For Whom the Bell Chimes
Per his usual participation, msteven makes a fair and reasonable point:
The truth is that marriage is and always has been open to opposite-sex couples that are not open to children. I agree that the issue isn’t JUST about the acceptance of homosexuality, and that allowing SSM is a significant change to the historical definition of marriage. But, as you said, “… circumstances sometimes eliminate the ideal”, and I think it is reasonable for SSM advocates to argue that theirs is another circumstance that should be considered. I am NOT saying I totally agree with them or that SSM is ‘constitutional’, but that it is about drawing a line.
There is a broad, bold line that must be crossed in order to admit homosexuals as another exception to the marital norm. Indeed, I’ve already stressed that we oughtn’t belittle non-marital family forms. People do their best with what they’re given, and forcing them into molds that don’t fit as a condition of doing something good — such as caring for others’ children or pledging mutual care to another adult — could hardly be to their or society’s benefit. Those who incline toward admirable life structures oughtn’t be discouraged.
Certainly, there are people who incline toward marriage, and I’ve long maintained that heterosexuals who enter into matrimony for all the right reasons don’t need civil recognition, and changes to the civil institution will affect them not in the least. But such folks invest in the image of marriage in order to make the option as palatable, even as attractive, as it is responsible. The young man whose girlfriend discovers herself to be pregnant should have a clear social model encouraging him to associate his progeny with a stable household including their mother.
If marriage is all about “love,” then those whom marriage is meant to change can quite reasonably reject the notion that they should marry on the grounds that they do not love enough. Too be sure, we’re too far down this road, already, but same-sex marriage, as an accepted proposition, would solidify the principle as a matter of stark law.
Worse, however, is that “love” is ultimately a religious concept, and civil marriage, if disconnected from the purpose of encouraging potentially procreative pairs toward stable relationships, is really about benefits and mutual care, to which any number of family types could rightly lay claim. In that light, it should be clear that the “exception” of allowing non-procreative, heterosexual couplings to enter into marriage is hardly a compromise at all: It merely creates a simple definition of marriage toward a necessary purpose, without imposing arduous and implausible obstacles, such as fertility tests or procreation pledges as a condition of a marriage license.