Home > politics, relationships > Same Sex Unions and Marriage

Same Sex Unions and Marriage

Alright this is a pretty long blog, so I decided to give you the summary first…

Short Version:

Some say Love + Commitment = Marriage, but the government doesn’t legislate love or personal commitment. It does however define legal relationships in order to ensure appropriate rights and protections. In the case of marriage, the definition gives rights and protections to both members of the relationship as well as any children. If we change the definition of marriage to include same sex unions we effectively say

man + woman = man + man = woman + woman

which means (by subtraction from both sides)

man = woman

Which is true if we look at “=” to mean “equal” but false if we look at “=” to mean “the exact same” (which would be required to give both institutions the same name).  The whole reason that we have different words for men and women is because we are not the same. For the same reason, there should be a different word for same sex unions. But wait, there’s more math:

(woman + man) child

This a possible reality which is unique to the union of man and woman and not possible for same sex unions so there is also an inherent inequality. This inequality specifically arises when we look at the issue of children. Some claim that same sex couples have the same inherent ability to parent a child as a father and a mother, but when we evaluate this claim it can only be true if men and women have NOTHING UNIQUE TO CONTRIBUTE to a child’s development. I have a hard time believing that. I think there is inherent value to a child having a mother and a father. And I don’t think that makes me a bigot.

Long Version:

Recently, the New York state legislature passed a bill that will recognize same sex marriages within the state. Shortly thereafter there were crowds cheering in various avenues and a record showing at the pride parade that weekend. The media was highlighting the joy of the gay and lesbian community over this monumental increase in their rights and the statements by certain senators that regardless of their personal orientation, they felt they had no right to prevent others from living their life as they saw fit in this regard. During the parade, there were plenty of people making all kinds of noise and displaying all manner of signs, but one specific sign stuck with me. There was a woman holding a relatively small sign that simply stated, “Love + Commitment = Marriage.” I think it struck at the heart of what many people see the debate to be.

People with this view look at the government’s current statutes limiting same sex unions and see that as an indication that the power’s-that-be are denying those people the opportunity to love each other in a committed relationship. Those who favor same sex marriage under this notion believe that gays and lesbians have the same capability to love and commit as straight people do, so they should be afforded the same rights. Those who appose same sex marriage under this view think that gay and lesbian love and commitment is either not as authentic or not as valuable as those that straight people are capable of.

That, however, is not really the issue at all. That discussion is certainly one worth having, but not when discussing law. The Government, whether we are speaking on a state or national level does not legislate love or commitment in personal relationships. Many people are in loving and committed relationships that are not married. In fact, if people were to wait until they were married to start being loving and committed, I would argue that the relationship was doomed to failure. The purpose of government is to maintain order in society and ensure that relationships are not destructive (i.e. preventing abuse, murder, rape, neglect, theft, fraud, etc). One way that it does so in our country and many others is by recognizing certain relationships and the course of interactions that are appropriate and inappropriate to that relationship. For instance, the government defines business and employment relationships in order to ensure that employees receive payment and safe working environments among other things as well as to ensure that the business can expect the employees to provide work, protect information and abide by the rules of the company. The federal government as well as various state governments set specific rules about the expectation of fair interactions and protections of various members as well as benefits that they see as beneficial for society or simplification purposes (such as giving tax breaks for hiring more workers in a tough economy or allowing companies to set up retirement accounts for their employees).

In the case of marriage the same is true. The nature of marriage is one which has many aspects. The couple spends a great deal of time together and lives, in many senses, as a single unit. For this reason, they can file taxes jointly, claim each other as dependents (or one can), share financial assets and make life and death decisions for each other in critical cases. On the flip side, there are a litany of expectations to ensure that they don’t treat each other poorly. That being said, most of those rights and expectations are not unique to marriage. They are just inherent. But the protections of marriage are not just for the bride and groom. They are also, AND ESPECIALLY, for the children. This is the part that I think we forget or at least fail to critically evaluate.

We must keep in mind that although there is absolutely a need and value to promoting a healthy relationship between husband and wife, there is an even higher responsibility on behalf of the government to ensure that a child is raised in a healthy environment. In order to do this, lawmakers (and we voters who elect and voice our opinions to lawmakers) must keep in mind the well-being of the child. After all, the couple had at least some choice in the matter of their partner and are much more capable of taking care of themselves than the child. The family is the most basic building block of society and in order to ensure that society runs smoothly, the government has a responsibility to ensure that the most basic building block of the family (the marriage) is on solid ground.

