A Gay Defense of a Traditional View of Marriage
By Marco Antonio Roberts
Published Friday, June 29, 2012 – Revised and republished June 28, 2013
At the end of every June, to coincide with the date of the Stonewall riots of 1969, Gay Pride celebrations take place all across America, from San Francisco to New York City, and around the world; and even in faraway places as romantic and unlikely as Rome and Istanbul. Houston itself hosts numerous large gay pride events, including one of the largest nighttime parades in the world, drawing close to 100,000 parade watchers each year, shutting down its major Westheimer thoroughfare near downtown for five hours. In 2013, as in 2012, all of this will take place in the wake of recent milestones in the area of gay rights and political advances, and with the heady expectations of more gains to come.
In 2012, on Wednesday, May 9, the President of the United States made a dramatic announcement marking the turning point in his personal so-called ‘evolution’ on his views on the issue of gay marriage. After proclaiming in his first presidential election campaign that he believed marriage was between a man and a woman, the president now declared that it “personally” was important to him for him to “affirm” that “same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
In 2013, on Wednesday June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered two decisions that effectively and profoundly advanced the cause of gay marriage with far-reaching implications for our future conception of the institution that has been the core building block of all human societies for five thousand years.
A GAY (AND RISKY) DEFENSE OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE
Understandably, many gay people, including nearly all in my own Montrose neighborhood, will be reveling in these new developments. However, “personally,” I greet these advancements with mixed emotions. Though I was the leader of gay rights activism in the mid-1980’s at Texas A&M University while a student there - directly involved with the GSS vs. Texas A&M University case that was settled at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985, and I and my life mate will surely benefit in the foreseeable future from the inevitable influence this will have on the further acceptance of gay couples into the social fabric, I have long believed that civil union, not marriage, is the proper framework for formalizing the legal status of same-sex relationships.
I hesitate to publicly say fully why this is so. The truth is, throughout my entire life, I have always found my fellow gay brethren (in general – certainly not to a person), as virulently intolerant of contrary opinions as the most fervent religious fundamentalists. I suppose this intolerance is natural to groups that have experienced severe intolerance themselves, justified or not. So, they – we –circle the wagons around any of their shibboleths that seem to come under attack, even if that attack comes in the form of a question. So, I expect that while expressing my reasoning in full would at most be only a matter of interest to most Americans, it would be found outright incendiary among the overwhelming majority of what is now called the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community (a terminology, by the way, which I predicted back in 1989). No one can breezily dismiss a highly emotionally charged sentiment that pervades the community in which they must live.
There’s also the complication that many good gay friends are already invested in the institution as marriage, and a full commentary would be easily misunderstood as a critique of what they have chosen to do in their own lives, something I would not want to happen, especially when there may be little point in saying something that will make no difference.
Yet, I reject the idea that just because I’m gay, all things that gay people want are good, just as I think it ridiculous to believe that just because I am American that all things Americans want ought to be sought. And, I do see negative, if subtle and slowly unfolding, consequences for the chosen path. Furthermore, I am concerned at the unfairly judgmental and absolutist maligning of Americans who honestly disagree with the concept of gay marriage, separate from what may be their support for gay rights in other respects. So, seeing almost no voices articulate coherently as well as unapologetically (if still delicately), a public defense for the special the place the union of man and woman play in our society, I feel compelled to do so.
Let me just add for the record that I do not maintain that gay marriage advocates do not have valid arguments – they may be right in the end. I only maintain that there is a legitimate cause for disagreement, and that arriving at the result that most benefits the most human beings in the future requires full consideration of, and logical response to, these arguments. “You are a homophobe” does not qualify as a logical argument or response, and would be very hard to apply to me.
THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN JUST MARRIAGE
Beyond the marriage question itself, this debate actually stems from a larger politico-cultural trend of which the question of marriage is just one, if very prominent, piece; it’s about the deliberate and persistent effort earnestly under way in the U.S. and much of the West now for forty years to deny the sexual dichotomy of the human species; that is, to deny that men and women are truly innately, biologically different; and that their different constitutions have real ramifications in how they think, the choices they make, how they react to other persons or circumstances, and yes, in their physical and mental attributes. This movement is in great part spearheaded by lesbian feminists and gay men who loathe the whole notion of masculinity and femininity, but has its effects targeted at society as a whole as its promoters hope to create a world in which their (our) ‘gender-crossing’ is not seen in any way ‘less-than’ the norm. Lesbian feminists, of which I have met many and have read their leading political theories, have the added motivation of bitter resentment, if not hatred, for any notion of male advantage in anything (e.g., men cannot be seen as being generally physically stronger, despite the biological fact driven by testosterone), regardless of what advantages women may have in other things.
Now, it may seem odd that any rational person would insist on maintaining that men and women are not biologically different at all. And, in fact, since science has recently become more unequivocal in reinforcing this ancient recognition of gender differences in humans (say nothing of almost all the other animal species that inhabit the earth), these ‘anti-gender’ folks no longer say this as directly as they once did in the 1960’s and 1970’s; but the purpose and effect of everything else they say and do is, and staunchly remains, to ensure we eventually erase any concept of male/female distinction, except in the most clinical and cold descriptions of our bodies, even if it means (sometimes especially so) rigging standards and qualifications to force the result of sameness.
So, this discussion will have its own dichotomy, between the discussion on gay marriage, and the more important discussion on the effort to erase all gender identity. We will start with the smaller subject, but then we will touch on the larger matter at hand.
ON MARRIAGE VS. CIVIL UNIONS
From a practical standpoint, one could argue that the decision by the gay (GBLT) movement to insist on “marriage” instead of civil unions has been the reason for the backlash among mainstream Americans, and what the activists fail to account for is that what people think they should say in public may not be how they vote in private. In 2004 we saw the first court decisions forcing gay marriage acceptance by judicial fiat. Two years later we saw the first wave of state referendums, all cementing anti-gay stances on marriage and civil unions; and these have continued through subsequent election cycles, with not a single anti-gay marriage/civil union referendum failing during the initial post-judicial period, regardless of what the polls said. Now, with polls changing, it is too late for many states where even civil unions are banned by constitutional amendment as a result of the post-2004 backlash.
I also think that the need to equate homosexual unions exactly with heterosexual ones is an emotional reaction against doing anything that sounds like “separate but equal” without consideration that there may be real factors at play that do in fact make these relationships different – in some ways small, and in some ways very significantly.
THE HIGHER RESPONSIBILITY OF HETEROSEXUALITY
Foremost and most importantly, two men having sex will never have a baby by accident, and so, the public interest in making sure they are married is simply not present as it is for heterosexual couples engaging in sex. Every time a man and woman sexually bond, even with all the technology of today, another human life is potentially at stake. This was always the reason behind the institution of marriage: making sure that children and their mother would always have a father accountable and responsible for their protection and support (it was taken as a given then as now that a mother would always care for her children – and this is almost always still true). One of the critical risks about evolving a culture and intellectual abilities that separate us from animal instinct is precisely the ability to consciously ignore our instincts when we identify other paths to self-gratification. With primates, as with many other mammalian species, nature assigns a specific provider role to the male. With civilization, we have the ability to escape what nature prescribes. Marriage, more specifically tying heterosexual sex to marriage, was civilization’s way of cementing the male’s relationship to the family unit, which became the corner stone of the basic political unit of human civilization.
