What's Wrong With the World has a warm relationship going back for some years with Professor and blogger Hunter Baker. I always enjoy reading his musings at the back of the journal The City and have no desire to be hard on him.
I was, however, somewhat surprised to read in the most recent issue the following, from Baker's "Thoughts on the Age."
Given the rapid change in culture, Christians will have to sort out where they are on gay marriage....
Option One: Gay marriage is wrong both theologically and politically....Without male-female complementarity, politics would not even exist. No community without that complementarity would even have a future. Male-female marriage and childbearing are at the heart of politics.
Option Two:P Gay marriage is clearly wrong theologically. There is nowhere for the church to go on the issue. However, the aspirations of politics can be different than the aspirations of faith. One possibility would be to say that adults are free persons who have to make their own moral choices and those shouldn't be regulated when they don't directly interfere with the lives of others.
[Option three is that gay "marriage" can also be embraced theologically by Christians.]
I would suggest that faithful Christians can find themselves embracing either option one or option two, but that option three is not available to anyone with any reasonable concern for orthodoxy. pp. 88-89
And later, speaking of an uncomfortable conversation with a pushy Episcopalian minister who was aggressively promoting gay "marriage,"
I could have worked through one of my hobbyhorses, which is that while there is room to talk about gay marriage in the context of politics (a libertarian turn of sorts), there is nowhere to go on the issue theologically. (p. 94)
I want to press the forward position, here--that is, Baker's Option One, and to argue that, if one thinks there is "nowhere to go" theologically in terms of endorsing homosexual "marriage," then one cannot consistently consider endorsing it as a civil and political matter.
Nothing I am going to say here is particularly original. In fact, the very unoriginality of the response to what Baker is mulling is the reason for my surprise that he should even be mulling it. Be that as it may, here goes:
Presumably, if one says that Christians cannot endorse gay "marriage" theologically, this means that one realizes that Christians cannot endorse the rightness and normalcy of homosexual acts or the real, metaphysical equivalence between homosexual relationships and male-female marriage.
Given this point, it follows that one cannot endorse homosexual "marriage" politically either. As I'm sure Baker realizes quite well, the state cannot be neutral on all metaphysical issues. Take personhood, for example. The state's refusal to protect unborn children from abortion is related to the state's refusal to treat unborn children as persons. Conversely, the fact that the state will punish someone who murders me is a reflection of the fact that the state considers me a person and protectable by law. Similarly, if some state were to declare dogs to be persons under the law with the full rights of the 14th amendment, this would make a substantial legal difference; the fact that it does not consider dogs to be persons for the purpose of jurisprudence and law also makes a substantial legal difference. State neutrality on all metaphysical matters is a complete myth.
It is therefore no surprise that the state's recognition of homosexual "marriages" does not amount to a neutral position on a metaphysical issue--namely, whether male-male and female-female sexual relationships are metaphysically and morally equivalent (at least) to male-female marriage. On the contrary, for the state formally to recognize such "marriages" is for the state to take a substantive position on that question--namely, to answer "yes" to that question.
This should make it evident that, if you think it importantly false to say that homosexual relationships are equivalent to marriage and that homosexual acts are, or even can be, morally normal and good, you should oppose the state's endorsement of this importantly false metaphysical position.
This point becomes particularly evident when we consider the implications of policy concerning children and child custody. In the case of a homosexual "marriage" or even a marriage simulacrum called a "civil union," family law judges in the case of a divorce or custody dispute are required to treat the new union as a true marriage. Thus any child born to one of a lesbian couple, for example, during the time of their union is deemed legally to have both women as mothers with custody rights in the event that the union is broken up. This should be no small consideration for anyone who sees the essentially disordered nature of homosexual relationships. Children, given homosexual "marriage," must be kept in contact with, perhaps even given in partial or full custody to, a sexually active homosexual partner who is completely unrelated to the children even if the other partner gets out of the lifestyle and leaves the relationship. All parts of society--the schools, the courts, the social workers, the lawyers, the employers--must treat two men and a baby they brokered from a surrogate mother in Thailand using purchased eggs as a true family and the child as equally the child of both of the "fathers." How can this not be overwhelmingly problematic as policy for anyone who understands that homosexual relationships are wrong and abnormal?
The argument that Baker sketches briefly for an alternative position (his option two) includes several important errors. The brief argument hinges on the puzzling notion that gay "marriage" is a matter of simply allowing "adults" to "make their own moral choices" without regulation. This sounds like a libertarian slogan, but surely it is almost self-evidently false. To begin with, the state's formally recognizing and hence endorsing homosexual relationships as marriages is far more and other than the state's merely leaving homosexuals free to make their own moral choices. That phrase might with more accuracy be used to describe, for example, rescinding state laws against acts of sodomy, but it emphatically does not accurately describe the state's creation of a category of "marriage" that includes homosexual unions. Homosexual "marriage" involves giving the special status--with all that that entails in terms of pensions, tax status, intestacy, child custody, and so on and so forth--that legally accrues to marriage to homosexual unions. This is therefore a positive recognition of those unions, not merely a matter of leaving people "free without regulation" to "make their own moral choices."
