1. I’m in favor of gays having equal rights, privileges, and responsibilities, with respect to traditional marriage, with the proviso that the new institution of same sex unions should be recognized (by government) by a name other than “marriage.” Gays are creating a new institution, and they should give this institution a new name.
2. Traditional, opposite-sex marriage (potentially applicable to the 97% of the population which is not gay) serves the interests of the individual and society by (a) fostering an environment for child-rearing (presence of mother and father) which benefits children, (b) laying down rules of behavior, grounded in loyalty and fidelity, which are especially important in stabilizing the inherently unequal relationship between an opposite sex couple, (c) removing the married couple from the reservoir fostering the perpetuation and transmission of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Elements of #2 obviously apply to same sex couples, but the benefits of marriage are particularly important to opposite sex couples because of (a) the issue of child-rearing in a mother/father household and (b) the much greater degree of biological inequality between opposite sex couples. Additionally, the marriage institution of critical importance for the 97% of the population which is not gay. Although the 3% which is gay deserves reasonable accommodation in the interests of non-discrimination and equal protection, this accommodation should not threaten the institution which is of critical importance to the 97%.
A useful precedent is the principle of reasonable accommodation in employment of disabled people, e.g.
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, an employment practice, or the work environment that makes it possible for a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy an equal employment opportunity.
A reasonable accommodation for gay people would be to create an institution precisely analogous to traditional marriage, but to call it by a different name, to recognize the reality that there are different considerations (and a different dynamic) between the union of opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples.
3. In what ways do eliminating the distinction between opposite sex and same sex unions threaten the institution of traditional marriage?
There is the potential for both short term and long term untoward effects.
In the first place, the reality is that the concept of homosexual marriage is absurd to a great many people, for reasons of entirely-valid biological obviousness (recognizing also — but giving absolutely no deference to — the obvious state of affairs that a great deal of true homophobia does exit, based on both religious and non-religious views).
In the second place, the institution of traditional marriage was developed over millennia to meet basic needs central to opposite sex couples. The pervasive universality of traditional marriage attests to the essential role of this institution in human existence and human progress. In Western Civilization, developing from the Code of Hammurabi and the Abrahamic religions, the condemnation of adultery became ingrained, along the importance of fidelity in the marriage vows. Thus, the concept of fidelity is of central importance in traditional marriage.
In Perry v Schwartzenegger (the California Proposition 8 gay marriage case) Judge Vaughn Walker’s arguments supporting his decision were based, to a large extent, on his “findings of fact” that gay marriage would not threaten traditional marriage. But his findings were based on the cases and evidence presented by incompetent lawyers supporting Proposition 8. These lawyers failed to offer the most relevant arguments, failed to present the most relevant evidence, and failed to call competent expert witnesses (one of Judge Walker’s “findings of fact” were that the two pro-Prop 8 expert witnesses were incompetent).
Judge Walker made a number of assertions, for starters:
Walker #1. Definition of marriage:
“Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents.”
Comment: According to Walker’s definition, all which is required is commitment to remain together; there is nothing at all about fidelity. Walker ignored a central tenet of the marriage contract which has existed since Hammurabi (secular) and Abraham (religious).
The gay view of marriage is different from the traditional view.
“A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.
“New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.
“That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”
For a very constructive consideration of the central importance of fidelity in marriage, and of differences between straight and gay attitudes towards the concept of fidelity, I strongly recommend the writings on the topic by a very thoughtful gay blogger, B. Daniel Blatt:
Fidelity is much more important in opposite sex relationships than in same sex relationships, because of the inherently unequal biological (including emotional) states of men on one hand and women on the other. Marriage imposes a set of rules which levels the playing field. The success of traditional marriage in so doing is quite remarkable. The average first marriage endures for more than two decades. In 80% of marriages, there is no infidelity and, in the remainder, the average number of partners outside of the marriage, over the entire course of the marriage, is 1.
One major societal benefit of traditional marriage is that it removes huge numbers of people of both genders from the reservoir which fosters the spread of sexually transmitted diseases — for an average of at least two decades, during the most sexually active period of most people’s lives (as an aside, no degree of political correctness should be allowed to obfuscate the inconvenient public health truths supporting the continuing prohibition of gays from serving as blood donors). Anything which would threaten this societal benefit of marriage for the 97% of people who are not gay, which has survived the test of time for millennia, deserves a much more careful degree of scrutiny than was possible, given the inept case presented by the pro-Prop 8 lawyers.
Continuing with Judge Walker’s assertions:
Walker #2. He stated that “Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex relationships.”
