Conservative Theology

Gay Marriage, Pt. 3

Why Marriage is not Just About the Two People Getting Married

Religion and Politics

In the last post, we talked about why gay marriage is an inappropriate Christian option.  Now I want to focus on gay marriage as part of a society, and whether or not it has an appropriate place.

So, first off, why does the government say anything about marriage at all?

There are many reasons.  Modern social thinking tries to view humans as discrete individuals whose actions, in general, affect no one but themselves.  In fact, if your actions happen to affect someone else, this is often considered a bad thing. 

But in reality, humans live in relation to each other.  Therefore, if the law is to treat people like humans, it has a stake in certain relationships.

The worst argument I have ever heard of for gay marriage is that "if you disagree with same-sex marriage, don't marry someone of the same sex" (warning, explicit language!).  The argument is that gay marriage only affects the people getting married.  Unfortunately, our society's view of marriage has degenerated so low that people actually buy this argument.

The fact is, in marriage, one of the MAIN POINTS of getting married is precisely so that SOCIETY will treat you DIFFERENTLY.  Note that it is society that is the one who is now bound to do something when someone gets married.  Primarily, when someone is married, it is encumbant on the society to treat them as a unit, rather than as individuals.

Here are a few examples of the ways in which society's rules change for people who are married.  Note that this is just scratching the surface:

  • Presumption of partnership in business dealings - we don't get people to sign things separately - one signature works for the two of them.
  • Presumption of parenthood - no one has to perform a paternity check to see if someone's children are theirs.  Note that this works even if a partner is unfaithful - if someone sleeps with your wife, their kids are actually yours, because she is your partner, not theirs.
  • Privileged conversations - being married REMOVES the right of society to require testimony in a court of law against each other.  You cannot be compelled to testify against your spouse.

In addition, marriage law sets a norm of practice in many areas.  Many policies stem from marriage law, including:

  • Education - the way that marriage is presented in education is primarily dependent on the way in which it is described legally
  • Standard policies - as the government regulates more and more businesses, the way that businesses are expected to deal with their employees is based on the statuses assigned to them by the state.  If the state treats them as married, then before long businesses will be forced to do so as well. 
  • This can even get into churches.  Churches have been stripped of their tax-exempt status for not promoting the public good - and this is often based on whether or not their beliefs match up with the norms established by law.

So, as you can see, marriage law has VERY LITTLE TO DO with what people do as individuals, and VERY MUCH TO DO with how society is expected to respond to those who are married.  Therefore, the argument that "whether or not gay people get married doesn't affect you" is simply false.  Marriage is an important societal institution, and as such it very much affects all of us.  The decision of how we decide who gets recognized as married is a decision that affects all of us.

If two people want to take part in a religious ceremony that DOESN'T implicate the rest of society, there has never been anything stopping them.  I am not aware of any law that prevents a marriage ceremony.  However, marriage itself is not like that.  It not only requires things from the people getting married to each other, it also requires things from society at large as well.