Sunday, August 26, 2012

An outline of a secular argument against SSM (Part IV)


Well, here it is almost a week later, and I’m preparing to wrap up this extensive outline.  First, let’s recap the ground covered so far:

  • Part I: Marriage isn’t simply a special relationship between two sexual partners. Rather, it’s a social institution which both privileges and guards the basic unit of the community: the nuclear family. It gives social and legal claims against the father for the benefit of the mother and her children, as well as establishing his vested interest in his genetic offspring and legitimizing their inheritance from him. Homosexual unions, sterile by nature, cannot and do not have this reproductive orientation.
  • Part II: Insofar as a society recognizes the biological imperative of sex — reproduction — marriage serves to legitimize not just the children of the union but the union itself as proper. In our society, however, other forms of sexual union — especially homosexuality — are losing or have already lost their illegitimacy, nullifying marriage’s “stamp of approval”. In this light, SSM is “a solution without a problem”.
  • Part III: In the current political climate, reliably neutral scientific study of gay parenting is impossible because both sides want too much to dictate the only permissible outcome. However, by looking at the effects on children of family structures other than traditional marriage, we find that none work so well as having both biological parents present and formally unified. Indirectly, then, we have reason to suspect that men and women can’t simply step into each other’s roles in parenting, that biological “hard-wiring” and blood relationship have their parts. Privileging gay unions, in this sense, is a misdirection of effort; we should be working to save traditional marriage, not promote “second- and third-bests”.


IV: Choices and consequences

After Robert Oscar Lopez published his autobiographical piece, “Growing Up with Two Moms”, he received a lot of flak from the gay-rights lobby.  My defense [of UT sociologist Mark Regnerus] expressed thoughts that undermined the legal penumbras involved in arguing for gay marriage under the 14th Amendment.  Who cares?  It was hard to be a kid growing up with gay parents — that’s all I know.  I’m not a lawyer.”[1]

The argument for 14th Amendment “equal protection” clause coverage is contingent on homosexuality being an inborn, immutable trait that can’t be cured, and that the population of homosexuals remains stable over time.  This position, known as the “essentialist” position, is ably summed in the anthematic phrase “born this way”.  

Scientifically, though, the “essentialist” position isn’t backed by much more than homosexuals’ say-so.  Even as far back as the Kinsey studies, researchers had found some movement back and forth across orientation lines; one well-respected study declared in 1994 that “estimating a single number for the prevalence of homosexuality is a futile exercise because it presupposes assumptions that are patently false: that homosexuality is a uniform attribute across individuals, that it is stable over time, and that it can be easily measured.”[2]  And psychologist Gary Greenberg, a frequent contributor to the very gay-friendly progressive magazine Mother Jones, admitted, “While scientists have found intriguing biological differences between gay and straight people, the evidence so far stops well short of proving that we are born with a sexual orientation that we will have for life.  Even more important, some research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than we have come to think, that people, especially women, can and do move across customary sexual orientation boundaries, that there are ex-straights as well as ex-gays.”[3]

The argument for gay marriage is that restricting the institution to straight unions is to deprive homosexuals of a civil right.  However, the argument takes for granted that if homosexuals can’t marry other people of the same sex, then they can’t marry at all.[*]  And that’s why SSM advocates work so hard to sustain the Preferred Narrative: homosexuals do have the same right to traditional marriage as do straight people.  Therefore, “gay marriage” addresses an inequality that legally doesn’t exist.

The blunt fact of the matter is that the lack of SSM doesn’t make homosexuals “second-class citizens”.  It’s taken for granted by most people that same-sex attraction is not a choice.  Be that as it may, no one is required to have sex; strictly speaking, sex isn’t necessary to physical or mental health.  If SSA doesn’t necessarily or always rule out marriage or physical parenthood, then to exclusively pursue same-sex relationships is to surrender traditional marriage and physical parenthood as part of the opportunity cost.  Society has deprived the practicing homosexual of nothing that he didn’t already surrender of his own accord.

