Family Values Should Rule The Day

Here is an argument that may sound odd at first, but the more I ponder it, the more intuitive it becomes.

Years ago with some time on my hands, working in Riyadh, I began a genealogical hobby and was proud of the approximately 500 individuals, back to Jamestown and before, that I had discovered. I had seen how, not just arithmetically, or geometrically, but exponentially do the cousins and grandparents and branches and twigs grow into a tree, that were it to be taken back twenty or so generations would have encompassed most of the then population of the then Europe. This may be the core unconscious draw to genealogy.

It is this realization of the connectedness we constantly deny. We stop at a traffic light and are indifferent to the “relatives” in the car next to us. Or we haven’t a clue as to our relative who lives a few inches away in the next-door apartment. Or the very distant cousin who is the annoying salesperson we dealt with recently. It is this realization on which I’d like to weave this rather odd but encompassing argument – the argument that, to have the civil right of civil marriage forever denied to homosexuals, is abhorrent to the reality that all gays are from families and that almost everyone has a homosexual in their family (in fact with the new UK government survey that showed six percent in their population, we can assume that there are tens of millions of homosexuals in our American population). And it is consistent, rather than inconsistent, with not just family values but with “Tradition American Family Values”, that we do not undervalue any American and certainly not any member of our family. As we are all family in the truest sense.

Our founders used no word or phase more forcibly, more courageously, more passionately – then they did the word “we” and the phrase “we the people”. We are one large family – or should be. And a family would not act to deny the civil right of a relative they loved. They would want that person to have as full a citizenship as they have. And they would want the protections and rights and responsibilities to be equally accessible.

Ergo, in the most fundamental of fundamental arguments, traditional family values should rule the day. Certainly it would not be family values that would lobby to amend a constitution in this land, the primary aim of which was to prevent two heterosexual lovers who wanted to get married from getting married - and to thus effectively promote sex outside of marriage.

A note to the religious right. You have yet to provide one reasonable argument to describe in any believability how amending our constitutions will bring about a favorable change in your lives. And you have yet to acknowledge any damage this action may bring upon tens of millions of your blood relatives – if not in blood, certainly in the blood of Christ.


RC2 said…
Mr. Garnett, thanks for your respectful comments on my blog --I see now that it's the same as your post here, so I thought I'd cross-post as well.

Your thought about us all being "one big family" is charming, but I'm afraid it isn't new to the "religious right," which after all believes by faith and holy writ that we're all sons of Adam and "one in Christ Jesus" (the latter if not actually, at least in potential).

You can search my archives for my big same-sex marriage manifesto, but I'll limit myself here to a single legal point, and that is that the state is not a matchmaker. Its sole legitimate interest in marriage regards the begetting and rearing of children, and in that matter the long experience of mankind and the preponderance of social science is against you, with all due respect.

The most reliable and predictable(not infallible, but reliable and predictable) means to raise healthy, well-adjusted adults is for them to grow up in a family with a mother and a father. Marriage, therefore (and I speak here only of marriage as it exists in the eye of the state, not of the personal bond of commitment two people may feel for one another nor for the religious state of matrimony, both of which are distinct matters), is not a civil right owed to all, but more like what the Constitution calls a privilege and immunity --special status the state grants and fosters in order to guarantee (as best as possible) itself a healthy next generation.

An important reason I oppose same-sex marriage is precisely because other people's romantic commitments to one another are none of the State's damn business. What right or authority has the state to judge who's truly in love and who isn't? Marriage isn't the government's "deeply committed" certificate you can post on a wall. It's (remember, we're only talking about the State here) a status conferred on those who will take on the demanding work of rearing kids. Talk about getting the Government in the bedroom!Obviously,the state has no such power, and that's why the state has no interest in marriage beyond the question of the begetting of children. Which is not at stake in homosexual marriage, and thus not a state question.

Now if you want to talk about making it easier for same-sex partners to arrange to be each other's PoA in medical and other questions, and certain other kinds of privileges, I actively support that, but not for homosexuals only. I would support those privileges for every citizen, including parent-child pairs, sibling pairs & just-good-friends pairs. In other words, I support equal civil rights for all.
Bill Garnett said…
In issuing a marriage license, the state makes no attempt to determine that the marriage can or will produce children (i.e. elderly or infertile or couples who just don’t want children are equally able to get a marriage license). Marriage is today more about two people who profess love and commitment to each other, and thoughts of children are frequently secondary if at all. This civil marriage license affords that couple a myriad of benefits and privileges – which are provided to them by society as a whole – by straight and gay. Yet ONLY straights are the recipients of these benefits and privileges.