This conclusion is breathtaking in its certitude, given that gay marriage has only existed as an institution since 2001 (in the Netherlands) and it will take more than a generation to determine the ultimate impact of the reality of gay marriage on societal attitudes toward traditional marriage.
The conservative writer Stanley Kurtz has presented an argument that the experience in the Netherlands is already showing signs of adversely affecting traditional marriage:
Kurtz, of course, has been roundly criticized by gay marriage advocates, who find other factors than gay marriage to explain the grim statistics he presents. Here’s an example of a particularly cogent challenge to Kurtz:
There’s a big problem, though. Scandinavia didn’t have “true” gay marriage until very recently. Denmark, the alleged poster child for the long-term “success” of gay marriage, also didn’t have true gay marriage until very recently. What Denmark had were registered partnerships for same sex couples. These were not called marriages. In point of fact, the Danish experience is strongly supportive of my central arguments on this issue, which are, again, that same sex couples deserve equal rights, but same sex “unions” should not be called “marriage.”
Further supporting my point of view on this is the very best study to date (the “best evidence”).
Note that the above-referenced study received a prestigious award, attesting to its peer-review credibility:
Here’s what makes the study so important:
A. The study actually had a valid control (lacking in every other study to date).
B. The study examined the effect of both registered partnerships (civil unions) and “true” same sex marriage in the same country, and, thus, was capable of comparing and contrasting the effects of both civil unions and same sex marriages on traditional marriage.
The methodology was straightforward and convincing. Differences were statistically significant. The validity of the control was, itself, internally controlled and confirmed.
The findings were as follows:
A. Civil unions did not adversely affect the marriage rate (confirming the longer Danish experience with civil unions, cited above).
B. Gay marriages did adversely affect the marriage rate (reduce the number of opposite sex couples entering into marriage).
It is very important to note that we are still in the very early stages of the gay marriage experiment (even in the Netherlands, where gay marriage has been in existence for the longest period of time). That fact that statistically significant adverse effects are being observed at such an early time period (first 5 years), in a well controlled study, destroys Judge Walker’s conclusion that the existence of gay marriage does not change societal views of traditional marriage. Again, this isn’t an indictment of Walker as an “activist judge.” Walker was simply being an umpire, calling balls and strikes, in the pitches thrown for his inspection. The pro-Prop 8 lawyers were, again, incompetent in presenting such an incomplete and poorly supported case.
Let’s conclude with other important findings of fact, made by Walker:
Walker #3. “The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment” and “having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.”
These latter conclusions were based on studies of small numbers of families with limited follow-up, for example:
“And having gay parents doesn’t make children gay themselves, she [the study author] tells the newspaper. There is no indication in her research, she says, that suggests children’s sexual preferences are determined by their parents.
“Some don’t agree. Sociologist Tim Biblarz of the University of Southern California tells USA Today that there have not been enough long-term, large-scale research projects to definitively say what effect the sexual orientation of parents has on children.”
I want to conclude by considering the issue of nature versus nurture, with respect to sexual orientation. I think it’s obvious that there is a strong nurture component. The best existing evidence is found in the identical twin studies.
Basically, in pairs of identical twins with at least one homosexual, in 68% of cases the other identical twin was NOT homosexual! In comparison, in control groups consisting of non-identical twins and non-twin sibling pairs, in 79% of cases with at least one homosexual, the other sibling was NOT homosexual. The overall incidence of homosexuality among all subjects in the study as 2.9%. The differences between sexual orientation concordance between identical twins and non-identical siblings were NOT statistically significant. The differences between the incidence of homosexuality in all study participants (2.9%) and in non-identical siblings from pairs with at least one homosexual (21%) was highly significant.
These data constitute the best existing evidence concerning the question of nature versus nurture regarding sexual orientation, and they support of a very strong role for nurture, to state it very conservatively. These data relate directly to Judge Walker’s claim that the gender composition of a pair of parents can be confidently stated to have no adverse influence on a child’s “adjustment” (Walker’s word). The data simply are not there to support Judge Walker’s assertion. I will not attempt to argue that gay sexual orientation represents a state of mal-”adjustment.” I will state that gay sexual orientation presents sufficient problems (including those of exposure to infectious disease) for the average person to justify a parent’s wish to raise a child in a societal environment which does not increase the likelihood of imprinting gay ideation.
I conclude that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law, including reasonable accommodation in recognition of actual physical differences (including most certainly the gender composition of committed couples). I conclude that reasonable accommodation should not include increasing entirely-avoidable risks to society, women, and children. Granting same sex couples equal rights and protections under the law, and applying a term other than “marriage” to same sex unions would best serve the needs of the individuals (and their rights, under the Constitution) and the equally compelling interests of society.