Gay Marriage in California

Well, California has gone the way of Massachusetts in having courts rule a right to gay marriage. There is a reasonable chance that the voters in California will amend their constitution to reverse the court. However, in the long term, it is hard to see how gay marriage will not eventually become accepted. This is because while there are compelling reasons not to approve gay marriage, acknowledging those would require us to rearrange our priorities as a society in ways which are not explicitly designed to maximize personal satisfaction, choice and protection from normal consequences of our own behavior. IOW, we would all need to agree to be much more responsible, self-sacrificial human beings and in the culture we live in, it is hard to imagine that happening.

At this point, marriage has been defined in many people’s eyes as primarily an arrangement meant to affirm and support the love, comfort and happiness of individual adults within it. Given that marriages, particularly marriages with children, involve a great deal of discomfort, many feeling which are far from loving and sometimes long periods of unhappiness, this idea undermines both the long term sustainability of individual marriages and the justification for societal support and encouragement of marriage.

IMO, the covenant marriage which requires sacrifice of adult desires to the needs of children and in service to the marriage is dead. Society has been and will continue to abandon any sense of obligation for supporting marriages through policy and social norms. (Look at our tax policies, our workplace standards, our social services and ask yourself if any of these encourage the formation and continuation of child centered marriages. Pretty clearly the answer is no.) Given that mother-father marriage is the only form of family which consistently (although not uniformly of course) raises children who become stable, responsible and self-sufficient human beings, this is very much to our detriment.

In another 30 to 40 years marriage as a permanent arrangement, centered around raising new generations of men and women of character will exist only on the fringes. Perhaps some churches will rise to the challenge and provide the support for marriage which society and law used to. No doubt there will be some social service agencies who will see the damage done to society by raising generations of children outside of stable mother-father marriages and step up to try and counter the abandonment of marriage. But for the most part, marriage will continue to devolve into just another lifestyle choice of no concern to any other than the adult participants of it.

Of course, it would be idiotic to lay this at the feet of gay marriage. Gay marriage is simply the most startling landmark on the long road we’ve been traveling. Gay marriage is the inevitable result of society’s abandonment of marriage, children and a sense of responsibility to ideas and things larger than ourselves. It’s just a nail in the coffin confirming that we have abandoned the very ideas and things any society needs in order to be successful through generations. And really, all of us who have bought into this ethos of radical adult independence and persuit of personal desire over the good of our families and communities bear as much, if not more responsibility for that than any gay or lesbian wanting to marry another man or woman.

For a more detailed explanation of why I think gay marriage is bad for our society, see here.

To read about the French government’s rather traditionalist rejection of the idea of gay marriage see here.

To read about the self-proclaimed (in a full page ad in the NYT, no less) goals of mainstream gay rights activists which go well beyond the right to marry, see here.


9 thoughts on “Gay Marriage in California

  1. Of course, Rebecca, it is possible one could see a different pattern at work as well. Which is that there are actually gay and lesbian people who feel the same profound longing for family-orientedness that you describe. Granted, there is certainly a rather visible sub-culture that is self-destructive, indulgent and thumbs its nose at all traditional values. I think over time that culture is being rejected by more and more people, and at younger ages. For so many years, it was the only game in town, the only place for people like me to go.

    Have you ever considered, seriously considered, the possibility that God’s will is actually being done here, and that it is social conservatives, by stubbornly refusing to concede any possibility that new information and/or points of view might require a change in their thinking, by being all-too-willing to spiritually cut off their own children and those of their neighbors, who have been in grave error and caused tremendous harm?

    Being in support of gay marriage does not require one to support no-fault divorce, pre-marital sex, abortion on demand, or other instances of social permissiveness that many believe have weakened families and hurt children. All it requires is a willingness to see, God’s mysteries at work, that some of his creation seem to find their “spouse” in a member of the same sex. Is it possible that the longing for family is a God-given part of the human condition, and in ignorance and misunderstanding, a small minority of people inexplicably wired differently have been thwarted from acting on that longing?


  2. Hey, Jim! Good to hear from you.

    You know, I know that there are gay folks who are fighting for gay marriage out of a longing to be able to take part in old fashioned domestic ideals of responsibility and self-sacrifice. Unfortunately, I think it is impossible to argue that it is that desire which has motivated the fight and gotten us to this point. If it were so that would represent a radical break from pretty much every development in family, sexuality and marriage which has taken place over the last 40 years. And really, there’s a pretty straight line between the fight for gay marriage and the ideas which have animated every other step on the road to family breakdown and sexual anarchy.

