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Same-Sex Marriage, Part 10: Summary

Same-Sex Marriage, Part 10: Summary

Marriage has become a defining cultural issue for our nation. Same-sex marriage advocates assert that they deserve the right to marry, and that to deny them such a right is to discriminate against them. This ten-part series has attempted to clarify the issues at stake in this debate, to dispel the notion that traditional marriage law discriminates against homosexuals, and to demonstrate that the negative consequences of gay marriage to the institution of marriage itself, and to our culture as a whole, would be monumental. Read each of the parts of this series here:

Read the other parts of the series here:


There are many elements to the argument about marriage. It is a deeply personal issue to those on both sides of the debate, and, consequently, reason and honest discussion often fall prey to argumentua ad misericordium (appeals to sympathy) and ad hominem attacks. However, marriage is not only a personal issue; it is a societal issue. This makes reasoned, intellectual discussion critical, because the object in question affects everyone. Marriage is supremely fundamental to the well-being of individuals, families, and society as a whole, so no one can afford to eschew sincere inquiry as to what the debate is about and why it matters.

This ten-part series has attempted to clarify the ways that the central issue in the debate about marriage is not at all about who may marry, but about what marriage is. And that, when the issue is correctly framed, it becomes clear that traditional marriage law does not discriminate at all, because same sex relationships are inherently different from opposite sex marital relationships. Furthermore, this series has endeavored to demonstrate the ways that same-sex marriage would serve to eliminate gender complementarity from marriage law and that the effects of doing so would be monumental, effectively destroying marriage as an institution, violating the rights of children, inviting unprecedented state control, and compromising individual freedom.

The following is a summary of the reasons everyone, whether homosexual or heterosexual, should defend traditional marriage:

Part 1 – What is Marriage?

  • Marriage is traditionally understood as an exclusive, permanent, conjugal relationship between 1) two people 2) of the opposite sex 3) who are over the age of consent 4) who are not close blood relatives. This traditional view of marriage has been virtually unchallenged throughout human history, throughout virtually all cultures, until approximately the past 20 years.
  • Same-sex marriage would alter the second part of the definition (that marriage is between persons of the opposite sex) and would effectively eliminate gender complementarity from the definition of marriage. By doing so, it would not simply expand the pool of persons who can get married according to the historic definition of marriage – it completely changes what marriage is all together.
  • The key issue in the same sex marriage debate is not who can marry, but what is marriage.

Part 2 – The Benefits of Traditional Marriage

  • Marriage between a man and a woman has been demonstrated through copious research to positively impact spouses, children, and society at large in almost every measurable area, including physical, mental and relational health, achievement, and economic well-being.
  • Marriage breakdown contributes to tremendous costs to individuals, families and society through poverty and social ills such as physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, crime, unwanted children, and poor academic achievement.
  • Marriage between a man and a woman has the potential to make families, and families are ground zero for citizens to receive the elements necessary to become well-developed, fully-functioning, flourishing members of society. It is the most efficient, effective and least expensive way to disseminate the greatest good to society.

Part 3 – The Connection of Marriage to Nature

  • Marriage between a man and a woman is grounded in nature – gender complementarity. The fact that the sexual act between a man and a woman has the potential (if everything functions properly) to result in a child makes it a union unlike any other. Marriage is an intrinstic good even if it does not result in children, however the fact that it has the potential to create children is what makes it different from all other types of relationships.
  • The generative nature of marriage is why the state has a vested interest in promoting it, because marriage between a man and a woman can produce children, and children become citizens of society.
  • Marriage is not simply a personal institution but a societal that has the potential to be the most basic form of community – a family.
  • Same-sex marriage eliminates gender complementarity from marriage. By doing so, it changes the institution from being grounded in nature to being determined on the basis of individual choice. The following parts explain why this is problematic.

