I write as a voter whose decision in ’04 was profoundly influenced by this issue and decided in a way that adversely affected Kerry. At the time I was still estranged from the mainstream of American politics, a situation not altogether rectified, as the differing personas featured on this site will attest. I either planned to vote for the Constitution Party nominee, Michael Peroutka, or for the re-election of George W. Bush. I grappled with an array of issues and implications and finally narrowed it down to one simple litmus test—if Bush would come out for a constitutional amendment in favor of traditional marriage, I’d vote for him. Bush did—so I did.
Why would this matter so much? Among Catholic voters, gay marriage tends to fall into the discussion along with embryonic stem-cell research and abortion, as the non-negotiable moral issues in politics. But while I am such a voter and agree that they are the “non-negotiables”, we should acknowledge that gay marriage is different in some important aspects. Abortion involves the taking of a human life. Stem-cell research—at least the kind opposed by the Catholic Church—involves unacceptable medical experimentation on human beings. You don’t need to be a Catholic, a Christian, or even to believe in God for that matter, to oppose these. Opposition to both can be rooted entirely in the notion that freedom stops where it begins to encroach on the freedom of another.
Gay marriage is different. I’m not directly affected if a couple guys want to go tie the knot. And the whole question of how far one can go in using one’s own moral code as the basis of law comes into question. The Catholic Church doesn’t advocate a ban on artificial contraception, choosing instead to rely on moral suasion rather than legal force. Can the same exist for gay marriage?
I don’t believe it can. Marriage is the foundation of the family and the family is the foundation of civil society. There might not be immediate effects by legalizing gay marriage, but the longtime erosion of this fundamental institution isn’t going to be a good thing. In spite of the often venomous protests of gay-rights advocates, this is a lifestyle that is fundamentally abnormal. It should not take an advanced degree in science or theology to know this. It should only take a rudimentary understanding of the human body to know that man and woman were made to be complementary, and not bedding down with their own. And if there is anything the human experience teaches us, it’s that you can’t go to war with nature without bad consequences.
The question of whether homosexuality comes about by nature or nurture is not relevant to this particular topic. I believe homosexuality is a lot like alcoholism (and I’m a recovering alcoholic, so that isn’t intended as the insult gay-rights activists want to turn it into). From my own experience with alcohol and later with other recovering people, I know there are certain ways our bodies and minds are wired, that we react differently to the sauce than other people. But we can also use spiritual means to move beyond a lifestyle that is inherently abnormal and unnatural. Similarly, I believe a person can be born with homosexual tendencies and desires. But that doesn’t make the answer to give legal legitimacy to those desires, any more than we should treat alcoholism by giving out free beer (though if we do, I can think of more than a few friends who will dance in the streets). Just as society has progressed to the point where it sees alcoholism as a disease in need of treatment, we need to progress to the point—on both Left & Right—of seeing homosexuality the same way. It’s not a lifestyle to be celebrated, contrary to what the Left says. It’s not necessarily something one chooses, contrary to what some of the Protestant preachers on the Right would argue. And most importantly, it’s a tendency and a desire, not the way to define an entire person, in spite of the gay-rights crowd rather bizarre desire to do this to themselves.
Gay marriage should not be legitimized. In most cases, I believe the right of the states to set their own laws should prevail. But that can’t work here. You can’t have a situation where a marriage is recognized in one state, but if the couple moves, it’s no longer valid. There must be a uniform law across the United States. And that’s why a constitutional amendment is so vital.
I still don’t know that gay marriage deserves to be casually mentioned in the same breath with abortion and stem-cell research. But it does deserve to be opposed and the natural order of man and woman should be enshrined in the Constitution.