'Gay' Marriage: Hawaiian Test Case Forces Debate
by David Morrison
"After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to
live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her. At first I thought she talked
too much; but now I should be sorry to have that voice fall silent and pass out of my
life. Blessed be the chestnut that brought us near together and taught me to know the
goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her spirit!"
Mark Twain, The Diary of Adam and Eve
Sometime this year, if court prognosticators have read their briefs correctly, a court in
Hawaii will likely rule that it is unconstitutional for that state to forbid marriage
between people of the same sex. When that happens, it will stir an enormous debate
within American culture and politics. States, one by one, will have to decide where
they stand on marriage and whether to recognize Hawaiian marriages. Hawaiians will
likely begin an effort to amend their constitution to reverse the court.
We may expect large amounts of essentially uninformed, or biased, media coverage.
Everyone will be faced with questions about an institution which nowadays seems to
be sinking fast and whose glory seems often more honored in its recollection than in
current practice. Yet marriage is an institution which remains a great social good one
whose nobility and necessity endures despite the inability or unwillingness of many
individuals to live up to it.
Three shaky premises
Supporters of so-called "gay marriage" generally build their case upon three broad, and
shaky, premises: economics, social stability and "social justice." Each of these can seem
like a valid reason to support same-sex marriage until we begin to look into them more
closely. Let's begin with economics.
First, supporters of same-sex marriage contend that being denied civil marriage
burdens homosexual or lesbian couples with additional costs married couples do not
have. Owning and keeping property, writing wills, filing income taxes, and a host of
other civil matters are said to be more expensive for same-sex couples.
Yet this is not necessarily true. In some states marriage does not appreciably cut the cost
of living, and it has been widely known that even married couples without children
have found it more economically advantageous to file two individual state and federal
tax returns than to file jointly. There is even a "marriage penalty," recognized by the
Clinton administration and the 104th Congress, in the federal tax code. There is no clear
indication, across the board, that restricting marriage to members of the opposite sex
unduly burdens homosexuals and lesbians economically. Second, it is also widely
supposed that, without marriage, homosexual and lesbian couples cannot do many of
the things married couples can. This is absolutely untrue. Gays and lesbians can
already purchase property together, name whomever they wish in wills and insurance
policies, and hold bank accounts and other assets jointly. All these things are open to
Americans whether or not they marry.
Third, the majority of homosexual couples are doing better economically than their
married heterosexual counterparts. According to the Simmons Market Research
Bureau, the estimated 600,000 readers of the National Gay Newspaper Guild earn an
average annual income of $41,300 per year, which is almost the median income of
married couples with two wage-earners! Thus if two average homosexuals documented
in the Simmons survey were to pool their earnings, they would have an income of over
$82,000 per year.
Further, this income disparity persists across lines of race and gender. According to the
1990 census, mixed-sex black households had an average income of $30,285 per year,
while households made up of two black males had incomes of $45,880 and households
made up of two black females had incomes of $32,060.
Supporters of "gay marriage" also cite social stability as a reason to extend civil
marriage to homosexual relationships, arguing that a lack of social support is one
reason so many of these relationships end as quickly as they do and why so many
homosexual men, in particular, live promiscuous sex lives even in the age of AIDS.
But the case for marriage having an impact on social behavior is likely overstated and,
as with economics, gay men and lesbians already possess many of the social goods of
Although there have been several media and cultural attempts to portray "gay" sexual
relationships as being just like everybody else's relationships, these efforts have mostly
glossed over the reality that the majority of homosexual male relationships studied
(along with a majority of lesbian relationships) are not monogamous and that, until
recently, many homosexuals opposed marriage and did not seek it.
Far from monogamous
It is difficult to overstate how far from monogamy homosexual relationships usually
are. One prominent "gay" relationship guide (The Gay Couple, 1984) frankly advised
homosexuals in the mid-1980s not to seek monogamy; the author's research interviews
with couples indicated it was too difficult to maintain and led to relationship failure.