Part 4 – Changing Marriage to Its Demise

  • Changing the gender complementarity aspect of marriage leads to a legal basis for changing any and all parts of the definition of marriage, including the basic norms of exclusivity, monogamy and permanence. Once there is no longer any inherent connection of marriage to nature or procreation, there is no intrinsic reason why a marriage must be, for instance, characterized by a sexual relationship, or why it must be between only two people, or why it must be a lifetime commitment.
  • Once gender complementarity is eliminated from marriage, the institution’s grounding in nature is lost. Marriage becomes based on human choice – the romantic interests of adults. The state does not have a vested interest in promoting the romantic or personal partnerships of adults.
  • The erosion of marital norms (the loss of exclusivity, monogamy and permanence) is already evident both in the rhetoric of gay marriage advocates, the reality of gay relationships, and in the policies of countries that have already recognized same-sex relationships. Multiple sexual partners, polyamory, polygamy, and short-term marriage licenses are all examples of this erosion.
  • The consequences of eliminating gender complementarity from marriage – the erosion of marital norms and the state’s lack of interest in promoting marriage – will have the effect of ultimately disintegrating the institution all together, because marriage will no longer retain any functional meaning or relevance to society.

Part 5 – Depriving Children of Rights

  • Research demonstrates that children of intact biological families fare better than children raised in any other familial situation, by all measures.
  • Children need and have the right to both mothers and fathers, who each offer unique contributions necessary for the child’s well-being.
  • Same-sex marriage violates the child’s right to his or her own mother and father, by depriving children of one or the other.
  • Same-sex marriage, by eliminating the natural and biological connection of children to their parents, makes parenting nothing more than an agreement or contract, and relegates children to being commodities over whom adults negotiate.
  • Same-sex marriage sacrifices the fundamental rights of children to both of their parents, and children’s well-being, to the rights of adults to be emotionally and sexually satisfied.

Part 6 – State Promotion of Marriage and Government Control

  • The state has an interest in promoting marriage because the sexual acts between men and women produce children, and children become the future of society. The government protects marriage through policy and incentives because doing so protects the family, which is, literally, the breeding ground for society.
  • The state has no vested stock in promoting personal relationships among adults. Therefore, when there is no natural connection between marriage and the creation and nurturing of children, the state loses its impetus for endorsing it.
  • Policy and culture support and reinforce one another, and marriage policy serves to influence the ways people behave toward and within marriage – the creation of a marriage culture. The more policy and culture work together to promote a strong marriage culture, the more society will reap the benefits the institution of marriage provides.
  • Same-sex marriage further weakens a marriage culture already buffeted by things like no-fault divorce and marital infidelity.  It does so by eroding the norms (such as gender complementarity) that make marriage what it is, which would make the benefits of marriage more difficult to attain.
  • Gender complementarity connects marriage to a foundation that is higher or more fundamental than the state- the grounding of nature. This foundation grants marriage, and family relationships, rights that are independent from the state, ensuring that family relationships do not become a tool of the government.
  • Same-sex marriage severs the ties of marriage to its natural foundation, reducing its basis to merely human choice. By doing so, marriage loses its status as a fundamental building block, and family relationships become merely legal rights that can be manipulated by the state. What the state confers, the state can take away.
  • Same-sex marriage would necessarily increase governmental involvement in family relationships, due to the fact that a process, which normally would be regulated by biology (the connection of children to their parents), would now have to be arbitrated by the state.  Rather than simply documenting the natural reality that a child belongs to the parents that conceived him or her, the state would be required to define and determine parenthood.
  • State involvement would be invited further, as government would be required to step in to ameliorate the societal problems created from a weakened marriage culture.

Part 7 – Does Traditional Marriage Law Discriminate?

