by Monsieur Voltaire
I must admit that it took me a while to develop a logical opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage (SSM). On one hand, I have nothing against gays or gayness—quite to the contrary, some of the mentors to whom I owe most intellectually were gay men, and at least a couple of my dearest friends are also not heterosexual. Consequently, I wish them all happiness, love, success and a life free of unfair discrimination. On the other, to alter the meaning of an institution that has been based on heterosexuality since recorded history—and to do so in less than a generation–feels less like spontaneous evolution and more like forced cultural sabotage. Consequently, I have held my intellectual approval of SSM until I had a chance to think on it coldly and rationally.
One of the most unchallenged cases we hear for same-sex marriage goes something like this: my marrying a person of my same sex does not harm your heterosexual marriage, or the institution of marriage as a whole, so what’s the problem? Even commentator Bill O’Reilly, the self-appointed impartial cultural arbiter of our times, broke the tie in favor of SSM by positing that he never heard a compelling counter to this statement. Since Scott and Bill getting married does not harm my own marriage to Suzy or Mary, I can only be against SSM on grounds of cultural stubbornness (whether this be based on religion, politics, or merely on my finding it creepy to see two guys smooching and fondling one-another like Will and Viola in Shakespeare in Love).
But the fact that a rational case hasn’t been made does not mean there isn’t one. I have come to the conclusion that SSM damages not only the institution of marriage as a whole, but indeed the idea of natural law–on which is built the whole edifice of Anglo-American jurisprudence and political philosophy.
The US Constitution was founded around the concept of natural law, which contains the “unalienable rights” with which we are “endowed by our Creator.” These rights can’t be voted on, changed, or taken away, because they are not given to us by the state–we are born with them, and we would keep possessing them as intrinsic to our nature even if the state barred us access to them. The right to life, property, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc. are only some of the traditionally-understood parts of natural law.
One of the most tangible and visible aspects of natural law has been marriage. Why? Because there is nothing more natural than the joining of one man and a woman as the nucleus of a family and for the purpose of procreation and the rearing of offspring; and natural law has done nothing but give legal recognition to this most natural of unions. Natural law has also ensured that this institution remain at the basis of society, as centuries of tradition and custom have but confirmed that the healthier the family, the healthier the society.
One of the beauties of natural law is that it is by definition unchangeable. It is the immobile guiding star around which the whole machine of jurisprudence judges (or should) the justice of individual laws. Should our society become completely detached from natural law, we would de facto no longer have a Constitution, and we would be at the mercy of the Zeitgeist. And the pernicious nature of SSM takes aim at natural law through the institution of marriage. If we can vote to change such a basic, fundamental and tangible natural institution, then everything else can be voted on, and we therefore deny that there is any such thing as a natural right.
So, my talking point—even for those who don’t have a clue on what natural law is—is “if the nature of family can be voted on, then the nature of mankind also will be.” We have already seen this in the case of abortion: a prematurely-born is a human baby with the protection of law, while a post-term is still a “fetus” and can be aborted and torn to bits in the most gruesome fashion. To put up such basic natural truths for a vote means turning a healthy society into a madhouse of Dr. Frankensteins trying to alter nature to suit their latest feverish dream. The protection of natural law is the only barrier standing between us and this nightmare scenario—as long as we understand it.
This is why I will always call SSM “pretend-marriage” no matter who I may offend. Civil privileges like inheritance, visitation rights, etc.—those, yes, let’s vote on them and give them to committed couples of any sex. But there is only one marriage. As there is only one humanity.
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