Paul recently steered me to a post at Red State in which the author, Dan McLaughlin, seems to think he's found the "winning statistic in the same-sex marriage debate," the statistics coming by way of the New York Times via the Census Bureau. The statistic is important because
...even treated purely as a matter of quantifiable empirical social science, the legal debate comes down to whether there exists any rational basis for distinguishing the two relationships.(It does? If I recall, the judge in the California case summarily dismissed all rational defense of Prop 8 as irrational. Why? Because he said so, that's why.) Further,
The burden of establishing the complete absence of such a rational basis is on the proponents of court-mandated “marriage equality.” And new Census data makes that burden harder to carry.(Again, I'd point out that proponents of said equality didn't seem to be carrying much of a burden in California.)
So, what is that datum, that winning statistic that establishes the rational basis we're so desperately in need of? It is "that they [opposite-sex relationships] are vastly more likely to produce children, for reasons so biologically obvious they should not have to be repeated."
Are we to understand, then, that the judge in the California case did not know this biologically obvious fact? Of course he did. Would he have thought it "irrational" if such a statistic had been pointed out to him? Only in the sense that he'd have thought it irrelevant. As it is true that opposite sex couples are, and always will be, "more likely to produce children," so will it always be, to the entire marriage equality juggernaut, irrelevant. That every homosexual on the planet owes his existence to a heterosexual liaison is, likewise, a fact so obvious that it must be irrelevant. The union called 'marriage' is founded not on its possible fecundity, but on its depth of feeling. When a boy tells you that he loves his boyfriend as much as you love your wife, and dares you to prove him wrong, what will you say? When he says, "I am what I am, just as you are what you are, and you should not discriminate against me for being what I cannot help but be," what will you say? And when he claims that the foundation of marriage is love, not children, what will you say? You know in your bones that all his challenges are exemplars of irrationality but, really, what will you say? Judge Walker awaits your response because, contra Mr. McLaughlin, the burden is on you. The judge considers those challenges rational, and your instincts about the obvious irrational. Should you venture the conviction that homosexual relationships are somehow, well, unnatural, he will accuse you of being a bigot for thinking heterosexual relationships "superior." There may be a requirement in law for a "rational basis," but of what avail is that to you when the presumption of favor lies in its opposite?
The difficulty some people have in answering these challenges without seeming mean-spirited or intolerant may account for another flaw in Mr. McLauglin's post, a touching inclination toward compromise. He's in favor of legal status for same-sex civil unions. In posts at his personal blog, I think I detected (as I did with Charles Krauthammer back in 2006) a good deal of ambivalence about the propriety of the Federal Marriage Amendment. (You can judge for yourself by reading this and this.) Both he and Krauthammer seem enamored of the necessity of leaving this question to the states if at all possible. Krauthammer's opinion was that "Gay marriage is a legitimate social issue, to be decided democratically," to which my response was: No it's not.
. It’s a narcissistic social construct masquerading as an issue. Yes, we can legalize “it” so that homosexuals can live under the same roof, collect all the financial benefits of a real marriage, and do whatever else it is they do, but it still won’t be a marriage. I guess these days if enough members of a tiny minority start screaming that the rest of us owe them something because we have it and they don’t, even though the thing they want in the form they want it doesn’t exist, you’ve got yourself a legitimate issue....We tend to trust the people more than the judges because we think them less likely to impose intellectual atrocities on their neighbors. If the issue of abortion were left up to them, it seems likely that the currently allowed nine month period for unobstructed butchery would suffer serious restriction. (In my own state last election, the people amended the constitution to require parental notification prior to a minor’s abortion. It was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court as unconstitutional, even though we went about it constitutionally.) So, too, with gay marriage we’d expect the people to be more reserved in the rush to legality. But what if they did legalize it? Would they?The concept of civil unions (and the approval thereof) seems to me a sort of liberal parasite in the conservative constitution, eating us from the inside out. It is an attempt to stave off ultimate loss of our propietary right to the word 'marriage.' It amounts to saying, "Look, see how reasonable and tolerant we are. What you do in private is really not my concern. In a show of good will, we'll grant you this title of legitimacy if you'll just leave ours alone." Once upon a time, I asked what a civil union was, because I was having difficulty distinguishing it from marriage and, in time (in 2004 to be precise), was compelled to a conclusion:
...some conservatives are willing not merely to put up with civil unions as a matter of strategic compromise, but actually approve of them. This notion that we can feast on the Marriage Amendment while throwing homosexual couples the bone of civil union bespeaks a guilty conscience, as though we owe them something – a sign of tolerance and compassion, perhaps, a semblance of normalcy. "We're married but, hey, don't feel bad: you're almost married." But a bone is exactly what they’ll see it as, a scrap thrown from the table at which the rest of us sit...they will not stand for second-class citizenship or second-class “unions.” Marriage is the mainstream, and marriage is the goal. They do not want your tolerance or compassion; they want your approval and they will have it however they must get it. The essence of compromise is mutual assent, but there will be no compromise save that which is forced upon them.All of which is to say that of course the ability to bear children is important. But before there were children there was a man and woman. There are certain realities about human beings that don't need a "rational basis." They are rational because they're real. That you are a human being with a right to life endowed by your creator is not a fact to be validated by rational discourse or by the tortured cerebrations of judges, legislatures, or constitutions. It is a fact which precedes any positivist construct. The word 'marriage' is not defined in our constitution (that I know of) for the simple fact that the people who wrote it already knew what it was. That your marriage is real, and the one between John and Fred is not, is a truth built by God into the way the world works. It is this sort of truth, the only kind that counts, that has been cast out by our courts, who cannot be rational if they are hardly sane. Returning that truth to the public square from which it has fled ought to be Mr. McLaughlin's quest, not trying to satisfy some legal construct that is already stacked against him. How it is to be accomplished I have no idea, but that he might not succeed is...irrelevant.
Even though passage of the Amendment and the proliferation of civil unions would deny to the latter usage of a word, an official moral legitimacy will have been bestowed upon homosexual relationships - a condition precisely contrary to the Amendment’s purpose - but not legitimate enough for the activists, who will be happy to point out that the distinction we have been striving to discover here is in fact no distinction at all. What’s in a name? they will ask, and I fear for our answer.
I don’t think it’s quite dawned on us yet what’s been happening in Vermont, in Lawrence vs. Texas, in Massachusetts, and now in San Francisco. These are not the actions of judges and public servants engaged in a zealous but well-intentioned and polite disagreement over a matter of social policy. These are the actions of people who bear utter and absolute contempt for the moral and spiritual inheritance bequeathed us by the men and women, the mothers and fathers, who came before, whose love labored in this vineyard, and whose labor was fruitful, not barren. We ought to consider the nature of that contempt before showing ourselves willing to compromise not merely a word, but the most fundamental and life-giving state of being known to man. Although our divorce laws, and the living arrangements of many of our citizens, make it appear that the promise to become “one-flesh, ‘till death do us part” exchanged between man and woman is a concept highly malleable, it is only an appearance. The substance remains to prick our collective conscience. Acceptance of civil unions will be tantamount to a public announcement that legally, and therefore morally, the substance is of no consequence. It is no more possible to compromise the meaning of that sublime union known as marriage, than it is possible to be almost pregnant.