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FIRST-PERSON: Is gay marriage a civil right?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Editor's note: Joseph Backholm is executive director of a pro-traditional marriage organization in Washington state, where citizens will vote on the definition of marriage in November. Read his previous columns on the issue of gay marriage here and here.

LYNNWOOD, Wash. (BP) -- Those trying to redefine marriage want you to believe it's a civil rights issue. Lots of people fall for it. And once someone believes it's a civil rights issue, it's hard to oppose. After all, who opposes civil rights?

But what do people actually mean when they say that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue? Do they mean that people have the right to marry anyone they want? Definitely not.

While there are a few genuinely crazy people in the world, virtually no one believes siblings should be able to marry each other or adults should be able to marry 14-year-olds. A few more people think you should be able to marry multiple people, but that's still a very small minority.

Therefore, as a general principle, we can agree that not every imaginable relationship should be called a marriage just because two people say they love each other.

"But that's different," you say. "There are actually good reasons those people can't get married."

Maybe so. That's obviously part of the conversation. But once you have conceded that not every imaginable relationship should be called a marriage, you are conceding that there is no civil right to marry anyone you want.

To clarify, people do have a constitutional right to get married. But the idea that people have a constitutional right to declare any relationship they might find themselves involved in a marriage is both legally unsupportable and silly.


That isn't to say that same-sex couples aren't entitled to go to the legislature and make the case that their relationships deserve to be included under the definition of the term marriage. That is precisely what they've done in Washington state. But making the case as a matter of policy is very different than claiming entitlement.

So ... now that we have clarified that this is not a civil rights issue, we have to answer other questions. That is, whether it makes sense to say that there is no difference between same-sex and opposite sex relationships.

This is a much more difficult case to make for those trying to redefine marriage because there are obvious, unalterable differences.

Every kindergartener can tell you that those relationships are different because kindergartners know the difference between men and women.

Furthermore, every adult can tell you that this difference is meaningful. It's impossible to be alive long without developing an awareness of the fact that there are innate differences between the genders. That's why there are industries built around the fact that "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." Not only do we spend significant time joking about those differences, but we also recognize that those differences matter to kids. Fathers can do their absolute best with the purest of motives, but they can never be their child's mother.


You have to be severely conditioned to even argue this point. But to believe that a relationship involving people of the same sex is no different than relationships of the opposite sex, you must believe that men and women are interchangeable in every meaningful way.

The good news is, however, that the majority of those who say they support same-sex marriage don't agree with the logic of same-sex marriage. Most people haven't really thought it through because they're still stuck on "it's a civil right." I am convinced that the majority of those who support same-sex marriage do so in an attempt to prove they don't hate gay people.

Of course it's a good thing not to hate gay people. We should love them.

But in the process of demonstrating love to gay people, we shouldn't lose the intellectual capacity to recognize what is obvious: Not every relationship is a marriage just because people claim to love each other, and relationships that provide a child a mother and father are uniquely valuable.

The fact that the vast majority of the planet believes those things to be true is why logic dictates that marriage should be between a man and a woman. This also explains why 32 states that have voted on this issue have agreed with that premise. But as long as we're allowing ourselves to be manipulated by faux civil rights, logic can't get a word in edgewise.


Joseph Backholm is executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, online at fpiw.org, where this column first appeared. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net


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