The Non-Case for Same-Sex Marriage as a Republican Issue
So Damien Baldino, blogger at RIRepublican.com and candidate for the Rhode Island House, supports same-sex marriage. I sympathize. I do. In fact, when I began considering the issue back in the spring/summer of 2001, I held the libertarian view, as a government matter, but I rapidly discerned the weakness of the pro side for SSM, and I’m increasingly appreciating how fundamental marriage is for many of the very principles that Baldino emphasizes. Consider:
First, Republicans tend to support small government. To me, that means having a government that focuses on the “basics”, preserves individual liberty, and stays out of the private lives of its citizens. Among the most private of these decisions is who one should marry.
On the first point, I recommend that people begin to keep an eye on seemingly unrelated stories, such as the one I noted yesterday, describing hardship and difficulties, with the implication that the government ought to step in and help. Marital dysfunction is often at the center of them, even if the subjects and reporters gloss over it.
Fortifying familial ties, as in nuclear households, is what allows us to preserve freedom in the law and minimize the size of government. Making the necessary edits to the image of marriage in order to include same-sex relationships changes the meaning a very important way. Yes, there ought to be rights and allowances for adults who commit to supporting each other, but I can’t for the life of me see why they ought to be limited to people of the same sex who have sex, nor for the life of me why they have to be held up as equivalent to the basic melding of the sexes across generations. If you want the government to focus on “basics,” in other words, we need social institutions that secure everything else.
As for the second point, characterizing marriage as a hugely private matter flatly ignores the significance and purpose of the category. It is a public institution; it is a public declaration of intent and a public recognition of responsibility for each other and for the children that married couples typically produce. Indeed, the public approval that marriage allocates is precisely the reason that gay rights advocates have switched from dismissing marriage to coveting it over the past fifteen years.
The need to protect the marriage culture similarly negates Baldino’s subsequent paragraph:
Republicans tend to emphasize family values. In my view, supporting family values should involve encouraging marriage. Many couples have children from previous relationships, and may be living together. They are couples in every sense of the word, yet they lack legal protections afforded to heterosexual couples. If these couples are living as families, they should be treated as any other family, with all the legal protections that entails.
This view evades the fact that mothers and fathers are uniquely valuable to children. Same-sex pairings are not “couples” in the sense that they can provide children with both. For the purposes of forming a family, however, they are “couples” in the sense that any pair could be, whether sexually involved or not, whether related in some other way or not. It doesn’t take sexual intimacy for people to remain mutually supportive “for years,” to purchase property together, or to work together to raise families. Baldino’s right that the government shouldn’t tell citizens in any such arrangements “who they can marry,” but it has to admit that the limitless variety of human relationships cannot all be defined under the umbrella of marriage.
Throw in the damage being done in the judicial and procedural implementation of SSM and the likelihood that an SSM victory will lead to legal presumptions against the practice of many mainstream religions, and it becomes increasingly difficult to justify either acquiescence or the redefinition of conservatism to support this most radical of causes.