The Proper Frame of Traditionalist Mind
Advocates or same-sex marriage do everything they can to paint supporters of traditional marriage as motivated by animus and hatred. They strive to obscure the very basic difference between biological pairs that, by their nature, can create children and those that cannot. It’s all too easy, under that fire, to back into a small range of argument that does little to contradict their more outlandish and offensive assertions.
Ron Sider reminds traditionalists — specifically evangelicals, in his case — that we should fight back against such attacks by making them manifestly implausible:
Tragically, because of our own mistakes and sin, we evangelicals have almost no credibility on this topic. We have tolerated genuine hatred of gays; we should have taken the lead in condemning gay bashing but were largely silent; we have neglected to act in gentle love with people among us struggling with their sexual identity; and we have used the gay community as a foil to raise funds for political campaigns. We have made it easy for the media to suggest that the fanatics who carry signs announcing “God hates fags” actually speak for large numbers of evangelicals.
Worst of all, we have failed to deal honestly with the major threat to marriage and the family: heterosexual adultery and divorce. Evangelicals divorce at the same rate as the rest of the population. Many evangelical leaders have failed to speak against cheap divorce because they and their people were getting divorced just like everyone else. And yet we have had the gall to use the tiny (5 percent or less) gay community as a whipping boy that we labeled as the great threat to marriage.
The difficulty, on the latter count, is that the same-sex marriage movement has pushed the front line of the marriage debate away from divorce, because the nature of the couples is logically prior to the appropriate rules of their relationships. Sider is correct, when he writes:
… we should seek to change the divorce laws, especially no-fault divorce. When children are involved, the law should deny no-fault divorce and in other ways make divorce more difficult. This, not gay marriage, is the area of marriage law that affects the vast majority of our children. We should be spending the overwhelming majority of the time we devote to marriage law to changing the law that permits cheap divorce for heterosexuals.
But if society’s concept of marriage as a relationship is such that it explicitly excludes the capacity for shared biological children as its sine qua non, then the argument for tightened divorce laws loses much of its punch. SSM presents marriage as an emotional and legal arrangement between two consenting adults; on what grounds does the government disallow them from divorcing? Having discarded the notion that the marriage is written into our biology and deserves support as a cultural institution above government, there would seem to be little basis for forcing unhappy couples to take a broader societal good into consideration as they order their affairs.