies show kids with gay parents do worse"? Simple: that's not what the studies are reporting on. The social science research that is being quoted here compares TWO PARENT homes with SINGLE PARENT homes, not gay couples vs. straight couples. The evidence in the latter comparison is very limited, but at the moment the experts seem to be in consensus that, given the reality of children in situations where their parents are in a homosexual relationship, the largest possibility of psychological harm comes in the form of that union having no possibility of being recognized.

The advocates tell us the skies have not fallen in Massachusetts; nothing has changed, they assure us. Romney points out that small things have already begun to change, foretelling the bigger, sadder changes to come. First, the marriage licenses change so they no longer read husband and wife but "Party A" and "Party B." The Department of Health insists that birth certificates also change. The line for mother and father becomes "Parent A" and "Parent B."

Horrors upon horrors! I can see the crumbling of society already. What proud new mom, upon seeing their child's birth certificate, will be so incensed on being labeled "parent" as opposed "mother" that they will say "That's it! This baby isn't worth it any more!"? I honestly can't see how a slight linguistic adjustment is any way linked to the gloom and doom rhetoric of Gallagher and her ilk.

The transformation of mother and father into "Parent A" and "Parent B" is the model of the paradigm shift now underway in Massachusetts. The distinctive features of the union of male and female are going to have to be removed from our notions of marriage and family. The experience of same-sex couples will become the new norm for family life, because the "unisex" idea that gender has no public significance is the only model that can be construed as "inclusive" of both opposite-sex and same-sex unions. The result is not neutrality but the active promotion of a new unisex ideal, in which the distinctive features of opposite-sex relations will be submerged, marginalized, cast to one side, and redefined as discrimination in order to protect the new court-ordered public moral standard of the equality of same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Again, Gallagher seems to feel that legal openness precludes the possibility of anyone having an alternative view on a subject. Of course the Gay Marriage movement is itself a refutation of this standard, as gay couples certainly were fervent, legal rules notwithstanding, that they should be considered married. So while the legal paradigm may shift in favor of the inclusive "unisex" mentality Gallagher abhors, there is still plenty of room for individuals, churches, and organizations to hold true to beliefs of gender role separation. Unless the government actually ENFORCES unisexuality upon the entire populace (which would entail, among other absurd things, mandated equal childcare time between mothers and fathers), no one is forcing Gallagher to change anything about her life, views, activities, or mindsets at all.

The change has begun: The needs and desires of a tiny fraction of adults in alternative families are becoming the basis of a new moral norm. Anyone who departs from it risks thundering denunciation from self-righteous elites who are no longer satisfied with tolerance and civility — living with our deepest differences — but wish to impose their vision of morality on the majority.

What on earth is the imposition? Its not like gay couples are going to be setting up camp in your living room. Gay couples are asking for nothing BUT tolerance and civility, tolerance of their relationship's existence and the basic civility of not making these relationships official legal abominations. It seems to me that it is Ms. Gallagher who can't stand to live in a society that respects the "deepest differences."

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