Some gay and lesbian people seem to feel that their somewhat ambiguous social and cultural status requires them to tread lightly, unpresumptuously defending the validity of their families and values while humbly requesting the recognition of their basic human and civil rights. And this attitude is quite understandable in members of an oppressed minority that has been legally marginalized, demonized by political propaganda and religious dogma and victimized by hateful people who think that their anti-homosexual prejudices are justified by religious and cultural traditions. However, the people who should be on the defensive are those who support DOMAs and other oppressive policies like the Federal Marriage Amendment, for the tenability of their collective positions rests solely upon the vast majority’s uneasiness with regard to homosexuality — either as it pertains to others or to its own tendencies and temptations.
Advocates of gay rights who are also members of the recognized majority of heterosexuals feel no such obligation to exercise political humility, which leaves us free to go on the offensive and demand that same-sex marriage be recognized as a civil and human right. And the case in favor of those demands is an excellent one filled with pragmatic arguments that are guaranteed to leave the bigoted and homophobic self-described “protectors” and “defenders” of marriage positively speechless — or at least flailing about, muttering passages from The Book of Leviticus as they desperately rummage through their well-worn talking points playbook of red herrings, straw men and slippery slopes in vain attempts to re-gain the upper hand they never really had, save for the vast majority’s discomfort with regard to the natural variations of human sexuality.
However, going on the offensive and making demands for human and civil rights that should already be recognized in a free and secular society does not address how the legal recognition of same-sex marriage is imperative to defending its meaningfulness as a social institution and how the redefinition of marriage is essential to protecting it from the unavoidable implications of changing cultural mores with regard to the significance of gender in contemporary marriage and society.
To treat marriage as if it is nothing more than a license for two people to have sex and reproduce (as if one is required in the first place) diminishes the idea that loving commitment, trust, loyalty, mutual respect and cooperation are the basic moral values that are essential to maintaining successful marriages and building strong families. If we keep prioritizing the basic biological function of procreation as a value in marriage, we will eventually lose sight of how the moral values commitment, trust, loyalty, mutual respect and cooperation help married couples and their children to better deal with the challenges of family life in the modern world.
Defining families according to a conventional model of demographic composition is especially cynical in these days when families are perceived by so many as being in a state of decay. The suggestion that the foundations of successful marriages and strong families are biological connections and specific configurations of people demeans the true purpose of families and diminishes the value of the bonds of love, commitment, trust and loyalty that are the most significant factors needed to keep families stable and healthy. The recognition of a diversity of family configurations will strengthen these worthwhile family values because moral emphasis of marriage will shift from a clinical demographic prescription to a model in which people make serious commitments to work toward meaningful and purposeful relationships.
The notion that children are better off being raised in a home with a mother and a father (or the equivalent) distracts us from the fact that biology and demographics have never been guaranteed to provide a good and loving home for children. Effective childrearing requires a moral character that is not relevant to genetics or statistical designs. Children learn about how a good marriage works by seeing two loving people treating one another with consideration and respect and doing their level best to communicate and cooperate with one another (especially as this pertains to productive conflict resolution), not by merely observing an example of traditional gender identification within a specific demography.
When family composition and gender roles are seen as a priority over the coping skills that are conducive to productive human interactions and relationships there is a danger that children will get the mistaken impression that the foundations of successful marriages and strong families are simple and automatic as long as the demographic and biological requirements are in place, which devalues the importance of the moral character they must develop in order to someday have successful marriages and strong families of their own.
The “Culture War” is a Bad Influence upon our Children
We should all be worried about how the children will be affected by the adults battling with one another over sexual and gender issues rather than getting together on the practical issues in order to help make a better world for children and families.
The combative climate of a “culture war” over the recognition of same-sex marriage is not only politically divisive but also diverts attention away from the practical problems and goals of families in today’s society. The controversies surrounding family demographics, gender roles and sexual orientation keep traditional and non-traditional families from the realizing that they have more commonalities than differences when it comes to the challenges and objectives of people who hope to have successful marriages and strong families in these uncertain times.
Issues such as family finances, insurance, taxes and parents’ work schedules affect all families, despite their individual configurations. And all good parents, notwithstanding their marital status or other personal circumstances, are concerned about their children’s safety and health care and how extra-curricular activities, youth sports and the entertainment industry might negatively or positively affect their children. There are over 1000 federal and state laws regarding the protections, benefits, responsibilities and obligations of marriage and all manner of families should be working together to ensure that our state and federal marriage legislation protects the basic, pragmatic interests of families and children.
Averting the Grave Threats to Marriage in 21st Century Society
In these tumultuous days of casual sexual relationships, no-fault and “quickie” divorces and cavalier attitudes toward marital fidelity, the institution of marriage is under siege from the continuing shifts in social and cultural mores of the last half-century. As a result, these changes in our modern society could cause marriage to become obsolete, which is a grave threat to the basic foundations of society and civilization itself.
Since there has never been a practical way to turn back the tide of social change, we must now reinvent marriage to preserve its viability as an institution that brings people together in love, commitment, loyalty, trust, mutual respect and cooperation to form the essential building blocks of civilized society known as families. In order to strengthen the social institutions of marriage and family, we must expand their definitions to include more people so that we can prevent the moral values that make successful marriages and strong families from being lost and forgotten in the midst of the pointless battles of a senseless culture war over the relatively trivial issues of sexual orientation and gender identification.
The gender roles and sexual preferences of loving people who possess the moral values and courage to actually want to make a real commitment in these confusing days of moral turbulence should be the least of our worries. In fact, such people — be they gay or straight — should be applauded for their fortitude and encouraged in their committed and loving relationships no matter the conventionality of the demographic configuration they believe will be most conducive to the success of their marriages and the strength of their families.