If anything, it’s the Preferred Narrative that does the SSA-afflicted the real injustice.  Concentration camps and gulag-style mental hospitals are nowhere in the gay and lesbian future, even by analogy.  Yet to ask whether same-sex attraction is inborn and immutable is to ask the wrong question.  Even if we conceded the essentialist position, we must still look at what SSA does.  And what it does is work against the individual’s genetic survival by directing his/her sexual urges towards reproductively unavailable partners. From a Darwinian perspective, this is not a desirable trait.  Heterosexuality is normative because that’s how the species reproduces.  The Preferred Narrative, to use a slightly inapt metaphor, pretends the drive train is in perfect working order when in fact the transmission only works in Reverse or Park … and Park occasionally slips.

In conclusion

Lopez has this to say:

The war could have been won and over by now.  In polls that break down three choices for respondents — (1) no recognition of same-sex couples, (2) civil unions, or (3) marriage — civil unions tend to get the highest support.  By using civil unions as the framework, gays and lesbians could have redefined the concept of gay family to encompass new forms of cooperative foster care, for instance, rather than trying to erase the role of biological fatherhood and motherhood.
Most importantly, had civil unions been the focus, there would have been nowhere near as much resistance.  One thing that I learned while being raised by a lesbian mother and her female partner … is simple but important: not everyone is going to like you.  You can’t change some people’s minds.  Screw them and move on.[4]

The point of this exercise has been to demonstrate that, while the vast bulwark of traditional-marriage defense has been carried out by religious people, mainly Christians, the institution of marriage itself is not dependent on a specific religion’s tenets.  Rather, the essential core of marriage — union of man to woman — is founded on an immutable fact of human biology: the intrinsic relationship of reproduction to sex and sexuality.  Put differently, marriage isn’t oriented to heterosexuality because big meanie homophobic God (or gods) want(s) to punish the same-sex attracted but because sex itself is oriented to child-bearing and child-rearing.

To recognize same-sex attraction as a dysfunction is not to call for its criminalization, or to demand discrimination against those who experience it.  Most of us who defend traditional marriage and families have no interest in seeing Lawrence v. Texas overturned, despite its basis in politically tainted science.[†]  There is much we can and should do to limit child abuse and bullying, although it needs to be done on the community level rather than through the bloated, clumsy intervention of the federal government.  However, nothing can be done to the purpose until the scientific study of homosexuality is put in an “agenda-free zone”, where its outcomes and results can’t be predetermined by politics.

Finally, we must recognize that, for all the nobility that the gay lobby tries to pour into the fight for SSM by claiming a struggle for equality, the real motive for SSM is the desire to feel accepted.  Unfortunately, this is something no government can grant or insure; as Lopez so trenchantly says, not everyone is going to like you, no matter who does what.  We can do what we can to insure homosexuals’ equal access to jobs, housing, health and social services … but we can’t make everybody say, “It’s okay to be gay.”

My thanks in particular to Katy Anders of Lesbians In My Soup for her continued patience with me despite our obvious differences of opinion.  “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Prv 10:12).


[*] I don’t necessarily recommend that SSA-afflicted people marry; heck, there are straight people who shouldn’t marry.  Certainly I’m not suggesting that marriage will “cure” SSA.  Nevertheless, homosexuality does not ipso facto make satisfaction in traditional marriage impossible.
[†] For an interesting, if not exactly balanced, look at the problems with the science behind the Lawrence decision, see Jeffrey B. Satinover (n.d.), “The Trojan Couch: How the Mental Health Associations Misrepresent Science” (http://narth.com/docs/TheTrojanCouchSatinover.pdf).


[1] Lopez, R. O. (2012, August 11). The Soul-Crushing Scorched-Earth Battle for Gay Marriage. Retrieved August 24, 2012 from American Thinker: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/08/the_soul-crushing_scorched-earth_battle_for_gay_marriage.html.
[2] Laumann, E. O.; Gagnon, J. H.; Michael, R. T.; Michaels, S. (1994). The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 283.
[3] Greenberg, G. (2007, August 27). Gay by Choice? The Science of Sexual Identity. Retrieved August 24, 2012 from Mother Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2007/08/gay-choice-science-sexual-identity; bold font mine.
[4] Lopez, 2012.