As for raising children, it is the quality of the parenting, not the sexual orientation of the parents that is important.

Marriage is a special and ceremonious occasion in our society – a milestone that individuals dream about in their own way. It is more than a legal status – it is also an announcement to one’s family, friends, and community that this relationship and commitment exists – and a wish that one’s family, friends, and community will be there to support and nourish and protect this relationship.

I fully understand the long tradition of marriage – I also know that homosexuals have existed equally long in history. And homosexuals have borne countless indignities over this same long history. So too had slavery existed for most of history, but enlightened societies came to realize the injustice that it was – and in recent history it was abolished. So too, today enlighten peoples, institutions, and societies realize that homosexuality is not a moral evil but is a part of the fabric of human variation that God gives us.

To deny a loving homosexual couple the same opportunity for marriage that a loving heterosexual couple is afforded is to deny them a basic and fundamental right in our society.
RC2 said…
Mr. Garnett, I too appreciate discussing this topic civilly, but I think your additional points are actually reiterations of your original point. Here's why.
1) To dispense with the easier point first, the state doesn't deny anyone the right to whatever private ceremony he or she desires. There are chapels you can visit right now where you can have a same-sex ceremony and dress as fancy as you like and have the biggest party you want. There are all kinds of ministers who will officiate at the service for you. It's simply not the case that anyone at all stops you from professing whatever promises or vows or public statement of commitment you care to. The state doesn't deny you that; to the extent it doesn't feel "real," to you, I suspect it's because some of your potential guests wouldn't recognize it. But in that respect you are in no worse condition than a couple which marries outside its traditional religion, or people who live together whose parents ignore their significant others because they aren't married, or any number of people who choose to commit themselves in alternative ceremonies in unrecognized Churches or whatever. Ceremonies filled with pomp and circumstance have nothing whatsoever to do with the state's involvement. The only reason the state is involved in religous marriage ceremonies in the U.S. is because it licenses religious ministers to serve as its agent in witnessing the marriage, to save couples the trouble of getting married both civilly and religiously in separate ceremonies as many other countries do require. So your second point, to my mind, is a matter of confusing civil and private and/or religious institutions. As to the civil question, the state's interest is only in children; as to the kind of ceremony, you're limited only by your budget, and as to the religious question, well, clearly the state can't mandate to Churches or synagogues what they believe about same-sex marriage.

2) Your first point is stronger, in the sense that I have argued on this blog before that to the extent that our entire culture has begun to see marriage as nothing more than a declaration of two people's feelings for one another, in a certain sense all marriage in the U.S. today has become "gay" marriage. I would argue that this is a corruption of culture altogether, for the reason I stated in my original response: the state has no legitimate interest in relationships that won't affect the upcoming generation, and as it has no special insight into what makes a good relationship, it must properly keep its nose out. The proper corrective to this intrustion of the govt. into personal relationships isn't to extend the false power to another group of relationships, but to restore the proper understanding in the first place.

The fact that the state doesn't demand a fertility test before granting a marriage license is a matter of avoiding intrusion into people's private lives, and respecting laws of probability:
RC2 said…
(Continuing --previous post cut off). Don't give them any ideas, please!

3) I'm not going to produce a bibliography here, but for anyone who cares to do the research, the push for same-sex marriage in the U.S. is peaking just at the time that all the major social science is showing definitively that kids need a mother and a father --that the sex roles aren't fungible, but a significant element of what you call quality parenting.

4). Same-sex marriage would have the following deleterious effects on the culture. A) It would complete the transfer of our culture's energies --which you correctly note is already partly underway-- away from engendering a new generation, sacrificing ourselves to a certain extent for its good-- toward a focus on adult romance. Whatever else one might say about that transformation, it's cultural suicide.
B) It would send the official cultural message that "motherhood" and "fatherhood" are unimportant, and generic "parent" roles are all that's important (if you have kids at all, since their importance is diminished in a culture that prioritizes the feelings of adults). C) This culture would be profoundly anti-woman, since it would completely de-value the one gift (childbearing) that is uniquely feminine.
Bill Garnett said…
Your position on government involvement in the whole issue of “marriage” is interesting but I don’t think it is germane to the issue at hand.

