Gay Marriage Debate Needs Honesty

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

President Barack Obama has ended months of equivocation about gay marriage by coming out in favor, a potential election-year game-changer, but while his position was "evolving," other events took place.

In its May 9 edition, North Carolina’s News and Observer newspaper reported on the previous-day primary election passage of a referendum approving a marriage amendment to the state constitution: "North Carolina has become the 31st state to add an amendment on marriage to its constitution, with voters banning same-sex marriage and barring legal recognition of unmarried couples by state and local governments."

The N&O reported that conservative advocates, an organization called Vote for Marriage, spent about $1 million on pro-amendment advertising. The liberal opposition to the bill, the Coalition to Protect All NC Families, spent in excess of $2 million.

In other words, North Carolina voters were persuaded by conservative special interests that were outspent by two-to-one to approve what 30 states have already done and others are considering.

But the North Carolina amendment will not bar anything or make anything illegal. There, as in all of America, if churches and employers agree to provide them, same sex couples can continue to live together, receive religious blessings and collect joint benefits.

The lone issue in North Carolina and elsewhere is whether or not governments at the state level and below must recognize such arrangements as marriages, and if every citizen and employer is compelled to do so as well. Gay-rights advocates would coerce everyone to recognize same-sex unions as marriages in the name of "civil rights."

Commentator Ryan Anderson observed: "But this isn’t really about civil rights. … No one is suggesting the state deny people who self-identify as gay or lesbian their rights to free speech, religious liberty, free association, or any other traditional civil liberty. The question is whether a new ‘civil right’ – the right to have the government and private citizens recognize your same-sex sexual partnership as a marriage – ought to be created, redefining marriage in the process.

"The same-sex marriage debate is so frequently framed in terms of granting gays and lesbians the freedom to do what they wish that few people realize that they already have that freedom – the question is whether the rest of society will have the freedom to choose which type of relationship to honor as marriage."

Anderson’s point on redefining marriage is key to the argument. On Aug. 31, 2003, the New York Times, one of America’s most enthusiastic advocates of gay marriage, ran a front-page story that was startling both for its content and its location – a story hostile to the idea. In June 2003, a Canadian court legalized gay marriage. Two months later, Times reporter Clifford Krauss noticed an interesting outcome: Once gays were free to marry – and despite lobbying for years for the right to do so – not many of them did.

Out of more than 33,000 declared same-sex couples in Canada, from June 10 to Aug. 25, 2003, only 590 gay and lesbian couples had applied for marriage licenses, and more than 100 of those were American couples who crossed the border. The reasons for this non-phenomenon have gloomy implications for the institution of marriage if the gay lobby prevails in American jurisdictions.

The primary reason for the reluctance of gay men to marry is that most gay men don’t want to get married. Times reporter Krauss found many gay men eager to denigrate the institution. Most of the men Krauss interviewed simply "don’t believe" in monogamy. The editor of Fab, a popular Canadian gay publication, told Krauss, "I’d be for marriage if I thought gay people would challenge and change the institution and not buy into the traditional meaning of ’till death do us part’ and monogamy forever."

After people like those at Fab Magazine rewrite the rules, it’s doubtful marriage could be called marriage in the traditional sense. Certainly there are committed gay lifetime partners, but that is not a compelling reason for change.

The rules for marriage are understood and accepted in both civil and religious practice, so married heterosexuals who consider violating them know that, to escape the disapprobation of society and preserve their families, they must either avoid violations or at least attempt to conceal their acts.

If the rules are rewritten to accommodate a self-characterized non-monogamous minority, the implications for families, especially children, and society as a whole are profound. Acceptable heterosexual behavior would be redefined in the process, too, and the already-fragile family structure in our society could break down.

If pro-gay-marriage activists are being honest about their goals, they should respect the accepted rules of marriage and not seek to undermine them. The Times article and the Canadian experience support the notion that many, perhaps most, gay activists have their own agenda.