Skip to comments.The Gay Marriage Debate: Brought to you by Contraception
Posted on 08/27/2012 2:46:57 PM PDT by NYer
I’ve been reflecting on some of the comments on my most recent post. Again and again, gay marriage advocates come to the debate insisting that marriage is a fundamental civil right, which begs the question. This assumption would not be possible if certain logical fallacies did not already commonly exist.
First, there is the false notion that marriage is a right. Marriage is not a right — not for anyone — it is a license. The difference between freedom and license no longer being widely understood, an easy way to distinguish a right from a license is that in the case of a license, you typically have to obtain a license to have permission to perform the action. Driving requires a license. Starting a business requires a license. Being a barber requires a license. And of course, getting married requires a license.
Licenses may be denied on various grounds, at the discretion of the issuing body. Driver’s licenses may be refused if the driver has too many moving violations or a DUI, for example. Marriage licenses will not be issued in most states to people wanting to marry their first cousin. Closer lines of consanguinity are against the law everywhere. Bigamy is illegal. Polygamy is also illegal. (You won’t see anyone getting a marriage license that will allow them to marry their car, for that matter, though there are some who would wish it so.) There are plenty of circumstances in which the state legitimately denies the request of persons wishing to be married.
So if we accept that marriage is not a right, but a license, then there must be some reasoning behind why the state is involved in issuing licenses for marriage at all. In most cultures, marriage is something sacred, far above and beyond a civil contract. But if there is a government imperative to regulate marriage in any degree, then it must mean that marriage has some impact upon the society being governed.
Of course it does. Marriage is the most natural and stable context for the procreation and education of children (always what the Catholic Church has noted as the primary end of marriage) which, in turn, provides citizens for the nation. Families are the building blocks of civilization. It stands to reason that governments have an imperative to protect them, and even to promote them. This isn’t a position based on religion. Consider, for example, “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage” written by Adam Kolasinski, a doctoral student in financial economics at MIT:
When a state recognizes a marriage, it bestows upon the couple certain benefits which are costly to both the state and other individuals. Collecting a deceased spouses social security, claiming an extra tax exemption for a spouse, and having the right to be covered under a spouses health insurance policy are just a few examples of the costly benefits associated with marriage. In a sense, a married couple receives a subsidy. Why? Because a marriage between two unrelated heterosexuals is likely to result in a family with children, and propagation of society is a compelling state interest. For this reason, states have, in varying degrees, restricted from marriage couples unlikely to produce children.
If the propagation of society is “a compelling state interest,” it stands to reason that the state would enact legislation to protect the institution which enables this action. Bigamy and polygamy are widely considered to be bad for the stability of a family unit, which explains why both of these situations are illegal under current marriage regulations. Bigamists and polygamists may believe they are being discriminated against, but I’m not certain that anyone is currently very interested in taking those arguments seriously. From what I’ve seen, most gay marriage advocates seem rather interested in distancing themselves from promoting these unpopular sexual ideologies, despite the fact that they are the logical consequence of promoting any sort of non-traditional marriage that involves consenting adults.
So would gay marriage be beneficial to society? Putting aside the biblical and magisterial proscriptions which I take as a given in a Catholic forum such as this, I don’t see how it would be. Even committed homosexual relationships — including marriages — are more likely to involve promiscuous behavior that is consented to by both partners. There is new evidence that children in gay households experience a negative impact on development. And of course the most obvious problem should be taken into account – by their very nature, homosexual relationships are infertile, meaning that there is no inherent capacity in these relationships toward the procreation and education of children. If the defining characteristic of marriage as a positive good to society is that it provides the best and most stable and natural context for bringing new citizens into the nation, gay marriage fundamentally fails to pass muster.
But this is where the argument for traditional marriage begins to break down. It’s been quite a long time since the defining characteristic of marriage, from a societal standpoint, had anything to do with children. With the advent of modern techniques for contraception in the 20th century, it has become increasingly easy (and common) for marriage and children to be mutually exclusive.
As Catholics, we must understand this: Sterile sex is unnatural sex. When unnatural sex has become commonplace, as it has in a contraceptive culture, it becomes intellectually impossible to make significant distinctions between homosexual sex and contraceptive heterosexual sex. By removing openness to procreation as the fundamental defining characteristic of legitimate marital sexual intimacy, we have embraced any and all sexual relations that express emotional love as the sort of relations which are proper to marriage.
In a 2008 article, Hoover Institution research fellow and author Mary Eberstadt made note of this blurring of the lines from the perspective of the Anglican Church:
By giving benediction in 1930 to its married heterosexual members purposely seeking sterile sex, the Anglican Church lost, bit by bit, any authority to tell her other membersmarried or unmarried, homosexual or heterosexualnot to do the same. To put the point another way, once heterosexuals start claiming the right to act as homosexuals, it would not be long before homosexuals start claiming the rights of heterosexuals.
Thus in a bizarre but real sense did Lambeths attempt to show compassion to married heterosexuals inadvertently give rise to the modern gay-rights movementand consequently, to the issues that have divided their church ever since. It is hard to believe that anyone seeking a similar change in Catholic teaching on the subject would want the Catholic Church to follow suit into the moral and theological confusion at the center of todays Anglican Churchyet such is the purposeful ignorance of so many who oppose Rome on birth control that they refuse to connect these cautionary historical dots.
We reap what we sow. The contraceptive approach to human sexuality has a domino effect, with more far-reaching implications than many who have championed it ever imagined. When sexual love is no longer inherently life-giving, it quickly becomes permissive, self-centered, hedonistic. This is true in all relationships, including heterosexual ones. God, in His wisdom, balanced the raw power and pleasure of human sexual intimacy against the responsibility of creating and caring for a new human life. It is, perhaps, the only thing that could keep such a primal appetite in check.
If we are unable to regain this understanding of human sexuality as a culture, this is an argument we will never win. Voluntarily sterile heterosexual marriages are simply not sufficiently different from inherently sterile homosexual ones to make a cogent argument that one is superior to the other. And if one kind of sterile marriage is acceptable to society, why shouldn’t all of them be?
Advocacy of contraception undermines the case for traditional marriage. Being open to life in the marital act, as Catholic spouses are obligated to be, is the only philosophy of sexual intimacy that holds moral weight in the debate over marriage. If we cannot define marriage by its openness to children, we cannot really define it at all. Without such a definition, there’s simply no chance we will prevail in preserving the integrity of this institution which can (and has) become whatever people want it to be.
When unnatural sex has become commonplace, as it has in a contraceptive culture, it becomes intellectually impossible to make significant distinctions between homosexual sex and contraceptive heterosexual sex. By removing openness to procreation as the fundamental defining characteristic of legitimate marital sexual intimacy, we have embraced any and all sexual relations that express emotional love as the sort of relations which are proper to marriage.
"But the exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches, follows. [here Luther quotes Gen. 389-10] Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment. He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred. Therefore he did not allow himself to be compelled to bear that intolerable slavery. Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him. ...That worthless fellow...preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother." (Luther's Works, Vol. 7, p. 20-21)
"Besides, he [Onan; C.P.] not only defrauded his brother of the right due him, but also preferred his semen to putrify on the ground, rather than to beget a son in his brother's name. V. 10 The Jews quite immodestly gabble concerning this thing. It will suffice for me briefly to have touched upon this as much as modestly as speaking permits. The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring. The impiety is especially condemned, now by the Spirit through Moses' mouth, that Onan, as it were, by a violent abortion, no less cruelly than filthily cast upon the ground the offspring of his brother, torn from the maternal womb. Besides, in this way he tried, as far as he was able, to wipe out a part of the human race. If any woman ejects a foetus from her womb by drugs, it is reckoned a crime incapable of expiation and deservedly Onan incurred upon himself the same kind of punishment, infecting the earth by his semen, in order that Tamar might not conceive a future human being as an inhabitant of the earth." (Calvin's Commentary on Genesis 38:8-10, translated from the Latin)
One of the issues I see is that our society has enshrined sexual activity as the highest expression of love. In popular music and so on, when the word "love" is used as a verb, it almost always means "***k."
I don't see how this concept has taken hold so strongly, because just about anyone will (bleep) just about anyone with a pulse at the drop of a hat. Emotional affection, even general attraction, need not be involved.
If you want to express love, you really have to take a totally different direction. For example, you could do something that's terribly sacrificial: difficult and painful for you, for the sake of others. You know, like Jesus's dying on the Cross ...
(Those are general "you," not "you, AHerald".)
First time I’ve been to your homepage (I don’t like to intrude).
You live the Faith. I am humbled. I only have six children. I feel so inadequate...
Thank you for being a testimonial to the Faith. BTW, I don’t see a tattoo in the whole bunch. Is there something wrong? :)
I’m fortunate to have good health, that’s all.
My oldest daughter, the entirely outstanding Gunner’s Mate Anoreth, USCG, has two tattoos: a Viking ship on one bicep (designed it herself) and a bomber on the opposite forearm (from a P.J. O’Rourke book cover). A grownup sailor in the Pacific, what can you do?
I’ve told the younger girls that if they want “big birthday” parties, such as Sweet 16, they have to take a blood oath never to get any tattoos.
Thank you. It has its ups and downs, but marriage is like joining the Roman legions: once you’ve taken the oath, that’s it. (Also, I love babies ;-).
Eloquent piece full of truth that is all too often obscured in our present culture.
“As Catholics, we must understand this: Sterile sex is unnatural sex. When unnatural sex has become commonplace, as it has in a contraceptive culture, it becomes intellectually impossible to make significant distinctions between homosexual sex and contraceptive heterosexual sex.”
This is the crux of it: Gay marriage rode in on this wave of recreational sex and high divorce rates. It would never have gotten its foot in the door of marriage otherwise.
Very good article!
This has to be the most unsubstantiated assertion I have heard on FR in years.
Romans 1 depicts homosexual relations as an abomination to God ... it is a direct, literal, clear, unquestionable condemnation.
You have to look through a theological lens to see that same condemnation of contraceptive heterosexual sex.
There is no need for perverted homosexuals to get married. They can get the same so called benefits by going to a lawyer.
not even, there are simple forms at your local staples, office depot, or online for FREE.
The author is not writing about what is explicitly proscribed in Scripture, but rather is basing his discussion on natural facts using natural reason. He observes that sex between a man and a woman with contraceptives is not natural. This seems obviously true. Certainly looking at other mammals, we don’t find any who engage in reproductive behavior while simultaneously acting to prevent reproduction. Other mammals either copulate in a natural way or they don’t copulate at all.
Then, the author observes that unnatural sexual behavior is unnatural sexual behavior, whether it involves a man-woman pair, a man-man pair, or a woman-woman pair. This also seems to be an accurate observation. Certainly we can see that sodomitic acts such as oral or anal sex do not require a mixed-sex pair at all, or even solely human participants.
In order to argue against the author’s point, one would have to make a case that contraceptive penile-vaginal intercourse is different in a key way from all the other forms of unnatural sexual relations involved in homosexual activity.
It's not about marriage ... never way. It's about normalizing their abnormal lifestyle ... period. Marriage becomes the portal through which the normalization begins.
I would say it would ONLY be obviously true if what you mean by "natural" is ... "can result in conception." Well you could drive a truck through that definition.
But then to go from there to conclude that contraceptive heterosexuality is on par with homosexuality? Way overboard ...
Certainly looking at other mammals, we dont find any who engage in reproductive behavior while simultaneously acting to prevent reproduction. Other mammals either copulate in a natural way or they dont copulate at all.
I bet you are not aware that homosexual activists use that very same argument to justify their homosexuality. There are some animals that will engage in homosexual copulation. And their argument is ... "hey, they are animals, we are animals ... they do it, its natural to them because they are animals ... so it is a natural act for us too." ... The fallacy is the claim that we are animals ... we are not ... we are humans created in the image of God.
Some of our kind act like animals, but we are not animals. Animals copulate from behind. They copulate like they are animals lol! Human sexual organs have been specifically designed to copulate face-to-face. We are not animals that simply copulate to procreate. We have been created in the image of God ... the animals have not been.
In order to argue against the authors point, one would have to make a case that contraceptive penile-vaginal intercourse is different in a key way from all the other forms of unnatural sexual relations involved in homosexual activity.
Again ... I reject the authors unproven assumption. And contraceptive heterosexual intercourse is vastly different than homosexual activity ... do you really have to ask "How?" ... are you really going to argue the two are fundamentally the same?
If the primary purpose for sex was pro-creation, and only sex that could lead to conception was natural ... then Paul is very confused in 1 Cor. 7.
1 Cor. 7:8-9
8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.
9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
You who are unmarried ... if you cannot control your desire for sexual pleasure ... get yourself a wife ... get yourself a husband!
His solution for controlling the desire for sexual pleasure is marriage ... not creating a family.
Contraception is a matter of conscience ... you are free to hold a more rigid view here; you have that freedom in Christ; it is not a soteriological issue.
Historical note: From the Roman Civil Wars to the 4th Century, the population of the Roman Empire was in decline. Indeed, certain areas even within the Empire were not longer cultivated for lack of workmen. Slaves were not longer provided by conquest. Much of this was owing to contraception/abortion among the well-to-do and by infanticide among the poor. Two groups within the empire were notable exceptions: the Jews and the Christians, both of whom valued children and had large families. Each was more than a tenth of the population. Constantine could have chosen either to help achieve stability for the Empire.
It is interesting to compare America's decline w/ Rome's. As you observe though, there were notable exceptions to the dearth of workers in the Christian population; this is something that, with the embrace of contraceptives in popular culture, is not analogous.
Somewhat more tangential is the "overpopulation" myth. Given the 'agrable'-landmass of Earth, our agriculture technology, and our planetary population we are underpopulated.