Are you confused about what "marriage" really means
Many people, even Christians, are confused by the
arguments they are hearing today on the subject of homosexual marriage.
Superficially, what the advocates are saying may seem fair and logical.
Scratch the surface, however, and youíll find that their assertions donít
This article contains some of the frequently asked
questions and often-heard statements about this important issue, along
with the answers that will help you in the debate. This is a cataclysmic
social battle, and it will be with us for some time to come. No Christian,
no citizen, can afford to sit this one out on the sidelines.
Q: Shouldnít two people who love each other be allowed
to commit themselves to one another?
A: Absolutely, and people do
that all the time. But we donít call it marriage. There are lots of loving
commitments that are not marriage. Friends are committed to each other, a
parent is committed to a child, grandparents to their grandchildren, and
people are committed to their pets. All of these are forms of love. All of
them result in commitments. None of them is marriage.
Q: Whatís wrong with letting homosexuals marry?
A: No human societyónot
oneóhas ever tolerated "marriage" between members of the same sex as a
norm for family life. And that is what is at stake here, making "marriage"
between two men or two women as normal as between one man and one woman.
It is saying that neither arrangement is any better than the other. As Dr.
Dobson writes, only until the last few "milliseconds" of history and
experience (i.e. Canada and some European nations) have we arrogantly
believed we can improve upon this ancient and universal institution.
This public meaning of marriage is not something that
each new generation is free to redefine. Marriage is defined by the God of
nature and natureís Godóand a wise society will protect marriage as it has
always been understood. Marriage is the way our culture promotes monogamy,
provides a way for males and females to build a life together, and assures
every child has a mother and father.
Q: Homosexuals canít have children, but many other
couples canít as well. Why do we let them marry?
A: This is the exception and
not the rule. Many of these childless couples adopt, and their adoptive
children receive the benefits of both father and mother this way. It is
impossible for a homosexual couple to bestow that benefitóthe presence of
a father and a motheró on any child, even if that couple adopts or uses
Q: Isnít it true that what kids need most are loving
parents, regardless of whether itís a mother or father?
A: No. A child needs a loving
mother and father. A wealth of research over the past 30 years has shown
us this. (However, same-sex marriage and parenting intentionally deprive
children of a mother or father.) The most loving mother in the world
cannot teach a little boy how to be a man. Likewise, the most loving man
cannot teach a little girl how to be a woman. A gay man cannot teach his
son how to love and care for a woman. A lesbian cannot teach her daughter
how to love a man or know what to look for in a good husband. Is love
enough to help two gay dads guide their daughter through her first
menstrual cycle? Like a mom, they cannot comfort her by sharing their
first experience. Little boys and girls need the loving daily influence of
both male and female parents to become who they are meant to be.
Q: Isnít that cruel?
A: Thatís only because of the
times in which we live. Our society prizes what seems fair, more than what
is true. Children truly need both a mom and a dad. It is cruel to
intentionally deny them this. The research supporting this is both
substantial and unequivocal!
Q: What about people who are too old to have children,
even adopted ones? We let them marry.
A: Yes, of course we allow
older folks to marry. Having babies is not a requirement of marriage. The
reason for supporting the institution of marriage is not rooted only in
childrearing. Man and woman were made for each other, and the State has a
compelling interest in supporting itó with or without children.
Q: But isnít it better for a child to grow up with two
loving same-sex parents than to live in an abusive home or be bounced
around in foster care?
A: Youíre comparing the worst
of one situation (abusive heterosexual parenting) with the best of another
(loving same-sex parenting). Thatís apples and oranges.
Actually, research reveals that child abuse is at its
lowest when children live with both biological parents compared with
higher rates for children who live with at least one nonbiological parent
Same-sex parenting situations make it impossible for a child to live with
both biological parents, thus increasing their risk of abuse.
Those who want homosexual marriage are not asking to
take the children living in the most difficult situations, so itís
intellectually dishonest to preface the argument with that claim. They are
asking for the same thing all parents desire: healthy, happy children they
can call their own. So let us dispense with the idea that same-sex couples
will serve some high social good by only taking children in the most
difficult situations. They have never asked for this.
Q: Apart from the issue of children, donít gays have the
same legal right to marry that heterosexuals do?
A: All people have the same
right to marry, as long as they abide by the law. You cannot marry if
youíre already married, you cannot marry a close relative, an adult cannot
marry a child, you cannot marry your pet, and you cannot marry someone of
the same sex. Letís be clear, everyone has access to marriage as long as
they meet the requirements. This is not about access to marriage. ItĎs
about redefining marriage to be something it has never been.