  • Laws, by their very nature, make distinctions about the subjects (and features of those subjects) to whom the law applies. The issue for discrimination is whether the law makes legitimate distinctions based on features essential to the law between subjects that are fundamentally different (non-discriminatory law), or whether the law makes arbitrary distinctions on the basis of some feature that is not essential to the law, between subjects that are inherently the same  (law that discriminates).
  • Marriage between a man and a woman is a unique union like none other, due to its potential (if all biological systems function properly) to create mutual biological children. No other type of relationship can be a comprehensive mind-body-soul union that can be fulfilled by the possibility of producing mutual offspring. Although same-sex relationships may be like heterosexual marriages in many ways, for the purpose of determining discrimination, one must demonstrate that same-sex relationships and marital relationships are, in characteristics and structure fundamentally the same. Due to ability of different-sex couples to procreate, they are not.
  • Marriage law is not discriminatory because it makes legitimate distinctions based on a characteristic central to marriage law – that of gender complementarity, which leads to the potential for creation – between relationships that are inherently different. It makes distinctions between different relationships, not discrimination against persons.
  • Same-sex unions are not the same as unions between African-Americans and Whites (as banned by the anti-miscegenation laws of the South), because race is not a relevant characteristic to marriage, but gender is. Consequently, it is a misuse of civil rights law to claim that marriage law discriminates against homosexuals in the same way that anti-miscegenation laws discriminated against blacks.
  • With anti-miscegenation laws, blacks were denied the right to participate in a comprehensive relationship characterized by monogamy, exclusivity and permanence of the type able to conceive mutual children. With same-sex marriage, marriage would not longer mean a comprehensive relationship characterized by monogamy, exclusivity and permanence of the type able to conceive mutual children.
  • Same-sex marriage attempts to label as a “marriage” a relationship that is not and cannot be (because of the lack of gender complementarity) a marriage – it is an effort to re-label reality according to what individuals want it to be. The gay community seeks to do so because labeling same-sex relationships as marriage would bring acceptance and validation to those relationships, and to homosexual persons. Unfortunately, it would also serve to erode the norms of marriage and ultimately destroy the institution itself.
  • It is, ironically, laws establishing same-sex marriage that are discriminatory. Marriage between a man and a woman is based in an objective, non-arbitrary construct of law – nature, or the ability of the two partners to procreate. Same-sex marriage, on the other hand, interjects an arbitrary element – that of personal choice – over a connection equitably established by nature.

Part 8 – Threat to Individual Liberty

  • State endorsement of same-sex marriage would serve to eliminate gender complementarity – the central non-arbitrary feature that makes marriage a unique union like none other. Doing so would insinuate that gender complementarity in marriage is an arbitrary distinction, and that including gender complementarity in marital distinctions would be discriminatory.
  • Implying that gender complementarity in marriage is an arbitrary, and therefore discriminatory, distinction would serve to significantly alter justice within our political and legal system, as society willingly engaged in calling fiction reality. The ability of our system to accurately interpret truth would be compromised, leading to significant threats to individual freedom.
  • The implication that gender complementarity in marriage is an arbitrary distinction would lead to those who recognize gender complementarity in marriage as valid (traditional marriage advocates) being considered to be agents of discrimination. Persons who espouse the view of marriage held throughout virtually all cultures in virtually all of human history would be marginalized as bigots and possibly criminalized for their beliefs. Once distinctions based on sexual differentiation are deemed “arbitrary”, any distinctions anywhere made on the basis of gender complementarity become perceived as being rooted in discrimination, which means individual liberty becomes compromised.
  • Examples of the threat to individual liberty are abundant, as those who oppose same-sex marriage face negative societal consequences, including professional marginalization, fines, loss of tax-exempt status, disciplinary action, and the inability to opt their children out of classes that teach about same-sex marriage.  Freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and parental rights have already been jeopardized around the world and in America as a result of the implication that gender complementarity is an arbitrary (and discriminatory) distinction.

