Is Gay Marriage a Civil Right?

Those trying to redefine marriage want you to believe it’s a civil rights issue. Lots of people fall for it. And once someone believes it’s a civil rights issue, it’s hard to oppose. After all, who opposes civil rights? We’re Americans, darn it!  

But what do people actually mean when they say that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue?  Do they mean that people have the right to marry anyone they want?  Definitely not.

While there are a few genuinely crazy people in the world, virtually no one believes siblings should be able to marry each other or adults should be able to marry 14 year olds.  A few more people think you should be able to marry multiple people, but that’s still a very small minority. 

Therefore, as a general principle, we can agree that not every imaginable relationship should be called a marriage just because two people say they love each other.   

“But that’s different,” you say.  “There are actually good reasons those people can’t get married.”

Maybe so.  That’s obviously part of the conversation.

But once you have conceded that not every imaginable relationship should be called a marriage, you are conceding that there is no civil right to marry anyone you want.

To clarify, people do have a constitutional right to get married. But the idea that people have a constitutional right to declare any relationship they might find themselves involved in a marriage is both legally unsupportable and silly.

That isn’t to say that same-sex couples aren’t entitled to go to the legislature and make the case that their relationships deserve be included under the definition of the term marriage. That is precisely what they’ve done. But making the case as a matter of policy is very different than claiming entitlement as a matter of birth.

So…now that we have clarified that this is not a civil rights issue, we have to answer the real question addressed by Referendum 74. That is, whether it makes sense to say that there is no difference between same-sex and opposite sex relationships.

This is a much more difficult case to make for those trying to redefine marriage because there are obvious, unalterable differences.

Every kindergartner can tell you that those relationships are different because kindergartners know the difference between men and women.

Furthermore, every adult can tell you that this difference is meaningful.  It’s impossible to be alive long without developing an awareness of the fact that there are innate differences between the genders. That’s why there are industries built around the fact that “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. Not only do we spend significant time at cocktail parties joking about those differences, we also recognize that those differences matter to kids.  Fathers can do their absolute best with the purest of motives, but they can never be their child’s mother. 

You have to be severely conditioned to even argue this point.  But to believe that a relationship involving people of the same sex is no different than relationships of the opposite sex, you must believe that men and women are interchangeable in every meaningful way.

The good news is, however, that the majority of those who say they support same-sex marriage don’t agree with the logic of same-sex marriage.  Most people haven’t really thought through it because they’re still stuck on “it’s a civil right.” I am convinced that the majority of those who support same-sex marriage do so in an attempt to prove they don’t hate gay people.

Of course it’s a good thing not to hate gay people.  We shouldn’t hate anyone.

But in the process of not hating gay people, we shouldn’t lose the intellectual capacity to recognize what is obvious:  not every relationship is a marriage just because people claim to love each other, and relationships that provide a child a mother and father are uniquely valuable.

The fact that the vast majority of the planet believes those things to be true is why logic dictates that marriage should be between a man and a woman. This also explains why 65% of the 32 states that have voted on this issue have agreed with that premise. But as long as we’re allowing ourselves to be manipulated by faux civil rights, logic can’t get a word in edgewise.

Why the Church Must Care About Marriage

In about 60 days, Washington State will vote on the definition of marriage.

This decision will be a definitive moment in the history of our state, and possibly in our nation.

Washington could become the first jurisdiction in the history of human civilization that went to the ballot and voted for same-sex “marriage”. The eyes of the world will be on us.  Those hoping to redefine marriage believe victory in Washington will break that dam that will ultimately take it to the rest of the nation and eventually the world.

One of the questions still to be answered is how the churches, and those within them, will respond to this issue.

Many churches are pretending the issue doesn’t exist because “we don’t do politics”—as if there is a closet somewhere God shoved a few things in and said, “I don’t really care about that stuff, don’t bother talking or thinking about it.”

I routinely encounter people who agree with me philosophically, but wonder why it really matters. They don’t think redefining marriage would be good public policy, but they wonder if it’s really worth all the fuss.

If you are such a person, let’s go back to the beginning for a moment.

In the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world, the serpent asked Eve, “Did God really say that if you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that you would surely die?”  Of course she knew that He had, but ultimately she convinced herself that disobedience would not actually lead to death, as God said, but would actually make her more like God.

And so it began.

Ever since, we’ve been telling ourselves not only that we know more than God, but that in doing so we are becoming more godlike.  Fascinating, isn’t it?

We have all had similar moments in our personal lives where we decided we knew better than God and inevitably suffered the consequences.

So it is culturally, as well.

The debate over the definition of marriage in Washington is really a question of whether we know more than God.

Of course we don’t.

It is the churches in Washington who should have the best grasp on this reality and should be the most eager to communicate this not only to each other, but to the world around them.

The churches should also be most acutely aware of the fact that you can’t start acting like you know better than God and not deal with the consequences. That’s the nature of pride, it always precedes a fall.

We apply this fairly well to individuals, but less effectively to culture.

The advantage we have in a cultural debate is that we actually have some influence in the decisions that are made.

So the question we have to answer is whether we are going to graciously use the cultural influence we have in an effort to prevent the inevitable harm that would result from telling God we know better than him, or whether we will surrender our influence, try to keep the peace, and promise to be around to help pick up the pieces.

Maybe we should pray about it.

Marriage is a Social Justice Issue

Marriage is generally thought of as a social or moral issue.  In fact, many conservatives avoid issues like marriage to focus on economic issues.  Strong families, they argue, will follow strong economies.

For the leftist, they avoid issues like marriage in favor of social justice issues.  From their perspective, we shouldn’t try to force one particular value system on people because legislating morality is inappropriateThey feel time is better spent focusing on how we can practically help those in need.

Whether it is the economically minded conservative or the social justice minded leftist, both would agree that practically improving the quality of people’s economic situation and eliminating the cultural barriers to their success is a higher priority than “moral struggles” over the definition of marriage.

What happens then, if someone committed to not getting involved in “social issues” discovers the key to the poverty problem lies in the marriage issue. Suddenly an irresistible force meets an immovable object.

That could be precisely the situation we find ourselves in.

An analysis of recent census data by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation indicates that marriage could be the greatest single variable in the poverty discussion.

According to the study, the poverty rate for families with two married parents is 75% less than the poverty rate for single-headed households. While conventional wisdom says that the real solution to ending poverty is education, it turns out that being married has the same ability to prevent poverty as five to six years of education beyond high school.   

The poverty rate in married, two-parent families is 6.8%.  However, the poverty rate in single-parent, female-headed households is 37.1%.

This is even true for married people with only a high school education. The poverty rate for a single mother with only a high school degree is 38.8 percent, but the poverty rate for a married-couple family headed by an individual who is only a high school graduate is 8.9 percent.  For those with only a high school education, marriage drops the odds of being poor by 76 percent.

What makes this powerful relationship between poverty and one-parent households even more troubling is the fact that so many more children are being born to single women.

When the War on Poverty began in the mid-1960s, only 6 percent of children were born out of wedlock. In 2010, an astonishing 40.8 percent of all children born in the U.S. were born outside of marriage.

This is relevant to the debate over same-sex “marriage” because our view of marriage impacts how we behave with respect to it.

The  way we behave with regard to marriage has a tremendous impact on generations of people.

According to the study, almost none of the lower-income women who have a child out of wedlock feel that it is important to be married before having children. Although roughly half of non-married mothers were cohabiting with the father at the time of birth (nearly 75 percent were in some sort of romantic relationship with the father), these relationships are usually of short duration and unstable.

Those who don’t view children and marriage as inextricably linked are, unsurprisingly, having lots of children who are not raised by their parents. And as a result, many of them end up in poverty.

If we perpetuate the idea that marriage and children are totally unrelated, we should expect to see more children being raised in challenging environments.

The same-sex “marriage” movement depends entirely on convincing the public that marriage has nothing to do with children.   Instead, they argue that marriage is about the love and commitment that two people share.

While no one is opposed to love and commitment in the general sense, building an institution as significant as marriage on a foundation as feeble as the affection two people share for each other cannot work well for any period of time.

To be sure, the effort to redefine marriage is not the primary cause of single-headed households and the poverty that follows. The institution of marriage has many problems not related to its definition. Still, this would be another step toward an increasingly narcissistic view of marriage and the consequences thereof.

Still, we must ask ourselves the following: if we embrace the idea that marriage exists to satisfy the wants, needs, and desire of adults, are children more likely or less likely to end up living in a household with married parents?

