A talk on homosexual marriage

Here are my notes for the talk I gave on homosexual marriage to the College Republicans Club, New York University, December 1, 2005. The text below does not represent my actual talk, but the basis I used for it. There were about 40 students present. They listened attentively, and many intelligent questions, including critical questions, were asked. But, to my surprise, there was no visible passion on the issue, either pro or con.


In criticizing the idea of homosexual marriage, I am not speaking as an expert on the sociological aspects of marriage, nor as an expert on the constitutional aspects of the issue. My primary interest is in liberalism, how it keeps moving forward, dissolving one by one every aspect of our civilization and culture until nothing is left except the notion of individual freedom, which means no society at all, other than a bureaucratic state administering to our desires. Homosexual marriage is the culmination of this development of liberalism.

How we got here

At first it seems extreme, the most extreme imaginable thing. 100 years ago, 30 years ago, 15 years ago, the very idea of homosexual marriage would have been utterly inconceivable, absurd. And now it has become the norm, while anyone who opposes it is seen as a bigot whose views shouldn’t even be heard. So how did we get to this state, where the once inconceivable and bizarre has become the normal, and the once normal has become the bigoted?

The answer is liberalism. What is liberalism? It is the denial of any higher and larger truth, the reduction of everything to the self and its desires. And once that happens there’s no reason why marriage shouldn’t be redefined to meet people’s desires and needs as they see fit. Instead of marriage having a meaning that precedes us, a meaning that we do not choose, we become the creators of the meaning of marriage, which is, a means for satisfying our desires for convenience, pleasure, companionship, social recognition of our sexual orientation, financial protections, and so on. Further, anything that stands in the way of meeting the desires of individuals, any assertion of a higher or traditional value or institution, is seen as bigoted.

So in this sense, it’s not bizarre, but a logical, ordinary development of liberalism. Once you make the idea of individual freedom and equality the ruling principle of society, all other principles, values, traditions, allegiances, ethical ways of life, must, one by one, be demonized and cast aside to make way for ever greater freedom and equality.

Substantive arguments against it:

1. Marriage is the very basis of society. Everything comes from it. We have families, networks of relatives, in a continuum over generations, and all of that is formed by marriage. We have our very existence because each of us had a mother and father who loved each other and got married and formed a family in which we grew up and were formed as individuals. Our very identity as human beings, our sense of membership in the human race, comes, first and foremost, from membership in our families, each of which is a little society. The fact the some people throughout history did not have married parents, or that their parents died, and therefore had to struggle with harder circumstances, and the fact that some families are seriously dysfunctional, does not change the normative character of the family over centuries and millennia of our civilization. The fact that divorce is very common today and many people are the products of broken homes is not an argument to go even further in the direction of degrading marriage. The family is a little society. Through our families, through our experience as children of a mother and father joined in marriage, we become members in society. No one can plausibly argue that homosexual marriage is the very basis of society. Yet by making this perverted oddity the equal of the most important institution in society, we would degrade that institution, and thus degrade our society and our humanity as well.

2. Maggie Gallagher has brought out another aspect of this:

The transformation of mother and father into “Parent A” and “Parent B” is the model of the paradigm shift now underway in Massachusetts. The distinctive features of the union of male and female are going to have to be removed from our notions of marriage and family. The experience of same-sex couples will become the new norm for family life, because the “unisex” idea that gender has no public significance is the only model that can be construed as “inclusive” of both opposite-sex and same-sex unions. The result is not neutrality but the active promotion of a new unisex ideal, in which the distinctive features of opposite-sex relations will be submerged, marginalized, cast to one side, and redefined as discrimination …

Gallagher has also said: “Losing [the gay marriage debate] means losing the idea that children need mothers and fathers … By embracing gay marriage, the legal establishment will have declared that the public purposes of marriage no longer include anything to do with making babies, or giving children mothers and fathers.”

3. But the effect would be even more radical than that. “Husband” and “wife” would become impermissible.

4. Another point is that homosexual marriage separates us once and for all from the idea of being a Christian or Judeo-Christian society based on biblical morality. Thus it would destroy our continuum with the past. We are today facing a dread challenge from Islam. The Muslims have powerful religious identity, that they seek to impose on the whole world, as the Koran commands them to do. What do we believe in on our side, other than individual rights, tolerance, and the freedom of everyone to do as he likes? Can a rootless people, a people that has destroyed the religious morality that formed it, a people that has destroyed its connections with the past, a people that has destroyed its own identity, defend itself against the expansive crusading religion of Islam? I argue that it cannot. And we see this very plainly in today’s Europe, where Islam becomes more and more aggressive, and the Europeans keep retreating.

So, this is not a time for weakening the historic bonds that have formed our culture, but to restore and strengthen them.