Q: But heterosexuals can marry according to their sexual
orientation. Why shouldnít homosexuals be allowed to marry according to
A: No U.S. court has ever
recognized, nor has any scientific study ever established, that
homosexuality is rooted in nature and therefore is the same as
heterosexuality. Scientists understand that homosexuality is rooted in a
collection of biological, psychological and social factors. We cannot
treat them as the same thing.
Q: But I thought homosexuals couldnít help it? This
A: Then nature itself is
intolerant. Marriage has not been "imposed" upon culture by some religious
institution or government power from which it needs to be "set free." It
was established by God, is enforced by the nature which God bestowed upon
mankind, and we tamper with it at our own peril.
Hereís what is intolerant. Same-sex "marriage" is being
forced upon us by a small, but elite, group of individuals dressed in
black robesójudgesówho say that thousands of years of human history have
simply been wrong. That is a very arrogant notion that will bring great
harm to our culture.
Q: Isnít banning gay marriage just like banning
A: Not at all! Being black or
white, Hispanic or Asian is not like being homosexual. Again, no academic
institution in the world nor any U.S. court has ever established that
homosexuality is unchangeable, as are race, nationality or gender.
But this assertion really implies that opponents to
same-sex marriage are bigots and that is not true. They simply believe
marriage is between men and women for good reason.
Q: But havenít we seen all kinds of family diversity in
various civilizations throughout history?
A: No. Anthropologists tell us
that every human society is established by males and females joining in
permanent unions to build a life together and bear and raise their
children. The differences we see in family from culture to culture are
primarily variations on this model: how long the male and female stay
together, how many spouses either can have and how the labor is divided.
Some cultures make greater use of extended family than others. Family
diversity is largely confined to these differences. But there has never
been a culture or society that made homosexual marriage part of its family
Q: But how does someoneís homosexual "marriage" threaten
everyone elseís families?
A: Gay activists are not
asking for just one homosexual marriage, even though they often
personalize it by saying, "Donít you interfere with my family and I wonít
interfere with yours." What the activists want is a new national policy
saying that no longer is a mom and a dad any better than two moms or two
dads. That policy would turn some very important principles upside down:
Marriage would become merely
an emotional relationship that is flexible enough to include any grouping
of loving adults. If it is fair for two men or two women to marry, why not
three, or five, or 17? The terms "husband" and "wife" would become merely
words with no meaning.
Parenthood would consist of
any number of emotionally attached people who care for kids. "Mother" and
"father" would become only words.
Gender would become nothing.
The same-sex proposition cannot tolerate the idea that any real, deep and
necessary differences exist between the sexes. It must rest on a "Mister
Potato Head theory" of gender difference (same core, just interchangeable
body parts). If real differences did exist, then men would need women and
women would need men. Our children would learn that sexual differences are
like mere personality types. Wait until your kids start bringing those
papers home from school.
Q: But doesnít expanding marriage to include homosexuals
actually help strengthen marriage?
A: Just the opposite. There is
recent evidence from the Netherlands, arguably the most "gay-friendly"
culture on earth, that homosexual men have a very difficult time honoring
the ideal of marriage. Even though same-sex "marriage" is legal there, a
British medical journal reports male homosexual relationships last, on
average, 1.5 years, and gay men have an average of eight partners a year
outside of their supposedly "committed" relationships.
Contrast that with the fact that 67 percent of first
marriages in the United States last 10 years, and more than threequarters
of heterosexual married couples report being faithful to their vows.2
No. Watering down the definition of marriage does not
help strengthen marriage.
Q: Even so, traditional marriage isnít doing all that
well, with so many divorces.
A: Youíre right. Marriage
isnít working well, so what should we do? Erase the marriage laws? Look at
it this way. We have laws against murder, but people still commit murder,
so what should we do? Erase the murder laws? Of course not. When laws
arenít working, legislators try to fix them. We should strengthen
marriage, and many are beginning to do just that.
As a matter of fact, the evidence favoring marriage is
so overwhelming that the federal government has begun to encourage the
inclusion of a marriage training component in all state welfare plans.
Q: But doesnít our culture benefit from trying new
A: New does not always mean
better. "New" and "improved" have only become synonymous in our consumer
age. Anything that departs from specific instruction in the Scriptures is
a bad idea, inevitably.
Thirty years ago, our nation entered a dramatic social
experiment on the family called "no-fault divorce," thinking this would
improve family life. The research that examined the next 30 years of
experience, however, has judged this experiment a massive failure.
Children and their parents have been hurt far more deeplyóand for much
longeró than we ever imagined.
The revolutionaries of the no-fault divorce movement
claimed that the "til death do us part" portion of marriage wasnít that
important. They were wrong. The same-sex proposition claims the "husband"
and "wife" portion doesnít matter. Here we go again.
