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Phil-osophically Speaking

Let The People Decide

I am loth to revisit the gay marriage debate; but much like the weather it can’t be avoided. The facts of life, Margaret Thatcher once said, are conservative. In that light my view that marriage is between one man and one woman is unbanishable. It’s undoubtedly true that the rearing of children (Plato called it society’s most important task) is best achieved within the committed bond of a man and woman who gave them life.  I’ve personally experienced this and have learned of it from those who have grown up in single parent families. Where there are absent fathers children yearn not for another mother but a father. Where there are absent mothers children yearn not for another father, but a mother. Children desire love from parents of both genders.


The media, the culture, political correctness and the natural rebellion of youth have all converged to create a seismic shift in the public’s thinking regarding same-sex marriage. Many feel unburdened by religious sanction, which always leads to hedonism and iconoclasm. While each generation regards their main assumptions as true and self-evident, they often do so without reading the minutes of the last meeting. They do not realize what little experience they have and how great the experience of the world is. It is only history and tradition that inoculates us against the relativism and the chauvinism of the present.


During this ferment it pays to ask what the purpose of marriage is and why marriage laws even exist. No couple, after all, can marry themselves; a witness is required, so is a marriage license.  Society has a stake in your marriage; your relationship with your spouse and that of your progeny affect the civil society at large. By wisely providing the separation between church and state, the working arrangement of our laws have essentially stated that who you sleep with and how many people you sleep with is your business, you just can’t be married to them at the same time. Marriage means something and it must not be trivialized. This does not mean that certain groups have not tried to make it pliable by imposing upon it their own definition. In the 1860s, social order superseded freedom of religion when polygamy was struck down by the Supreme Court. It’s been nearly 50 years since Daniel Patrick Moynihan raised the alarm about fatherless black families. Moynihan (raised in a broken home) was crucified as a racist. But his thesis was not so much about race as it was about marriage and the inimical impact of absent fathers.  The decomposition of the family in the latter decades of the 20th century, irrespective of race, resulted in the same social pathologies that perpetuated them like an inherited trait.


There are influences from the culture that change the constitution of the mind the way disease changes the constitution of the body. The contemporary state of marriage is in crisis and instead of trying to restore it to its traditional understanding we are broadening and redefining it. Despite every effort to portray it as a normal arrangement, there is no science about the effects of same sex marriage upon children. Notwithstanding the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatricians testifying that there is no difference between children being raised by their biological parents and those of same-sex households, these conclusions are still premature and partisan. Same-sex marriage is still novel, brand new and rare. 


At least two or three generations will pass before any meaningful conclusions can be drawn. Social scientists are often caught up in the cause celebre and the politics of the moment. We saw this with the overpopulation scares of the 1960s, the pollution fears of the 1970s, the so-called discovery of the gay gene in the 1980s and now the overstated claims from the science of climate change.  There is only one study thus far that has used a large randomized sample in investigating and objectively measuring the well- being of grown children (rather than their parents) raised in homosexual households. The research is from Mark Regnerus from the University of Texas and his study on “Family Structures” shows that children reared in same sex households were at a significant disadvantage and as adults more likely to be depressed and on welfare.

This report, despite its comprehensive methodology, was lambasted by the defenders of gay marriage, now legion, as flawed. Fair enough, but then what study, imposing a similar scale, exists to contradict it?  I don’t think we need a study to debunk the notion that gender in a marital arrangement is irrelevant.  The civilizing influence of marriage is not the institution itself, but the biological and sociological influence of the female. England succeeded in colonizing America because they brought their women over while France and Spain did not. The great West was settled only when it was domesticated by women. Men and women are wired differently and anyone who believes that the psychodynamics between the sexes are indistinguishable should consider why the pornography and prostitution industries have a clientele almost entirely male. Same sex attractions in these relationships have and are bound to promote a feverish promiscuity.


Nevertheless, contrary to the teleology of the body, public opinion is pointing toward same sex marriage.  I think this is a mistake, since replacing sexual behavior with sexual identity is ultimately unworkable. But even if I’m wrong, the Supreme Court should not be acting as a super legislature. America doesn’t need a judicial diktat, an overseeing magistrate or a ukase mandating public policy. Whatever discrimination existed in the past, gays have not been second class citizens like blacks were during Jim Crow: They were never denied the vote; forced to the back of the bus; prohibited from sitting at a lunch counter; compelled to attend segregated schools; nor were rest rooms and water fountains marked straight or gay.


The politicians are hoisted on their own petard because they are thermometers not thermostats: They register the temperature rather than the desired setting. Only very recently has President Obama come out for gay marriage as has Bill and Hillary Clinton. The latter two can be counted on to do whatever is politically expedient; as for the president he is entitled to change his mind. As president he’s now installing missile defense systems he voted against as a senator. Vice President Cheney and Senator Portman have been moved by the sexual predilections of their children, a rather flimsy basis for overturning thousands of years of tradition. 

I don’t doubt the world has changed, it has, but then why are so many desperate for the Court to decide this issue? I’m an incurable traditionalist; my allegiance lies and I suspect always will to those values and beliefs bequeathed to me by my ancestors, the most prized part of my patrimony. When it comes to societal change, I want to include not only the democracy of the living but the democracy of the dead. For the dead speak boldly and plainly; while the living tremble before the judgmental throne of modernity. As I find myself ever more forcibly pushed toward the lonely margins, I still espy a faint and distant nimbus in the corner of a voracious black hole swallowing the light.  


Still, I’m a realist. The browbeating by cultural and media elites is overwhelming and unrelenting. The entertainment world consistently portrays the gay lifestyle in the most friendly and favorable light; polls show that those under 30 favor gay marriage by a 4-1 margin. Tolerance is no longer defined as allowing people different from the majority to live their lives unmolested and in peace. Tolerance now means acceptance and approval in the most celebratory terms. So why are proponents of gay marriage so fearful of the world’s largest courtroom: The American people? Contentious issues, after all, can be enlarged and clarified by public debate. My guess is that reliable blue states will support gay marriage and reliable red states will oppose it. The miraculous thing about our world is that it’s intelligible and I, for one, welcome its intelligibility. It’s enough to forget the courts and let the political process go forward.