Myth #1: Marriage is fundamentally a voluntary union of persons in a committed relationship… how we think about homosexuality has been enormously influenced by pairing homosexuality with words that already had a positive semantic range, such as gay. In David Kupelian book The Marketing of Evil, he showed that these and many other language shifts did not just happen, but arose out of a deliberate strategy for changing the way Westerners perceive certain key issues.
The same thing is now occurring in the debate over same-sex marriage. Almost without anyone taking notice, our society has begun to talk about marriage as a voluntary union of persons in a committed relationship, rather than a union of a man and a woman. Never before has marriage been spoken about in this way and the implications are profound. Because of how the brain works, this shift in how we talk about marriage has been attendant to a shift in how we think about marriage. Unconsciously we begin wondering: if marriage is really the union of persons in a committed and loving relationship, why shouldn’t gay people be allowed to participate in this institution?
As same-sex marriage was discussed in the public discourse of various English-speaking countries (first Canada, then Britain, and now America), it was almost universally taken for granted not simply that marriage ought to refer to the union of persons, but that the essence of marriage always has been the union of persons. As a result, less and less people, even among the Christian community, understand marriage to be intrinsically and inviolably heterosexual.
Myth #2: Gay marriage legislation would remove the ban on same-sex couples getting marriageThe issue of same-sex marriage is often framed in terms of a choice between either preventing or allowing gay people to get married. When the issue is framed in these terms, that is usually a good indication that the person has fallen victim to another key myth. The reality is that legislation to introduce gay marriage would not remove a ban on same-sex couples getting married because no such ban exists. There is no more of a ban on same-sex couples getting married then there is a ban on two-wheeled unicycles or square triangles. The very nature of what marriage is necessarily excludes same-sex unions.
Now government could always change the definition of marriage. However, as I pointed out in my earlier article, ‘Apples, Oranges and Gay Marriage‘, few people on the other side of the debate are upfront that this is what they are pushing for. Instead they will almost always frame the question in terms of giving same-sex couples access to an existing institution. The reality—which Douglas Farrow drew attention to in his book Divorcing Marriage—is that a ban on same-sex couples getting married only exists if you first start out by assuming that marriage is a union of persons rather than a union between a man and a woman. But to assume this is already to presuppose the conclusion of one side of the debate, which is why most arguments for same-sex marriage are ultimately circular.
There is more going on here than merely a lapse in logic. By framing the issue in terms of a supposed “ban” on same-sex marriage, the media has followed the gay-rights lobby in subtly altering the categories in which the debate is taking place. This is analogous to the way the media altered the terms of the abortion debate by deliberately framing the issue in terms of ‘choice.’
Myth #3: Gay marriage is the most tolerant option… The problem with this argument from liberty is not simply that it is false, although it is. The problem is that it is the exact opposite of the truth, as I have already suggested in my article ‘Will the Real Enemies of Liberty Please Stand Up!’ It is those who oppose same-sex marriage who are the true champions of liberty. Indeed, if gay “marriage” is ever legalized, it is likely to result in unprecedented restrictions on freedom of speech and even thought. This was a point that S. T. Karnick drew attention to back in 2008. The Director of research for The Heartland Institute pointed out that,
The issue, it’s important to remember, is not whether society will allow homosexuals to ‘marry.’ They may already do so, in any church or other sanctioning body that is willing to perform the ceremony. There are, in fact, many organizations willing to do so … Such institutions either explicitly allow the consecration or blessing of same-sex ‘marriages’ or look the other way when individual congregations perform such ceremonies.No laws prevent these churches from conducting marriage ceremonies—and nearly all Americans would agree that it is right for the government to stay out of a church’s decision on the issue. Further, any couple of any kind may stand before a gathering of well-wishers and pledge their union to each other, and the law will do nothing to prevent them. Same-sex couples, or any other combination of people, animals, and inanimate objects, can and do ‘marry’ in this way. What the law in most states currently does not do, however, is force third parties—individuals, businesses, institutions, and so on—to recognize these ‘marriages’ and treat them as if they were exactly the same as traditional marriages. Nor does it forbid anyone to do so.An insurance company, for example, is free to treat a same-sex couple (or an unmarried two-sex couple) the same way it treats married couples, or not. A church can choose to bless same-sex unions, or not. An employer can choose to recognize same-sex couples as “married,” or not. As Richard Thompson Ford noted in Slate, ‘In 1992 only one Fortune 500 company offered employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners; today hundreds do.’In short, individuals, organizations, and institutions in most states are currently free to treat same-sex unions as marriages, or not. This, of course, is the truly liberal and tolerant position. It means letting the people concerned make up their own minds about how to treat these relationships. But this freedom is precisely what the advocates of same-sex ‘marriage’ want to destroy; they want to use the government’s power to force everyone to recognize same-sex unions as marriages whether they want to or not.The effects of such coercion have already been felt in some places. Adoption agencies, for example, like any other organization, ought to be able to choose whether to give children to same-sex couples, or not. But in Massachusetts, where same-sex ‘marriage’ has been declared legal, these agencies have been forced to accept applications from same-sex couples or go out of business.What’s at issue here is not whether people can declare themselves married and find other people to agree with them and treat them as such. No, what’s in contention is whether the government should force everyone to recognize such ‘marriages.’ Far from being a liberating thing, the forced recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’ is a governmental intrusion of monumental proportions.
