To the editor,
I get frustrated easily. The reason I generally do not read the paper is because I tire of the ceaseless back and forth banter, arguing over problems whose solutions are painfully obvious to me. Yes, I am aware that I’m an arrogant asshole, but if a man does not think himself above the mindless drivel which pours out of our presses in this day in age, I do not think he has very much at all. In David Blankenhorn’s “Protecting Marriage to Protect Children” he makes the case that a ban on gay marriage is necessary to protect the future generations of Americans. I am completely dumbfounded that it could be unlawful, criminal even, for two people to wed. The Supreme Court long ago ruled in favor of equality in freedom and opportunity, (something called the civil rights movement, you may have heard of it.) Yet somehow it is still not clear to all Americans that there is no legal basis for granting rights to a certain group of people and not others.
I shall outline a few basic arguments against gay marriage in David Blankenhorn’s piece, and attempt to demonstrate why they are completely absurd.
Marriage is a license to have children (Blankenhorn 1).
Oops. You don’t need this “license” to have kids; as of 2006 there are twelve point nine million households being led by a single parent, according to the US census bureau (Families and living arrangements 2006). Clearly, there is no such thing as a license to have children. How can you say that a one night stand which results in a child being raised by a single mother is more legitimate than a child being raised by a married gay couple, yet how can you deny these people the right to reproduce and raise the children of their loins? Furthermore, gay couples could provide shelter and raise the children whose biological parents either can’t, or won’t, take proper care of them.
“Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one (Blankenhorn 2).”
I must admit, I’m perplexed by that one. Will “legalizing” gay marriage suddenly give LGBT couples the right to whisk children away from their biological parents in the night? Will otherwise eager and willing parents throw up their arms, drop their babies, and declare “What’s the use anymore!? It’s all meaningless now, why don’t we just let our children be raised by some fucking queers or something!?” I think not. Few people would argue that the best way for a child to be raised is by their biological parents who love each other and the child very much. Blankenhorn sets up the conflict of one of good versus good (Blankenhorn 2). On one hand the goodness of giving proper dignity to LGBT couples, and on the other, the goodness of children being raised in an ideal atmosphere. This is not the case. As I’ve already stated, “Legalizing” gay marriage will not take any children away from their biological parents and place them instead in the care of homosexuals. Rather, concerning the children, it is a conflict of good versus bad. The good of giving loving couples the same rights, the same opportunity, and the same dignity to marry, create a home, and raise children regardless of their sexual orientation. Versus the bad of children either being told that their parents aren’t accepted and respected by the state, or even worse, growing up in an orphanage.
Opponents to gay marriage argue that marriage is a sacred and ancient institution. They will say it is not a question of rights, but a question of definition. Marriage is between man and woman, and has been an integral part of our society for centuries. Gay couples can be given equal rights thru civil unions, without undermining the foundation of traditional marriage. The doctrine of separate but equal does not work. It is impossible to segregate between two institutions; granting a certain group entrance into one of them, and another group to the other. There has to be a way to grant complete equality to all citizens without offending people’s religious sensibilities.
We have this concept in America of separating the church and state. It’s about time we use it. Here’s what I propose: We protect the sanctity of marriage and the rights of LGBT by separating the two. We have no need for a legal institution of marriage; all of the social and monetary benefits should be made available under the umbrella term “civil union.” This would no longer refer only to gay couples, but to any two people who live together and are mutually dependent on each other. Why should the law differentiate between homo-sexual couples and hereto-sexual couples? There cannot be rights granted only to people who fall in love with someone of the opposite sex-in fact, falling in love isn't even a requirement. Rather any two people who make a commitment to spend their lives together and support each other, whether their motives are love or otherwise, should be treated the same. Let the Church define marriage, and let the government concern itself with what is relevant to it, without encroaching upon an institution which people hold to be sacred.
Protecting marriage to protect children
The rights and needs of kids are being lost in the debate over gay rights and Prop. 8.