When discussing the issue of allowing same sex couples into this definition we must consider how this would affect children. Children cannot be born into a same sex marriage organically but can be brought into the marriage from an outside source. This is one of the main problems that I have with the concept of same sex marriage. Historically, marriage has been a union of two persons with the capability of producing more people; a biological reality that is not present in same sex couples. Admittedly, it’s also a reality for many male-female couples, but in those cases there is almost always still a small possibility that a birth could occur (infertile and sterile people have in-fact had children against all odds) and if it did, that child would have all of the same biological influences that is typical for a family. So if we decide to include same sex couples in this definition we are, in effect, changing the scope of the definition. For an analogy, I would like draw from a recent conversation that I had with an acquaintance…

Said acquaintance was voicing his discontent with the attempts of many religious groups to include “Intelligent Design” into children’s science classes. His problem with the idea was not the fact that they would allow kids to hear the theory, in his opinion, children should hear the theory (even though he didn’t agree with it), just not in a SCIENCE class. Science involves testable theories and Intelligent Design, by it’s nature, has no real experimental verification. So if you want to teach it to kids either teach it in religion class or have a class called “Creation and Existence” that discusses all of these ideas side by side, but do not confuse children by telling them that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory. To do so would be to cheapen the definition of science and in a certain sense the value of faith. I had previously been a fan of the idea of teaching Intelligent Design in science classes, but this relatively short and logical conversation had convinced me of my acquaintance’s position.

A very distinct parallel can be drawn with the concept of marriage. People say that we should incorporate gay and lesbian couples into our definition for the sake of equitable treatment, but to do so changes the fundamental understanding of the institution. If you want to give people comparable attention, legal rights and equitable treatment, then go for it, but don’t call it marriage. This is a definition that has been held and instituted by religious organizations long before this country even existed. To redefine Marriage and tell those religious institutions and religious individuals that their definitions are ILLEGAL is preposterous.

Furthermore, when we expand our definition in this way we also lose the ability to differentiate. I think this is part of what the gay and lesbian community is looking for in their desire to redefine marriage. They are trying to say, “gay and lesbian couples are exactly the same as male-female couples.” But once again, if we look closely at this idea, it doesn’t hold up to reality or logic. If there is NO difference between same sex unions and opposite sex unions then there is no difference between men and women. Please allow me to demonstrate mathematically:


man + woman = man + man = woman + woman

then (by subtraction from both sides)

man + woman – woman = woman + woman – woman


man = woman


man – man + woman = man + man – man


woman = man

“That’s exactly right,” you may say “men and women ARE equal!” and I completely agree. If we take “=” to mean “equal” then we come to a logical conclusion that reflects legal reality. BUT if we take “=” to mean “the same” (as same sex marriage would propose) then we come to a conclusion that is divorced from all reality. Men and women are equal under the law and share the same dignity but there is a concrete DIFFERENCE between men and women that is UNDENIABLE (and beautiful). Whether we are looking at body parts, emotional tendencies, biological functions, or even personal romantic inclinations (which is whole cause of this debate) there is an obvious and scientifically verifiable difference. If we said men and women are equal so we should just incorporate the word “man” and the word “woman” to mean “all people” we would just cheapen the definitions to a point of uselessness. We would have two words that mean the exact same thing as a word we already have (people). Similarly, expanding our definition of marriage to promote equality among same sex and opposite sex couples creates a situation where we no longer have a word to describe a couple with the inherent organic possibility and protected environment to create and raise children (and, man, is that a mouth-full to say every time I’m trying to talk about a man and woman being married). We simply have another word for a “legal couple”.

Also before I go too far, I want to point out another mathematical expression that’s a bit tougher to type out:

(woman + man) child


(man + man) → no child


(woman + woman) → no child


(woman + man) ≠ (woman + woman)


(woman + man) ≠ (man + man)

You see, if we were to just look at the first set of equations we might think that the equality of men and women was almost a proof for the equality of same sex unions with opposite sex unions. To do this though would ignore the fact that when we put parentheses around around man and woman (i.e. in marriage and the marital act) the possibility of a new life is present. A possibility which does not exist for same sex couples. So there is an inherent inequality. I realize that I already mentioned this, but it bears more discussion.

However we decide to define marriage, it will always be the building block of the family. So if we decide to include gays and lesbians in this group, we can expect them to have children by the means available to them. That means that the child will either have a father or a mother which is not part of the marriage (or both). Now I think most would agree that, in a perfect world, both biological parents would be responsible, willing and healthy enough (physically, emotionally, mentally, financially and otherwise) to be good parents to their own child, but I also think most would agree that we live in a reality far from this ideal. So why not allow same sex couples to raise kids that would otherwise be living in an orphanage (or single parent home)? On one level, I think there is a valid point here. Two men or two women certainly can raise a child after it is born and having that distinct attention by those two parents is certainly valuable in that child’s positive upbringing. On the other side though, we must recognize that the child will grow up without an example of both sexes internal to his or her family. A boy raised by two women will not have a member of his family that can give him a masculine hug. If he is raised by two men he will never be coddled in the bosom of his mother. Now, I know you may be thinking that I’m getting into gender roles that are completely superficial, but let’s look at this at it’s most basic level… to say that two men or two women have the same inherent ability to parent as a man and a woman means that men and women have NOTHING UNIQUE TO CONTRIBUTE to a child’s development. “All of the hormones, pheromones, emotional differences, physical differences have no possible way of improving a child’s well-being. Man + woman may have been the only equation that nature would allow to raise a child, but since we know better, we are going to expand the opportunities. Any other decision in the matter would obviously be an act of hate.” I disagree.

