Gay marriage, why all the fuss? (II)

I posted a few opening comments to set the context for this discussion here. This is the first of two follow ups to that. Perhaps three. I’m working on another reason and trying not to be careless (and so be misunderstood).

Let me begin by saying that I think I’ve grasped one of the main underlying motivations for seeking a redefinition of marriage. And I have some sympathy with it. As things stand, gay couples do not have the same social approval for their lifestyle that marriage usually confers on heterosexual couples. Gay couples can have all the same legal rights as a married couple. But they can’t legitimately, or legally, describe themselves as a married couple. It feels like a niche arrangement for a marginalised community. And they don’t like that. And they have a point; after all, ‘just civil partnershipped’ doesn’t quite cut the mustard on the back of a VW Beetle as you drive away to honeymoon. Does it? They know that a civil partnership isn’t the same as marriage. And some would like to see that changed.

The opportunity for that appears to have opened up through Equality Legislation. As citizens, we’ve been persuaded that sexual orientation should be put in the same box as race and gender. It would be racist not to treat a black man the same way as we treat a white man, before the law. It would be sexist not to treat a woman the same way as a man, before the law. And so, it’s argued, it would be homophobic not to treat a gay couple the same way as we treat a straight couple, before the law. But those who crave gay marriage want something that the law can’t give them. They want acceptance. They want what’s been marginalised to be considered mainstream. And I understand that ambition.

But even if this legislation goes through (as I suspect it will), will they get what they want? Their understandable desire for societal acceptance as gay people is but a faint echo of a deeper craving for ultimate acceptance than runs deep in the human heart. And so a gay man, for example, may meet the man of his dreams, they may marry and they may even be welcomed by the community in which they decide to live. But will that satisfy the longing for acceptance? Perhaps a little. But not entirely. Not exhaustively  Not completely. We’ll only know true fulfilment and satisfaction in Christ. As Augustine said in his Confessions, ‘Y

  • ou have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you’. Christians ought to be distinguished for our gracious and compassionate acceptance of gay people. For sure we need to do so without condoning their behaviour, which is but one symptom of their rejection of Christ. But we also need to be distinguished for the gracious way in which we point our gay friends to the gospel because it’s there that they’ll find the ultimate acceptance that they crave.

This is not an argument for or against Gay Marriage, I know. It’s just an observation that those who want acceptance as gay people are looking in the wrong place. They may get what they want and then discover it’s not what they really want. But even so, I’m not persuaded that the desire to seek social approval for homosexual couples into mainstream society is a sufficiently good reason to undermine a centuries old institution like marriage. For that reason, I’ll respond to the objections I’ve raised in the previous post in the next one!

8 thoughts on “Gay marriage, why all the fuss? (II)

  1. NotAScientist February 20, 2013 / 2:36 pm

    “But those who crave gay marriage want something that the law can’t give them. They want acceptance. ”

    Actually, they just want to be able to be legally married. As long as their families (biological or chosen) accept them, that’s enough.

    “is a sufficiently good reason to undermine a centuries old institution like marriage.”

    And I’m no persuaded that allowing gays to marry will undermine anything. Unless you think seeing gay people get married will turn straight people gay. But that would be silly.

  2. Phil Allcock February 20, 2013 / 4:01 pm

    Hello NotAScientist. I suspect that Perks doesn’t mean that at all. Having discussed this with him a bit, I suspect (but he’s welcome to clarify!) he means that the institution of marriage is undermined when its definition is radically altered. And marriage really is undermined if it comes to mean ‘whatever arrangement between people the law now defines it mean’, rather than the accepted definition that by and large holds around the world and down the centuries (publicly endorsed, life-long relationship between a man and a woman, confirmed by sexual union, starting a new family unit). Given that the family unit is the building block of society, it’s a big call to just redefine marriage at the drop of a hat. It’s not reductio ad absurdam to ask why not 3 people? Why not brothers and sisters (since sex will no longer form part of the definition of marriage)? Why not temporary relationships – 5 year marriages? Before you dismiss it, two of those 3 are being legislated on in countries that have laws endorsing gay marriage.

    Note I’m not arguing it’s right or wrong, just that it is a much bigger deal than an awful lot of people accept, and the reasons for thinking twice about it are not all as silly as the one you’ve suggested.