• Related: To Understand Liberal Issues Like Gay Marriage Correctly, It Is Vital to Get the Basic Premises Right
Myth #4: Gay marriage will bring greater equalityThroughout this year there have been near-daily reports of prominent folks coming out for marriage “equality.” The basic idea is simple: if heterosexual couples can get married, isn’t it simple fairness that homosexual couples can also get married?
The idea that gay marriage will bring greater equality is a total myth. The reason it is a myth is because it is not true, and the reason it is not true is because it is based on a meaningless idea and only meaningful statements can have a truth value.
Myth #5: Gay marriage will not undermine the traditional familyThe Republicans who now support gay marriage have been keen to emphasize that it is consistent with “family values” and that it will strengthen rather than undermine the institution of marriage. Senator Rob Portman reflected this idea when he came out for gay marriage.
… It is, in fact, a myth that gay marriage will not undermine the traditional family. The reason this is a myth is because, once again, it is the exact opposite of the truth.
By making marriage simply the formalization of an intimate relationship between two adults, same-sex marriage does two things. First, it undermines the organic connection between marriage and child-bearing; second, it undermines the centrality of sex in marriage, including sexual faithfulness. Both of these things have profound ramifications for how we understand the relationship between the family and the state, ultimately undermining the integrity of the traditional family and, consequently, “family values.”
… You see, once our understanding of “union” in marriage is reduced to “a loving relationship between two committed adults”, then what two people do with their bodies becomes extrinsic rather than intrinsic to that union.
… a person might have a “committed and loving relationship” with any number of other persons without it being marriage. Because of this, the only way that a committed and loving relationship can be upgraded into marriage is if the state steps in and declares that relationship to be a marriage, in much the same way as the state might declare something to be a corporation or some other legal entity. By contrast, traditional marriages have and could exist without the state’s recognition because it is fundamentally a pre-political institution. Marriage is pre-political in the sense that it has intrinsic goods attached to it, not least of which is the assurance of patrimony and thus the integrity of inheritance. Such goods do not exist by the state’s fiat even though the state may recognize, regulate or protect them.
… the philosophy behind same-sex marriage is one which makes both marriage and family entirely the construct, and therefore the province, of positive law. … Unlike heterosexual marriage, which has an existential fixity that can be recognized within a state of nature, gay marriage is meaningless without the mechanisms of government to legitimize it.
… my basic point is very simple: without the intervention of government, there is no a priori existential state of affairs that marks certain types of same-sex relationships out as being marriage within a state of nature. Unlike heterosexual marriage, which exists in nature and is then recognized by the state, homosexual marriage is an abstract legal entity with no natural or existential existence. … at the centre [of traditional marriage] there is a recognizable reality that is pre-legal, and the hard cases arise by virtue of how far removed we are from the centre.
… All this has enormous implications for how we understand the relationship between the family and the state, to return to my point that gay marriage undermines the traditional family. By rearranging the very nature of what it means to be married, gay marriage raises the question of whether family and marriage can be considered pre-political institutions on the basis of natural and biological realities and intrinsic goods. This is because such natural and biological realities are being expunged from the essence of what we are now told marriage is and always has been, namely the union of persons through a committed and loving relationship.
… we can realize the logical consequence of same-sex marriage and say that the only thing left to determine what actually makes something a complete marriage or a legitimate family is the law itself. But have we really considered the implications of saying that traditional marriages and families are entirely the construct of the state?
There is no escaping from this problem. If homosexuals and heterosexuals are really “equal” before the law, then logically heterosexual marriage must collapse into being little more than a legal construct as well. Indeed, marriage and family become mere adjuncts of the state after the removal of the de facto conditions that make the traditional family a pre-political institution in the first place. No longer is family something that, in the words of Douglas Farrow, “precedes and exceeds the state.” No longer is the family a hedge against the totalitarian aspirations of the state because no longer is the family prior to the state.
… Most people are not aware of how gay marriage will undermine the traditional family because it does so in ways that are subtle and ubiquitous. However, once gay marriage is introduced into a nation, it undermines the integrity of every family and every marriage in the nation. It does this by rearranging the family’s relationship to the state. The state which legalizes gay marriage is a state that has assumed the god-like power to declare which collections of individuals constitute a ‘family.’ But by this assumption government declares that both marriage and family are little more than legal constructs at best, and gifts from the state at worst. In the former case, marriage and family lose their objective fixity; in the latter case, we become the wards of the state.
— a post which quoted a prominent constitutional theorist from the 1830s (Joseph Story: "Marriage is … in its origin a contract of natural law … It is the parent, and not the child of society; the source of civility and a sort of seminary of the republic") as well as a prominent constitutional theorist from today (Harry Jaffa: "…it is human families or their representatives, rather than "abstract" human individuals, who found or institute political communities" and "Only as one understands the priority of the partnership of male and female in the generation, nurture, and education of the young can one understand the relationship of individuality to community in the political order").