A Secular Argument Against Gay Marriage
by Joe Hargrave
Recently Kyle Cupp at Vox Nova (one of the good ones, he is) addressed the arguments of a Peter Sunderman at The American Scene regarding the validity of arguments against gay marriage. In brief, Sunderman doesn’t really believe there are any. Instead opposition to gay marriage, even his own, is motivated by a vague “intuition” that cannot find adequate manifestation in any rational argument. While Kyle unfortunately appears to agree with Sunderman, I do not.
Let us first be clear that the case for traditional marriage between one man and one woman is already more than amply made. As Kyle points out, gay marriage advocates such as Andrew Sullivan are willing to acknowledge all of the great and useful aspects of traditional marriage. What they maintain is that opponents of gay marriage have not demonstrated how its legal recognition will harm traditional marriage.
I have never been the greatest adherent of the notion that “the law instructs.” Oftentimes I believe laws merely reflect shifting economic and cultural trends, often playing catch-up after the fact. In the case of homosexual unions, however, any act that places them on the same level as traditional unions will necessarily send a message to everyone in society, including children, that it is a matter of indifference whether one marries a person of the same sex or of the opposite sex. And it must be mentioned here that in the face of declining Western birth rates, the case for traditional marriage is stronger than it has ever been. Contrary to overpopulation hysteria, which I suppose some will want to debate over, developed countries need more children, and they need them now. It is hard to see how the problem of declining birth rates will be addressed by a society that is indifferent to sexual behavior.
With that said, let us now make the easiest case against gay marriage.
1. Traditional, heterosexual marriages are good and necessary for the survival of society through procreation.
2. Traditional marriages survive and thrive when spouses are faithful to one another.
3. Faithfulness is undermined by social indifference to the nature and purpose of sexual unions.
4. Homosexual “marriage” is/would be both a product of, and a contributor to, such indifference.
5. Ergo, homosexual marriage harms traditional marriage.
At this point, I will add the obvious as well: heterosexual fornication, divorce and adultery also harm traditional marriage in the same way. And I don’t see any gay marriage opponents arguing for those things. The bad old Christians are still making bad old religious arguments against them too. Sullivan’s strongest argument is merely that the Christians have lowered the bar quite a bit for heterosexuals; so low, that the next notch down is acceptance of homosexual couples. He’ll get no argument from me on the relative weakness of modern Christianity, Protestant and, sadly, Catholic as well.
In my view only procreative unions should be recognized as valid and worthy of benefits, incentives, and the word “marriage.” For he is correct; to recognize non-procreative heterosexual unions and not homosexual unions has the following effect:
It creates one class of people, regardless of their actions, and renders them superior to another.
Procreative unions (including polygamy, though it is not superior heterosexual monogamy) ought to be superior to all other unions. But as for people, which are not identical to the relations they enter into, there of course ought to be no such distinctions. Heterosexual individuals ought not be rendered “superior” to homosexual individuals, nor would they be. Not all heterosexuals can procreate. Moreover, not all heterosexuals are parents, and it is to parents in particular that the bulk of social benefits ought to go. Therefore plenty of heterosexuals would be placed in the same “class”, if one likes, as homosexuals. This doesn’t even include pedophiles, zoophiles, incestuous relatives, and others that would fall outside of this category. To place them all outside of this category, finally, is not tantamount to saying they are equivalents; no, I do not believe monogamous gays are as morally depraved as pedophiles.
Now I am sure some are already preparing to argue if people are born gay then it is not a question of indifference to choices; we don’t choose whether we are gay or straight, we only choose between remaining single or entering a union. Moreover, gay couples may adopt and raise children, becoming parents and thus entitling them to the same recognition and benefits of traditional marriage.
My answer is this: I believe as far as children are concerned, they can certainly be influenced one way or another based upon their life circumstances. Studies have also shown that children raised by gay parents are more likely to experiment with homosexuality (and to be clear, I don’t agree with the positive spin of that link; what it calls good, I say is bad for the most part). So while I would not argue that homosexuality is “chosen”, or can be “undone” in most cases, I do believe it can and should be prevented. This is not for hateful reasons, or purely religious reasons either; our opponents have insisted upon secular arguments, and so they will get one.
