In yesterday’s column, I listed some of the benefits that natural marriage provides children and society. But some claim that promoting natural marriage exclusively violates the rights of people who are attracted to the same sex. That’s not true. The three P’s will help us see why.
The government has only three options in addressing human behavior. It can prohibit a behavior, it can permit a behavior or it can promote a behavior—the three P’s.
Our laws prohibit sexual relationships such as polygamy, incest and pedophilia. They permit homosexual relationships and non-marital heterosexual relationships. And due to the immense benefits the committed union of a man and a woman brings society, our laws promote marriage between a man and woman. (Notice any two people in our society are already permitted to commit themselves to one another until death do them part. Since they don’t need the government to do that, this debate is not about tolerance. Same-sex relationships are already tolerated.)
Here’s why promoting naturalmarriage exclusively does not deny anyone equal rights.
First, everyone has the same equal right to marry a qualified person of the opposite sex. That law treats every man and woman equally, but not every behavior they may desire equally. Same sex marriage and natural marriage are different behaviors with different outcomes, so the law rightfully treats them differently. One behavior perpetuates and stabilizes society, and the other doesn’t. Promoting one behavior does not deny rights to people who don’t engage in that behavior.
An analogy may help clarify this point. Like marriage, the government promotes police work by paying people to become police officers because police do much good for society. But if you can’t qualify to become a police officer, or if you choose another vocation, your rights are not being violated when the government pays other people to be police officers. All people, regardless of their vocation, experience the benefits of police, just like all people, regardless of their marriage status, experience the benefits of natural marriage.
Second, the law addresses behaviors, not persons. In other words, good laws treat all persons equally, but not necessarily what persons do equally. People may be born with certain sexual inclinations or acquire them later in life, but that’s irrelevant to what the law should be. Laws deal with actions, not attractions—with what people do, not what they feel like doing. That’s why the parallels to the civil rights struggles regarding race are fallacious. Skin color is not a behavior, but same sex relations and same-sex marriage are behaviors. You will find many former homosexuals but you will never find a former Black, Hispanic or Caucasian.
Third, everyone puts limits on marriage—if marriage had no definition it wouldn’t be anything. Even most same-sex marriage proponents want to define marriage in such a way so groups cannot marry and relatives cannot marry. Are those homosexual activists bigots when they advocate that marriage not include groups, relatives or other parties? Of course not! They are not violating anyone’s rights. Likewise, conservatives who advocate that marriage not include same-sex relationships are not violating anyone’s rights either. Defining marriage in accordance with the facts of nature is not bigotry—it’s biology.
Some will ignore those biological realities and object, “But men and women are the same so there’s no difference between homosexual and heterosexual relationships!”
If that were true, no one would be arguing for same-sex marriage. The very fact people demand same-sex marriage is precisely because they know men and women are drastically different. If men and women were the same, no one would be spending time and energy trying to get same-sex marriage approved. They would simply marry someone of the opposite sex—which according to them is the same as someone of the same sex—and be done with it.
But why not promote both natural marriage and same sex marriage?
Several reasons, but I can only briefly mention three.
First, same-sex marriage would make the institution of marriage genderless. There would not be two forms of marriage—natural and same-sex—but marriage legally and culturally would become a genderless institution about merely coupling. In Massachusetts it’s Partner A and Partner B. In other words, same-sex marriage divorces children from marriage. The law is a great teacher, and same-sex marriage teaches that marriage is about adult desires, not the needs of children. Marriage should be more about what children need than what adults want. If marriage isn’t about the needs of children, then what institution is about children and the next generation? So homosexuality really isn’t the issue here—making marriage genderless and childless is.
Second, since natural marriage and same-sex marriage are different behaviors with different outcomes they should not be equated legally. To see this, consider two questions.
Question 1: What would be the benefits to society if everyone lived faithfully in natural marriage? It would benefit everyone in society because it would result in a massive reduction in poverty, crime, child abuse, welfare, and government spending.
Question 2: What would be the benefits to society if everyone lived faithfully in same-sex marriage? It would be the end of society itself.
Now, I am not suggesting that a law would fully achieve either, but only to point out that natural and same-sex marriage should not be legally or culturally equated. The truth is homosexual and heterosexual relationships are not the same, can never be the same, and will never yield the same benefits to individuals or society. We hurt everyone, especially children, by pretending otherwise.
Finally, as jurisdictions with same-sex marriage show us, people lose their freedoms of speech, association, religion and even parenting due to the imposition of same-sex marriage. In Massachusetts, for example, parents now have no right to even know when their kids as young as kindergarten are being taught about homosexuality, much less opt out of it; business owners must now provide benefits to same-sex couples, and they can be fined for declining to provide services at homosexual weddings; Catholic charities were forced to close and leave Massachusetts and Washington D.C. because both governments mandated that all adoption agencies had to provide children to homosexuals. So much for freedom of religion! And in Canada, same-sex marriage has led to such a chilling restriction on speech, that my speech here today could get me fined or jailed if given there.
To sum up, the government already permits homosexual relationships, but promoting them by equating them with married heterosexual relationships ignores the facts of nature, the needs of children and the health of society. While people with different sexual attractions are equal, not all behaviors are equally beneficial. True equality treats equal behaviors equally. It doesn’t demand that different behaviors be treated the same.
If all of these observations make you mad, don’t blame me—I wish I could affirm same sex marriage—but I didn’t make up the facts of nature. Conservatives like myself are simply observing that society will be better off if we conserve policies that are consistent with what we know about the facts of nature and the importance of natural marriage to civilization.
In fact, if you are mad at me it means that in an important sense you agree with me. If you don’t like the behaviors and ideas I am advocating here, you are admitting that all behaviors and ideas are not equal—that some are closer to the real objective truth than others. The objective truth is that good political laws don’t ignore objective natural laws. We can’t change the facts of nature by passing laws. Good laws attempt to conform our desired behavior to reality; they do not attempt to conform reality to our desired behavior.
Frank Turek is coauthor of I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, and the author of Stealing from God: Why atheists need God to make their case. See more of his work at CrossExamined.org.