Therefore, in our human civilization, across all societies interested in ensuring that every new human life was brought into this world with a stable two-parent (or in some cases multi-parent) home, the importance and meaning of the sexual union between man and woman was made literally sacrosanct. Yes, it is true that today many if not most heterosexuals in the wealthy democracies now treat their sexuality as something far less meaningful and important than “sacrosanct,” and struggling single mother homes, broken homes, or outright abortions are the destinies of most newly conceived human beings today. But, that people choose now in ever greater numbers to lower human sexuality to the purpose of nothing more than personal erotic entertainment, and eschew the ideal of human sexuality as a sacred act of love that can create new life, does not change the purpose of the institution of marriage, which is: As much as is humanly possible, to have all heterosexual sex, and its great pleasures and benefits, reserved for those committed to the responsibilities of its potential consequences.
Thus, the reality that each and every time a man and a woman join in body a whole new life is a possibility is a great responsibility that homosexuals will never bear in their sexual acts. Any children homosexuals may have will be a considered, and probably very expensive choice that only a few can afford. On this factor alone society’s interest in expending resources rewarding homosexual unions simply does not come close in importance to its interests in the consequences of heterosexual unions. And do I need to state the obvious? Until we produce all babies in test tubes and enough people can afford it, we need heterosexual unions. Not so much for the others.
Having said this does not mean there is not a case for also providing a legal framework such as civil unions for homosexual couples. I do believe a strong case can be made how doing so would actually benefit society, especially if homosexual couples are going to adopt or otherwise secure children to raise. Furthermore, promoting stable monogamous relationships among homosexuals (or at least the appearance of it) may also provide moral support for heterosexual monogamy. Nonetheless, the inherent serious responsibility of the sexual union between man and woman is simply not present for that between man and man or woman and woman. Equating all these loses sight of this very fundamental and highly consequential difference.
THE OBVIOUS AND DOUBTED DUALITY OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
One of the strangest aspects of the new attitudes surrounding marriage and gender is the contradictory nature of the positions put forth by the liberal left advancing gay marriage, both with their own positions on other issues as well as with the plain facts of nature. One the one hand we are routinely lectured on the special qualities women bring to professions and other activities where only men have been allowed before, and yet on the other we are told that it makes no difference whether women (or men) are involved in the raising of a child. As someone recently asked on a television show discussing this topic: When we say two men can raise a child just as well as a man and a woman, are we not diminishing the role of women by defining it with no particular value?
A common-sense argument can be made that children benefit from having both male and female parental influences – all other things being equal - and thus, though gay couples can make good parents, in cases of adoption it may be valid to consider the heterosexuality of a couple as one of many factors when selecting the best possible parents when more than one couple seek to adopt a child, or guardianship. This is the same question we have with single parenthood, not something to be outlawed or condemned since we cannot judge all individual circumstances, but clearly not wise to claim it has equal footing with the benefits of two-parent child rearing, particularly when some studies have confirmed the conventional view on the benefits of two-parent households (single motherhood is statistically associated with greater poverty and more sociological problems for the children, especially with boys).
Now, a recent study does claim that same-sex couples are equally beneficial for children as heterosexual ones. But, this is curious since there are extremely few children raised by openly gay pairings. How did they get a large enough statistical sample? It also raises the question of what effect does having both male and female parental influences in childhood versus only male or only female. The reality is that each study needs to be carefully reviewed before accepting its conclusions because often the bias of the investigators leads the results. For example, if a study starts off with the premise – as some do without proof – that having a father perform duties in exactly the same proportion and manner as a mother makes for a better father, that study will favor conclusions that see same-sex couples as no different than ‘better’ heterosexual couples. In the final assessment, the question comes down to this: does not a new human being benefit from having a male and female parental influence in their long path to adulthood? If you believe that men and women bring a different perspective into the equation, then this matters. If you believe that the last 40 years have evolved men and women past the evolution of the last million years into identical, interchangeable beings, with only the difference being their physical appearance, then there is no particular benefit to a mother or a father. We just need two parental units. This touches on our larger, second topic: the insistence that there is no difference between male and female (and therefore, the insistence that be it man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman, it makes no difference to the child).