And that’s why the outcome of this marriage debate matters.  If we insist that marriage has nothing to do with children, more children will be raised separate from it. And that will produce results that all of us — social justice leftists, fiscal conservatives, and social conservatives alike — will come to regret.afd9dcb4-8a94-49f7-9f6f-59c6638b4f14

Opposite-Sex Sisters

Those of us who don’t support redefining marriage think gender matters.  We think the absence or presence of a man and woman is a relevant difference between relationships and we think our language should reflect that reality.  We think it matters, most significantly, in the lives of children who do best when both their mother and father are present and involved in their lives.  Therefore, having a unique term for a unique relationship seems appropriate.

However, some people find it offensive that anyone would think it is appropriate to use different terms for different relationships simply because the gender of the people involved is different.

If you find yourself in a conversation with someone like that, I think there is a way to help cut through the clutter and help them see the other side of the issue.

How is that you ask?  Ask them if a guy and a girl with the same parents are sisters.

Since I have a sister in real life, I simply ask them if my sister and I are sisters.  It will take them a moment, but after furrowing their brow to contemplate the absurdity of the question, you can see an internal dialogue taking place that I imagine goes something like this:

Well of course your sister and you aren’t sisters.  That’s a pretty stupid question. Not only are you a bigot, you’re a moron too. You’re a guy and she’s a girl.  You’re siblings, not sisters.

At this point the look on their face changes as they have a moment of recognition.

Ooooh, I see what you’re saying.  You’re saying there are other cases in which we distinguish between relationships depending on the gender of the people involved and no one thinks anybody’s civil rights are being violated.  I’ve never thought about that. I don’t suppose I do think a guy and a girl are sisters, they’re siblings.  No one would take it seriously if a guy wanted to be referred to as his sister’s sister. But…maybe some guys really wants to be part of that sisterhood that he sees so many other people enjoying and maybe he’s offended that his relationship with his sister is denied that sisterly recognition simply because of his gender.  No…that’s just weird.  

At this point they’ll probably make eye contact briefly, then look away again.

Goodness, this really is complicated. I wonder if he’ll go away if I say “SEPARATE IS NOT EQUAL” really loud.  If it’s reasonable to use different terms to distinguish between sibling relationships because of the gender of the individuals, why can’t we do that in other kinds of relationships as well? I don’t know. 

Long Pause

I wonder why this guy hates gay people so much.

Many people are sympathetic to the effort to redefine marriage simply because they consider themselves kind people. Most of them would not be likely supportive of any other effort to change our language to eliminate gender differences.  So why are they supporting this one?

For those who are undeterred when confronted with their own logic inconsistencies and insist that there can be no peace on earth until marriage has been redefined,  I will insist that from now on they refer to my sister and I as sisters.

Legislating Morality is Bad?

As you have conversations about the definition of marriage, you may have an exchange that looks something like this.

You: I think the definition of marriage should be a man a woman because the purpose of marriage is not just to make adults feel good. It is good for kids to have both their mother and father present in their lives and the current definition of marriage recognizes that it is important while still allowing people the freedom to make other arrangements if that is their choice. After all, same-sex couples in Washington have all the rights and benefits of marriage already.

Your Friend:  You’re just trying to impose your religious values on the rest of us.  It’s fine if you believe in mythical stories about deities, but you can’t make everyone else be just like you.  Stop trying to impose your morality on everybody else.

Of course you aren’t trying to force everyone to be like you, and you may resent the implication. In fact, you like freedom and you think people should be free to make choices that you wouldn’t make. But you don’t necessarily think our public policy should encourage it.

However, now that the accusation has been made, you might be tempted to retreat from your position simply to prove that it’s not true. But that would be a mistake, and here’s why.

Everyone is legislating their morality.  EVERYONE.  The idea that “you can’t legislate morality” is just as irrational as saying that you support “marriage equality.”  It only makes sense if you refuse to think about it.

You see every legislative idea is fundamentally a moral one because every law is a statement that certain things are “good” or “bad”, desirable or undesirable.

If you don’t believe your secular, leftist friends are moralists, simply find a bucket of chemicals and act like you’re going to pour it into the creek. Not only will you discover their strong moral compass, but you’ll also discover that they are perfectly willing to use the force of law to compel you to live in a way that is consistent with their sense of right and wrong.

