Gay marriage is not inevitable

GUEST OPINION
2012-05-25T00:05:04Z Gay marriage is not inevitableLynn D. Wardle and Stephen Kent Ehat Daily Herald
May 25, 2012 12:05 am  • 

The following is a response to last week's Daily Herald poll question seeking local viewpoints on the question of gay marriage.

The Daily Herald asks whether same-sex marriage ("SSM") is inevitable. It is not; rather the unsustainability of SSM is inevitable.

It is ironic that this question should arise just days after 61 percent of the voters in North Carolina passed an amendment to their state constitution banning SSM. North Carolina is the 31st state in the U.S. to constitutionally forbid SSM.

In fact, in all 32 states where citizens have had the chance to vote on whether to allow or ban SSM, the voters have rejected it. The combined popular vote against SSM is over 60 percent and the recent North Carolina vote shows that to be no waning fluke but a solid, value-based position.

Some persons take a fatalistic viewpoint, believing that given the social forces that support SSM (such as the media, university faculties, journalists, and many popular politicians) gay marriage will likely prevail sooner or later.

Claims of the inevitability of social and political movements are common and commonly wrong. For many decades, even when we were in college in the 1970s, it was commonly asserted on nearly all university campuses and in the media that communism or some similar form of Marxist government was "inevitable." "History is on our side" was the slogan.

Yet by 1990 the iron curtain had crumbled and dozens of nations that had suffered under Marxist tyranny were liberated. Today, even on college campuses and in liberal newspapers one does not hear the old "Marxism is inevitable" refrain. Likewise, in two generations, people may marvel that people once thought that same-sex marriage was inevitable.

After two decades of vigorous campaigning in the U.S. for SSM, today SSM is legal in only six of 50 states. Around the world, support for SSM is even lower: only nine of 193 sovereign nations allow SSM. The national constitutions of over 40 nations expressly prohibit same-sex marriage. That hardly seems inevitable.

The equal rights and equal protection arguments for SSM avoid the underlying issues that should be addressed. "Equality" may provide a framework for stating moral and legal propositions, but "equality" has no substantive content of its own.

Are same-sex relationships "equal" to heterosexual relationships in constitutionally and morally relevant ways? In parenting?

In heterosexual marriage, a gender-equal institution, the sexes are interdependent with and indispensable to each other, integrating into one unit the combined strengths of the two genders. The same-sex relationship, by contrast and definition, comprises one sex only, excluding, indeed rejecting, the opposite sex as superfluous to the relationship.

Recognition of SSM would institutionalize a rejection of the interdependency and indispensability of both sexes to marriage and would teach that fundamentally the sexes do not need each other.

While a recent Gallup Poll reported "more than 50 percent of Americans in favor of" SSM, that was a simplistic yes/no poll; a better poll last week showed that only 38 percent support SSM (see May 14 CBS/NYT poll). Support for civil unions (24 percent) and support for SSM (38 percent), when combined, equals a majority; but when given a choice between SSM, civil unions, or only dual-gender marriage 62% of the people polled declined to approve of SSM.

It is significant that 10 states and at least seventeen nations have created civil unions for same-sex couples with practically the same rights as marriage, but they preserve the unique social and legal institution of "marriage" for dual-gender couples. Other states and nations that prohibit SSM offer limited, more narrowly tailored packages of benefits for same-sex couples.

After nearly two decades of vigorous public debate over legalization of SSM some people are tired of the subject. Pessimists see resistance to SSM as doomed to failure and ask if it would not be justified to simply give up the fight.

Yet preserving marriage is worth fighting for. Many world leaders, legislatures, and peoples of all cultural backgrounds (including, eloquently, Pope John Paul II and LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley) have urged citizens to stand up and speak up for marriage.

Marriage is the cornerstone of the family, the foundation of our entire social system. Unless you want to see social problems resulting from the breakdown of the family rise, government regulations and costly reparative programs proliferate, and taxes increase, legalizing SSM is not a good idea.

The Daily Herald asks important questions about our commitment and political will to defend a basic social institution. President Obama's recent support of SSM pressures the nation to legalize it. If people tire of the issue and cease to support dual-gender marriage, the advocates of SSM will prevail. But that need not happen.

Instead of giving in to despair, we encourage readers to recognize and speak up for the value of marriage. Now is the time to support and encourage the defense of marriage as a gender-integrating institution. If our nation and society are to survive and flourish, SSM must be rejected.

Can you think of any nation where marriage has disintegrated that has remained a great nation or survived very long? In the long run, dual-gender marriage will prevail.

Stephen Kent Ehat is an attorney who lives in Lindon. Lynn D. Wardle is a professor of Law at BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School, specializing in family law, constitutional law and bioethics.

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