Marriage is not as you say, solely or perhaps even primarily, today a protection of children. I quote from the required psychology text used at Virginia Commonwealth University (and many other universities) from the topic “Why Do People Marry” from a heavy text called ‘Human Sexuality’ (Human Sexuality, 5th edition, Rathus, Nevid, Fichner-Rathus ) quite interesting.

“Not until the nineteenth century did the notion of love as a basis of marriage become widespread in Western society.”

“Marriage provides a sense of emotional and psychological security, however, and opportunities to share feelings, experiences, and ideas with someone with whom one forms a special attachment. Desires for companionship and intimacy are key goals in marriage today”.

“Broadly speaking, those people who want to get married do so because they believe they will be happier if they get married.”

The general concept of a homosexual love and relationship analogous to a heterosexual model was not even known and was hardly recognized until the mid 19th century and the work of German Karl Heinrich Ulrichs.

And things change regardless of the resistance conservatives have to social change. I grew up in the 50’s when divorce was almost unknown as was “living together” before marriage. And although I knew I was attracted to guys, I had no opportunity to act on it or even knew there was the possibility until after college. Of course I had heard about “faggots and queers and perverts” – but “those people” were as offensive to me as they were to my heterosexual classmates. And it was only after grad school that I first discovered that there were decent gay guys just like me, and the opportunity to have a relationship that in a way mirrored the relationships I respected in the straight world.

Only in the last decades have we gotten used to women having equal rights and blacks having equal rights – societies do change.

Perhaps you might comment on the fact that marriage equality for gays is the law in The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain (a predominately Catholic country), and Canada. Surely we don’t allow other countries to dictate our laws, but still it indicates that some western democracies have chosen this path – thus I see this issue as not so cut and dried as you prescribe.

True, gays can have “pretend marriages” – that is not the issue – it is the second class status inferred by this and by “don’t ask, don’t tell”. And I see this as rather equivalent to the separate but equal arguments during the black civil rights debate.

And the studies to date on gay parenting shows that children raised by gay parents are fully equivalent by all measurable criteria. And certainly there is not anticipated legislation to forbid a single heterosexual parent. There are plenty of studies indicating the children of lower income, particularly black, single mothers are truly at a disadvantage.

With all the orphaned children in the world, it seems odd that a Christian couple would conceive a child rather than adopting – and especially odd that even after not adopting, they would prevent a qualified and scrutinized gay couple from adopting.
RC2 said…
Not germane? I don't mean to be flip, but I thought we were discussing whether the U.S. should recognize same-sex marriage,in which case what could be more germane than the issue of what exactly a state is doing when it issues a marriage license in order to understand if it is or is not a good idea to do as you say?

The Scandinavian countries are a social disaster --skyrocketing crime, highest world rape rates, no upcoming generation-- so at the very least their example should give us pause. I'm not saying gay marriage is the cause of those things, but we certainly have no reason to look at them and do likewise in any respect. Spain's experience is too new --just last year, right, so who knows?

The question you seem to be addressing is of a different order altogether: namely, whether people should believe in their hearts that same-sex marriage is equivalent to marriage between a man and a woman. I am sorry, but the law simply can't address hearts, and no amount of wishing will make it so.
Bill Garnett said…
Aaauuugghhhh, sorry, I just feel like I’m in some kind of weird dream. I recently lived in The Netherlands for two and a half years – I know first hand that that there is less sexual crime, less crime period, less use of drugs by teenagers, safer streets, and a fully accepted tolerance of the variations of human characteristics by the Dutch population. Previous to that I worked in Riyadh for six years – I don’t need a lecture about the perils of counties who are not replicas of America, nor do I swallow that America knows best about every issue.

Our government grants a civil marriage licensee to straights and not to gays – that is the bottom line. And that license bestows a myriad of benefits that are not available to other citizens who are identical in all respects except for their sexual orientation. Most school children can understand that – most school children know that discrimination, and intolerance is wrong and that people should be accepted and treated equally regardless of their race, creed, color, religion, etc., etc.

I am gay, I have a vested interest in this – I’m not sure what vested interest you are protecting. It doesn’t seem that you are protecting equality, tolerance, fairness – basic and fundamental American (and Christian) values. I am not close-minded here so please help me understand what is motivating your argument.
RC2 said…
When I speak of Scandinavia, I mean Sweden, Norway & Finland just for the record --and of course I'm thinking of Sweden primarily. The Netherlands has no upcoming generation, and by 2008, the four largest cities in that country will be majority Muslim in their population 21 and under. So I don't see much future for gay rights in the Netherlands, to put it mildly.

