Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Homosexual Marriage and the Real Issue

This is a letter I wrote in response to a column in my local universities' paper:

These past couple weeks, a recurring question has been that of homosexual "marriage." I appreciate attempts at objectivity by the editors of The _________, but I fear that the news story "____" (___) heavily favored one particular aspect of the debate.

The question at hand in same-sex marriages is not a question of whether or not to discriminate against homosexuals (all agree this is wrong). The issue, rather, is the nature of marriage itself. If the nature of marriage is tied to a certain kind of relationship that excludes same-sex relationships, it has nothing to say either way about the worth of anybody as a human being any more than a zoning prohibition would. The nature of marriage is a complex issue, but not to be confused with "merely" supernatural concern of the religious. The dispute over marriage lies squarely in knowledge available to all rational persons, connected with the deeper question of "What is a human being?"

The classical tradition, in which the Founding Fathers stand, holds that there are natural rights and laws which are prior to any societal determinations of their existence. Human relationships are, in this view, founded in rights and obligations that enable us to become perfect human beings - they are rights and obligations oriented "toward," and not for their own sakes. Sexuality, as a basic potential for relationship, is oriented toward that end of human life in two inseparable ways: union and potential to bring forth life. More simply, it is the potentiality to form a "household" - the basic foundation of society. Marriage, as the natural institution, is the formal "constitution" of that permanent sexual-unitive relationship. It cannot take place, by its very nature, where there is no potential to bring forth life in a stable relationship. Same-sex partners, not possessing this potentiality, cannot be considered to fulfill what that relationship in its essence means, let alone have a "right" to it.

Some endorse "civil unions" as an alternative, but this would be "charity" at the expense of truth. Homosexuals may seek these rights independently, but they cannot be granted to a marital union. These are "marital" rights - recognizing this relation as marital or granting equivalent rights to a "union" is to recognize this relationship as something it cannot be. While I have provided a justification of this view, it is to be noted that the burden of proof is entirely upon the advocate of these unions to prove: [1] the nature of marriage permits these unions, [2] that this is derived from a systematic picture of rights as a whole and [3] that this preserves, rather than undermines, the rest of our picture of rights. Otherwise, we have no reason to assent, even on the pain of being politically incorrect.

If society attempts to re-define or obfuscate the nature of marriage, it does so at its own peril. This position constitutes neither discrimination nor imposition of articles of faith, but a protection of natural rights and, ultimately, society itself.

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