Gay Marriage and Legal Surrealism
There have been strong arguments on both sides about how the Supreme Court should rule on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 this week. Whatever happens, I can't escape the feeling that there is something surreal about the legal fight surrounding gay marriage. There is something slightly absurd about a small panel of jurists -- as few as five individuals -- ruling on what is constitutionally permissible in terms of defining what a family is. Haven't thousands of years of history, experience, and (for those of you who believe) divine revelation already shown us what a family is?
I shouldn't be surprised, though. In 1974, the Supremes essentially ruled on when life begins. Such rulings are bizarre. The justices aren't the Supreme Court of ontology or the spokespersons of God to this age. What a horrible way to make law -- empowering five people to make such far-reaching decisions -- and what a terrible burden it is to place on any human beings, flawed and imperfect as we are.
How tragic is this modern age in which ancient verities are routinely rejected. Karl Marx would be delighted, for in his perfervid dreams of creating a new human race in a socialist paradise, the main pillars of western civilization -- faith in God, private property, and the family -- all were targeted for extinction.
Today, natural law is being pushed aside by positivist law and social engineering. Thus, we have the spectacle of a United States senator deciding to support gay marriage because he has learned that he has a gay son. While I appreciate the senator's candor, it's hard to respect his thinking, for he seems incapable of distinguishing between the personal and private, on the one hand, and the public welfare on the other. He doesn't need to throw out millennia of human history and legalize gay marriage in order to continue loving, supporting, and accepting his son and whoever his partner may be. To do so is to play "pretend" with an important truth -- namely, that nature or God (however you conceive of the creative force of the universe) made human procreation and continuity dependent on the teamwork (admittedly poorly performed far too often) of two people of opposite genders.
The other point that the senator fails to acknowledge is that his son already has the legal right to live the lifestyle of his choice. Each American is free to love whomsoever he or she loves; every mentally competent adult is free to live with whomsoever he or she chooses. Whatever consenting adults choose to do behind closed doors, and whatever voluntary contracts or property-sharing arrangements they make, is their choice. None of this is public (therefore, the state's) business.
However, the gay rights movement itself has made these private matters public business by its insistence on demanding public approbation and official sanction for homosexual rights and gay marriage. They want the rest of us accommodate their demands. The problem here is that both homosexual rights and gay marriage belong in the realm of make-believe. They are, in essence, fictions.
Fiction #1: "Homosexual rights." It isn't politically correct to say this, but there is no such thing as "homosexual rights." Nor, I hasten to add, are there "heterosexual rights." Genuine rights are the traditional American individual rights -- specifically, those "unalienable" rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence ("life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness") and in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, where "property" supplants "pursuit of happiness." Thus, as stated two paragraphs earlier, gay and hetero Americans are free to make voluntary, consensual lifestyle decisions. Neither, however, has the right or power to alter the natural order. No court on earth can confer the "right" to procreate a child upon a homosexual couple. That leads to:
Fiction #2: "Gay marriage." Pretending that there a homosexual couple is no different from a heterosexual couple constitutes a willful blindness to reality.The basic family unit of a man and a woman procreating and raising children has been at the center of the human experience for as long as we know. This reality is dictated by the biological imperative of reproduction upon which the continuity of the human race depends. It is physically impossible for even the most exemplary gay couple to procreate a child. A same-sex couple cannot be a family in the same biological and (sorry) natural sense that a man and a woman can. It just isn't the way nature is set up. If it enrages you to hear that, I'm sorry, but don't blame me; God or evolution or both made it that way, not I.
From a Christian standpoint (and here let me stress that I don't presume to speak for other Christians) yes, the Bible clearly proscribes homosexuality, and we shouldn't practice it, but the Good Book also proscribes various heterosexual deeds. In fact, Jesus taught that even to look "on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28 AKJV). Gays have no monopoly on what the Bible considers sexual sin, and Christians who take potshots at gays run the risk of being like the self-righteous Pharisee in Jesus' parable who was rebuked for praying, "God, I thank You that I am not like other people" (Luke 18:11, NASB). Indeed, all of us have faults, even if not of a sexual nature, and so it's up to each of us to get the "beam" out of our own eye before fussing about the "mote" in some other person's eye. (Matt. 7:5) and to avoid casting the first stone (John 8: 7).
Treating gays with the same kindness, respect, and in some cases, affection, as straights is my personal choice, a private decision. When it comes to endorsing gay marriage, however, it's a different story. Redefining "marriage" and "family" affects the whole society, and therefore is a public, not a private, issue, and that brings us to the politics of the issue.
It isn't surprising that the political left presents itself as the champion of this push to redefine the family. The left long ago forsook natural law and embraced positivist law -- the conceit that nature can be revised to match their plans for a brave new world. Leftists are obsessed with equality and sameness, and they rebel against our innate differences.
We see this hostility to individual differences -- our inherent "inequality" -- in the economic realm. Some individuals quite naturally are more economically productive than others, and yet the left yearns to iron out the inevitable differences of wealth that such natural differences cause. Just so, the left wants to insist that we all are equally entitled to form families -- something that is about as logical as asserting that men have a right to get pregnant and give birth. It's almost as though they believe that by sheer force of will they can rewrite the laws of nature.
Recently, the gay rights movement has been on a roll. In February, the House of Commons, at the urging of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, voted 400 to 175 in favor of gay marriage in the United Kingdom. A week later, the National Assembly fulfilled President Francois Hollande's moved to legalize same-sex marriage in France. On Valentine's Day, the Illinois Senate passed a similar bill. Indeed, the gay rights movement has picked an advantageous time to press their case, because most Americans currently are preoccupied with grim economic challenges. It may well be that the gay rights movement will achieve their political goals.
Here, a word of caution to the gay marriage enthusiasts: the Democratic Party is prepared to give you same-sex marriage gift-wrapped and with a pretty bow on it. This is the same party that, in addition to locking up the gay vote, is also trying to solidify their grip on the Muslim vote, going so far as to speak deferentially about sharia law. Ask yourself: how secure would gays be under sharia law? Should any community in our country ever come under the control of that uncompromising agenda, you will soon find yourself wishing for the good old days when traditionalists and Christians were willing to respect your right to be you and to leave you alone, even if they didn't go so far as to embrace same-sex marriage.
To those of you who share my conviction that the definition of the family ought not to be revised, I am not predicting that civilization will crumble if gay marriage is legalized. At the same time, though, I can't escape the uneasy feeling that tampering with as venerable an institution as the nuclear family -- grounded as it is in the natural order of things -- is a roll of the dice. However it plays out won't alter how I treat others, regardless of their sexual preference. As for social consequences, though, we'll just have to wait and see.