Traditional Marriage is Exceptional Apr10


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Traditional Marriage is Exceptional

Is Gay Marriage a “substantial equivalent” to Traditional Marriage? 

If two things are to be given the same name and social status, they should be substantially equal, and I am not convinced that gay marriage is substantially equal to Traditional Marriage.   In order to redefine marriage to include gay marriage, society must give up so much of what the term originally embraced that Traditional Marriage as a concept, it seems to me, must inevitably suffer from the lack of the distinction.  Also, the libertarian approach of redefining marriage as a simple contract between two persons has a similar effect of stripping the institution down in social esteem and veneration so much as to have a negative effect on the perception of all that marriage actually is and means to society at large.  So I am somewhat bothered by the idea that social and political discernment is regressing from the more precise towards the more obscure, rather than progressing from the obscure towards the more precise.  I feel that socially important distinctions and meanings are being cast aside as though they are irrelevant. [1]

What are these relevant distinctions?

Traditional marriage has effects in society far more broad and more impactful than does gay marriage or a mere contract.  This broader effect is the result of Traditional Marriage’s larger function in overall society.  Traditional Marriage is about much more than the relationship of two people.  Traditional Marriage is the primed, pumped and ready-to-go well-spring of life itself.  Like a seed which sprouts miraculously into a large fruit tree, so Traditional Marriage sprouts miraculously into entire generations of strong interpersonal relations.  Gay marriage simply could not duplicate this effect.  In fact, if the virtues of Traditional Marriage were to be enhanced by civil law and culture, rather than diminished and obscured by it [2], the fruits of Traditional Marriage would be so obvious that any comparison to the institution of the gay union would simply become, once again, socially untenable.  (See also my article “As the Sun and Moon Differ.”)  

What could possibly merit overlooking these important differences?

Most people answer that “civil rights” require us to overlook these real distinctions, but what do they mean by that?  Usually they are making the argument that how the law makes a group of people feel is more important than any other justification for the law.  This is a relatively new line of reasoning in American jurisprudence and in society at large.  Previously, it has never been the case that just because a group takes offense at the implications of a law, that society must then automatically reshape itself to alleviate that offense.  Society has previously understood that it must choose its victors among the various claims of “civil rights.”  This is made necessary by the simple fact that society cannot support multiple adverse positions; it must support one, or none.  Every law has its antithesis; every law is discriminatory.  Understanding this, we should understand that there must always be a social “judgment” that needs to take place as to the justification for any particular law, that goes beyond its inevitable discriminatory effects.  In the past, that justification has resided in the relative merit of one law over another, as judged by the overarching social benefit of that law as opposed to its many alternatives.  And herein should lie the problem for the gay marriage movement. The gay marriage movement does not want a separate institution of gay marriage to take its place beside traditional marriage, but it wants to redefine marriage itself, placing it in a position adverse to traditional marriage, wherein a victory for the gay marriage movement is necessarily a loss for the traditional marriage distinctions.  When society is faced with the proposition of supporting either the traditional or gay union more, the answer should be obvious — traditional marriage must win and retain its unique distinction and preeminence in society, as providing the greater social benefit of the two institutions.  But there is yet another problem with the gay marriage movement:  the gay movement itself is an attempt to create a particular idea of “rights” where any such “judgment” as to its social justification and merit is itself a violation; hence the frequent use of the terms “hate speech” and “bigotry” among gay marriage proponents.  Even to raise an argument is perceived by this movement as an affront to its civil rights.  This is the truly revolutionary aspect of the gay marriage movement, and its most dangerous characteristic.  Because the gay marriage movement ignores the very real distinctions listed above, because it considers the acknowledgement of these distinctions as bigotry, and because it calls for “equality” among such “unequal” institutions, I have a hard time coming to any other conclusion than that the movement indeed wants its civil rights despite such social judgment, rather than because of it.  Thus, I believe the movement is really about creating an illusion of equality by ignoring important differences, and by insisting that any assertion of inequality, even that which would be justified by many real and meaningful differences, is motivated by evil intentions. The gay movement has at its core a philosophy of non-judgment, and such a philosophy is contrary to reality, and leads to distorted, contrived, and arbitrary outcomes.  I believe that to the degree that such civil rights are recognized by our government, to that same degree our society will be adopting and promoting perhaps the most dangerous and anit-progressive political philosophy in American history.

