These days it seems that questioning the institutions that form the cornerstones of all civil societies is in vogue. Lest we wallow in despair, let’s take some time to congratulate ourselves on the fact that we’ve progressed beyond the point at which obtaining our daily bread is our foremost concern, and we have time to re-examine the basis of morality. After all, the unexamined life is not worth living.
Let us remember, first and foremost, that the current debate is not over rights but definitions. Indeed, if marriage itself were a right, we’d all be born married. If the state were to deny a man the right to take a wife based on suspicions of homosexual tendencies, we might see a bona fide case of discrimination. However, for two same-sex individuals to decry the denial of their “rights” is not unlike a grown man protesting his denial of entry into the Girl Scouts- by definition he’s not a pre-adolescent girl, so why wouldn’t he simply form a beer league baseball team instead?
Likewise, who among us could decry the establishment of a contractual relationship which protects property and entitles the parties thereof to the privileges of affinity? Call it what we may, though, absent the component of sexual complementarity, it is not marriage but something else. The lunacy of trying to call it marriage is that marriage, an age-old institution, has a definite form and meaning, regardless of our perceptions of it.
Homosexuals have not been stymied in an attempt to create an institution exclusively for homosexual couples, but have sought to make the public perceive homosexual couples and heterosexual couples as the same, which any casual observer would conclude to be false. Gay “marriage” activists are not destructive so much as misguided, though the policies they pursue are surely detrimental to the stability of the family. After all, while attempting to redefine marriage may not immediately affect the way a husband and wife treat one another in the short term, it certainly undermines confidence in a bedrock institution over the long term. If marriage is nothing more than an expression of love, what separates a long-married couple from two teenagers who say they love each other? The left would have us believe nothing, but the actual difference is the level of commitment and the expectation of the fulfillment of certain parental duties should children be born of that union.
It is here we find the differing definitions of equality in this political divide. There is a difference between the inherent equality of individuals and the comparative equality of actions. A gay man and a straight man are equal on the basis of their shared humanity, though their actions are not necessarily equal. The fact that the two behave differently do not make them any more or less than equal, but the behaviors themselves remain unequal.
The activists go a step further in their fallacy by expecting entitlement to federal benefits within their unions, so that they would receive tax dollars on the basis of their personal lifestyles. This would infringe on the freedom of conscience of every traditionalist. I genuinely don’t care what Adam and Steve are doing next door, so long as I’m not paying for it. It is not the task of the state to reward or incentivize any personal lifestyle choices, however noble or ignoble they may be. The same is even so with traditional marriage, despite its centrality to the health of our republic- people don’t have children to expand the tax base, but because they want to be parents. Marriage is a cultural institution, not a governmental one. The only say government ought to have in marriage is in presiding over a divorce or custody case in a court of law, and this is in fact the spirit of the oft-cited case of Loving v. Virginia. The state attempted to alter the definition of marriage by adding a racial component to it. The fundamental right of marriage discussed in this case referred to the right of an individual to select his or her own partner free from interference from the state, but did not fundamentally redefine marriage.
Whatever the outcome of this debate, marriage will remain as it is and always was. Whatever the machinations of our current government, the truth will remain in the hearts and minds of the faithful. We could argue that a fork is a spoon all day, but at the end of the day, is it any less a fork?