Monday, November 10, 2008

In response to the Governator, et al.

To promote the legality of gay marriage isn't a neutral issue. It has widespread ramifications (adoption, child-custody laws, public and private school curricula, antidiscrimination laws based on marriage), and the government itself can't remain neutral. It will either continue with the assumed definition of marriage as the one-flesh union between husband and wife -- or it will undo this, giving the message: "Marriage can be defined as we wish." In this case, marriage is based on nothing more than emotional and economic attachments.

Are human beings just individualistic decision makers who live to "actualize" themselves through their preferred sexual expression? Are they just biological organisms? Or is there such a thing as a fixed human nature and so a design or goal for humans to pursue? These questions must be thoughtfully considered about so monumental a subject as marriage. A one-flesh union of husband and wife is more than just a sexual act; it is an expression of a deep interpersonal union that brings with it profound commitments and loyalties. This is not simply a matter of choosing one's own marital arrangements, some of which are better than others. On such an issue as this, the state has historically recognized -- not invented the idea -- that a husband-wife, one-flesh union reflects moral reality and human nature and the sexuality bound up with it...Even to say that "the state ought to be neutral about marriage" involves a moral standard. Lots of people say that government shouldn't take a stand on the definition of marriage. Instead of being "biased" toward heterosexual couples, the state ought to be neutral and unbiased toward couples, including gay couples.

However, those who think the government is morally obligated to be morally neutral about the definition of marriage are misguided. It is in fact a moral position to say the state has a moral responsibility to view the marriage question as nonmoral. As Princeton's Robert George says, "Neutrality between neutrality and non-neutrality is logically impossible." The state will have to take a stand on the nature of marriage and family (e.g., are these just artificial social constructions?) and the basis of marriage (e.g., is it just two consenting adults?).

So if gay marriage is legalized, this won't simply be a neutral change. One can expect that principled disagreement of traditionalists who think gay marriage is a bad idea will lead to denunciations of their "hate speech" and intolerance. In fact, Christian groups (such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) on various university campuses (e.g., Tufts University) have been "de-funded" by the administration because they didn't allow gays in leadership positions (though the ruling didn't stand). This de-funding had been based on the claim that these Christian groups were bigoted and intolerant. No doubt, if present trends continue, similar pressures could well be applied to "intolerant" churches that do not accept homosexual activity as morally legitimate.

Paul Copan, "What's Wrong with Gay Marriage?," in When God Goes to Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics

No comments: