In light of the upcoming CA vote on the marriage amendment, concerned Christians are wondering how to interact with others about this crucial issue. It may be tempting to immediately resort to the Bible, but that will probably be less than convincing to secularists or those of other religious traditions.
An August 2003 Weekly Standard article from Maggie Gallagher is, I believe, an outstanding example of how to winsomely persuade others that unisex marriage is bad for society. Though somewhat dated now, the issues she raises remain quite valid. Her bottom-line is that children need mothers and fathers. Meanwhile, nearly 40% of U.S. babies in 2006 were born out of wedlock. Gallagher articulately rebuffs the discrimination/civil liberties argument and the predictable “what about infertility” (deliberate or unplanned) response. She reasons entirely from secular categories to secular people. The co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially, Gallagher is the editor of MarriageDebate.com. In her 2003 Weekly Standard article, she writes (in part):
Marriage is the fundamental, cross-cultural institution for bridging the male-female divide so that children have loving, committed mothers and fathers. Marriage is inherently normative: It is about holding out a certain kind of relationship as a social ideal, especially when there are children involved. Marriage is not simply an artifact of law; neither is it a mere delivery mechanism for a set of legal benefits that might as well be shared more broadly. The laws of marriage do not create marriage, but in societies ruled by law they help trace the boundaries and sustain the public meanings of marriage.
In other words, while individuals freely choose to enter marriage, society upholds the marriage option, formalizes its definition, and surrounds it with norms and reinforcements, so we can raise boys and girls who aspire to become the kind of men and women who can make successful marriages. Without this shared, public aspect, perpetuated generation after generation, marriage becomes what its critics say it is: a mere contract, a vessel with no particular content, one of a menu of sexual lifestyles, of no fundamental importance to anyone outside a given relationship.
Of course, many couples fail to live up to this ideal [monogamous, faithful, heterosexual marriage]. Many of the things men and women have to do to sustain their own marriages, and a culture of marriage, are hard. Few people will do them consistently if the larger culture does not affirm the critical importance of marriage as a social institution. Why stick out a frustrating relationship, turn down a tempting new love, abstain from sex outside marriage, or even take pains not to conceive children out of wedlock if family structure does not matter? If marriage is not a shared norm, and if successful marriage is not socially valued, do not expect it to survive as the generally accepted context for raising children. If marriage is just a way of publicly celebrating private love, then there is no need to encourage couples to stick it out for the sake of the children. If family structure does not matter, why have marriage laws at all? Do adults, or do they not, have a basic obligation to control their desires so that children can have mothers and fathers?
THE PROBLEM with endorsing gay marriage is not that it would allow a handful of people to choose alternative family forms, but that it would require society at large to gut marriage of its central presumptions about family in order to accommodate a few adults’ desires.
Read the whole thing.