Even if we leave out for a moment the issue of public accommodations laws--since some libertarians like to pretend that we can create a world in which we have homosexual "marriage" but no public accommodations laws--we can see this point in other areas. What about the freedom of an employer to insure the spouses of his normally married employees but not of his homosexually "married" employees? Is that not his moral decision, which should be free? But given homosexual "marriage" and the undeniable existing requirement in employment law that all "married" employees be treated alike, he will not be free. What about the freedom of morally traditional teachers in, say, government schools and colleges to refuse to refer to homosexual couples as married?
For that matter, what about the freedom of justices of the peace to refuse to conduct homosexual "marriages"? Oh, yes, I know, I know, the homosexual lobby will immediately begin howling about interracial marriage, discrimination, and all the rest. But my target here is someone who says there is "nowhere to go" theologically on this issue and hence can be taken to reject the analogy to interracial marriage. Given that civil marriage is a form of official endorsement, it follows that people who work as government officials and are forced, on pain of job loss, to enable and engage in such endorsement are being deprived of their right to make their own moral choices as adults. Again, if we say that their refusal to endorse is itself a form of "directly interfering with the lives of others," we have turned libertarianism on its head: You are now "interfering directly" with someone else's life if you refuse to engage in overt acts which positively endorse his lifestyle choices! The fact is that civil marriage is not a matter of private choices only, and cannot be in the nature of the case.
There is therefore no way to have a particular group granted the status of civil marriage without involving some sort of public statement, which is going to have to be made by somebody, if only by the representative of the government who has to sign the paper that enacts that particular civil marriage. And if that is contrary to his conscience, then you have just interfered with his right to make his own adult moral choice. We may decide in various cases, such as interracial marriage, that it is just fine to interfere in this way with the choices of racially prejudiced justices of the peace, because anyone who thinks that way is misguided and wrong, but let's not pretend that this is about the government's getting out of things and just leaving more and more people free to make their own private choices.
Moreover, as any libertarian who has been breathing in and breathing out and reading the news for the last ten years should know now, if he didn't before, the homosexual agenda is the biggest opponent of individual freedom from government interference to come down the pike in decades. The enactment of homosexual "marriages" and even civil unions, or for that matter even homosexual non-discrimination laws as a preface to homosexual "marriage," has resulted in a dramatic crackdown on the freedom of adults to "make their own moral choices free of regulation when they don't directly interfere with the lives of others." That is, unless we take it that bakers who don't want to bake wedding cakes for homosexuals are "directly interfering with the lives of others" and deserve to be forced to undergo reeducation, which hardly sounds like a libertarian position! And the same for photographers, inn owners, and so on and so forth. The idea that homosexual "marriage" is a separate issue from the blatant persecution of moral traditionalists in every avenue of life who refuse to get on the homosexual "marriage" bandwagon is a fantasy, a form of willful ignorance. Of course homosexual "marriage" isn't about freedom, and it never has been. Hence, one finds again and again that the homosexual "marriage" activists tell the rest of us, in essence, "We won. Get with the program."
The libertarian argument for homosexual "marriage" as a matter of individual liberty never had much to commend it. In 2014, as opposed to, say, 2005, it looks more ridiculous than ever. This one should be hung out to dry. Anyone who endorses homosexual "marriage" should just admit outright that this isn't about individual liberty but about radical societal transformation, devil take the hindmost. (I believe we have one commentator who often serves as a good illustration of precisely this point in his gleeful anticipation of the punishments to be meted out to those who refuse to sign on.)
Moreover, if one sees that male-female complementarity is a theological non-negotiable, one has no reason for being taken in for a moment by the silly analogies to racial discrimination or by the pretense that the policy implications of homosexual "marriage" are morally praiseworthy. Male-female complementarity is indeed crucial to politics, but beyond that, government must either accept it or attack it. What government cannot be here is neutral. And homosexual "marriage" requires a stance of outright hostility on the part of the state to the foundational social units of the husband-wife pair and the nuclear family. Witness the government's attack on the notion, expressed by the citizens of California, that children need both a mother and a father!
This is, as I have said again and again, a zero-sum game. There is no comfortable middle ground where one can let the homosexual lobby have what they want politically and hope to be left alone to till one's own garden. This is an issue on which we cannot afford to be unclear. We must be prepared to hold the line, regardless of the political and personal consequences. We must do this, if for no other reason, for the sake of our own mental, moral, and metaphysical clarity.