In the years when I was taking a public stand against the church accepting homosexual practice, I wished that some of the people who supported me would go and support someone else. Normally these were people who despised homosexuals, not just disapproved of homosexual behaviour. To despise homosexuals as people is wrong. The old saying is relevant: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” And that applies to all sinners, including sexual sinners – heterosexual or homosexual.
My opposition to the church accepting homosexual behaviour was based on biblical teaching. The Bible and Christian Tradition consistently state that homosexual behaviour is wrong and, like the multitude of other sinful actions, most not related to sex, subject to God’s judgment. That was legitimate because I was addressing the church. But such an argument will have little weight in society, although there is a strong argument that the church has a moral and spiritual responsibility to warn people about sinful behaviour and its consequences, pointing out the path of forgiveness through faith and repentance. It is a very serious matter for the church to fail society by condoning or even to appear to condone sin.
The church has a perfect right to convey reasons why gay marriage is wrong. But it has to argue them on rational grounds in our democratic society. It can appeal to tradition – that the Christian Faith has always defined marriage as heterosexual and that argument has some weight.
The church also has a perfect right to regard gay marriage as invalid morally and to have nothing to do with it even if Parliament does approve it.
But we need arguments which will make sense to society. Simply to say that gay marriage will be bad for couples won’t make sense because people will say that if heterosexual marriage is commended by the church as beneficial to individuals and society, homosexual marriage will have the same good effects.
What are the arguments against gay marriage? They include the following:
1. Gay marriage’ is contrary to the fundamental meaning of marriage
It is obvious that marriage is related to procreation. Had human beings been creatures who reproduced asexually and had self-sufficient children there would have been no need for marriage. Marriage meets the human concern for the future of the race and so for the welfare of children. This concern includes the desire for the best context for the bringing up of children: a stable, committed family.
It is the nature of things that individual human beings are incomplete as far as reproduction is concerned. Male and female bodies are clearly complementary and reproduction is achieved in the context of a couple becoming one organically in sexual intercourse. This completeness is only possible with two sexually complementary individuals – male and female. It is a beautiful context for the conception of new life. No other sexual relationship can achieve this – only the union of a man and a woman.
This is the “givenness” of marriage which has been recognised by society and by all religions through the millennia. Neither the state nor the church can change what marriage is because of ill thought out concerns for homosexual equality. Homosexual relationships may be called “marriage” but they can never actually be marriage because they are incapable of procreation in themselves.
There will, of course, be arguments that all this is undermined by the existence of heterosexual couples who cannot or decide not to have children, or by the fact that same sex couples can adopt children or have children by AID etc. But these are special pleading. Human beings are clearly designed to be able to achieve procreation in heterosexual marriage
2. Children need a father and a mother
This is an obvious implication from the fact that children are born to heterosexual parents. It is the nature of things that children are born into a heterosexual family. Of course, there are many single parent families where the parent does an excellent job but most people would think that is not the ideal situation. We need not deny that same sex couples might also make a good job of rearing children. But children need the input of both close, loving male and a female role models. That is the nature of things. That is how children are best brought up and best learn from their parents.
Research on the effect of homosexual parenting on children is at an early stage, particularly in the case of male same sex partners. However research does show that children benefit most from being in a family led by biological parents of both sexes who are in a loving relationship.
I will refer here to a paper in the Journal of Law & Family Studies of the University of Utah by Dean Byrd who is Clinical Professor of Medicine, at the University of Utah School of Medicine with appointments in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and in the Department of Psychiatry.
(See “Gender Complementarity and Child-rearing: Where Tradition and Science Agree”
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.526.5729&rep=rep1&type=pdf). He writes: “There is no fact that has been established by social science literature more convincingly than the following: all variables considered, children are best served when reared in a home with a married mother and father. …. Children navigate developmental stages more easily, are more solid in their gender identity, perform better; in academic tasks at school, have fewer emotional disorders and become better functioning adults when they are reared by dual-gender parents. This conclusion, supported further by a plethora of research spanning decades, clearly demonstrates gender-linked differences in child-rearing that are protective for children. That is, men and women contribute differently to the healthy development of children. …. Children learn about male-female relationships through the modeling of their parents. For example, complementarity is provided by mothers who are flexible, warm and sympathetic, and fathers who are more directive, predictable and consistent …
“The critical contributions of mothers to the healthy development of children have been long recognized. No reputable psychological theory or empirical study that denies the critical importance of mothers in the normal development of children could be found. Recent research validates the importance of fathers in the parenting process, as well. …. Parke (1981) noted that infants whose fathers spent more time with them were more socially responsive and better able to withstand stressful situations than infants relatively deprived of substantial interaction with their fathers. A second female cannot provide fathering. In fact, McLanahan and Sandefur (1994) found that children living with a mother and grandmother fared worse as teenagers than did those adolescents living with just a single parent. Biller (1993) concluded that men who were father-deprived in life were more likely to engage in rigid, over compensatory, masculine, aggressive behaviors later …
He concludes: “The research is clear: mothers and fathers are essential for optimal child-rearing. Gender complementarity affords children the opportunity to thrive in the best possible environment. Other family forms are not equally as helpful or healthful for children. Substantial research demonstrates the negative effects of father hunger. One can only surmise the consequences of mother hunger.”
One factor is that statistically, same sex relationships are significantly less faithful than heterosexual couples and this could, of course, have a negative effect on children.
3. Approval of ‘gay marriage’ will undermine the institution of marriage
‘Gay marriage’ redefines marriage as basically about emotional fulfilment of adults rather than about procreation and the care and nurture of children. Already the de facto definition of marital love as primarily emotional undermines marriage and encourages divorce. We ‘fall in love’ and we ‘fall out of love’ so we split up. If we regarded marital love as primarily a commitment of the will we would have a firmer foundation for marriage. It would be more likely to weather the storm of varying emotions.
Marriage, being about procreation and the care and nurture of children, has a profound effect on society, which is why there is a social and legal aspect to marriage. To undermine marriage will therefore be harmful socially.
4. Approval of ‘gay marriage’ is likely to open the gates to other unhelpful practices
At this point, critics will groan at the “slippery slope” argument. But one would be very naive to believe that the approval of gay marriage would be an end of the liberalising trend. Already people are calling for multi-partner sexual relationships or “small group marriages.” There are people practising and advocating “polyamory [several/many loves], polygamy, polyandry, …. multipartner relationships, sharing their mates with others, open marriage, and/or group marriage.” Carla Bruni in an interview with Figaro in 2007 (quoted in Guardian 28.03.08) said: “Monogamy bores me terribly … I am monogamous from time to time but I prefer polygamy and polyandry.” Judith Stacey, Professor of Sociology and Streisand Professor of Contemporary Gender Studies at the University of Southern California advocates polyamory and group marriages (of any number or gender). If gay marriage has been approved on the basis of removing discrimination, why should these other practices not be approved, to remove discrimination from those who want them? However they would not only harm society by undermining marriage and the family but they would also cause emotional and physical harm to individuals.
In approving ‘gay marriage’ on the grounds of removing discrimination against homosexuals the government was thinking superficially and ignoring the harm to marriage, the family and society which will result from it.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction