Friday, June 29, 2007

A Liberal Explains Rejection of Same-Sex Marriage

Published: June 23, 2007
Could legalizing same-sex marriage actually strengthen marriage as a social institution? “If I could believe this,” writes David Blankenhorn, “I would support gay marriage without reservation.”
Mr. Blankenhorn is a self-described liberal Democrat and “marriage nut,” a veteran leader in the movement to strengthen marriage, and especially fatherhood, in the United States.
His book, “The Future of Marriage,” published last month by Encounter Books, explains why he doesn’t believe same-sex marriage will serve that cause. But given the charged nature of the subject, his book may also set a record for optimism about the human capacity for rational discussion.
Mr. Blankenhorn, who opposes same-sex marriage, believes that the national debate about the issue can be rescued from the polarized clash of gut reactions, religious injunctions, emotional appeals and accusations of bigotry. He even believes the debate could provide “an invaluable opportunity for Americans to have a serious national discussion about marriage’s meaning and future.”
The problem with that debate until now, as he sees it, is that “almost always, the main focus is ‘gay,’ not ‘marriage.’ ”
Mr. Blankenhorn cites what he calls the “wafer-thin” definitions of marriage that increasingly turn up in court decisions and polemical articles about same-sex ties: “a unique expression of a private bond and profound love”; “a private arrangement between parties committed to love”; “the exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other.”
Some of this commitment talk sounds sweet, and some of it, like “committed, interdependent partnerships between consenting adults,” sounds more like a real estate transaction than a marriage. But for Mr. Blankenhorn, these definitions miss the point. He is amused, for instance, at their neo-Victorian avoidance of any mention of sex. Similarly, these definitions dodge any mention of children and parenthood. They emphasize marriage as private and too diverse (“unique”) to be pinned down.
On the contrary, Mr. Blankenhorn writes, marriage is a “social institution,” a set of shared understandings and public meanings that shape expectations and conduct. Marriage has evolved and, yes, may be “constantly evolving”; here Mr. Blankenhorn moves through biology, prehistory, history and anthropology, from ancient Mesopotamia to the Trobriand Islands. But marriage fundamentally involves sexual intercourse and the affiliation — emotionally, practically and legally — between any child created and both parents.
“If this book had a subtitle,” Mr. Blankenhorn writes, “it would be ‘An Argument About Institutions.’ ” He captures his ideas of marriage as an institution with a quotation from a wedding sermon that the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer sent to a young couple from his Nazi prison cell. Bonhoeffer, soon to be executed for his role in a plot against Hitler, wrote, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
Mr. Blankenhorn readily admits that the “deinstitutionalization” of marriage that he fears — the redefinition of what he considers the nation’s “most pro-child institution” as a private adult relationship stripped of public meaning — has been under way for a long time. Deeply rooted in American individualism and the quest for self-fulfillment, that redefinition “has been growing for decades, propagated overwhelmingly by heterosexuals.” Same-sex marriage only further erodes marriage as a pro-child institution, he believes.
Mr. Blankenhorn wishes it weren’t so. Unlike many other opponents of same-sex marriage, he explicitly recognizes the rights and needs of gay men and lesbians to be respected and accepted and to form “loving, stable partnerships.”
The debate is not “a simple issue of good versus bad,” he writes. “The real conflict is between one good and another: the equal dignity of all persons and the worth of homosexual love, versus the flourishing of children. On each side, the threat to something important is real. It wastes everyone’s time to pretend that this question is an easy one, and that only bad people can fail to see the right answer.”

The rest of the article.

No comments:

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...