Would the legalization of gay marriage affect traditional marriage in America? Note carefully the question I’ve actually posed here. Mine is not a moral question, in and of itself, but a pragmatic and philosophical question. “What would happen to the institution of marriage in our society if we embrace gay marriage?”
It might surprise you to find out that changing the law to place gay marriage on par with heterosexual marriage would actually have a decidedly negative impact on marriage. On what basis do I make this sweeping statement? Well, on the basis that many advocates of gay marriage admit this point openly.
Earlier this year the New York Times ran a piece by reporter Scott James, himself gay, saying that new studies of gay couples in San Francisco show that half of gay partners consent to each other having sex with other people. The Times article went on to say that the prevalence of such relationships could “rewrite the traditional rules of matrimony” by showing straight couples that monogamy does not need to be the “central feature” of marriage. James added that sexually open relationships might “point the way for the survival of the institution.”
I couldn’t make this up even if I wanted to. But this is not all. New York University professor Judith Stacey, testifying before Congress against the Defense of Marriage Act (approved and signed during the Clinton administration), said changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry would help to “supplant the destructive sanctity of the family” and help it assume “varied, creative, and adaptive contours, including small group marriages.” Read that last part again.
Gay activist Michelangelo Signorile wrote that homosexuals should “demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society’s moral codes bur rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution.” The truth is out in the open but many are not paying attention from what I can see. Most gay leaders do not want you to raise the question I am asking because the truth will harm their political cause in the wider culture.
To be fair commentator Andrew Sullivan, another gay activist, argues against the conclusion of Times reporter Scott James but admits freely then says gay unions could “help to strengthen and inform” traditional marriages. Some gay advocates want legal marriage because they believe granting it will allow traditional martial norms to impact the gay community to actually embrace fidelity. But such norms are based on an ideal―namely the bonding of a man and a woman who make a commitment to bear and rear children. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, writing online for Christianity Today (May 10, 2010) adds that “it would be irrational to expect same-sex partners―whose sexual relations bear no risk of procreation―to share the same norms.” Hemingway later concludes: “Whether or not marriage law should change, the fact is that changing it to include same-sex partnerships would teach people that marriage is fundamentally about the emotional union of adults and not primarily about the bodily union of man and wife (let alone children who result from such a union). The norms of permanence, monogamy, and fidelity would make less sense under such a change.”
So I ask the question again? Does changing the law make a difference about what marriage will actually look like in our society thirty years from now and will this change have real bearing on traditional marriage between one man and one woman? You bet it does and I will show more reasons why tomorrow.
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My sense is that marriage as such is sacramental and should be a vocabulary that is particular to the Church. I am uncomfortable with churches being instruments of the state in granting marriage certificates which determines such things as tax status, property rights and other legal considerations. Marriage, in my mind, should be entirely in the purview of the church in the sense that the Body recognizes certain relatiohships between a man and a woman as prescribed in Scripture and blesses that union because it fits that standard. Legal unions by whatever definition that determine legal matters ought to be the State’s role to define. If I had my way, all unions would be governed by the state and the recognition of marriage would be something totally inside the church or other religious bodies. Because two people are joined by the state, it does not have to be recognized by the Church. There should be a true separation of church and state on this issue, I think, which avoids all of the conflict between church and state as to what can be recognized and what cannot. There may be churches that bless same sex unions for whatever reason but the legal justifications should not be part of the theological decision as to whether or not the church decides to bless the union.
John, thanks for writing this. There are so many messed up, detructive ideas hidden in this gay activist agenda. Not just about the institution of marriage, but about what it means to be a healthy and whole human being.
Although I’ve been a committed Christian for the last thirty years, and married for the last twenty, it’s only recently that I’m becoming aware of how little I have understood and experienced the dimensions of marriage that God intends. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the theological understanding of human sexuality in our churches is shallow to nonexistent. There is a great deal of unreality, a huge disconnect, between what conservative Christians are teaching about marriage and what they are actually practicing and experiencing.
