Now Is Not the Time to Give Up on Marriage

Same-sex marriage laws were ratified recently by referendum in Maryland, Maine, and Washington after a string of ballot defeats in thirty-two other states.  Many now claim that the tide of public opinion has finally turned.

Yet the glaring truth about the national debate is that it never actually occurred.  Rather than inform, both sides have starved the public of real, substantive discussion.  Jargon and slogans (i.e., "equality" and "fairness" v. "tradition" and "the Bible says") were for too long lobbed at voters while academics, pundits, and preachers duked it out in the media and in private forums over the same tired rationales, each preaching to his or her own choir. 

The world is so much bigger, so much more magnificent than the direction progressives have tugged and dragged the country toward, and now, post-election, this same tugging is coming from within the world of conservatism.

"Surprising validators" -- a term employed by Cass Sunstein describing prominent people who change sides -- from within conservative ranks, such as columnist Michael Barone, billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, are suddenly becoming more vocal.

Institute for American Values president David Blankenhorn, who valiantly opposed same-sex marriage for so long, planted a white flag on his rampart earlier this year.

Claiming he is no longer able to justify opposition, Mr. Blankenhorn recently commented at his Family Scholars website:

... Deprivation without meaning ... is damaging[.] ... [N]o matter how hard I look, I can't see the meaning, apart from appeals to tradition (God said it, it's always been that way).

... I can't accept the repression of homosexual desire absent genuine, palpable meaning that can be made visible to me, above and beyond appeals to tradition.

On the one hand, Mr. Blankenhorn's singular focus on tradition mystifies.  On the other, perhaps it is because tradition is the one-legged, nearly exclusive argument employed by so many who have sought to defend marriage.

I am gay, yet I am first and foremost a human being who tries to engage the world, in all of its fullness, with intellectual curiosity and honesty.  And as long as I remain so, I will be opposed to same-sex marriage.  I will share some of my story below.  But first, I have a few observations concerning the term "deprivation without meaning."

  • Where is the meaning in depriving the public of real discussion by engaging only in the lowest type of rudimentary, unsophisticated debate, especially since so much of the debate has been controlled in the incubator of political correctness, which does not abide opposing viewpoints?
  • Hasn't the LGBT world done more to deprive itself of fulfilling lives by always glorifying its most obsessive inclinations and creating insular worlds? (Visit any gay-oriented website, and the ads glorify not male-male relationships, but male-male eroticism. That's all there is.)
  • Has it occurred to anyone that "deprivation" might be applied to children raised in same-sex marriages who are denied the love and upbringing of both their biological parents? They are reduced to being parented by only one gender, and the deliberate deprivation of children here is, frankly, evil. They desperately need both.
  • What about deprivation of free inquiry? Of desired psychological counseling? Is all intellectual curiosity to be squashed through deprivation of choice? Children are imbued with the thought that if they have any homosexual impulse at all, they must come out and declare themselves "gay." Adults who question or seek to address their homosexual impulses are chided, and parents who seek to help their children explore alternatives risk incarceration.
  • What about depriving future generations of marriage by turning it into a genderless institution? Marriage isn't being redefined;it is being forced from existence, and we shouldn't be quick to dismiss the unintended consequences.

Beyond tradition lies a vast treasure of meaning, available by reason and experience, which provides abundant, rewarding, "plain as the nose on your face" answers.  (For example, one point of logic that is grossly neglected: "love" is not the basis for state interest in marriage and should play no role in the granting of marriage licenses.  Yet proponents of same-sex marriage have long argued with impunity about the right to civil marriage based on love.)

And, as though in the dark about all of the above, Mr. Blankenhorn seems to limit his focus on sexual attraction as if it were an irresistible force of nature, no less powerful than gravity.  At the same time, he assumes that fulfillment of this desire requires "marriage," which we know in this society it does not, no matter one's orientation.  In any case, he describes homosexuality not as one of the four loves (storge, philia, eros, and agape), but as something which lies completely outside the realm of love: obsession.  It's as if he defers to it not because it possesses inherent dignity, but because of its tenacious grip.  This is a tragic capitulation to the lowest common denominator on so many levels.

During college and throughout my twenties, I had many very close friends who were handsome, athletic, and intelligent, with terrific personalities.  I longed to have an intimate relationship with any and all of them.  However, I enjoyed something far greater, something which surpassed carnality in every way: philia (the love between true friends) -- a love underappreciated by so many in today's world because so few have actually experienced it.

I wouldn't have traded the quality of my relationships with any of these guys for an opportunity to have a sexual relationship.  No regrets.  In fact, I always felt like the luckiest man on the planet.  Denial didn't diminish or impoverish my life; it made my life experience richer.

But society now promotes the lowest form of love between men while sabotaging the higher forms.  This is what our postmodern world teaches all of us to do.

In the future, this debate must be invigorated, elevated, and informed.  America can do much better.  And people deserve much better.