Today, I'd like to write about gay marriage, a political Gordian knot that has been especially vexing for me. Jim Daly of Focus on the Family wrote a short, compelling piece yesterday for the On Faith section of washingtonpost.com, and I'll get to that momentarily.
First some personal caveats. There are only a tiny handful of political issues I truly care about, as a person. Most of the time, I try to divorce myself individually from the debate, to prevent unhelpful, unmitigated bias in my thinking. And I can't think of another issue I have less of a stake in than gay marriage. I am not married. I don't have any kids. I am not a Christian. I am not gay.
Yet, I find myself aroused by the gay marriage debate - 'frustrated' is probably the better word. Every time I see a Prop. 8 sign with the statistically inaccurate family or one of those 'Legalize Gay' shirts, I just wanna slap somebody. I think this is the most asinine debate of my generation.
Nonetheless, we're having it. And I don't think Democrats and liberals are winning it.
Let's take a look at Daly's post. The first thing I noticed was his use of the term 'genderless marriage.' I haven't seen this one before and it's indicative of conservatives' superior use of language in their arguments. 'Marriage protection' is another one that was used frequently for the several State Constitutional amendments ratified in the the last ten years, but the term is inherently negative; it suggests a bunker mentality that implies ultimate defeat. 'Gender' or 'genderlessness' is a broader subject that will catch the attention of people who care about traditional gender roles rather than only marriage.
Of course the bigger point, the point marriage protection advocates have been making everywhere, and the point I don't think marriage equality advocates have fully engaged, is that marriage is fundamentally an institution of procreation and the continuance of civilization. Daly writes:
You see, a black woman and white man can contribute quite nicely to "our very existence and survival" by bringing forth the next generation of humanity which is what our civil Court said marriage is about.
And that is why marriage is universally and fundamentally about male and female. Examine how leading anthropologists over the last 80 years [have constantly made] references to male and female, procreation and off-spring legitimization as the universal and primary qualities of this sacred institution.
There is an instinctive ad hominem response to this about the hypocrisy of using miscegenation as a defense for marriage discrimination, but to use it would prevent us from seeing the 'no duh' aspect of Daly's argument.
To wit, the following is a plainly obvious statement: we are all the product of some sort of heterosexual procreation. All of us came about because male and female human DNA combined to create a person both wholly unique from and remarkably similar to everyone else on the planet. The procreation was assumed to be done thru lovemaking or at least sex-having, and ultimately this is what Daly is pointing towards. We are all here because our predecessors got freaky; our descendants depend on us continuing that tradition.
Over the last generation, some of us have been procreated in vitro, meaning that there was no hanky-panky but clearly there was love and desire. (Sadly, some of us have also been the children of rape, a crime defined by the absence of love.) Let's not forget that Christ's procreation is held to have occurred similarly and other divine and semi-devine figures were also conceived in supernatural ways, so it's not like test tube babies were the first immaculate conceptions.
Though that still is not the problem with Daly's argument. We can accept extraordinary exceptions to all-but-universal assumptions. Daly's not really interested in the means of childbearing, but the end of childbearing. In other words, for him the purpose of marriage and it's concomitant activity is to create children.
Thus, a marriage that does not result in children is a 'false' marriage, regardless if it is because of medical or social reasons. Also, a marriage whose children are not of their own procreation is 'false,' so adoption is unnatural. I'm sure most Americans realize the perverse inappropriateness of such feelings. After all, being a loving family to an orphan is one of the most good things any couple could do, right? That seems self-evident. And we shouldn't condemn people for being infertile (or primogeniturally infertile) , otherwise we're just Henry VIII.
What I mean is, there is a consesus among Americans that children are a possible, likely, appropriate outcome of marriage, but not its sole purpose. We're not barbarians. "Barefoot and pregnant" is a terrible way to see ourselves. Anyway, society does not have the right to compell individuals to do anything for its own benefit. If you wanna be a lifelong virgin, that's your prerogative.
Marriage equality advocates need to understand: this is not about love; this is not even really about civil rights. This debate is about sex. It is about whether dudes-kissing-dudes is icky or okay. It is about whether fucking is exceptional or pedestrian, sacred or vulgar. It is about how private our bedrooms really are, and whether social conservatives have the right to legislate our behavior in them. Marriage is a public concession to the one part of your life you share with the fewest people, if any.
Or is it? If marriage (and sex) is something else, equality advocates have to re-define it accordingly. They must not assume that everyone 30-years-old and under share their views, or ten years hence 40-year-olds are going to vote against gay marriage again.