What is truly progressive social behavior?  

If the main goal is to reduce the amount of offense that is taken by various groups of society, the good news is that there is another way besides succumbing to the premise of “treating unequal things equally.”  Require society to 1) Grow thicker skin, 2) Face (rather than ignore) the distinctions, and 3) Engage the issues fairly in the public square.  Public debate is the crucible of truth in a truly democratic government.  We must not simply “define away” the “offensive” distinctions if those distinctions are nonetheless true.

Who can hold a fire in his hand by thinking on the frosty Caucasus?  –Shakespeare

Some fear that the Supreme Court might actually choose the option of simply defining away these distinctions as though they didn’t really exist, suggesting that anyone who places any stock in these distinctions is, in fact, a political bigot, rather than a conscientious participant in an important civil debate.  If the Supreme Court strikes down amendments to protect traditional marriage from dilution, then I believe this decision will reflect the following underlying premise: That society at large no longer values the implications and complications of social judgment, especially when that judgment suggests that one thing is better than another, and especially when acknowledging this conclusion would offend a sensitive minority group.  In short, how the law makes a group of people feel is more important than any other justification for the law, and the new concept of equality demands that society become blind to some distinctions for the sake of “social quiet.”  The problem is that such a philosophy can never lead to social quiet, for it is inherently hypocritical and arbitrary.  How could such a society hope to progress, where “progress” is defined so overwhelmingly with the aim of “social quiet”, and where law is so overwhelmingly controlled by those who take the greatest offense at otherwise justifiable laws?

What is a healthy level of discernment?

Is it so far outside of reason to assert the following?

  • Redefining marriage is not progress if it represents a decision to ignore real differences between Traditional and gay marriage.
  • Traditional Marriage is Exceptional; that is, it is distinct from gay marriage, and deserving of its own definition.
  • Redefining marriage does downgrade Traditional Marriage from its merited higher status in society, by disregarding its peculiar benefits and values, and reducing it to only those which it shares in common with gay marriage or a common contract.
  • Traditional Marriage deserves to remain on a social pedestal above the gay union.

Is the above speech really something that society should consider a civil rights violation of one or another group?  Is the refusal to treat them as equal really something society should want to criminally punish by law?  Should unequal things ever be treated equally?  And if so, what justifies such behavior?  Is it to avoid the discomfort of proclaiming the superiority of one idea or behavior over another, and to avoid offending someone who espouses the inferior?  What effect would such a premise have on democratic society?  Does ignoring real differences promote tolerance or does it actually create greater intolerance?

“Excessive” or “Blind” Equality Predicted

This new notion of equality is not justified by reason, as so many of the Great Thinkers have already pointed out, precisely because it is so inclined to ignore the truth.  And precisely because it does blind itself to unwelcome facts, it promotes the worst kind of intolerance — the kind that abandons the sight which comes from careful discernment and calls it “bigotry.”  Such a fallen concept of equality was disparaged by Alexis de Tocqueville, for example, who, speaking particularly of the United States, warned of its likely uprising and urged Americans to create a political mechanism to prevent such an occurrence.

Alexis de Tocqueville described how equality has both a healthy and a perverse tendency:

I see clearly two tendencies in equality; one turns each man’s attention to new thoughts, while the other would induce him freely to give up thinking at all.

Elsewhere he elaborates:

There is indeed a manly and legitimate passion for equality which rouses in all men a desire to be strong and respected. This passion tends to elevate the little man to the rank of the great. But the human heart also nourishes a debased taste for equality, which leads the weak to want to drag the strong down to their level, and which induces men to prefer equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.

John Milton characterized the society which embraces the fallen concept of equality:

Henceforth let no man care to learn, or care to be more then worldly wise; for certainly, in higher matters, to be a common steadfast dunce will be the only pleasant life, and only in request.

