Today I read that a senator from Ohio, a conservative Republican, who had voted as a congressman for the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” [DOMA] in the 90’s, changed his mind when he learned that his college aged son was homosexual. He stated that he had “not really thought about it” earlier.
I took a little time in my busy day to research some of the standard arguments on both sides of the issue. The results are disappointing. In many cases, as a writer, I feel that the conservatives are simply afraid of change. I deplore the arguments that because it has been “such and such” way for thousands of years, it must not change.
As a conservative Christian, I naturally ask how Jesus would likely address the current “Same Sex Marriage” [SSM] issue. This question is quite different than asking how one of the established churches would approach the issue. [I use the term“conservative” to mean that there are solid, reliable, and even divinely set principles by which to live our lives. These principles make life work better.]
Jesus is not afraid of homosexuals. Let’s take it one step further: Jesus loves homosexuals just as much as he loves heterosexuals. How about a third step? Jesus is more interested in our eternal lives than he is about our sexuality. What we do now really has an impact on what we will be doing for the rest of our eternal lives.
I think God is more interested in how we express our higher natures through acts of love within our sexuality rather than whether we are “homosexual” or “heterosexual.”
Being “heterosexual” does not give a person license to feel “better than” a “homosexual.” What matters to God is the way people live together. Love, sacrifice, humility, commitment, nurturing and support, dignity and respect, these are the ingredients of a good “household of the Lord.”
Male homosexuals can now be “biological” parents by the use of surrogates. Female homosexuals can undergo in vitro fertilization or engage in rather bland coitus with a male partner for impregnation. State laws often allow adoption by homosexual parents. It is evident that many homosexuals want to be parents. Apparently like heterosexuals, many homosexuals want to leave a legacy of raising children.
So it is that the conservative Christian response to SSM has been inadequate for many people now changing their minds. It is not an adequate response simply to say that the purpose of marriage is procreation, for homosexuals can “procreate” by alternative methods not previously available in human history.
It is not even an adequate response to say that SSM is “unnatural.” Human culture, unlike the social life of the lower animals, is mostly free to define relationships as it pleases. God has loosened the restrictions of “nature” by according humans freedom of choice, or if you will, “freedom from” instinct alone. It is our glory and our curse.
I am unconvinced by the even more anemic argument that marriage has been defined by societies as “one man-one woman” for thousands of years, therefore the concept is immutable. An idea stands or falls upon its merits without regard to time.
Courts across the country are weighing the evidence against SSM and often find it lacking. Expert testimony concerning the psychological and social implications of SSM presented by both sides seems to favor constitutional protections of SSM. We live in a modern society that places a high value on “equal rights” without regard to sexual orientation. The result, I think, is that judges are culturally biased to place the burden of proof on the State to justify by compelling evidence that denial of a “right to marry” is constitutional.
What then is an adequate Christian response? I believe the “adequate response” is found in the evidence for how human personality is formed through the influence of the male and the female parent during a child’s developmental years in the home.
Each parent’s sexuality expresses a different developmental influence on the child. Maybe the obvious must be stated: a “butch” female is not a male, and a non-dominant male is not a female. Stated differently, despite individual variations in individual homes, a child’s healthy development into an integrated personality is most probably best served by a biologically male and biologically female set of parents. Being “female” is something modeled by both a male father and a female mother. Most of the “input” of a parent is by the example of behavior that parent presents. Two parents of opposite gender jointly provide a behavioral “lesson plan” in what it is to be culturally male or female.
But let’s assume, and assume correctly, that a butch “father” figure who is dependable and loving is superior to a heterosexual father who is undependable and cruel. This picking of an example overlooks that when deciding social policy, it is better to work from the general rule rather than the exceptions. As a general rule, we will assume the family unit we are trying to create for the good of all is in every particular equal except the factor of homosexuality. Stated differently, we are asking: is a homosexual marriage in itselfinferior to a heterosexual marriage?
Legally, the courts are struggling with the incomplete state of the evidence on this point. There are no long-term societal studies showing the consequences to children raised in homosexual families. If the courts use a standard of “compelling evidence” to deny homosexuals constitutional rights, the evidence simply is not present at this time. This puts the courts in the delicate position of being agents of societal change rather than arbiters of the law.
