The likely result of gay and lesbian pressure groups pushing for the redefining of marriage is going to be that the institution will become a meaningless charade and disappear from the face of the earth. This is the ultimate conclusion of William J. Haun, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., writing in the current issue of First Things.
If what is being pushed for in this campaign is achieved then ultimately the institution of marriage will mean nothing at all. Haun argues that if all it takes for the government to choose (or not choose) to license its existence is it be identified as friendship, dating relationship, or any relationship that has love with a remote possibility of sex, then nearly all relationships will constitute a marriage; and thus no relationship will constitute a marriage.
Haun approaches his argument from the angle of those who argue for limited government and points to an inherent contradiction in the case put by same-sex marriage advocates. They frequently appeal, he says, to our country’s limited government tradition to urge redefining the age-old, cross-cultural understanding of marriage as the union of husband and wife into a union where a husband or a wife is unnecessary. “Government shouldn’t tell people who to marry,” they say.
Notwithstanding this argument’s misleading claim (no one is “telling” you to marry anyone—though a society with gay marriage will have the force of law to tell some opponents to participate), its premise is still troubling. Expanding legal marriage to include same-sex unions, far from being a victory for limited government, is inconsistent with it.
What Haun is essentially saying is that the erosion of society’s natural structures has meant that fewer and fewer people are taking responsibility of the consequences of their choices. With the destruction of marriage, which holds men and women accountable for their relationship’s public effect—the having and raising of children, —government must make greater expenditures to fight crime, improve the education system, enforce child support requirements, aid abandoned single mothers, and provide general social services. Big government has to get bigger and bigger. He quotes Benjamin Franklin’s observation that the less people take responsibility, the more they need government.
To be sure, he says, the increasing severance of marriage from procreation—not same-sex marriage—caused these problems. Same-sex marriage, however, represents a further break. Marriage’s purpose as the only institution that unites children with their mother and father disappears if a union for which that purpose is inherently irrelevant is also considered a marriage. The marital union is distinct in this regard.
Haun questions, radically, the logic of the advocates of same-sex marriage.
He says they tell us that the primary basis for marriage is not procreation or sexual difference, but love, and that the personal promises husbands and wives make to each other is the government’s only reason to license (or not license) a marital relationship.
But if that were true, why cannot any relationship that has love and makes promises also be regulated and licensed by government—including dating relationships and cohabitation—while also giving the government a rationale to criminalize adultery. How can we justly discriminate between relationships characterized by love but that lack sexual relations—like two brothers who love and support each other or two best friends who live together after their spouses died and raise a child?
Gay marriage advocates want to maintain sexual relationship as the defining element in their bond but they also say that part of the point of legalizing gay marriage is to get the government out of their relationships. In reality, he argues, it will draw government more into the picture because it will have to discriminate in favor of relationships with sex partners versus relationships without sex partners. How is that not an intrusion? He asks.
What he finds more worrying is that a likely result of redefining marriage is that it will ultimately mean nothing at all. If friendships, dating relationships, or any relationship that has love with a remote possibility of sex is all it takes for the government to choose (or not choose) to license its existence, nearly all relationships will constitute a marriage; and thus no relationship will constitute a marriage.