In the debate about same-sex marriage, politicians and the media generally claim that it’s a self-evident right for people of the same sex to be able to marry, because of basic equality. What was taken for granted not too long ago is brushed aside by the rhetoric of progress to more equality.
The whole question is muddied by the fact that equality is an abstract idea that doesn’t exist in reality. It’s virtually impossible to name two things that are exactly equal in the real world. Nature is a world of differences, and marriage too is not the same thing between two people of the same sex and of different sexes. Four arguments can illustrate this fact, without making an appeal to biblical revelation.
Couples and pairs
Firstly, the defenders of same-sex marriage make a lot of the idea that legislating that love between two consenting adults is a right. But even if this were the case, it has nothing to do with marriage as a social institution. There are many different and varied types and expressions of human love that do not lead to marriage. Why should it be so in this case ?
This issue does, however, raise the question as to whether love is the same thing between two people of the same sex and between a man and a woman. Love in a same-sex context makes a pair not a couple. ‘Homosexual couple’ is a misnomer; there are only homosexual pairs, two of the same kind.
Because pair means sameness it implies a choice has been made against otherness. This is contrary to the nature of love, if love is the giving of oneself to someone different from what we are. Homosexual love means 1+1=2, two of a kind, sameness. A heterosexual couple, on the other hand, embraces the human difference of male and female in an expression of openness to the other. It means 1+1=1, because together the two form a new unit made of different elements, founded on self-giving to the other. Something that didn’t exist before is made by a heterosexual couple, a two-in-one unit. And it happens every time a man and woman pledge themselves in a lasting and exclusive commitment. The new relation based on otherness implies openness to other forms of difference and, ultimately, for a Christian, it echoes openness to God.
If an open society is desirable, then openness in marriage contributes to that end, whereas ‘equal marriage’ is a form of closed sectarianism in which a social minority appropriates and redefines marriage to suit its own needs and ends. This is social piracy on the high seas of nature.
Secondly, sex is neither equal nor the same thing in homo- and hetero- sexual relationships. Many well-meaning people will find what we are now going to say objectionable, but let’s not lose the focus — it’s not what can be said that is harmful but what people do.
You don’t need to be specialised in anatomy to know that there is a natural functional difference between the anus and the vagina. The second is a sexual organ and the first is not. To deny this is to say that men (or at least those who use it in this way) have two sexual organs. This redefines human nature into three groups, men, women and males with two sexual organs. The bodily function of the anus is to extrude fecal material as waste; it is infertile and improductive. The vagina receives and gives out new life and is a mysterious symbol of living fertility. Heterosexual relations are open relations because they lead to new life, whereas same-sex relationships are sterile, closed and part of a culture of death.
Same-sex relationships, whether male or female, do not have the same function as relationships between the opposite sexes. Homosexual relationships will die with those involved, but heterosexual relationships live on in the new life they have engendered. The fact that the family name is passed on to a new generation is not nothing. ‘Becoming one flesh’ does not mean the same thing in homo- and hetero- sexual relationships. In the first case, it is the end of the road and it has the same practical result as onanism (Genesis 38.9), and in the second case it is the possibility of new life, renewal and continuity.
Family and children
Thirdly, in a same-sex family pair, any children are genetically foreign to one or both ‘parents’ who cannot both be the biological parent of children born by surrogacy. It is a natural right for children to have parents of the opposite sex. When this is not the case (and unfortunately this applies to one-parent families too), the child is denied the knowledge of half of humanity in the intimacy of the family as he or she grows up. In a homosexual pair context it conditions children to sameness. Who can anticipate what the social consequences of this will be? One can legitimately fear that conditioning to sameness will lead to suffering for little ones. Nor will gender-inclusive policies solve the problems of mixed-up societies.
In addition, in equal-marriage ‘families’ (which are not real families), the taboo of incest no longer exists for one or both ‘parents’. This is, of course, the case in families with adopted children where the family model is the man-woman relationship and incest is morally excluded by the non-biological parents, who act as natural parents do. People generally don’t want to admit that in same-sex unions adopted children could be exposed to situations where paedophilia is a possibility. Defendants of adoption as an equal right for same-sex pairs will think this statement is discriminatory, but the fact can’t be excluded from the debate, nor can politicians protect children from situations issuing from their new legislation. True, abuse of children happens all too often in heterosexual couples, but for it to happen the taboo of incest has to be transgressed. No such taboo exists in same-sex partnerships, as reproduction is impossible for pairs.
A social consideration
Finally, it is claimed that sexual orientation is a free choice and that two men or two women necessarily have the same right to marry as a man and a woman. The idea of the right to choose claims too much when it advocates a change in the accepted structure of the marriage institution to include ‘equal marriage’. On the same grounds a father and son or a mother and daughter should be free to marry each other if they feel so inclined, but not mother and son or father and daughter or brother and sister. After all, the incest taboo exists primarily to protect the progeniture from genetic inbreeding. So the fact that two people may love each other as a matter of choice, and even exclusively, is not a reason for them to be married.
A leading British politician said recently: ‘I don’t think that the person you love should determine the rights you have. That’s why I’ll be voting for equal marriage’. I don’t think so either, and that is why I am against equal marriage. Marriage between two people of the same sex is not the same as the creational institution. That is why the real questions of what marriage is are hidden under the ideologically motivated rhetoric of equality in the present debate. An unreal idea of equality that exists only in the perception of some people is forced on natural reality, and they expect the majority to follow suit. That is why equal marriage is only plausible when it apes the language and attitudes of male and female couples.
Paul Wells is a teacher at the Faculté Jean Calvin, Aix-en-Provence, and lives in Eastbourne.
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