I’ve said in many of my blogs and to many of my friends that I am convinced that the greatest poverty of our time is an ignorance of our dignity. This is especially true in the context of this discussion. Any time people hold strong beliefs on an issue, there seems to be a tendency to look at the other side as sub-human when the only hope at a solution comes in recognizing the dignity of those in disagreement. I think that the hateful words and actions taken against people with same sex attractions (as well as those hateful actions and words taken in support of them) are unfortunate, unwarranted and inappropriate. Every human being has a right to be treated with a sense of value and respect regardless of their views. And every person has a right to pursue the life that they feel called to. In so far as it can, the role of the government is to promote that pursuit while ensuring the safety and well-being of others. The the U.S government isn’t stopping anyone from loving anyone, nor is it preventing anyone from being committed to another. In every state, those are matters of personal determination. The contract of marriage, however, is one which the governments define in order to give legal rights and protections to both the couple and the children. I agree that each individual should have many freedoms in determining the people that they spend their time with, entrust their life (along with assets, information and life decisions) to and otherwise identify themselves with, but changing the definitions of marriage to include same sex unions will have many other consequences that either conflict with reality or don’t belong in the same discussion. I think there is inherent value to a child having a mother and a father. And I don’t think that makes me a bigot.

I should be clear, I have absolutely no background in law, so I’m speaking on a very basic level of my understanding of the roles of government in society. I suppose that relationship is as much a subject of debate as the topic at hand…

I also want to be clear that this is not in any way a justification for the bigotry and hatred that has been demonstrated against gays and lesbians. There is no justification for undignified treatment of other human beings. We all have a responsibility to speak the truth in-so-far as we know and see it, but if we divorce truth from love (either by ignoring love for the sake of “truth” or by forsaking truth for the sake of “love”) we will find that we have failed to sincerely practice either.

As always, if you have been patient enough to read this small novel, I would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

  1. July 3, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    “However we decide to define marriage, it will always be the building block of the family. So if we decide to include gays and lesbians in this group, we can expect them to have children by the means available to them. ”

    Single people are not required to marry to have children, neither are married people required to have children. You are assuming that same-sex couples WANT children in the first place as a way to say they should not be allowed to marry? That makes no sense. There is nothing in the legal definition of marriage that says anything about children, it is a legal contract between two people to share legal benefits because they are in a long-term committed relationship.
    Yes, some of those benefits may be useful if a couple chooses to have children, however that does not mean that marriage should only be offered to the people you think will be able to raise a child the “right” way.
    First of all, who are you to decide the “right” way to raise a child at all?

    • July 5, 2011 at 10:02 PM

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. I agree that single people are not required to marry in order to have children and that married couples are not required by the government to have children in order to be married. However, my argument is not that all same-sex couples WANT to have children in wanting marriage, but that the original definition of marriage carries with it the possibility and protected environment for raising children. If couples simply wanted a legal committed relationship in which they can share benefits, a civil union will allow that. You don’t need to call it marriage. The point of my blog was that there is a difference between the union of a man and a woman and the union of two people of the same sex.
      When we come up with a definition for anything, we state in effect, “everything included in this definition is indistinguishable from anything else with the definition in all manners that are pertinent.” when we define something like a pair of scissors we would define it by its shape, material constitution and intended use. One might define a pair of scissors as “two sheers joined together with the ability cut objects when opened and closed.” We can have white scissors or green ones; big or small. What becomes problematic however is if we were to include “all joined pieces of metal” into the definition. You could argue that there are plenty of scissors that never cut anything anyway. Many just sit in their packaging, and there are dull pairs of scissors that can’t really cut anything either. This may be true, but if we were to expand the definition as stated above, we would no longer be able to discuss the relationship between scissors and paper with any clarity. Some scissors could cut paper, but plyers would also be a subset of this new definition of scissors so some scissors would grab paper (not to mention any other number objects that you can create by putting two pieces of metal together which might not be able to serve as anything other than a weight for paper).
      There are plenty of other options for cutting paper besides scissors. In fact, a single shear can cut paper all on its own. However, if we ignore the relationship between paper (or cutting in general) and scissors for the sake of expanding the definition, we also use a certain value for the word. Now people looking to cut paper with the safety that “traditional scissors” offered will have a more difficult time.
      I should admit, that this is a rough analogy at best. Scissors are used almost exclusively for cutting things and marriage is NOT exclusively for having children. It is often an optional aspect of the definition where cutting is more of a mandatory aspect of the definition for scissors. That being said, whenever we remove any aspect (central or periphery) of a definition we also loose some value for it.
      As far as your other question, “First of all, who are you to decide the “right” way to raise a child at all?” I’m not much of anyone. But I was a kid once, and I know that having a mother and a father was a huge blessing for me growing up. The love that my mother showed me and the love that my father showed me were very distinct but also invaluable to the few good aspects that I have in my character. I also know that children who grow up without fathers statistically have MUCH higher rates of violence, arrest, suicide and other problems. I’ve also heard that there are some preliminary studies that seem to look positive for children raised in same sex unions, but they are generally looking at very small populations. On a more general level though, I’m just looking at the fact that the nature of humanity has only allowed a child to be born when a man and a woman unite. Logic and even evolutionary reasoning would indicate that the union which can create a child is also the best union with which to raise a child. God bless