    We only need to look at the arguments which have surrounded this issue to see that the underlying assumptions and positions which have been used to advocate for gay marriage are a profound departure from traditional understandings of marriage and family. The most obvious one I can think of is the persistent comparison between gay marriage and interracial marriage. However, in order for this to be a valid argument, one would have to believe that the difference between a man and a woman was of no more significance than the difference between a black man and a white man. This represents a radical departure from any traditional understanding of sex, humanity and marriage.

    To be perfectly honest, I am well aware that my argument is rather insensitive to homosexual persons. I have written a whole series of posts arguing against gay marriage that hardly speak at all about actual gay relationships. And I have not said anything about what I think would the proper societal view of/response to gay relationships. It is not because I just don’t care about homosexual people. The problem is best put in an old maxim about legal rulings: “hard cases make bad law”. We need to write our laws to serve the best interests of society. Inevitably this will require a trade off between what is best for some individuals and what is best for the larger society. Sometimes we get that balance wrong and gross injustices which prevent people from being able to achieve any semblance of a normal life take place, such as slavery or Jim Crow laws. However, if we make our rules according to the exceptions, we will often wind up causing greater harm to society as a whole than we are preventing for those individuals who are helped by these changes. While I understand the difficult position which gay people are in with regard to their committed relationships, I am far more concerned with the effect that basically buying into the arguments which have brought us to the point of accepting gay marriage will have on the 98% of the population which is not homosexual. I think we are in grave danger of using hard cases to make bad law.

    To be perfectly frank, I’m not actually sure what our societal response to gay relationships ought to be. As a religious person, I would have a certain response to someone in my religious community who was dealing with this issue. However, I have no interest in foisting this onto people who haven’t voluntarily chosen to be part of my religious community (heck, even within my own religious community, I wouldn’t foist anything, only counsel). I am willing to be persuaded that the status quo is untenable (although honestly, I can’t say that I am there yet). I am completely opposed to validation of gay parenting as acceptable because I think it is unfair to a child not to have primary, permanent, dependent relationships with their mother and their father (ie both sexes). I know that this may be painful to some gay people who would like to be parents, but for me this would be one of those “life isn’t fair” things. However, the issue of parenting aside, I would be willing if it is necessary to try to find a way to address legitimate problems (as opposed to hurt feelings – I’m not very touchy-feely that way) that the status quo causes. It’s just that I think that legalizing gay marriage is the wrong solution which will take us further down the rabbit hole.

    Anyhow, we probably won’t agree on this, but that’s where I’m coming from.


  3. Well, the mother and father business is all very nice when mother and father want their children. You know as well as I that there are many children who are adopted and/or fostered into same-sex households who are doing just fine. In a perfect world, their parents would never have abandoned or neglected them.
    In a perfect world, China’s “One Child” policy would not have resulted in thousands of babies left in orphanages.

    Could you really look a child in the eyes and tell her, “sorry, kid — your parents don’t count. They should never have dared challenge society and raise you.” You’re doing that in print whether you know it or not.

    Could you look into the eyes of a child and say: “because your father died in the war and your mother won’t marry again, and we think you need to have both a father and a mother, so we’re going to take you out of this household and put you with a mother and a father, because, hey, life isn’t fair.”

    Two of my women friends have made a lot of sacrifices to adopt a child from China, they have thoughtfully sought out and nurtured friendships with men, including myself, a blessing I thank God for regularly. Because unlike the gay equivalents of Rush Limbaugh out there, of course they know that there are differences between men and women, and that its healthy for kids to have significant close familial relationships with people of both sexes. Just like single or widowed parents find a way, so do they. I just can’t but see God’s Spirit at work here. Talk about children that are wanted!

    What it really comes down to is this. The people who used to kill themselves, or force themselves into traditional marriages of misery in order to try to live their religious upbringing, or who lived lives in isolation, either in the margins as outcasts or cloistered in rigidly controlled, emotionally anorexic lives, all in the name of avoiding intimacy of any kind … these people are no longer waiting for your or anyone else’s permission. Their sitting in the front of the bus, demanding their dignity as human persons, and they’re living their lives seriously.


  4. And I guess, I do disagree with you re: whether this battle is strictly being fought as a continuation of a “permissiveness/screw society it’s about me me me”.

