The Secular Case on Gay Marriage


A good article that, without putting down homosexuality or gay unions, or mentioning of God or morals, gives a compelling argument for why marriage should retain its “traditional” definition.

My Godfather was a bachelor who lived in a small cottage in East Melbourne. We called him Uncle Ernest but he was actually my grandfather’s brother and technically my mother’s uncle. He came once a week to dinner at our house and was an important influence on my development. Although my parents were by no means uncultured, he brought something extra into my life in terms of a respect for the arts and the value of refinement and taste. He was for me a model of elegance and urbanity and, most important of all, gave me a sense of style. I still remember when he took me to my first Shakespeare play in the city, performed by the visiting Old Vic Company. I believe he had a similar positive influence on some of my cousins.

He was a loved and respected member of my extended family and I never heard a word spoken against him. The family sometimes mentioned his late companion who shared the cottage with him for many years, well before my time, but there was no hint at all that there was anything untoward in this.

I am now almost certain that he was gay and I am grateful that he was. If he had been heterosexual he would most probably have married and had his own children and been too busy with them to give me the benefit of his dignified presence.

My subsequent life has been enriched by countless encounters, and sometimes ongoing relationships, with a wide range of gay people in all walks of life. Most of them were first and foremost fine people, intelligent, creative and enthusiastic, and their homosexuality, while part of their identity, was neither here nor there in the argy-bargy of day-to-day existence.

I believe my personal experience can be generalised to the whole society. Our whole culture has benefited from the presence of homosexuals in our midst, not just as mentors but as productive and creative people in their own right, and we should thank whatever evolutionary forces made it a fact that it is normal that a percentage of the population at any one time will be drawn to same-sex rather than heterosexual unions.

Homosexuality is normal, but it is not the norm. If it were the norm, the human race would have died out eons ago. The norm for human beings is sexual reproduction which requires not same-sex but opposite-sex unions. At the most basic level, our survival as a species requires the coming together of male and female gametes.

In human societies the way this essential union is symbolised is in the institution of marriage. This is how the centrality of the male-female partnership is celebrated in our culture and, in a non-religious sense, it is sacred; that is to say, heterosexuality is so important to our survival, so fundamental to the continuation of the species, that we have an ingrained sense that marriage as a heterosexual union should not be tampered with. It symbolises in the social sphere the vital role that the male-female gamete union plays at the biological level.

It is true that in the past, and even now, many societies have discriminated against homosexuals and one of the ways they have done this is to deny them the civil advantages that are bestowed on married couples. In a just society, no-one should withhold such privileges from a person or a couple simply on the grounds of their sexual orientation. But to solve this problem by introducing same-sex marriage is to strip marriage of its deep meaning as a symbol of the male-female union that it is quintessentially a part of nearly all animal life, including human life, on this planet, and to pare it down to the status of a civil union, a merely legal arrangement. This is why I feel queasy about the idea of same-sex marriage. It is achieving equality for some by taking something important away from many others, and that, I think, is not just. The just way to give equality to homosexuals is to acknowledge their relationships in civil, unions which give them the recognition and legal rights they want and deserve, without at the same time making meaningless the rite of marriage as a female/male inter-relationship in the process.

Being equal does not mean being the same. Marriage celebrates the male-female bond, which is worth celebrating, but his doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also celebrate homosexual partnerships for the contributions they have made. I think of Gertrude and Alice. Of Patrick and Manny. And so many more. The list is a long one.

But we must also recognise that there is a sense in which homosexual partnerships are not the same as heterosexual ones and this difference should also be celebrated.

I sometimes think that some members of the homosexual community are playing a game of “Let’s Pretend” – “Let’s pretend we’re heterosexual”: Heterosexual couples have children, so let’s get ourselves a baby. Heterosexual couples get married, so let’s get ourselves married. This seems to me to be at one level a denial of one’s homosexuality, of what makes homosexuality unique. Freedom is not the ability to become like other people, freedom is the ability to become more fully yourself! Isn’t this what “Gay Pride” means. There is no pride in making believe you are just like everyone else.

So by all means find non-discriminatory ways to recognise same-sex relationships but don’t do it at the expense of blurring and obscuring the unique role of sexual reproduction and its social representation in marriage in the continuing social life of our species.

9 Comments

Filed under Gay Marriage, Homosexuality, Marriage, Uncategorized

9 responses to “The Secular Case on Gay Marriage

  1. “So by all means find non-discriminatory ways to recognise same-sex relationships but don’t do it at the expense of blurring and obscuring the unique role of sexual reproduction and its social representation in marriage in the continuing social life of our species.”

    Given the fact that getting legally married has nothing to do with having children, this argument fails.

  2. Oh, but it does. Like it or not, marriage has always carried with it a presumption of children on the way. Otherwise, what’s the point of getting married? Yes, there are exceptions with people too old, unable or unwilling to have children, but they are just that: exceptions, and everyone explains them away as such. (“Oh, well, THEY have decided not to have kids…”)

    Why would a gay couple want to get in on something that has an expectation of children on the way? I believe the article goes a good job explaining that…

    “I sometimes think that some members of the homosexual community are playing a game of “Let’s Pretend” – “Let’s pretend we’re heterosexual”: Heterosexual couples have children, so let’s get ourselves a baby. Heterosexual couples get married, so let’s get ourselves married. This seems to me to be at one level a denial of one’s homosexuality, of what makes homosexuality unique. Freedom is not the ability to become like other people, freedom is the ability to become more fully yourself! Isn’t this what “Gay Pride” means. There is no pride in making believe you are just like everyone else.”

