A lot of cultural commentators are confused these days. They believe that people’s views on same sex marriage are solely a reflection of their religious beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, some things could be further from the truth – like saying that Al Sharpton has integrity or that Dan Savage has class. But you get the point. The same sex marriage debate is about politics. To call it a religious debate is to miss the point entirely. Your stance on same sex marriage should vary depending on whether you consider yourself to be a conservative, a liberal, or a libertarian.
For conservatives, the issue is pretty simple. The institution of marriage predates any existing government or nation. So no government has a right to redefine marriage. But it is okay for the government to become entangled with marriage towards the end of promoting marriage. The institution is good. It tames men. It protects women. It is good for children. Therefore, it is worth promoting.
Conservatives view efforts to redefine marriage as philosophically unacceptable. That government should recognize an institution in one move and then redefine it in another is an unacceptable encroachment on a religious institution. Recognize yes, redefine no. It is not their religion that leads them to this conclusion. It is their politics. It is also common sense. Conservatives rightly scoff at the notion of calling same sex unions “marriage” just as they scoff at the idea of calling three-sided objects rectangular.
Conservatives are unimpressed with overly simplistic appeals to freedom. When evaluating the “freedom to marry” they refuse to stop at the question “Is it free?” They also ask the question “Is it good?” Same sex marriage does not tame men, it does not protect women, and it is not good for or even conducive to raising children. Hence, there is no need for government recognition of same-sex unions.
Nor are conservatives impressed with overly simplistic appeals to equality. One cannot even say that male-male unions are equal to female-female unions. The former are much less stable than the latter. How could one possibly assert sameness between same-sexed and opposite-sexed unions?
Put simply, conservatives defend the status quo on marriage because they can see no compelling reason for the government to promote same sex unions. And they reject the authority of the government to equate unequal things.