A few days ago, I reluctantly re-entered the gay marriage debate. Believe me, I don’t enjoy this debate. I feel the brunt of all the “hate” language it saddles me with, and I am burdened by the weight of the discrimination label, as though I am in the camp of George Wallace, the Democrat governor who stood in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama in 1963, preventing blacks from entering college. I am not in Wallace’s camp and neither are those who wish to preserve traditional marriage. Of course it would be easier to capitulate, to give up the fight and not say anything, just going along with a comfortable life indifferent to the plight of those who are born into America after I die, but where is the value in that approach?
Why speak to the issue? Trust me, even if I were anti-gay, being anti-gay would not be sufficient reason to speak. I am not anti-gay. I do not count gay persons as inferior to myself. I count them—and all people—as my equals because we all stand equally as sinners before God in need of grace. I believe—as the Declaration of Independence asserts—that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” It is on this basis—and for this reason—that I feel compelled to plead with folks to uphold the traditional definition of marriage. The issue is NOT “gay vs. anti-gay.” The issue is NOT one of “bigotry vs. civil rights.” The issue is not even a political one, in the sense of it being “conservative vs. liberal.” The issue comes down simply to Tyranny vs. Liberty, and I hope always to be on the side of liberty.
I have attempted to make this case before, and I was then accused of being “hung up” on fighting against gays. So, again, I repeat that I am not anti-gay. I am anti-tyranny, or, as I prefer to say it, I am pro-liberty. I am for freedom in the truest sense of that word. I am for the belief that all of us have certain unalienable rights which were granted to us as human beings not by our government but by our Creator, as the Declaration of Independence says.
Here is the issue. Biological nature (and biological nature’s God) has established male and female as the basis upon which humanity would multiply and prosper. Good governments serve nature (and nature’s God) by enacting laws which comport to natural laws, thus maintaining order for the benefit of humankind. The law in this case is not an imposition; it is a clarification of what is true by natural design. As such, the law serves as an affirmation of that which is best for ordering human society.
Heterosexual, monogamous marriage resulting in orderly reproduction is a true design of biological nature. Though reproduction is not the only significant aspect of marriage, it is certainly a primary aspect of marriage. A recent article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy states,
Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 245-287, Winter 2010
This view of marriage, which is known as the “Conjugal View,” is rooted in nature, in biology, and in the basic reality of creation and creaturely existence. It is not the property of American politics. It was not founded here. Its roots go back thousands of years prior to the establishment of the United States of America. The oldest social law code extant (the Code of Ur Nammu) details penalties for adultery and affirms the conjugal view of marriage. Long before Republicans or Democrats, Conservatives or Liberals, were conceived, civilizations discovered in nature and codified in law the conjugal view of marriage. Marriage, ultimately, is defined by nature itself for the orderly propagation of humanity.
This view of marriage has weathered other libertine tempests in American history, such as the 19th Century drive by the Mormon church advocating polygamy. In its famous case deciding the fate of polygamy in America, the Court ruled in Reynolds v. United States (1878) that monogamous, heterosexual marriage provides the bedrock structure for societal harmony:
Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties, with which government is necessarily required to deal. In fact, according as monogamous or polygamous marriages are allowed, do we find the principles on which the government of the people, to a greater or less extent, rests.
The conjugal, biological view of marriage is foundational, and it is rooted in creation—not in government. What is being proposed by gay marriage advocates is an imposition of an alternate reality—a revised reality—which is not rooted in biological nature but, rather, is rooted in political power. Because the state can alter the definition, therefore, the state should alter the definition: This proposition appears to be the heartbeat which pumps lifeblood to the gay marriage movement.
This proposition—that the state can alter the definition of marriage and thus it should—is a proposition untenable in the history of our nation. When a different minority position gained political steam in the 19th Century and desired a revision to the definition of marriage, the Court took refuge in the conjugal view rooted in biological nature and said, “No,” to the proposed redefinition. Believing in heterosexual, monogamous marriage as the ideal upon which society would continue to prosper, the court had no other choice. The stakes were too high to decide any other way of ordering society.
Now, the situation is radically different. The movement toward gay marriage is fueled with a post-Civil-Rights passion that has moved beyond asking what is ordered for society in nature. This movement is asking instead for the government to revise a natural order definition and replace it with a state-imposed one. In other words, this movement is not appealing to a natural and unalienable right resting on the beneficence of nature’s God. Instead, this movement is asking for a government-bestowed right. If rights and privileges are not determined by nature and nature’s God, then who determines them? The government.
In the short term, there is great appeal to having the government determine rights rather than having nature’s God determine them. If the government is on your side, then, of course, you will have a vested interest in that government bestowing a previously restricted right upon you (thereby gaining you as a member of its political voting block). But beware. Surfing this self-serving wave of government control may prove in the end to be no day at the beach. If government really does possess the power to grant what once were thought unalienable rights, then government has the power to take away those (and other) rights as the political climate (and voting block) changes. When government overtakes nature’s God in determining basic human rights, liberty is lost. Freedom is a mirage of the government’s making.
Here is tyranny. If the government can go against biological nature and prescribe rights to groups of citizens without recourse to a reality outside of itself, then government has become god. Government not only will give rights to some, it will take rights from others. Not only will the government make laws consistent with its revised reality; it will also—of necessity—enforce those laws for the sake of maintaining its ability to control reality (=oppression). Reality itself will become what the government mandates.
In response to the recent decision by the legislature in New York to adopt gay marriage, George Weigel—precisely on this point of losing liberty—states,
The argument over marriage will and must continue, because it touches first principles of democratic governance — and because resistance to the agenda of the gay-marriage lobby is a necessary act of resistance against the dictatorship of relativism, in which coercive state power is used to impose on all of society a relativistic ethic of personal willfulness.
Weigel is making the point that the definition of marriage rests upon foundational elements of nature and precedes America itself, while the proposed revision is driven by small group wielding a big stick of political momentum against history, tradition, and nature, imposing a new reality which appeals to none of these foundational elements and is the mere product of government power. In taking its stand on power rather than nature, this revised definition does not continue the legacy of civil liberty; it trumps it with raw government power.
Legally enforced segregation involved the same kind of coercive state power that the proponents of gay marriage now wish to deploy on behalf of their cause. Something natural and obvious — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” — was being denied by the state in its efforts to maintain segregated public facilities and to deny full citizenship rights to African Americans. Once the American people came to see that these arrangements, however hallowed by custom (and prejudice), were, in fact, unnatural and not obvious, the law was changed.
What the gay lobby proposes in the matter of marriage is precisely the opposite of this.
The revisionist definition wants to go back to the era preceding civil rights and impose by government authority an unnatural definition of marriage. What this means is that the debate over the definition of marriage is not really a debate about marriage at all; it is a debate over who controls us: Nature and nature’s God or government and the ruling class. The difference between these two governors is the difference between Freedom and Tyranny.
I understand that the short-term promise of accepting gay marriage makes it appear that freedom is at stake, and indeed it is. But the freedom that is at stake is not the freedom of an underprivileged class being denied an unalienable right; the freedom at stake is the freedom for all Americans. Will Americans be free to believe and live by unalienable rights guaranteed by their creator, or will we be subjected to the tyranny of a ruling class which offers us rights based on our political cooperation. The stakes could not be higher for all of us.
I do not plead against gay Americans in this battle. I plead for them. It seems for now that accepting the premise that the government grants you your rights is going to yield in more rights for gay Americans (namely, the “right” to marry), but, in the end, political powers ebb and flow. Times change. In most cases, governments have not been overly generous toward gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons. When government becomes god, only the governors prosper. Everyone else suffers.