    • “Otherwise, what’s the point of getting married?”

      Romantic love. Legalizing a relationship for wills, medical issues, etc.

      A huge portion of people, heterosexuals, get married with no intention of having children. Many are biologically unable. Should they be denied marriage because of that? If not, why not?

      “Why would a gay couple want to get in on something that has an expectation of children on the way?”

      Two reasons: for my generation, there is no expectation of children. And because gay couples can adopt, or be artificially inseminated if they are lesbians.

      “Heterosexual couples have children, so let’s get ourselves a baby.”

      You are thinking far too highly of yourself.

      Homosexuals are far more likely to be good parents, for the simple fact that they can’t have them by accident.

      • So…if all gay couples want is a recognition of their love for one another and legal rights, why not be satisfied with a civil union? A gay relationship is obviously different than a real marriage, so why muddy the waters and insist that they are called the same thing?

        BTW, I love your logic about how gay couples are better parents than heterosexual ones. My wife asked this: “How can someone be a good parent if they think that the other sex is unnecessary? How can two women raise a boy to be a man? Or think that raising a girl without a male influence is healthy and balanced? The idea of “gay marriage” segregates mankind into single-sex groups, teaching people that they can do without the other sex. True marriage unites the sexes and brings them to an equal level. Instead of gender exclusion, it teaches children that both men and women are essential to society.

  3. k

    Homosexual parenting is thus ‘better’ than heterosexual parenting on account of planning? Is that what you are stating because it is surely implied. What about gender roles for a child? These are extremely important in child development and something that cannot be mimicked. Also, in reference to the ‘Romantic love. Legalizing a relationship for wills, medical issues, etc.’ it’s already offered through ‘civil union’. People RECOGNIZE gay couples but that simply isn’t enough. Other than tax breaks and the actual TERM ‘marriage’…it’s done…Honestly, could care less about tax breaks and assuming that you do as well because in the case of romance, couples usually don’t consider their income tax return when they say ‘I do’.
    The author has nailed this and think it’s pretty interesting since he is not ‘biased’ on account of his relationship with a family member who was gay. Homosexual agendas are pushing for recognition via ‘victim/minority’ sway and it’s not working. The moment someone doesn’t agree the close-mindedness rhetoric is spewed…hmmm. How ironic. The moment that I’ve shared my lack of agreement with gay marriage, I’m the one who is labeled a bigot and close-minded. With all do respect, I’ve listened to my friends who are gay as they share their ‘coming out’ stories and have heard details of their sex lives even…but, if I even dare to MENTION that I oppose ‘gay marriage’, my God…there goes another friend. Interestingly enough, I’ve not lambasted others with my views and I have reasons for my standpoint on the issue that is NOT faith based. Not having too much respect left for the GBLT community after all these experiences.

  4. Michael C

    I appreciate the writers viewpoint that gay couples deserve the same rights, protections and responsibilities as straight couples. I wish more people that oppose the right of gay couples to participate in marriage held this view. However, I don’t understand why s/he holds the position that gay couples are “pretending” to be straight by desiring marriage, as if that desire was antithetical to homosexuality.
    To k, when you tell a gay friend that you oppose “gay marriage”, it is impossible for that friend to interpret your position as anything less than a declaration of their inferiority. It may just be another political/moral viewpoint for you, but it cuts straight to their heart.

    • That is because the “gay-rights” machine has convinced them that they can never be “equal” unless they have taken over every institution that is used for families. This may come as a big surprise to you, but many “gay” people do not feel that way. They realize that there are fundamental differences between what a gay relationship can be, and what a husband and wife with kids is. You don’t promote gender equality by eliminating separate bathrooms, making men wear bikini tops and pretend like menstruation doesn’t exist. You give men and women the same opportunities but recognize their differences, and the different strengths they bring to our society.

  5. somedude

    I’m about a year late to the arguement but as a straight man getting married at the end of the year I think we all need to take a look at ourselves and find out what’s right for us. Marriage is right for me I found that out by falling in love with a wonderful women but not before going through some bad relationships and even having a child with another woman. On a side note I don’t believe homosexual people would make better parents we all have the same chances of doing right by or screwing up our kids adopted or not. … Back to gay marriage, straight people get married and then divorced all the time Hollywood violates the sanctity of marriage all the time because their hectic constantly moving lifestyle and need to be in the multi million dollar spotlight. In and out of marriage after marriage. That is what ruins our belief in the sanctity of marriage unions. Heterosexual or homosexual if you love some one enough you deserve the right to get married and have it be considered such not just a “civil union.” If the cultured uncle and his partner were still alive how would he have taken this article? Would it have even been written? My fiance and I are not threatened by gay marriage and no other straight couple should be either.

    • Well, you are incorrect in saying that gay and straight couples have the same chances for raising well-adjusted kids. That is a modern, relativist platitude that does not hold true to unbiased studies and logic. (See the top article on this blog.) And if you choose to have children, I think you will soon find that marriage is a whole lot more than just a committed relationship between two people. If that was the case, why would the government be going to such an expense to validate and certify it? To celebrate LOVE? That naive belief really speaks to the immense self-centeredness of our society today. Your relationships are your own business. How you raise your children is all of our business.

      Yes, you are right that our society is losing its long-understood understanding of what marriage is all about, and that is what this fight is all about. We should not destroy an institution that is there for the protection of children simply because some people will feel bad about themselves when they choose not to participate in it the proper way.

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