Of course the point here is not that people should be able to pour chemicals into creeks, but to help you respond when your secularist/leftist friends piously scold you for trying to impose your morality on others.

If they’re honest, they must admit that they are also trying to impose their morality on others.

Yes, the idea that marriage between a man and a woman provides unique benefits to children, society, and the next generation is, at least in part, a moral position.  However, the idea that homosexuality and heterosexuality are equally desirable, that children should be taught about both in school, and those who disagree should be forbidden from running their businesses and non-profit organizations in a way that is consistent with those beliefs is also a moral position.  It’s simply a different moral position.

The point here is not to focus on who is the greater moralist, but to move beyond that truly irrelevant discussion that focuses on the personalities in the discussion to an actual discussion about the implications of the policies and the ideas they represent.

Those trying to redefine marriage prefer to talk about people rather than ideas. They want to talk about how nice gay people are or how mean you are. Both of which, depending on the individuals involved, might actually be true.  But it’s not relevant.

Proponents of genderless marriage prefer not to talk about the implications of their proposals.

They don’t want to talk about the fact that same-sex couples already have the rights and benefits of marriage.  They don’t want to talk about the impact of encouraging situations in which children are intentionally denied one of their parents.  They don’t want to talk about the fact that even if marriage is made genderless, there still won’t be “marriage equality.”  They don’t want to talk about the loss of personal freedoms that is necessary to achieve their concept of “equality.”

They want to prevent those conversations from happening by accusing those who think critically about the subject of being a moralist. Fortunately, now that you are equipped with a bucket of chemicals and a creek, they’re going to have a harder time doing so.

The Myth of Marriage Equality

Proponents of same-sex “marriage” talk constantly about “marriage equality”.  It is an attempt to hitch their wagon to the real civil rights movement and also puts people who disagree in a position of being against equality.

What they want you to believe is that allowing people of the same gender to get married is “marriage equality”. They use the terms “same-sex marriage” and “marriage equality” synonymously and say things like, “we think any two people who love each other should be able to be married.”  We’ll call this The Beatles standard for marriage…”all you need is love”.

The problem is, even those who support redefining marriage don’t believe this.

Marriage is limited in four ways.  You can’t marry someone who is under 18, you can’t marry someone who is already married, you can’t marry someone who is a close relative, and you can’t marry someone of the same gender.

Do you know anyone who really believes all restrictions should be lifted so any two people who say they love each other can get married?  Me either.

The discussion about same-sex “marriage” only addresses one of four limitations on who someone can marry.

That means that even if proponents of redefining marriage prevail this year, there will still be literally millions of potential couples in Washington who could come to love each other that would be denied a marriage license either because they’re too young, close relatives, or already married to someone else.

That’s only “equal” in the Animal Farm, “four legs good, two legs better”, kind of way.

If we actually adopted The Beatles standard for marriage, because nobody’s love is better than anyone else’s love, then we would eliminate all restrictions on marriage. After all, how exactly does one go about proving that two people don’t love each other?

Still, the fact is, those who support same-sex “marriage” really just want a different kind of marriage inequality.

We may disagree on whether it is good public policy to give marriage licenses to people of the same gender, but can’t we at least be honest with what we’re talking about?

Falsely claiming the moral high ground, proponents of redefining marriage put their opponents in the position of being against equality.  Pot meet kettle. But this tactic is consistent with a general pattern of framing the debate as good people v. bad people.

If your primary rhetorical tactic is to challenge the intentions and decency of those who disagree with you, or attempt to disqualify them from the debate because they go to church, it says something about the strength of your arguments.

Still, this approach has been effective, but only because we have allowed ourselves to be intimidated by these ad hominem attacksAnd make no mistake about it, they are ad hominem attacks, even if they come from the side rather than head on.

However, now that you’ve thought about it, I hope glass shattering alarms go off in your head every time someone says they support “marriage equality”.  Then, I hope you start humming Beatles songs, which will beg the question “is it true that love is all we need”?

Once everybody has admitted that a profession of love really can’t be all that is needed for a marriage license, we can have an actual conversation about the subject that consists of more than who is mean and who is nice. Once that happens, we win.