Distortions of Such an Equality

The social adoption of a “blind” or “excessive” equality strikes at the heart of society’s ability to think upon and effectively engage the “higher matters.”  Such a mentality seeks to avoid the heated debates that actually strike at the heart of what is “better” and “worse” for society, because it fears making an offense, or because it hates the laborious nature of the public debate, or, perhaps, more than anything else, it fears that it might be wrong and prefers not to be condemned for its faults.  Although these “higher matters” are admittedly the more controversial kind of debate and the more likely to cause offense, they are also the only kind of debate that can result in meaningful change and true progress.  It also requires the greater amount of civil tolerance, humility, and repentance (i.e. virtue) within society.

If the Supreme Court adopts the philosophy of “blind” equality, and elects to make gay marriage equal to traditional marriage, not based on its merits, but based instead on a concept of “rights” that arises in some notion of avoiding social offenses, it will only mark the beginning of a much more difficult and even more divisive path for society.  With this new philosophy, moral claims of right and wrong and freedom of speech will continue to be downplayed and ridiculed as having primarily an antagonistic quality, disruptive of the new social values of blind equality and social quiet.  We will have achieved a truly regressive society, so focused on peace that it compromises truth, so scared of judgment and the possibility of offense that it suppresses reason.  Such a philosophy threatens the very foundation of free society itself, not only by the devaluation of meaningful discernment, but also by its tendency to take under its wing many other socially harmful practices, rightfully shunned in society previously, in order to promote and extol their “equal” social acceptance, regardless of merit. [3]


[1] I can understand a progressive society fine tuning some definitions, as by adding additional distinctions and nuances, but I can only imagine a declining society actually doing the opposite, i.e. removing relevant distinctions to make words more broad and ambiguous in meaning.  Take the word “Sex” and “Marriage.”  “Sex” formerly connoting procreation, now expanded to include things previously defined by other, more specific terms, and previously not included in the definition of “sex” because clearly distinguishable and deserving of another label, having nothing to do with reproductive sex.  And why expand the definition to include non-sexual activity?  Seems to me that it is because someone takes offense to the distinction – the distinction is too revealing, too condemning, too obvious, and it gets in the way of certain ulterior motives.  “Traditional Marriage” is plainly very different in characteristics, configuration, and outcome from “Gay Marriage,” yet some groups in society want to blur these distinctions by giving them the same name, even though so obviously different.   I admit they are similar in some respects, but dissimilar in many more respects, and to call them by the same name is intellectually reckless. Why use the same name?  Again, I think, to fulfill ulterior motives that depend on blurring those distinctions.  This is progress?  No, it is decline.  I am speaking of intellectual decline by allowing relevant distinctions to be ignored, by pretending that two things that are very dissimilar are equal, when they are not.  I speak of the recklessness of letting two different things become regarded and labeled in the same way.  Society has a responsibility to discern these differences and to act accordingly, not to ignore them when it is no longer convenient to do so.

[2] Referring to a modern social culture which supports such practices as fornication, adultery, the proliferation of pornography, and abortion, all which tend to destroy the Family, the primary benefit and distinguishing characteristic of Traditional Marriage, now suffering to such a degree that the devaluation of marriage to the status and definition of a mere breachable contract is actually tenable.

[3] Take pornography for instance, which the Supreme Court upholds as “freedom of expression.”  Freedom of Speech is a concept meant to protect meaningful debate in society about important issues, particularly political issues, as being essential to healthy democratic government.  Now the concept is used to limit political speech with heavy and costly regulations, and to prevent states from outlawing pornography, even to protect its children.  Thus, this spirit of “blind” equality is already pervading much of Supreme Court jurisprudence, and is already working to uphold many debased and destructive practices while prohibiting and limiting many constructive (even if turbulent, as progress usually demands) practices.  To uphold gay marriage would only be an extension of a philosophy which has already penetrated our Supreme Court, and which is causing the Supreme Court to pre-empt the democratic process by creating new Constitutional rights whose only justification is found, not in the Constitution, but in the new philosophy of equality which is being imposed upon the Constitution.