According to Thomas E. Schmidt, author of Straight and Narrow? (1995), out of 10
randomly selected, average homosexuals, according to the statistical studies so far, only
four are currently in relationships. Only one is monogamous, and he will not be within
a year. Four have never been a relationship lasting more than a year, and only one has
ever been in a relationship for more than three years.
In fact, some prominent homosexual activists oppose extending civil marriage to
homosexual couples on the grounds that marriage is "too restrictive" a definition of
"gay" relationships, and other prominent homosexual writers suggest that marriage
would have to "change" if legally extended to homosexual couples.
A mere slip of paper
Given the weight of the data, as well as the nature of homosexual sex itself, it is highly
unlikely that a mere slip of paper from a municipal courthouse will be enough to bring
such embedded trends against monogamy to heel.
Further, we also need to note that homosexual couples have the key social benefits of
marriage already because, in fact, homosexuals can already be married. It is possible,
right now, in almost every major city in the United States for a homosexual couple to
plan and participate in a wedding ceremony with all the social recognition that goes
Predominantly "gay" churches, such as the Metropolitan Community Church, routinely
hold ceremonies, and several other mainstream Protestant denominations are
considering performing them. So if the social good of marriage is the right to announce
the relationship to family, friends and the broader world, homosexual couples already
have that without civil marriage. This practice, in place for over a decade now, has not
noticeably changed the trend lines of gay promiscuity.
Marriage seen as a 'right' The final broad set of reasons put forth for homosexual or
lesbian marriage is based loosely around an idea of social justice. Under this idea,
marriage is seen less as a responsibility than as a right and as a conveyer of social
approval for a couple's life together. Thus, marriage becomes less an institution meant
to help order society in continuity and provide for the propagation of values and social
responsibilities and more as an vehicle for personal expression. As one homosexual
activist put it, 'I sense the emergence over a very short period of time ... of a consensus
in the community in favor of the right to marrynot necessarily in marriage itself, but
in the right to marry." In this scenario, the push for homosexual marriage is little more
than an effort at an end-run around the major objection to the "gay rights" movement in
the first placethe effort to enshrine as good sexual behavior and other practices which
are, objectively, not good.
The State's compelling interest in maintaining, favoring and supporting marriage
recognizes that the "marriage ideal" is never meant to be an end for the two married
people, i.e., a mere playground in which they may exercise whatever selfish interests
they desire. Rather, the purpose of ideal marriage is to be a beginning, the foundational
relationship in what will be a family of relationships. In short, the State's compelling
interest in marriage is in the childrenfirst that they are conceived and born, and then
that they are educated in love, civic responsibility and basic humanity.
Of course there are going to be exceptions to this paradigm, such as couples who are
childless, usually because of infertility. But such couples are not the norm, nor are they
ideal. The fact that such a couple might marry does not violate the notion of what
marriage is; it does not prevent the couple from exercising, at least in symbol and
perhaps in fact, the relationship's deeper relevance. Same-sex marriage, by contrast,
cannot express or understand that meaning.
In the end, any discussions of societal recognition of homosexual marriage must come
down to a discussion of sex, its purpose and its meaning. Homosexual activists want
society, by offering them civil marriage, to effectively declare that what goes on in their
bedrooms to be of equal personal and social good as what goes on in the bedrooms of
married heterosexualsand it is not. What happens sexually between two men or two
women does not and cannot carry the gravity, the responsibility, the transcendent
aspect that sex between men and women must carry.
Heterosexual sex is the means for the transmission of human life and the creation of a
new human individual, and it is incumbent upon society to surround that creation and
those children with institutions which differ unambiguously from all other institutions.
It may soon be the responsibility of each person who believes in the uniqueness of
matrimony to speak out against its counterfeiting.
David Morrison is associate editor of PRI Review, a bi-monthly newsletter that
examines global depopulation trends from a skeptical viewpoint.
Taken from the April 1996 issue of "HLI Reports."
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