THE LARGER ISSUE AT HAND: THE WAR AGAINST GENDER
The reality is that whatever is true about the unique benefits of heterosexual marriage, those benefits are not likely to sway the forces that, on a larger scheme of things, are intent on erasing any semblance of gender-distinction. These folks have long seen the whole idea of gender differences as a “social construct,” that is, an artificial, man-made (literally, made by males, particularly heterosexual ones) distinction that needs to be eradicated. Lesbian feminists, and their feminist followers, many of them gay men who were traumatized as young boys when they couldn’t live up to the conventional view of what a growing boy should be, despise any suggestion or affirmation of gender traits. And so, men’s college athletic departments are eviscerated in a requirement that women be just as athletic as men. Women are told that they are not good enough, or “equal,” if they are not more like men. Physical standards are lowered in the law-enforcement, military, and firefighting professions so it can be made to look as if men and women are equally suited for the jobs in exactly equal proportions. It is why some European feminists have been demanding that urinals be banned in men’s restrooms, or installed in women’s (not kidding), and have already succeeded in having some elementary schools do so. It’s why gay bars have unisex bathrooms, and why now the University of Minnesota just introduced ‘gender neutral’ bathrooms, where men and women can perform intimate bodily functions together. (Ask yourself: why would anybody push for this, if there were not some larger goal in mind?). Still, among a large portion of the gay population, and many hard-left heterosexuals, this is considered advanced thinking. It is not. It is doing away with the lessons of civilization and taking us back to more animal behavior. Either way, it is a key point in the equation of gay and straight unions.
While it is a good thing to open as many life options as possible to people regardless of gender, there is something seriously neurotic about a movement that says simultaneously both: 1) that aggressive and competitive male dominance of any profession or realm leads to oppression and injustice; and 2) that women need to be more aggressive and competitive like men, and 3) there’s absolutely no difference between women and men (contradicting the first two points). I also fear that the civilizing and moderating influence women have always had over men is being discarded as inferior, and we may end up with a coarser and more warlike world for it.
CONSEQUENCES OF RE-DEFINITION
It may be time to review the understanding of what marriage is all about, and the purpose of its recognition in civil law. But if we are to upend a view that has prevailed for centuries, let us make sure we understand the consequences of what we are about to do. If we are not careful and do not re-define this carefully, others will come demanding marriage rights in ways even most gay people had not intended, and we will have no clarity for a proper response.
As for gay marriage, in the end, this may all become moot, as I suspect gay people could one day cease to exist. Yes, I know it sounds harsh to say so. And yet, it seems inevitable that once the genetic and environmental factors are identified for homosexuality – as they almost certainly will be, it will be hard for many women and couples to resist using that information to exercise their ‘reproductive’ rights, whether that be in the most extreme exercise of that right, or in more mild forms, such as genetic engineering. These issues are already in play: in May of 2012, a bill to ban sex-selection abortions was defeated in Congress.
Then again, it may also be possible, as I wrote long ago in a college paper on genetics (got an A back in 1983), that we will discover the practical benefits of the “homosexual gene” that has persisted, despite its obvious reproductive disadvantage, in supplying humanity with a disproportionate number of gifted individuals that have advanced the arts and sciences of humankind.
DIFFERENT BUT STILL EQUAL IN LOVE
This June there will be great gay celebration of the recent gains in being seen as “the same” as straights. But, for me, my sense of self-respect and worth is not dependent on folks seeing my most valued relationship exactly the same as they would that of a heterosexual couple. I never thought to compare the two. Legal recognition is welcome, but what matters most to me is what Christ said about love, and that I remain faithful and dedicated to Mike to the end. I do not think or place my love for Mike as any less worthy than another’s for a fellow consenting adult human being. Christ said:
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
I would do this for Mike without hesitation if it ever came to that. No law will change this for me.
We need to get comfortable with difference in a better way, and not anxiously and fastidiously require that every human condition result in exactly the same outcome.
Last year’s comments have been deleted due to the additional content added in this re-publishing.
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