Conservative wets and traitors on the issue:

Despite the radicalness of homosexual marriage, not only do liberals see it as a simple demand of justice, which only bigoted people would oppose, but many so-called conservatives either do not oppose it or oppose it very weakly. Consider the so-called conservatives who not only do not see homosexual marriage as fundamentally incompatible with our form of society, but even support it.

Hannity: I’m against it, but I’m more concerned about war on terror.

Taranto: I’m against it being imposed by judicial fiat, but congrats to the couples in Massachusetts who have gotten marriage licenses today based on judicial fiat.

Will’s experimentation in each state to find out social costs of homosexual marriage



Amendment is only way to stop it

Court is likely to construe Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. In that case, all states would have to recognize Massachusetts marriages. The only way to stop this is through amendment.

I’m not happy about such an amendment, but it is the only thing that will work at this point. Better would have been if a serious move to impeach judges had started at the time of Roe v. Wade.

Paleos who oppose amendment

Fleming and others see the amendment as anti-federalist

This is absurd. If the very institution of marriage is not of fundamental national importance, nothing is. Alcohol laws can vary from state to state. Abortion laws can vary from state to state, and will, if Roe is repealed. But the definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, is so fundamental, that unresolvable conflicts would occur if some states had it and others didn’t. For example, child custody. What if homosexual couple separates, moves into another state and wants custody. Like slavery, it must ultimately go one way or the other. Think of Dred Scott’s two incompatible principles.

Why we must stop civil unions as well as marriage

Now we come to the question of what the amendment itself should say. The current, official version of the amendment, which Bush expended no political capital on, and which got nowhere in Congress, would still allow state legislatures to pass civil unions:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

In my view, the amendment should not merely bar courts from legislating homosexual civil unions from the bench; it should bar legislatures from passing such laws.

First there is the pragmatic reason for this. Currently, homosexual relations have no recognition, at all, they don’t exist under the law (except in the handful of states with civil unions). Once civil unions are established there will be a two tier system, one for couples consisting of a man and a woman, the other for homosexual couples. This will be seen as unequal treatment, leading very quickly to homosexual marriage.

Then there is the traditionalist argument for this. The traditionalist position is that the American founding was flawed in only making liberal principles explicit, while not including ethical, cultural, and religious principles. For example, the founders said that religion and morality were indispensable to our society, yet they left any mention of religiously based morality out of the Constitution. Of course, the states were free to promote religion all they wanted and even have established religions.

Among the conservative principles that formed America were Judeo-Christian sexual morality, the traditional family, and so on. The idea that state law would grant legal recognition to any sexual relationship other than the marriage of a man and a woman is so bizarre, so far outside the historical experience and character of America, that it makes perfect sense that this possibility be explicitly barred by our Constitution. It follows that the Federal Marriage Amendment should ban not only homosexual marriages, but any officially recognized sexual relationship other than the marriage of a man and a woman, i.e., it must ban civil unions, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

Apart from pragmatic concerns over whether it could be ratified, such an amendment would clearly be in conformity with traditionalist concerns and would not violate federalism, for the simple reason that marriage is fundamental to our whole society, and therefore the definition of marriage, especially now that it is being attacked, properly belongs in our national law. This amendment would do nothing to change our society, but would prevent a radical change from occurring.

If we are serious about protecting marriage, then we must protect it. When the American people in 1865 passed a constitutional amendment banning slavery, they did not leave any loopholes for quasi-slavery. Neither should we leave any loopholes for marital status to be conferred on non-married couples.

These concerns are met by the Institution of Marriage Amendment, proposed by the Concerned Women for America and other conservative groups:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither the United States nor any State shall recognize or grant to any unmarried person the legal rights or status of a spouse.

Instead of saying that no constitution or law shall be construed (by a court) to confer the granting of the legal incidents of marriage to non-married persons, which would leave legislatures free to enact civil unions laws, the Institution of Marriage Amendment gets to the radical core of the problem: No non-married person can have the rights or status of a married person, period. This is the kind of clarity that is needed.

Just as it was not possible over the long run for the United States to remain half-slave and half-free, it is not possible for one half of America to be a traditional marriage-based society and the other half to be a homosexual marriage/civil unions-based society. These concepts are so antithetical to each other that one or the other must prevail. The liberals want homosexual marriage to prevail. If we want to stop them, then heterosexual marriage must prevail.

Appendix: Status of issue

Homosexual marriage: Netherlands—2001; Canada—2005; Spain—2005

Civil unions: Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK

U.S.: Massachusetts—same sex marriage. California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Vermont grant persons in same-sex unions a similar legal status to those in a civil marriage.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 02, 2005 07:35 PM | Send

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