The Basic Point on Marriage
Ross Douthat states well the essential argument for preservation of traditional marriage that I’ve been making:
So what are gay marriage’s opponents really defending, if not some universal, biologically inevitable institution? It’s a particular vision of marriage, rooted in a particular tradition, that establishes a particular sexual ideal.
This ideal holds up the commitment to lifelong fidelity and support by two sexually different human beings — a commitment that involves the mutual surrender, arguably, of their reproductive self-interest — as a uniquely admirable kind of relationship. It holds up the domestic life that can be created only by such unions, in which children grow up in intimate contact with both of their biological parents, as a uniquely admirable approach to child-rearing. And recognizing the difficulty of achieving these goals, it surrounds wedlock with a distinctive set of rituals, sanctions and taboos.
The point of this ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.
Douthat goes on to note the long deterioration of the ideal among heterosexuals, but he doesn’t present the specific relevance of same-sex marriage thereto. He’s right to decry serial polygamy (multiple marriage partners throughout life via the mechanism of divorce). However, same-sex marriage doesn’t stand in potential contrast to that trend; it locks into law the view of marriage that enables it: being primarily about mutual care and romantic affection between adults, with the binds of procreation secondary. Worse, it lays the foundation for further dissolution of the institution to an anything-goes practice centered on the benefits permitted to spouses.