    • NotAScientist February 20, 2013 / 4:12 pm

      “he means that the institution of marriage is undermined when its definition is radically altered. ”

      And yet, nothing about this ‘radical alteration’ will prevent heterosexuals, religious or otherwise, from getting married in exactly the same way they have for more than 100 years.

      If an alteration doesn’t change anything for most people, is it really an alteration? Or just a minor addition?

      “publicly endorsed, life-long relationship between a man and a woman, confirmed by sexual union, starting a new family unit)”

      Changing ‘a man and a woman’ to ‘two consenting adults’…that doesn’t seem, at all, to be a significant difference.

      ” Given that the family unit is the building block of society”

      I don’t believe this to necessarily be the case. And even if it were, you’ve just written off everyone who isn’t in a nuclear family. Good to know you have so little respect for married couples who don’t want kids, can’t have them or choose to adopt.

      “Before you dismiss it,”

      I’m not dismissing it. I say, if it causes no harm, let it happen.

      You have yet to demonstrate that it causes harm.

      “Why not temporary relationships – 5 year marriages? ”

      Why not? If people want those kinds of relationships, they can have them.

      If they don’t, they won’t.

      Making it illegal won’t change that. And the fact that gay marriage is legal won’t make straight people have gay marriages. So, again, nothing is undermined.

      • Phil Allcock February 22, 2013 / 2:00 pm

        Hello NotAScientist.
        1. I never claimed that it prevented heterosexual couples getting married.
        2. What is the definition of marriage? It seems from what you say that anything anyone wants to be called a marriage should be a marriage. That’s a pretty odd way to go.
        3. As a married man with no children I have not written off myself or anyone else without children. That is a ridiculous assertion. That the nuclear family is the building block of stable society is self-evident and recognised by study after study. But that doesn’t mean there is no value to anyone (like me) who is not a parent. Read some sociology about the impact and cost to society of fragmented families.
        4. As to the harm, it seems remarkable that we are willing to just experiment like this when we simply don’t know what the impact will be on children in particular.

        But the sad truth is that I’m not sure we’d change our minds as a society even if the harm was shown. Talk to medical students and junior doctors about the training in sexual health. They are told that although gay sex is in itself harmful to the human body they are not allowed to advise gay men of this and they are to restrict themselves to advice on minimising risk etc. Ideology trumps harm.

  3. David February 20, 2013 / 4:30 pm

    Isnt part of the fuss down to the fact that the inclusivity/exclusivity argument isnt as straightforward as it is sometimes put.

    If someone takes an exclusive approach – then you get state disaproval and public disaproval.

    But if you take an inclusive approach then you get told to adopt a kind of inclusivity which is different to that in the Bible. Which isnt a real inclusion.

    That seems like a kind of heads I win, tails you loose situation.

  4. NotAScientist February 22, 2013 / 2:05 pm

    “I never claimed that it prevented heterosexual couples getting married.”

    Then how will heterosexual marriage be undermined? If straight couples can still get married and still have families, what is being undermined, exactly?

    “What is the definition of marriage?”

    A social contract between two consenting adults to combine their lives and become family.

    ” That the nuclear family is the building block of stable society is self-evident and recognised by study after study.”

    The fact that you have cited no studies is a bit telling.

    “They are told that although gay sex is in itself harmful to the human body”

    Yeah…no it’s not. Nice try, though.

  5. Phil Allcock February 22, 2013 / 4:38 pm

    Would you read them if I cited the studies on either point?

    Alas I have to go. More than happy to have a more in depth discussion and share sources though if you are genuinely interested.
    Phil

  6. MichaelA March 11, 2013 / 12:56 pm

    “If straight couples can still get married and still have families, what is being undermined, exactly?”

    The institution of marriage. We are signalling to all (and each other) that we no longer believe or practice the fundamental teaching that God laid down for mankind, that marriage is between a man and a woman.

    “A social contract between two consenting adults to combine their lives and become family.”

    Nice try. Marriage has always meant a social contract between a man and a woman to combine their lives and become a family. You can redefine it if you wish, in the same way that you are free to declare that the sky is green – but you have no right to expect others to agree with you.

    “The fact that you have cited no studies is a bit telling.”

    You and Phil can argue about self-serving studies until the cows come home. I don’t need studies to replace common sense.

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