Joe Biden and Barack Obama have finally expressed what many of us, friend and foe alike, have long known is their real position on the contentious issue of “same sex marriage”: President and Vice President alike favor it. All that matters, Biden says, is that two people love one another.
Notice, from the perspective of the Bidens and Obamas of the world, the opponents of “gay marriage” are guilty of arbitrariness (and worse) insofar as they insist on defining marriage in heterosexual terms. Yet Obama, Biden, and their ilk should attend to their own glass houses before they cast stones at the homes of others: if the criterion of heterosexuality vis-à-vis marriage is “arbitrary,” then how much more arbitrary are their criteria of monogamy and love.
Although we are accustomed to thinking of marriage along the lines of both monogamy and love, there are numerous others who are not so inclined. Historically, polygamy has been the rule around most of the globe. Even today, a not insignificant percentage of the Earth’s population continues to opt for this ancient marital arrangement. And love—love!—has been regarded by most human beings as a woefully inadequate basis upon which to root a lifelong commitment.
For that matter, the self-avowed champions of “same sex marriage” demand that marriage be limited to only those individuals who are not related. Why? Is not this an arbitrary requirement, especially when it is considered that, again, most societies have permitted marriage between blood relations?
But at no place, and at no time, has marriage been understood as anything but a heterosexual union. Given that the champions of “gay marriage” wish to mark a radical departure from a universal and timeless practice by imposing upon marriage a homosexual character, the burden is upon them to convince the rest of us that this is something other than a fool’s errand.
Contrary to what radicals would have us believe, the wish to preserve the heterosexual nature of marriage doesn’t need to be anchored to any religious sensibility. An aversion to radical change, an aversion born out by painful familiarity with the innovator’s abysmal record, is enough to render anyone skeptical regarding the proposal to restructure marriage so as to accommodate homosexuals.
Let me be clear as to what I am and am not saying here.
First, “bigotry” is presumably immoral because “the bigot” makes arbitrary—i.e. “irrational”—judgments in contexts where sheer preferences have no place. Since marriage has always and everywhere been treated as an inherently heterosexual union, those of us who want to continue regarding it as such are less “bigoted” than any partisan on this topic. That is to say, we aren’t “bigoted” at all—at least not in respect to this issue.
Hence, whatever else can be said about the charge of “homophobia” that the friends of “gay marriage” level against their rivals, we can safely say that it is most certainly not justified.
Secondly, that marriage has been defined heterosexually by all peoples in all places and at all times does not necessarily mean that “gay marriage” should be outlawed. Rather, by alluding to the universality of the heterosexual requirement for marriage, we accomplish two ends. In addition to showing that it is the proponents of “gay marriage,” not its opponents, who are arbitrary and capricious, we show as well that the conflict over marriage boils down to a conflict between the experience of the entire human race—“the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages,” as Burke said—and a minority of our contemporaries.
Of course, that the apologists for “gay marriage” are overwhelmed in numbers by their opponents is not proof that they are mistaken. Truth may very well be on their side. But at the very least, appeal to the experience of the human species constitutes a prima facie case against “gay marriage.”
To quote the mighty Burke once more, by looking at our present institutional arrangements as a legacy of the past, “an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity,” we strike upon the means by which “our constitution preserves an unity in so great a diversity of its parts” (emphasis original).
The problem with proposed changes of the magnitude implied by “gay marriage” is that they threaten to come at the cost of squandering our “inheritance.”
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.