Part 9 – The Ultimate Goals

  • Many gay marriage advocates assert that they want same-sex marriage so that homosexuals have the same right as heterosexuals to love whom they choose. However, traditional marriage does not deny gay persons the right to have relationships with one another – there are no civil or criminal penalties in any state for being in a same-sex relationship. The state simply does not recognize the relationships as marriages because they are not the same kinds of unions as marriages. Even if the state does not recognize the relationships as marriages, same-sex partners are free to engage in intimate relationships with one another.
  • Gay marriage advocates also express that they desire same-sex marriage in order to be afforded the same benefits and protections as heterosexual married partners. However, rights, benefits and protections for same-sex persons can be (and are, in a number of states) obtained through other legal avenues than a change to marriage law.
  • The goal of same-sex marriage is to use cultural and political power to bring about validation and approval within society of homosexual relationships, persons, and lifestyles. As same-sex and opposite-sex unions are increasingly viewed as being the same, homosexual people will increasingly gain the cultural approval (and privileges) that heterosexual couples enjoy.
  • A secondary force driving the same-sex marriage movement is the elimination of gender distinctions all together within culture. This is a phenomenon that has already occurred to some degree within areas that have legalized same-sex marriage, such as in Massachusetts’s public schools which now require that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms according to their gender identity rather than their anatomical sex.
  • The philosophy behind the goal of same-sex marriage is one of moral relativism – the idea that truth and morality, particularly sexual morality, are subjective ideas that change from person to person. This philosophy emphasizes personal fulfillment and freedom above personal responsibility, and disengages moral choices from any objective transcendent reality.
  • The end-game of traditional marriage advocates is not to prevent gay marriage. That is only one hurdle along the path to the destination of strengthening marriage as an institution. Those in favor of marriage between a man and a woman seek to not only preserve the historical definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, but to create a healthy marriage culture that will encourage the well-being of individuals, families, and society as a whole.
  • The philosophy behind the defense of traditional marriage is grounded in tradition, faith, and objective reality, and the belief that human sexuality (and all of human behavior) must have boundaries in order to be beneficial. It encompasses the idea that there is a concrete “right” and “wrong” according to transcendent standards set by a natural or divine source greater than any individual’s desires. In this philosophy, personal responsibility takes precedence over personal freedom, in the interest of serving the best interest of everyone.


Marriage is the central cog in the machine of society; humanity’s best mechanism for encouraging the optimal development of persons. It is for this reason that societies throughout time, on all parts of the globe, have recognized marriage as the union of a man and a woman – because gender complementarity, and the resulting potential to create new life, makes it a relationship like none other. Arguments about discrimination and civil rights obscure the central question in the same-sex marriage debate: the question about what marriage is.

Traditional marriage defender Ryan T. Anderson rightly notes, “We reap the civil society benefits of marriage only if policy gets marriage right.”

The efforts to redefine what marriage is, and to eliminate gender complementarity as a meaningful construct, replace an institution grounded in nature with one based on choice or desire. Although emotional fulfillment is certainly an important benefit of marriage, for the purpose of culture, marriage is not primarily about adult desire or bonding. It is about the potential to create the most foundational unit of society – family. And any gains that state recognition of same-sex marriage might have for the validation of homosexual relationships and persons will be far outweighed by the disastrous consequences of the erosion of marital norms. These consequences come in the form of social ills such as poverty, crime, and abuse, destabilized families, children being deprived of the right to their parents, intrusive government control over family relationships, and threats to individual liberty. Same-sex marriage is a repudiation of the value of tradition, objective truth, and transcendent revelation for a philosophy of moral relativism in which personal fulfillment becomes the guiding principle.

Maggie Gallagher concurs that we should “resist a radical transformation of the American tradition, but also help build a culture committed to a core American idea: moral truth exists, and our rights (including our right to marriage) are not gifts of government, but are grounded in and bounded by Nature and Nature’s God”.

There is nothing less at stake than the future of our nation.

Gay persons have the right to live as they choose, however they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone.

The decisions around same-sex marriage will define the society we leave to future generations. Luis Tellez, President of The Witherspoon Institute, sums it up this way: “Ultimately, the future of marriage will not be decided by our likes or our dislikes. Human suffering will periodically remind us that losing a healthy marriage culture produces all kinds of practical costs and penalties….However you slice it, the intact biological family continues to the best ‘Department of Health, Education and Welfare’ when it comes to raising the next generation. Marriage is worth fighting for, even if we lose. Because remember, LGBT activists will lose too as they bring us all down. And that is a sobering thought”.



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