The Clarity of the Point Is the Point Itself on Marriage
In a letter responding to my recent op-ed on same-sex marriage, Peter Asen does the service of illustrating why opposition to same-sex marriage is not the same as anti-gay bigotry. Readers should be apprised of the fact that I did not argue that homosexuality should be hidden from view. Rather, I suggested that marriage should remain an opposite-sex relationship that is fundamentally procreative in its meaning.
The Providence Journal was helpful in titling Asen’s letter, “Boys already see gay pairs holding hands.” Boys also see friends hugging and siblings kissing. My point was not that children cannot process the reality of differing relationships; it was that they should understand marriage to be uniquely intended for relationships that tend to have as an outcome (and typically an intention) the creation of children.
Asen misinterprets my point to be that girls and boys will grow up wanting to marry their friends, as if by first option. To be honest, I don’t find it difficult to imagine older women bequeathing the honor on their dearest friends or young men finding it financially advantageous to sign each other up as spouses. A variety of circumstances might provide incentives — in a nation and culture of loose divorce rules — to enter into marriage, from work benefits to immigration policy.
That is not, however, my central concern, nor was it the argument of my op-ed. In a society with a multitude of relationship types, it remains true that children will eventually have to be told why they can’t (or shouldn’t) marry their friends, and with the innovation of same-sex marriage, the explanation can no longer include the fact that husbands and wives tend to make each other mommies and daddies. They won’t, for that reason, conclude that marrying a pal is equivalent to marrying a lover, but they will, at the deep level of understanding what is just true, have a different sense of what it means to transform a lover into a spouse.