A few days ago you wrote about pornography. Earlier this year, Michael Leahy (author of Porn Nation) visited our campus and I heard him speak twice. He spoke very passionately about the dangers of pornography and the devastating impact that it had on his life. But my own personal reaction, and that of many Christian students and campus ministers whom I spoke with afterward, is that we were left with the impression, “Okay, pornography is destructive, and with respect to sexuality our society is clearly messed up. But what is our answer? Where do we see a Christian understanding, experience, and display of monogamous, heterosexual relationships that are so stunningly beautiful and satisfying that by comparison all of the devil’s cheap substitutes (pornography, promiscuity, homosexuality, etc.) are obviously exposed as fraudulent?”
I think this truly goes back to our understanding of who God is. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God is a fellowship of three persons, coequal yet distinct, united in perfect love. He split the human race into male and female parts, equal yet distinct, and implanted in them powerful attraction that would bring them back together in a relationship of freedom and love, a perfect two-person fellowship that reflects the nature of God himself. The God-given affinity that men and women have for one another should exist at every level (physical, emotional and intellectual). But the plain fact is that so many of us have not been experiencing the kind of marriages that God designed us to have because we are broken; the image of God in us has been deeply marred by sin. I believe that Jesus Christ is truly the answer. What we need is not merely wise teachings and correct doctrines about human sexuality, but a demonstration of the Spirit’s power among our married Christian couples.
It is very disturbing to see Christians quickly denouncing homosexuality as a sin with little or no empathy for the broken lives of human beings caught up in the gay lifestyle, and with little or no understanding of how broken even our heterosexual Christian marriage relationships have become. Lord have mercy.
Thanks for looking at this issue without all the rhetoric. It is nice to see a clear argument against same sex marriage using the activists communities own words.
We already have numerous adulterers, swingers, abusive spouses, and high divorce rates among heterosexual couples.
Should we ban those marriages because they teach people bad things about what marriage is and should be?
By the logic you are using we should also have the government force Mormons and Jehovah Witnesseses to refrain from any use of the word “Christian” in atheir descriptions of themselves.
When is it the govenments job to define things?
The romans declared ceasar a god.
Did the first century church whine about how that made it hard to share the Gospel because there was one more distinction that Christians had to make in sharing it?
This whole debate really just stems from two groups of peolpe trying to use the government to bully the other. While we should be on our guard against being forced to condone homosexuality, or anything else for that mater, it is really just semantics.
Traditional marriage will indeed be undermined. This is no obscure theory, but a fact that is being played out in Scandinavia at present. Homosexual marriage has been legal there for at least 20 years, and the result has been not a surge in marriage, but a surge in couples living together (homosexual and heterosexual), and having children out of wedlock. Married couples are now in the minority in those countries. Scandinavia is merely a snapshot of what is to come if the US continues down the same path.
I am glad to see you touch on this subject. my father and I had a bit of a discussion on homosexuality, the church, culture, and what my kids might deal with if I do indeed have them. This could be a helpful thing for some more discussion. I think the more children see homosexuality as common and accepted, the more easily they will consider it as a valid, acceptable means to live. I know that when I was growing up, going through puberty, trying to figure out what a man was, if i was becoming one like i should etc, things I learned/observed that were contrary to what I knew the Bible taught sure could challenge me for a while. I cant imagine what that is like for someone growing up in situations more challenging than my own while they are trying to understand love and sex and God.
And this is for a bit of humors sake, but also serious. growing up and being mistaken for a girl many times didn’t seem to make me feel very much like a guy. I cant imagine what this one guy felt like in gym class who was called gay and picked on frequently. and today he is gay. I am not inferring that it is because of the picking, though i do not think it helped anything at all. God Bless you all reading and commenting here today. 🙂
John, it does seem there is two different positions among Christians who advocate same-sex marriage as well as multiple sex partners within marriage. Marvin Ellison in his book, “Same-Sex Marriage?: A Christian Ethical Analysis* advocates a call to consider multiple partners as a possibility.
On the other hand, Catherine Wallace in her book, *Fidelity* supports same-sex marriages, but strongly argues for sexual fidelity within marriage.