Friday, August 18, 2006

Marriage: At the Bottom of the Slippery Slope

Below are excerpts from the current issue of The Weekly Standard:

"Beyond Gay Marriage"

The stated goal of these prominent gay activists is no longer merely the freedom to live as they want.

by Ryan T. Anderson
08/17/2006 12:00:00 AM

POLYGAMY? POLYAMORY? The end of marriage as we know it? For the past few years, and with increased frequency in recent months, defenders of marriage have been sounding the alarm as to the real goals of the so-called gay "marriage" movement. . . . Scholars like Hadley Arkes and Robert P. George noted that by rejecting the grounding foundation of marriage--the unique psychosomatic unity possible only between one man and one woman in conjugal sex--the state would lose the principled basis for refusing to recognize polygamous (one man to multiple women) or even polyamorous (multiple men to multiple women, i.e. group) marriages. For pointing this out, they were called slippery-slope reasoners, scaremongers, and bigots. After all, it was said, no one seriously argues in favor of state-sanctioned polygamy or polyamory; George and Arkes were just slandering the good name and intentions of same-sex marriage activists.

It turns out that George and Arkes's points were not slanderous, but prophetic. For now, a distinguished group of scholars, civic leaders, and LGBT activists has grasped the full implications of a retreat from the conjugal conception of marriage--and has publicly embraced those implications. These gay-rights leaders have explicitly endorsed relationships consisting of multiple (more than two) sexual partners, and have even argued that justice requires both state recognition and universal acceptance of such relationships.

Their statement, "Beyond Gay Marriage," was released recently as a full-page ad in the New York Times. Full of candor, the statement's mission is "to offer friends and colleagues everywhere a new vision for securing governmental and private institutional recognition of diverse kinds of partnerships, households, kinship relationships and families." The statement lists several examples of such relationships, among them "committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner"--that is, polygamy and polyamory. But this is mild compared to what follows: demand for the legal recognition of "queer couples who decide to jointly create and raise a child with another queer person or couple, in two households." The language is breathtaking. Queer couples (plural) who jointly create a child? And intentionally raise the child in two (queer) households? Of course, no reference is made to the child's interests or welfare under such an arrangement--only to the fulfillment of adult desires by suitable "creations."

The stated goal of these prominent gay activists is no longer merely the freedom to live as they want. Rather, it is to force you, your family, and the state to recognize and respect their myriad choices.

The "Beyond Gay Marriage" statement should not be taken lightly, for its signatories are by no means drawn exclusively from the "radical" periphery of the gay movement. They are in many cases the mainstream voices.

The conjugal conception of marriage is brilliantly defended in a short book released earlier this summer by the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey. The document, titled Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles, addresses the unique importance of conjugal marriage for individuals and societies from the perspective of varied academic disciplines: sociology, psychology, biology, history, economics, moral and political philosophy, and law. Unlike "Beyond Gay Marriage," a mere collection of assertions, Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles is a heavily researched, meticulously detailed scholarly document citing the best, most recent academic findings on marriage, family structure, and spousal and child well-being.

The authors . . . demonstrate how and why the demands of "Beyond Gay Marriage" lead to the detriment of spouses, children, and civil society. After providing a concise list of principles to guide civic leaders in their thinking about marriage and public life, the book launches into the best currently-available, one-stop scholarly resource of social science and philosophical reflection on marriage. The authors first examine the well-being of children in relation to marriage, family structure, and the different contributions mothers and fathers make to the parenting enterprise. They then look to the well-being of adults in various sexual relationships. Finally, they assess the public consequences of marital breakdown, its disproportionate effects on the poor, and the overreaching, intrusive state emerging from the social disintegration.

Legislation . . . though important, is not the primary means of reform. In the words of the statement: "Creating a marriage culture is not the job for government. Families, religious communities, and civic institutions--along with intellectual, moral, religious, and artistic leaders--point the way. But law and public policy will either reinforce and support these goals or undermine them. We call upon our nation's leaders, and our fellow citizens, to support public policies that strengthen marriage as a social institution."