Q: Surely, though, homosexuals need marriage to feel
like full members of society, donít they?
A: Need marriage? No. What we
are talking about here is self-esteem and it is not the place of
government to bestow self-esteem on any individual or group.
Q: Why do you have to be so narrow in your definition of
A: Nature is narrow in its
definition and for very good reason. Research over the last 100 years
consistently shows us that marriage provides a treasure chest of good
things for adults, children and society.
Q: What benefits does marriage provide?
A: Research consistently shows
that married adults do better in virtually every measure of well-being.
Married people live longer, happier lives. They enjoy higher levels of
physical and mental health, they recover from illness quicker, earn and
save more money, are more reliable employees, suffer less stress, and are
less likely to become victims of any kind of violence. They find the job
of parenting more successful and enjoyable and they have more satisfying
and fulfilling sex lives. These benefits are largely equal for men and
Compared with children in any other situation, children
with married parents need to visit doctors less often for physical or
emotional problems, and they do better in all measures of intellectual and
academic development. They are more sympathetic toward others and much
less likely to be in trouble at school, at home or with the police. They
are much less likely to use drugs and be involved in violent behavior or
premarital sexual activity and childbearing. It is uncommon for kids who
live with married parents to live in poverty or be victims of physical or
Research is clear: marriage makes a substantial, positive difference in
Q: So wouldnít opening marriage to same-sex couples mean
more people benefit from marriage?
A: Just the opposite. Marriage
is more than an emotional, committed relationship. It is the permanent
union of the two complementary parts of humanity who complete each other
in their differences. This is why marriage provides good things for
adults and children, which same-sex relationships, by definition, cannot
The ultimate result of expanding the definition of
marriage is that marriage would mean everythingóand nothing. The goal of
most influential gay leaders who are spearheading this movement is not to
broaden the benefits of marriage, but to strip it of any meaning. They see
redefining marriage in this way as the first step toward abolishing
marriage and the family altogether thus eliminating the benefits of
marriage for everyone.
Q: But isnít same-sex marriage all that is being argued
A: Yes, gay marriage is viewed
by many as a civil right. But, if such a right is established, then on
what basis can marriage be denied to any coupling or group? In a
remarkably sobering article in The Weekly Standard writer Stanley
Kurtz explains that polygamy is getting more widespread endorsement than
ever before, with friendly commentary in several major newspapers
recently. Kurtz predicts the ACLU will soon rise as its foremost defender.
And it wonít stop there. Kurtz reports further on the
coming popularity of something called polyamory, which is a $10 word for
group marriage. Already polyamory is on the cutting edge in family law,
and is promoted by professors at some of our nationís leading
universities. Kurtz explains that this "group marriage" movement is
marching down the same trail blazed by the same-sex proponents.5
For all the other problems this will cause, government
and industry would be forced to provide health and legal benefits for any
grouping of people who declare themselves to be "married" under these
laws, or more likely, court decisions. Could your business afford
health-care benefits for 5 or 9 people in a group marriage? In fact, in
this brave new world, what would keep two heterosexual single momsóor even
six of themófrom "marrying" simply so they can receive family health, tax
and social security benefits together? The increased cost to business and
government would be crippling.
Marriage is not just a private affair. Every marriage is
a public virtue in that it responsibly regulates human sexuality, brings
the two parts of humanity together in a cooperative and mutually
beneficial relationship and it delivers mothers and fathers to children.
Society benefits from the well-being of marriage; nearly every dollar
spent by our government on social welfare is in reaction to a marriage
breaking down or failing to form. Good things happen when we honor what
marriage is. Bad things happen when we try to change it.
Ultimately and inevitably, the future and the health of
humanity rests upon the health and future of marriage.
Developed by Glenn T. Stanton; Also by Pete Winn,
associate editor of CitizenLink at Focus on the Family.
Glenn T. Stanton is Director of Social Research and
Cultural Affairs and Senior Analyst for Marriage and Sexuality at
Focus on the Family. He is also author of Why Marriage Matters:
Reasons to Believe in Marriage in Postmodern Society (Pinon Press).
1 Catherine Malkin and Michael
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2 Maria Xiridou, et al., "The
Contributions of Steady and Casual Partnerships to the Incidence of HIV
Infection Among Homosexual Men in Amsterdam," AIDS, 17 (2003):
3 Glenn T. Stanton, Why
Marriage Matters: Reasons to Believe in Marriage in Postmodern Society,
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The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and
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4 David Popenoe, Life Without
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5 Stanley Kurtz, "Beyond Gay
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