Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gay Marriage: Part One

Gay marriage is the hand grenade issue of our time. It has been tossed into a foxhole where all Americans sit, yet most Americans are afraid to touch it (that is, publicly express their unvarnished opinion) for fear it will explode in their hands – even though they know it is going to explode whether they touch it or not.

If you say you are against gay marriage, you stand to be accused of being a hate-filled Neanderthal who wishes that slavery for black people and death for adulterers were still legal. This is true even if you are a paragon of tolerance who often reads MLK and has several gay people in his group of true friends.

If you say it should be legalized, you stand to be accused of seeking to upend the foundations of society and plunge mankind into an abyss of moral decay that will hasten the end of modern civilization. This is true even if you are a church-going family man who often issues warnings about the risks of society becoming sexually licentious.

Faced with such a choice, most Americans either 1) sit silent on the issue, or 2) claim to be pro-gay marriage because they sense that pop culture favors that viewpoint and possesses a voice that is both louder and more shunning than the combined voices of those who oppose it.

Needless to say, this climate is not conducive to honest discussion. And therefore it is also not conducive to public harmony, especially in the long-term.

When dealing with gay marriage in my April 3rd et ceteras, I wrote that "when it comes to an issue of such magnitude, there is no time to opine about it in a quick-hit post," and that I would therefore "be sharing my thoughts in the near future." Well, that near future is here and I have decided to tackle the issue not in a single post, but in a series of consecutive ones. Let's just say I realized that even a very long post is too short to do this topic justice.

Allow me to begin Part One by asserting my belief that when it comes to gay marriage, only the most strident among us have continuously held the exact same opinion throughout their lives. Although many of us (including me) heaped ridicule on Barack Obama for claiming that his opinion was "still evolving" in the election year of 2012, the fact of the matter is that most of us have had our views on gay marriage evolve over the course of our lives. It must be said, however, that just because a view evolves does not necessarily mean it changes to an opposite view; and it must also be said that evolution in one's thinking about a topic does not automatically flow away from the "anti" position and towards the "pro."

Therefore, I find it disingenuous for someone to depict his view as having never been subject to personal doubt, as having always been built on a foundation free of cracks. And when it comes to this topic, I am certain that few of us can truthfully say our opinion of today is one hundred percent unchanged from the opinion we had whenever the topic first crossed our mind.

In the interest of full disclosure, my Part One is going to share not what my brain tells me to type today, but what my brain told me to type nine years ago in response to an item in the newspaper. In 2004, nationally syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. won a Pulitzer Prize. In March of that year he wrote a column that can be read here if you wish to do so...and below is a letter I wrote to him after reading it. Interestingly, neither of us declared being "for" or "against" gay marriage even though it was the proverbial match that lit the fuse.

In the next-to-last paragraph, for purposes of clarity, I have inserted a parenthetical explanation of what Pitts was referring to in the passage I quoted. Otherwise I have not changed, deleted, or added a single thing. To understand what I wrote, it is not necessary to read Pitts's column, but obviously feel free to do so. Regarding my letter, I ask only that you read it on the merits of what it says. And finally, here it is:

I am sure you will receive many responses to this column, so I will try to keep mine "on subject.”

It is astonishing that so many people favoring gay marriage have put, at most, only the shallowest of thought into their position. Your column never acknowledges even the possibility that opponents of gay marriage might have any reason besides bigotry for their position.

Marriage has existed as an institution for thousands of years in a myriad of civilizations around the globe.  Considering that these civilizations conceived of marriage independently of one another, and did so under innumerable different religions and governments, it is noteworthy that the concept of homosexual marriage was never accepted – even in societies that were accepting of homosexual behavior, such as ancient Greece and ancient Rome. It is certainly not unreasonable to suggest that there must be reasons for this, and to demand that these reasons be considered before society is suddenly mandated to accept something that every generation in history has rejected.

Gay activists have a strong argument when they claim that government has no business getting involved in personal relationships between consenting adults, but what too many people fail to understand is that marriage is not a personal relationship. It is a legal one. Because of this, government does have a role in determining who can get married, just as it does in determining who can sell insurance, who can practice medicine, etc. That is why the state is able to forbid brothers from marrying their sisters, and to outlaw bigamy, to give just two examples.

We can go on for so long about the pros and cons of gay marriage that we should save that for a later exchange. What is crucial when one starts venturing into this topic is to understand the very reason marriage exists. It is not simply to allow people to express their love and devotion to each another, or to leave their belongings to their partner at death, for those things can be done without a marital contract. Marriage was created because societies determined it to be the best means of rearing and raising children, and to thereby promote the advance of mankind.

The marital contract legally unites two people as one, in a bond that cannot be broken without enormous difficulty. It obligates them to stand together in good times and bad, in sickness and health, and to work through problems when the going gets tough rather than just parting ways like a high school couple. Because of this central obligation, it also pushes them to think first and to marry only when ready. The purpose is to create a stable environment for children, because such an environment is best for children and therefore best for society's future. And in a nutshell, the basis for such a contract simply does not exist for homosexual couples because nature has rendered them incapable of producing children within their covenant.

As you have stated in previous columns, many of society's current ills are rooted in "the breakdown of the family" that began decades ago. This breakdown accelerated when the institution of marriage started being weakened, long before the topic of gay marriage appeared on the scene. The rise of "no fault divorce" – which made divorce quick and easy, and removed any standard of justification from the process – was the first big blow. It neutered the marital contract by making it so easy to repeal that people could marry without putting any more thought or effort into it than they would put into any other relationship.

The sexual revolution and feminist movement made things worse. These movements began by claiming that they wanted to remove the stigma from single parenthood so that single parents would not be scorned by society. That stated goal was laudable, but the movements went far beyond it by embracing single parenthood. For years now they have treated it as not being inherently different than marital parenthood, and they have in many cases presented it as a goal to be praised. These same movements were largely responsible for the marginalization of fathers in our court systems, and there is no denying that this marginalization has had a crippling effect on much of America's youth – particularly black youth, as your writings often point out.

It must be pointed out that it is social liberals who have contributed most to this weakening of marriage and family. It was they who spoke of marriage as "just a piece of paper" and claimed it was an establishment relic with no bearing on the enlightened world they thought they were creating in the 1960's. And now, after proclaiming marriage unimportant, it is social liberals who are suddenly championing it – for homosexuals. It is neither bigotry nor paranoia for people to perceive the gay marriage issue as one more coordinated strike in an ongoing effort to undermine the institution of marriage, which itself is the very foundation of society. In fact, when one considers the social and legal trends of the last 40+ years, it would be foolish not to perceive the issue this way.

I could write a whole separate response about your libelous depiction of social conservatives as people "who not so long ago didn't want us in their churches, their schools, their parks or their restaurants" (note to reader: the "us" Pitts used means "black people). However, I will leave that for another time because I have already been lengthy and I know your time is limited.

Please forgive me if my tone has seemed harsh or bitter. I am writing because I have read your works for nearly 10 years and, although I often disagree with you, I have no doubt that you are a person of good will who comes to your opinions honestly. The issue of marriage is critical to our nation's future and should be debated in honest terms. Unfortunately, your column was a disservice in this regard because it discussed none of the pros and cons of the actual issue. In fact, you never bothered to state whether you are for or against gay marriage. All you did was sling mud at those on one side of the issue by portraying them as a bunch of closed-minded bigots. This is a lazy tactic often used to avoid having to debate actual issues and to avoid stating one’s beliefs about those issues. This tactic changes the subject and eliminates productive debate.  It cannot lead the human race forward and it cannot help future generations learn to think, especially when you give no substantiation for your attack on conservatives.

No comments: