Why should government endorse same sex marriage?
May 22, 2012 2 Comments
The above fictional account touches on the gimmicky raffles the Obama campaign has been using to raise money. Small-time donors first had a chance to meet George Clooney, and now Sarah Jessica Parker. For Mother’s Day, there was the opportunity to win mom a tweet from the President himself.
The other issue I’ve depicted and invite you examine for the remainder of this post is gay marriage. The tendency in the public square is to conflate cultural practice with government endorsement. We saw this two weeks ago when some folks were upset with North Carolina’s poll but pleased with President Obama’s evolution. If we want a lucid discourse on marriage, we need to parse the cultural practice from government endorsement. The critical question to ask: why is this new task of endorsement—with its associated costs—necessary?
Supporters of gay marriage often say it’s a civil rights issue, inviting a comparison to the historic plight of racial minorities. But the gay community’s experience today is nothing like the suffering under Jim Crow. The collective socioeconomic status of homosexuals doesn’t reflect some sort of pervasive systemic bias. And Federal laws already protect against sexual orientation discrimination. The relative lack of exigency is a strike against the necessity of endorsement.
Yet, through personal experience, many feel gay marriage to have the moral force of a civil rights issue. “Equality!” is the cry. What is government supposed to equalize: individuals or relationships? The state certainly treats individuals differently. Men must sign up for selective service; women don’t. Divorcing mothers tend to win custody over fathers. And government justifiably treats relationships differently too: marriages are proscribed on the basis on age, blood relation, ability to consent, or number of partners in the relationship. Having strong feelings about equality doesn’t make government endorsement necessary.
The question remains, why endorse? One with an expansive view of government may say that endorsement validates or affirms the humanity of gay individuals. But personal affirmation is not the state’s business. We all have God-breathed dignity in spite of what government says about us. Dissidents living under oppressive regimes around the world know this. It’s our patrimony as Americans to know and live this truth without such pointed help from Uncle Sam.
In opening up two weeks ago, Vice President Biden gushed about commitment and love. But governmental recognition of marriage, which boils down to enforcing a contract, is an unsexy thing. It’s not about feeling love or commitment. It’s a man and woman assenting to being bound by the law, with the end of raising children well in mind. With the contract, the couple faces an increased cost of separation, and so does the court system for that matter. This is another reason why government shouldn’t recognize relationships it doesn’t have to. And it doesn’t have to because same sex couples never produce children naturally, while opposite sex couples do all the time. Simultaneously, they face pressures that would separate them from each other. It’s a bit ignoble, but that is the human condition.
All this to say government needn’t recognize gay marriage. In fact, the push for recognition sends the dangerous signal that government’s role is to correct every perceived societal slight, or worse, validate our personal feelings. Each of us should feel free to pursue any relationship or endeavor we find fulfilling. Just keep government out of it if you’re able.