This is part 8 of 8 of my series on marriage, based on Girgis’ What is Marriage? Marriage is a comprehensive union. The state has excellent reasons to recognize it, and excellent reasons to enact the correct view of it. These reasons are rooted not in some obscure ideology or private interest, but variously and deeply in human nature and the common good of all society, which reason and experience reveal. These have been the themes of this series.
Many same-sex attracted men and women agree with this conclusion. Some do so because they object to casting same-sex unions in a mold designed for husbands and wives, but others cite reasons identical to or much like ones that have been offered in this series. Here is a link to one such, here is another and here is a third. You might fear that whatever gains the conjugal view wins for the many, it wins at a cruel cost for the few. This objection states that traditional marriage law harms the personal fulfillment, the practical interests, and the social standing of same-sex-attracted people.
Practical interests: a civil union or other policy that granted legal benefits to any two adults upon request would receive no objection from the conjugal marriage view. People can normally obtain these benefits privately, for example, through power of attorney. Personal fulfillment and social standing: please note that however the marriage debate is resolved, two men or two women will be free to live together, with or without a sexual relationship or a wedding ceremony. The same-sex civil marriage debate is not about anyone’s private behavior, but about legal recognition. The decision to honor conjugal marriage bans nothing. But neither does it discourage companionship. Not recognizing certain relationships as civil marriages will not make people lonelier unless we embrace the revisionist idea that emotional intimacy is what sets marriage apart–which is not true. A relationship may be of the greatest worth without calling for state recognition–especially if recognizing it would have harmful side effects. People rightly take delight in the public knowledge of their bonds in all kinds of relationships. Yet no one proposes to make friendships, for example recognized by law. Legal recognition only makes sense when something needs regulation, and can only regulate relationships with a definite structure. As has been shown, the only romantic bond that meets this criterion is marriage–conjugal marriage.
Please do not mistakenly assume that the conjugal view is concerned with targeting same-sex relationships. It is the redefinition of marriage that is concerning. What I wish to avoid is the harm this does to the common good. In the first and last analysis, what I have debated–and what I have defended–is marriage. There is no such thing as a neutral marriage policy. Marriage understood as the conjugal union of husband and wife really serves the good of children, the good of spouses, and the common good of society.
There is one final point to make, addressing full disclosure and transparency. Here I do not speak for Girgis, Anderson, George or anyone else. The reason I have spent the large amount of time and work I have on this series of blog entries is to explicate in as clear and detailed and cogent a fashion as I can the reasons I do not support any form of marriage other than the conjugal view. Their paper which turned into an essay, or whatever you want to call it, is the best way I’ve yet found to express it, however it is not complete. Of necessity they (and I) have only thus far considered implications through a secular lens. However, as those who have followed my blog for any length of time must know, I am also a spiritual and religious person. I want it clear that the genesis and root of my belief in conjugal marriage is that marriage is not the product of the human mind. It is not something that two people, or a community or a nation simply “came up with” somewhere back in the misty dawn of human civilization. Rather it was given by God himself, first to Adam and Eve, and subsequently to the whole human race.
As God has given this gift of marriage, and indeed His first commandment to Adam and Eve was to “multiply and replenish the Earth,” He is the only one who can set the terms of what marriage is. No other being has that right. In my view, the many great goods that marriage brings to pass only do so because they are following the order that God has given. To deviate from it is to at best dilute these goods, and at worst to pervert them to the degradation and degeneracy of civilization. Marriage is what it is, and man does not have the power to alter it or legislate to modify it, any more than he can alter any of the other laws of the universe. As has been said by others, “He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults to, more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured.” It is not my intention to give offense to any, simply to be as clear as I can in presenting my view.