Look, I think we have reached the point of talking in circles. I said in my first post that I was going to limit my discussion to one sole point and that was the legal question. I have argued that marriage is not a civil right under the Constitution, but a privilege and immunity granted by the state to foster and encourage the one method of engendering and rearing the next generation that is reliable: not infallible, but, all other things being equal, guaranteed to work best most of the time. We can both name exceptions --two-parent families that raised screwed-up kids and gay parents whose kids seem ok-- but the state has to legislate to foster and support the most reliable method, unless you want it to start making judgments about who's really in love and assigning people licenses to have children, too --an intrusion I hope nobody wants.

The state interest in fostering two-parent families is reasonable and benign. It's on the order of an enterprise zone to foster economic development in inner cities or scholarships for students who will study science and technology. It's not a censure of other people, it's an encouragement for something the country needs more of.

I have additionally argued the three harms to culture I foresee from shifting the state from its benign purpose of fostering two-parent families to a big-brother judge and overlord of adult romantic choices. (And turning government into a meddler in private romantic choices is a serious threat to freedom which is a fourth harm.)

What is of interest to me are two concepts: limited government, as unintrusive as possible in private decisions; and the common good. When it can be demonstrated to me what interest the state can legitimately have in adult relationships beyond the benign desire to rear the country's future generation in the most reliable way possible, I'll reconsider.

If I may be so bold, since it's not my place to speak for you, it seems to me that you approach the issue as if anyone against same-sex marriage has a problem with homosexuals as persons --as you admit, you take it personally. But a key difference in our positions lies instead in our conception of what is and isn't the legitimate role of government.
Pvt. Fitz said…
Marriage licenses are not issued in the hope that a child might be borne of the union. The interest the state has in adult relationships beyond child rearing is the promotion of marriage as an institution. When opponents of gay marriage talk about the sanctity of marriage, they certainly aren't talking about a birthrate-promotion policy. They see marriage as it really is: a commitment between two people to spend their lives together.

Your argument that the state only has an interest in accepting the legality of marriage because of child rearing has, I believe, one major flaw. It only holds water if marriage outside of government sanction were as acceptable in public as marriage sanctioned by the state (without the tax benefits, et cetera). I think we can agree that it isn’t; marriage today is seen as marriage only if it’s performed in accordance with the law.

People get married for more reasons than to have children. The state has a vested interest in promoting all kinds of social stability. This might be a young man and woman who marry and have children, it might also be a gay couple who want to have the ability to live together more easily, buy real estate together, be able to visit each other in the hospital, and all the other things married people can do.

Yes, the state has an interest in promoting the social well being of its citizens, and it can do it in a way that isn’t intrusive. The gay community in America would be massively improved by the stability marriage can offer, and in turn America would be a better place.

If I were to accept your belief that a man and woman make the best parents (which I don’t), then how is only accepting straight marriages any less an invasion of privacy than only accepting marriages that look like they might be viable in producing children? There are factors other than fertility tests that can be used (background checks, we could even set an age limit). It’s equally non-invasive to stop a gay couple from getting a marriage license as it is to stop very old people from getting one; all you have to do is look at their faces and drivers licenses. I haven’t heard you suggest barring geriatric marriages.

The state acknowledges marriage because marriage is an institution that has grown with and without government intervention. Our government does, and should, provide incentives for people to settle down and live together. The government currently doesn’t even ask if we love each other, it never has, so why is there any reason to think it will in the future? The state doesn’t define how we spend out married life; it doesn’t legislate “romance” in heterosexual marriages, so why does not prohibiting homosexual marriage make marriage entirely about “adult romance“? Marriage has always seemed for me to be whatever I want to make of it.
Pvt. Fitz said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RainbowDemon said…
Bill, you bring up an excellent point - Why is it that we, as gay men & women, must have the approval of the religious right (Christians) to have our marriages sanctioned by the state?

America was never conceived to be a "Christian" Nation in the first place. It was devised as a haven for all people - regardless of their religion. The founding fathers were very careful of this when writing the Constitution, thus envisioning the separation of church & state.

When one religion is allowed to dictate the validity of a person's status, we then have THEOCRACY, not DEMOCRACY.

I am not looking for acceptance from these religious right people, and I would be a fool if I was... but by the same token, they have no "right" to dictate to me what my rights should be. Plain & simple.


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