  2. July 5, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    I think that your argument ignores a very important aspect of child-rearing in that it is not only the parents that influence how a child is raised. The saying “It takes a village” doesn’t come from nowhere — children are helped to learn and grow by extended family, by family friends, and by the community in which they are raised, whether that be a church environment or their teachers and peers at school. I think that your argument that a child needs a male and a female role model within the immediate family is pretty narrow. A child raised by a single mother, for instance, doesn’t have a father to look up to, but certainly has a father FIGURE to look up to, perhaps a grandfather or a godfather, or even a cherished friend of his mother. Likewise, a child raised by two men or two women will not automatically be lacking in role models of the opposite gender simply because their parents are the same sex.

    Further, the idea that marriage is there as a foundation in which to create children creates a great deal of trouble when you consider people who cannot have children due to infertility as well as couples who choose NOT to have children. Would you tell a married heterosexual couple who does not want to have any kids that they are somehow less than a married couple that chooses to procreate?

    I think that the legal rights and privileges of a marriage should be afforded to all those who wish to make that lifelong commitment to one another, regardless of gender. Whether or not a church wants to perform the ceremony, however, can be left entirely up to the church — but the legal rights that are afforded to married couples should be available to any committed couple that wants to enter into that legal bond.

    • July 7, 2011 at 6:12 PM

      That’s a really good point Teija and I’m glad that you brought it up. Children are certainly influenced by men and women outside of their parents and those influences can certainly be very effective, but I don’t think they are the same as parents. I’m sure most of us can relate to growing up as little kids and seeing our parents as something much greater than they were. We may have had other men and women that we admired, respected and learned a great deal from, but their attention (or lack there-of) did not have nearly the same affect on us as that of our parents. Part of that reason is because those men and women rarely are involved in our entire life (from childhood through adolescence). Plus, I would certainly hope that all children had the opportunity of a large community of different adults to gain perspective from, but there is no guarantee of that in any family. Some families are quite sheltered (intentionally or otherwise) and I don’t think there is any real way that a child given to a same-sex couple would have a guaranteed male and female role model. Also, if that saying, “it takes a village…” was really all there was to the story, why not just leave kids in an orphanage? They already have a “village” looking out for them, why bother with the whole mother / father business?
      I hope I gave a reasonable explanation in my last response about the whole “expectation” of child-bearing. It’s not so much that married couples are EXPECTED to procreate as that the traditional definition includes the ABILITY AND ENVIRONMENT for it. Even an infertile couple has the possibility of bearing children (it has happened before). It is an aspect of the definition that some may choose not make use of, but it’s also the only word we have in the english language to describe the committed relationship into which children can be born and raised. Once again, children can be born and raised into other relationships, but none of those relationships have any connotation of a child’s well-being.
      On your last point, I partially agree. On all the issues of who we wish to be associated with, allow at our death-bed, maintain and inherit our estate, etc etc. I agree that anyone should be able to choose anyone else. To be honest, I don’t think there should even be a requirement of commitment. I think I should be able to put my best friend on any of those categories. There are even already civil unions which allow most of those rights. The issue with using the term marriage, is that when other organizations (such as church groups which have been using it for a bit longer) maintain their original definition and enforce it in any way (such as who they let adopt from their orphanages, or get married in their churches, receive benefits in their organizations) they suddenly become discriminatory bigots and subjects of lawsuits etc. Some states do better than others to allow those freedoms, but in Massachusetts, for instance, Catholic adoption services were shut down because they “discriminated” against gay and lesbian couples. I don’t think that’s right.
      Thanks again for your input.
      God bless.

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