The psychiatric and psychological associations generally have taken the official position that homosexuality is not a mental illness, and have released their own studies, however premature and poorly documented, that the long-term effects of being raised by homosexual parents are benign. These incomplete, often politically motivated studies, are the “scientific” vehicles carrying the SSM agenda. If the studies are wrong, the costs may be enormous: the psychological and developmental health of a large segment of the population.
I suspect that these professionals [viz., American Psychiatric Association, the American Pyschological Association, and the National Association for Social Workers]have seen so much emotional wreckage within the heterosexual family structure that they are tempted to conclude that a homosexual family structure could not be more harmful. That conclusion would be a fallacy. A more logical conclusion is that of two otherwise equally toxic home environments, one homosexual and one heterosexual, one is made worse by the factor of a distorted gender model for child development.
The risk to children is great enough over the long term to justify restraint and the careful collection of data untainted by a political agenda. The reality is that the courts, and the political factions, are not showing that patience or restraint. Arguments, if they are to be made at all, must be made now.
I think the “one man and one woman” advocates against SSM depend too heavily on the question: “What is marriage?” and too little on the question: “What is the unique function of the marriage relationship compared to all other relationships?” Biology determines function.
Marriage is a trade off between the individual’s desire for intimacy and readily accessible sex with a dependable partner, and society’s need for stable relations in which children are provided necessary care and nurturing. It is simply too destabilizing to society, and especially to the economic unit of the family, to allow people to have continuing easy access to sex on their own terms with no obligations. In effect, society extends a social contract: you want BOTH sex and intimacy, then enter into the rights and obligations of marriage.
Here then, to me, is the crucial focal point for further debate: does society extend this social contract to homosexual couples? Society, before making the offer, should look carefully and long at the bargain it strikes.
The legislatures and the courts should ask: Is the homosexual role model inferior to the heterosexual role model during a child’s developmental years?
The question is important not only for children adopted, in vitro conceived, or delivered by surrogacy within the homosexual marriage, but for those children who witness and observe the homosexual marriage outside that family unit. The anti-SMS advocates must present credible evidence that children raised in homosexual family units generally have distorted senses of core sexual identity, and will later in life struggle with acting effectively within society as a “man” or “woman.” This question is important because it also affects the raising of healthy new generations of children for the long-term future.
A related important point of evidence is the data that addresses whether homosexual pairings within the context of marriage are as stable and as healthy generally as heterosexual marriages. Generally, homosexual pairings have a reputation for being less stable and shorter term than heterosexual pairings. Is that due to biology or due to a subculture created by a repressive set of laws and religious norms? I cop to speculation. I just wish the expert witnesses who opine that there is no evidence of greater instability would likewise have the integrity of saying: without longer term studies, “we just don’t know.”
Christian advocates of “1 man-1 woman” have a credibility issue in the SSM debate. The fact is that one in two marriages in the United States fail, and second marriages have an even higher failure rate. The failure rate is not better for self-proclaimed Christian families. Likewise, remarriage produces numerous blended families, and the logistical complications of four parents vying for the time of children within separate family units. To me, that spells stress to parents and harm to children. Most of this harm occurs within unstable heterosexual marriages.
The point here is that advocates of the “1 man – 1 woman” position need not only to be “against” SSM, but “for” better traditional marriages. Public policy needs to go beyond the 4 year cycled political vote mongering to institute real support for the family unit. Better job opportunities, better work place child care opportunities, better family leave policies, more restrictive divorce laws, more help for single parents, and yes, more support within and outside the church for commitment and love within marriage.
Even without the element of children added to the equation, intimacy is “intimacy” only because it does not occur continuously or easily with everyone. Basic human needs are to be loved, to “belong” and to feel “competent.” You don’t acquire these development traits, or “inner core strengths” by sleeping around. Children certainly don’t acquire these core assurances without a stable home environment. That is what marriage is about: the development of physically and emotionally healthy people at all levels of maturity, but especially during childhood.
In conclusion, the SMS debate is almost pathetic in its lack of real evidence offered by either side. Yet the courts, being “progressive” seem willing to substitute “social engineering” in the place of sound scientific studies. The “experts” who testify frankly are no more qualified than the courts to reach final decisions. They too are without the unbiased long term data needed to justify a major social shift. Finally, the pro-marriage lobby’s argument for “1 man – 1 woman” would gain credibility if it also presented solutions addressing the decay of marriage generally.