Monday, August 09, 2010

Thoughts on Gay Marriage

This story on Rosie O'Donnell's protest marriage has prompted me to make some brief comments on the subject of gay marriage. Proponents of gay marriage usually characterize those who oppose it as homophobic and hating. They say that they are doing nothing to damage heterosexual marriage, so they should have the right to do whatever they want. Here is why such a statement is false.

My opposition to gay marriage is based on the idea that the family is the fundamental unit of society, and that the health of the family is essential to the health of society. Anything that undermines the family also undermines our society, and threatens the eventual collapse of society. The importance of the family is based on its traditional definition. A man and a woman commit themselves to a life-long bond, and it is in this context that children are conceived and raised by their natural biological parents. (There are exceptions such as children who are adopted, and couples who cannot have children, but these exceptions are rare enough that they don't seriously affect society. Also, I will say that although many adoptions work out wonderfully, that doesn't mean that all else being equal, it would not have been better for those children to be raised by their natural parents.) Such families have for thousands of years provided the foundation of the civilization that we have inherited.

Over the last few decades, the family has been seriously undermined through easy divorce, and now faces greater erosion through homosexual marriage. These changes are result of greater focus on the needs and desires of individual adults rather than the needs of children and society. The changes are justified by citing studies that show that children are not adversely affected by divorce, or don't need to be raised by their biological parents, but there are also studies that say the opposite. It appears that the purpose of Rosie O'Donnell's protest marriage was not to create a permanent stable environment for the raising of children, but that it was a throw-away marriage in order to make a point.

How does gay marriage undermine the family? It does not produce a family where children are conceived and raised by their biological parents. Divorce is a similar problem because even if the children are conceived within a family, tragically the family does not stay together, and the children suffer some amount of separation from one of their biological parents. In a gay marriage, it is impossible for the married partners to conceive together due to the deepest biological structures of our sexuality. The best that can be hoped is that through some donor or surrogate process, children can be conceived who are raised by one of their biological parents combined with a partner to whom they are not biologically related. It is interesting that in the currently running movie, "The Kids Are All Right", the children raised by lesbian mothers who are evidently "all right" still have a desire to know their biological father.

The deeper issue is the prevailing attitude that individuals should have the freedom to be and do whatever they want with little attention paid to the common good. Traditions that formed the foundation of our society are considered expendable. People think that they can remove the foundation and that the structure will continue to stand. I think that is very unlikely.


Elizabeth said...

You were very brave to explain this with such clarity and without apologizing. I used to be a pretty supporter of civil unions for all homo and hetero marriages. "Let the churches decide," but now I'm struggling with how that could affect my future family.

Where are we, as Catholics, supposed to "fit into" the political world!? This issue, immigration, abortion, welfare: there are so many ways to defend them or denounce them with the faith. It stresses me out.

Great post!

Gregory said...

I don't know that Christians have ever really fit in the political world. Jesus certainly didn't fit into the politics of his time. However, we still have a duty to do our best to fulfill our role in the political process. The only way to do that is to rank the issues in importance, and vote for the more important issues, and recognize you may disagree with candidates on lesser issues.

Our bishops have made it clear that certain issues such as abortion and the definition of marriage are core issues where there is a definite right and wrong. Issues like immigration and welfare are also important, but they are complex problems that don't have clear answers. If I agree with a politician on abortion and marriage, but not immigration, I vote for her anyway. If she is elected, then I should write her about immigration, for example.

Elizabeth said...

That's the strategy I've settled on. At least then we know we're voting to save lives and we can work in the private sector to help those affected by these issues we had to lower in our political priorities.