1. The more children who are raised in environments that are conducive to homosexuality,the more homosexuals there will be.
2. Homosexual parentage is conducive to homosexuality developing in children.
3. Homosexual “marriage” will result in more homosexual parentage, and more homosexuals.
4. The more homosexuals there are, the fewer heterosexuals there will be.
5. The fewer heterosexuals there are, the fewer traditional, procreative heterosexual marriages there will be.
6. Traditional, procreative heterosexual marriages are good and necessary for society.
7. Ergo, homosexual parentage harms traditional marriage, or at least undermines its secular purpose, which is procreation and the rearing of adults who will also procreate, thus ensuring the survival of society.
So once again, this good and necessary institution will be undermined by an increase of the homosexual part of society. Between the inflexible extremes of as not-yet determined “gay genes” and “freely chosen lifestyles” exists a muddled and complex grey area involving the dynamics of childhood development in various environments and familial contexts. But if it can be conceded, and I think most reasonable people can concede, that it is possible to increase or decrease the chances of homosexuality developing in a child, then policies ought to favor their decrease per the secular argument above. Moreover, how we treat individuals who are for all intents and purposes irrevocably homosexual is a separate matter from whether or not homosexuality can be prevented or the chances of its manifestation reduced in young children.
I will add that even if the adopted children of gay parents do not end up homosexuals, other harms to society can be done when gender roles are deliberately scrambled and confused, and naturally this is more likely to occur where there is not a mother and a father, and sometimes even when there is. It would be impossible to avoid all occurrences of this; we can however minimize them, and denying legal recognition to gay marriage and gay adoption would be a necessary, if not sufficient means of doing so. Yes, I believe that boys and girls are different. Yes, I believe incalculable social harms result from the confusion of gender roles, though my problem is not as much with the independence of women as it is with the “effeminization” of men. Call me whatever you like for that, but at least include “consistent reactionary” somewhere among the insults.
None of this will help the cause of “gay pride”, I readily concede. It will send the message that homosexuality is less desirable than heterosexuality, that it is a defect to be avoided. Homosexual activists will argue that this will ultimately harm gay individuals. Addressing hatred of homosexuals, however, can never include acknowledging homosexuality as positively good. We can never call evil (homosexual) acts good so that other evil acts (violence against homosexual individuals) may be somehow prevented, and I doubt the preventative value of these “useful lies” anyway.
Substitute for “evil”, “socially harmful” and for “good”, “socially beneficial” for the pragmatic secular version. It is no big surprise to Catholics that what is good for the soul is also good for society – seven of the ten commandments are social commandments.
After all, no one has proposed abolishing laws against theft because they appear in the Bible, because even secularists can see how they are necessary. That they have chosen to shut off their rational faculties in favor of unproven dogmas (see below) concerning the privileged position of traditional, procreative marriage is unfortunate, but it is nonetheless what they have done. Too many Christians and conservatives, on the other hand, have taken a lax view towards other threats to marriage, and they share responsibility for the moral confusion that has allowed this issue to arise in the first place. Their laxity is in some cases by malicious design, in the case of leftist subversion of the Christian churches, and in other cases because they took the privileged position of marriage for granted and therefore did not foresee the end result of their laxity.
On that note, it may be more accurate to say that there is no liberal egalitarian case to be made against gay marriage, and this we could have conceded all along. But in the first place, it is evident that liberalism and egalitarianism are not the only possible secular arguments. More importantly, egalitarianism, like any other secular idea taken to radical extremes, undermines society. To do harm to a socially necessary institution to satisfy a desire for “equality” is radical egalitarianism, it is certainly as much an article of an unproven faith as any religion and in my view far more irrational, and it should be avoided and rejected. This idea has already done untold damage in the economy and especially in the educational system. Applied to human relationships, it will cause even greater harm. Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah offers an excellent overview of this phenomenon, and indeed we have slouched our way into this mess.
So there you have it, my meager attempt at a secular argument against gay marriage. Does it work? I look forward to your comments, and to the holes I am sure some of you will poke in it.