FIRST-PERSON: Redefining marriage has consequences

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--If you change any aspect of a mathematical or chemical equation, you not only alter the equation, you also affect its outcome. A judge's recent ruling on marriage changes the entire concept of matrimony. If it is allowed to stand, it will also influence the outcome of marriage and its impact on society.

A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Aug. 4 that California voters violated the U.S. Constitution when they passed a ballot measure intended to clarify and protect the traditional definition of marriage.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's decision voided a state constitutional amendment known as Proposition 8, passed by the Golden State's electorate in 2008, which specified "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Two same-sex couples challenged Proposition 8 asserting it violated their right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitutional, thus the case came (randomly) before Vaughn, who happens to be openly homosexual.

While "homosexual marriage" may not, directly at least, adversely impact any heterosexual marriage, it undermines the whole nature and purpose of marriage.

Chief Justice Morrison Waite wrote the Supreme Court opinion in the 1879 Reynolds v. U.S. ruling which upheld anti-polygamy statutes. "Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law," Waite wrote for a unanimous court.

The chief justice continued, "Upon it [marriage] society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties with which government is necessarily required to deal."

Later in his opinion Waite observed, "An exceptional colony of polygamists under an exceptional leadership may sometimes exist for a time without appearing to disturb the social condition of the people who surround it; but there cannot be a doubt that, unless restricted by some form of constitution, it is within the legitimate scope of the power of every civil government to determine whether polygamy or monogamy shall be the law of social life under its dominion."

Waite's opinion reveals that he understood changing any aspect of marriage would alter its very nature and thus its impact on society. Even if polygamy did not directly harm heterosexual unions, Waite argued, recognizing it would impact the ideals of marriage and family, which are the very foundations for a stable society.

So how does the legal sanctioning of "homosexual matrimony" by the government affect the traditional understanding of marriage? It impacts not only the definition of marriage; it also affects the expectations of marriage.

Some argue that "homosexual marriage" is analogous to interracial marriage. Those who argue thusly say that marriage was redefined when the U.S. made interracial matrimony legal. However, the analogy is not correct. Interracial couples did not seek to redefine radically the concept of traditional marriage; they only sought to be included in the definition of marriage.

"Homosexual marriage" is a redefining of the very nature of traditional marriage, which is one man and one woman for life. Even the four justices of the Massachusetts high court acknowledged as much in their landmark 2003 opinion, writing that it "marks a significant change in the definition of marriage."

Those who want to change the definition of marriage maintain that it is a socially constructed institution that must change as society evolves. They also point to various forms of marriage that have been practiced in societies throughout history.

The mere fact that something has been practiced by a society in the past does not enshrine the practice as an ideal.

The Bible is forthright in describing that polygamy was practiced even by followers of God. However, nowhere in the Bible will you find polygamy held out as God's ideal. The prescription for marriage throughout the Bible -- God's ideal -- is one man and one woman for life.

Once marriage is expanded to include homosexuals, how can you not further define marriage to include bi-sexual persons who want to marry a man and a woman? How can you justify not allowing two men and four women to wed? A changing of the tradition marriage equation alters everything.

(Vaughn, in his 136-page ruling, avoided the polygamy and bigamy issue altogether.)

The redefining of marriage will directly impact the expectations of marriage.

One expectation of traditional marriage is monogamy. Of course, there are those who violate this expectation. However, the vast majority of heterosexual couples enter marriage with the expectation of sexual exclusivity.

There are a variety of studies that have revealed homosexuals do not approach their relationships with the expectation of monogamy.

The New York Times commented on one such study this past January: "[G]ay nuptials are portrayed by opponents as an effort to rewrite traditional rules of matrimony. Quietly, outside of the news media and courtroom spotlight, many gay couples are doing just that according to ground breaking new research."

The Times went on to report, "A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central theme for many."

What did the study find? The San Francisco Chronicle reported the results in July: "After studying the sexual patterns of 566 gay male couples from the Bay Area for three years, lead researcher Colleen Hoff found that gay men negotiate ground rules and open their relationships as a way to build trust and longevity in their partnerships.... In her study of gay couples, 47 percent reported open relationships. Forty-five percent were monogamous, and the remaining 8 percent disagreed about what they were."

Another expectation of traditional marriage that will be affected is procreation. Again, couples not wanting to have children are the exception and not the rule when it comes to traditional marriage. The expectation of the vast majority of heterosexuals who wed is that they will eventually have children.

A degree in biology is not necessary to understand that homosexuals cannot procreate. Some do have the desire to adopt, but the vast majority do not. I am sure there are various reasons for this, but one relates to the fact that many homosexual relationships are not monogamous. Introducing children into the mix would cramp the promiscuous lifestyles.

Many believe that with Judge Vaughn's ruling the door is open for the issue of "homosexual marriage" to eventually come before the U.S. Supreme Court. Several pundits believe that with the current make-up of the court, "homosexual marriages" could well become the law of the land.

Only time will tell just how changing the marriage equation affects nature and the outcome of matrimony in America. Will a new definition of marriage impact all couples' expectations with regard to monogamy and procreation? And if it does, how will that impact society at large?

Only one thing is for sure: If homosexual marriage becomes enshrined in law the future of matrimony in the United States will be nothing like the past.


Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Download Story