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DORAN: Once we start redefining marriage, where do we stop?

Abuse of freedom leads to cultural collapse

- - Friday, March 22, 2013

Are the only people who still oppose homosexual “marriage” reactionaries, religious fanatics or haters? That’s what the loudest voices are suggesting, but are these accusations accurate, experiential and rational? Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing arguments regarding the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s conceivable that the Court, as it did with abortion in its 1973 ruling on Roe v. Wade, will rule that homosexual “marriage” is an American right. The snowball seems to be rolling downhill, and getting bigger.

This issue is often reduced to an emotional question: Why shouldn't two men or two women who care about each other be allowed to marry? The Obama administration is supportive of homosexual “marriage,” and even many libertarian Republicans have reversed their opposition.

As with other social issues, homosexual “marriage” is an ideological and emotional issue, where it is tempting to label people and institutions “good” or “bad,” but it’s more complex than that.

We live in an age, and a milieu, where we are encouraged to indulge every inclination and urge. We are warned that denying these urges is unhealthy, even psychologically dangerous, but history and experience have demonstrated that many inclinations and urges (kleptomania, sexual predation, attractions to alcohol and drugs, pedophilia, etc.) ought to be resisted. Happiness is not achieved by satisfying urges. In fact, greatness is often achieved by resisting urges.

If we are going to alter the definition of marriage to include relationships other than one man and one woman, aren’t we entitled to a rational explanation for why the following are nonsensical scenarios?

Why can’t four consenting men and three consenting women who desire to marry, marry? What is so special about two-person marriage if traditional marriage is no longer special? Haven’t the rights of these four men and three woman been abridged by preventing them from marrying?

Why can’t 12-year old boys and girls who are more intellectually advanced and more emotionally mature than many adults marry?

Why can’t a Muslim man and 50 consenting women who desire to establish a harem marry? 

Many modern Americans – just look at groups like PETA and Earth First – believe that other animals should have the same rights as human “animals.” Already, cats and dogs enjoy greater legal protection than human fetuses in the womb. So, why shouldn’t a man who wants to ensure that his pet is cared for after he dies be allowed to marry his pet?

Once the relationship between one man and one woman is no longer special and uniquely sanctioned, none of these alternate “unions” can be summarily dismissed. Yet if any union of any number of consenting persons can be considered “marriage,” then the potential for abuse and mistreatment is multiplied, even more so with children who are involved in these menages.

We know that one man, one woman relationships often fail; however, many produce a beautiful female-male complementarity, and children to ensure the future of the human race.

As to diversity, what is more diverse than a natural family, composed of a human mother, father and children? When so many children are neglected and abused, shouldn’t we be striving to reinforce stable families where both male-ness and female-ness are exemplified?

Every person is entitled to respect. It is hard to separate beliefs and behavior from the person, but actions ought to be judged, not a person’s heart, which cannot be known. Still, changing the very definition of marriage to satisfy the emotional urges of a select group goes far beyond respect. Moreover, it sets a culture on the dangerous path toward decline, eroding the institution most responsible for continuing the human race.

A million Frenchmen, and even a majority of Americans, can be wrong. Moral choices are connected to human freedom and how it is used, and sometimes abused. Using freedom well is a lifelong challenge.

Thomas M. Doran, a writer and educator, is the author most recently of “Terrapin” (Ignatius Press, 2012).