    Believe it or not, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, many gays and lesbians were rather severely attacked by their fellows for saying that marriage was important. The point of view in the “gay lib” wing was that gays were to live out a different morality of sexuality, one that was sex positive, and this talk of marriage was homophobic, sex- and self-hating rhetoric from people who would perpetuate a dreaded hetero institution of marriage.

    Andrew Sullivan took a lot of flak from the gay political leadership of the time for his efforts to urge marriage as a goal. But there were a lot of gay and lesbian people who thought like he did, and as civil rights protections and society made it easier for these people to start speaking up, you’ve seen a shift toward marriage and family.

    To me, it’s tremendously good and important that marriage, monagamy and family are held up as ideals for gay people. The churches mostly threw out these children of God, and the bars, bathhouses and predators were waiting. We’ve learned better, and we’re reclaiming our spirituality and our dignity.


  5. I think the scenario you’ve laid out is a scary one. I don’t think the death of traditional marriage is on the horizon, but I think this is a story that people need to hear if only to scare them into addressing the decline of our social and cultural institutions.

    Just yesterday, I wrote a post on how the recent California Supreme Court decision reversing a ban on same-sex marriage that was passed through a ballot initiative is a threat to our Democracy, because it overturned the clearly expressed will of the people.

    I, too am conflicted about what our society’s response should be to same-sex unions. I think that one strong argument in favor of same-sex unions is that they could create thousands of stable homes for children seeking adoptive parents. Some may argue that the only suitable home is one with a mother and a father, and I would agree this is the ideal, but there is no such thing as a perfect home and these children are in desperate need.

    I’m going to post a link to your post on my blog at so that more people can be shocked and frightened into action by the scenario you have laid out.


  6. The activists who you describe as mainstream are not mainstream at all, or if they are, I and my friends don’t recognize them as such.

    There is so much suspicion and antipathy (on both sides) that needs to be overcome before we will really know each other, I fear. All I can suggest is that we collectively try to fight the extreme voices that paint the general “other” in the most vivid, shocking, extreme terms.

    I know most social conservatives don’t actively hate gay people, and I hope more social conservatives will seek to become acquainted with their gay neighbors, and not just people that they see on the media or at poltical rallies.


  7. Jim, I must admit I’m not real up on who’s who in gay rights activism. However, the signatories of the “Beyond Gay Marriage” statement for which a full page ad in the NYT was run include prominent people including:

    Gloria Steinem
    Judith Stacey, NYU sociologist in Gender Studies
    Georgetown law professors Robin West and Chai Feldblum
    Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod of Love Makes a Family, Inc.
    Kenji Yoshino, Yale Law Professor, also blogs on legal matters at
    Princeton religion professor Cornel West
    writer Barbara Ehrenreich
    Pat Clark, former executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation

    These aren’t members of NAMBLA of some other crazy group. Some of these people are well known outside of their gay rights advocacy.

    The statement which they put out made it clear that they saw same-sex marriage as not far enough. They advocate for recognizing polygamy and polyamory, and for supporting gay couples who impregnate lesbian couples and share the child as a large group family. They insist that marriage should not be afforded any legal or economic privaledges.

    There is no recognition in it of the primacy of the needs of children, of our need to encourage people to refrain from putting children in the position of being raised outside of mother-father marriages through deliberate or irresponsible behavior. They are actively and openly advocating for a vision of marriage which is centered exclusively around two (or more) people who have had their relationship affirmed through public declaration and labeled as marriage.

    Unfortunately, far from being an aberation, this is precisely the thinking and speech which has paved the way for gay marriage. The only times I have ever seen the more conservative vision of gay marriage (normalizing a life-long commitment bringing all of the social benefits of stable families and productive citizens who are minimally dependent on the government) is in conversations with conservatives. Then it’s a “I thought you people were all about marriage” sort of thing rather than a deeply held philosophical belief. I’m afraid you and your friends are probably a minority within a minority. Or at very best a silent majority within a minority. In which case, gay Americans would hold a set of values about marriage, sex and family which huge numbers of heterosexual Americans are unwilling to abide by.

    From where I’m sitting (and this includes knowing gay people myself), this whole thing by all evidence does seem to me to be one more step on the frighteningly short road to completely deconstructing marriage and family as it has been known in one form or another for eons. Again, to blame this on gay marriage is idiotic – heterosexuals took us 90% of the way all of their own. But here we are and I doubt that there’s any turning back.


  8. I have really enjoyed your blog. I agree with almost everything you say. I am also a feminist in the true sense and choose to be a homemaker and mother.

    I understand completely what you are saying about the death of traditional marriage. It has been sick since the late 19th century.


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