Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gay marriage in New York

It's beginning to look like gay marriage may become law in New York State (where I live.)

That would be a mistake.

I strongly oppose discrimination against gays, and I abjure any personal animosity based on sexual preference. I have many gay friends, co-workers, and patients. But gay marriage recognized by law is a mistake.

Like most people, I believe in natural law. Marriage is inherently a life-long union between a man and a woman. The legal recognition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is a recognition of reality and a recognition of the essential foundation of our civilization.

The failure of government to legislate gay marriage is not a denial of rights to gay people. Gays may marry as the law now stands-- they may marry a person of the opposite sex. Before you criticize me for making an 'the law prohibits both the poor and the rich from sleeping under bridges' argument, lets look at what marriage is and what counts as a right.

The law as it is now places substantial constraint on legal marriage. You may not marry more than one person, or a person of the same sex, or a child, or a blood relative, or yourself, or a dead person or a pet or a fictional person or object or idea. The law of marriage has never permitted a person to marry anyone. Restriction of marriage to a man and a woman is no more unconstititional with respect to gays than restriction of marriage to two people is unconstitutional with respect to polygamists or restriction of marriage to two different people is unconstitutional with respect to narcissists. It is not unconstitutional nor is it a denial of rights to apply a law in accordance with the definition of its terms. Marriage is a union of a man and a woman. Other unions, whatever their characteristics, aren't marriage, and the refusal of the law to deem them marriage is merely consistency, not denial of rights.

My own view is informed by by religious beliefs. I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is a sacrament, an expression of something holy on earth. Of course many will say 'you can't impose your religion on others', but that's nonsense. All of our rights as Americans are the result of the imposition of a religious idea:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

A religious idea is the basis of our rights. Without the incorporation of American's religious viewpoints in to law, we would have no rights at all.

Many Americans' political beliefs have a basis in religious beliefs. I oppose the death penalty because of my religious belief in the sanctity of life. I believe in equal protection of the law because I believe that we are all created in God's image. I oppose our involvement in non-defensive wars because I accept Catholic Just War doctrine, which prohibits offensive war. My religious views inform very many of my political beliefs. I have a right-- even an obligation-- to act in the political realm on the basis of my personal convictions. The fact that my personal convictions are informed by my religious convictions does not disqualify me from political action.

But what about the First Amendment? The First Amendment explicitly prohibits an extablishment of religion- an official federal church. It guarantees free expression of religion, which obviously includes our expression of religiously guided political viewpoints in the voting booth. Americans have every right to oppose gay marriage not just on secular grounds but on religious grounds.

But gay marriage in New York, and throughout the country, will become law, I suspect. The massive p.r. campaign in its favor, and the disingenuous comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement (which was an explicitly religious movement) have convinced many Americans, expecially young Americans, that gay marriage is a matter of civil rights.

The legal redefinition of marriage will not bring the benefits of marriage to gay couples, or at least not on a large scale and not in the long run. It will lead to the disappearance of marriage as traditionally understood, and to the establishment of all manner of unions, many transient, many deeply harmful to the people buffeted by them, especially children. That has certainly been the experience of many European nations that have preceded us down this path. Large numbers of Europeans are living together and having children out of wedlock, only to decide later, after the children are born, whether this arrangement 'works' for them. The catastrophic impact of this experimentation should be evident to all.

Marriage between a man and a woman means something, objectively in nature, and its dissolution will rend our society in ways we can only begin to imagine.


  1. Historian John Boswell claimed the 4th century Christian martyrs Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus were united in the ritual of adelphopoiesis, which he calls an early form of religious same-sex marriage

  2. Firstly: The civil rights movement was an "explicity religious movement"? That is some high-grade bullcrap. According to most religious people (and their Bible), women are meant to be little more than servents, aquiessing to a man's every desire.

    Secondly: Religious people don't have children out of wedlock? Since when? This is obviously a very recent change, possibly in the last 5 five minutes.

    And Lastly: Does the pursuit of happiness not apply to gay people for some reason?

  3. I think it doesn't matter in my eyes. I don't agree with homosexual relations but me expressing an opinion for or against their rights to do anything not only shows my lack of faith in god but also how I show a terrible witness. Gay people can do whatever they want. If they want to be married then so be it! It is interesting to know that most gay couples have a hard time being monogamous so I would be interested to see what statistics say about the divorce rate amongst homosexuals would be in the future. But whatever!