September 19, 2008|David Blankenhorn | David Blankenhorn is president of the New York-based Institute for American Values and the author of "The Future of Marriage."
I'm a liberal Democrat. And I do not favor same-sex marriage. Do those positions sound contradictory? To me, they fit together.
Many seem to believe that marriage is simply a private love relationship between two people. They accept this view, in part, because Americans have increasingly emphasized and come to value the intimate, emotional side of marriage, and in part because almost all opinion leaders today, from journalists to judges, strongly embrace this position. That's certainly the idea that underpinned the California Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.
But I spent a year studying the history and anthropology of marriage, and I've come to a different conclusion.
Marriage as a human institution is constantly evolving, and many of its features vary across groups and cultures. But there is one constant. In all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood. Among us humans, the scholars report, marriage is not primarily a license to have sex. Nor is it primarily a license to receive benefits or social recognition. It is primarily a license to have children.
In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its next generation. Marriage (and only marriage) unites the three core dimensions of parenthood -- biological, social and legal -- into one pro-child form: the married couple. Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and a father, accountable to the child and to each other.
These days, because of the gay marriage debate, one can be sent to bed without supper for saying such things. But until very recently, almost no one denied this core fact about marriage. Summing up the cross-cultural evidence, the anthropologist Helen Fisher in 1992 put it simply: "People wed primarily to reproduce." The philosopher and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell, certainly no friend of conventional sexual morality, was only repeating the obvious a few decades earlier when he concluded that "it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution."
Marriage is society's most pro-child institution. In 2002 -- just moments before it became highly unfashionable to say so -- a team of researchers from Child Trends, a nonpartisan research center, reported that "family structure clearly matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage."
All our scholarly instruments seem to agree: For healthy development, what a child needs more than anything else is the mother and father who together made the child, who love the child and love each other.
For these reasons, children have the right, insofar as society can make it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world. The foundational human rights document in the world today regarding children, the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically guarantees children this right. The last time I checked, liberals like me were supposed to be in favor of internationally recognized human rights, particularly concerning children, who are typically society's most voiceless and vulnerable group. Or have I now said something I shouldn't?
Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one. Moreover, losing that right will not be a consequence of something that at least most of us view as tragic, such as a marriage that didn't last, or an unexpected pregnancy where the father-to-be has no intention of sticking around. On the contrary, in the case of same-sex marriage and the children of those unions, it will be explained to everyone, including the children, that something wonderful has happened!
For me, what we are encouraged or permitted to say, or not say, to one another about what our society owes its children is crucially important in the debate over initiatives like California's Proposition 8, which would reinstate marriage's customary man-woman form. Do you think that every child deserves his mother and father, with adoption available for those children whose natural parents cannot care for them? Do you suspect that fathers and mothers are different from one another? Do you imagine that biological ties matter to children? How many parents per child is best? Do you think that "two" is a better answer than one, three, four or whatever? If you do, be careful. In making the case for same-sex marriage, more than a few grown-ups will be quite willing to question your integrity and goodwill. Children, of course, are rarely consulted.
The liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously argued that, in many cases, the real conflict we face is not good versus bad but good versus good. Reducing homophobia is good. Protecting the birthright of the child is good. How should we reason together as a society when these two good things conflict?
Here is my reasoning. I reject homophobia and believe in the equal dignity of gay and lesbian love. Because I also believe with all my heart in the right of the child to the mother and father who made her, I believe that we as a society should seek to maintain and to strengthen the only human institution -- marriage -- that is specifically intended to safeguard that right and make it real for our children.
Legalized same-sex marriage almost certainly benefits those same-sex couples who choose to marry, as well as the children being raised in those homes. But changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate homosexual orientation further and perhaps definitively undermines for all of us the very thing -- the gift, the birthright -- that is marriage's most distinctive contribution to human society. That's a change that, in the final analysis, I cannot support.