Why good peo­ple can vote against gay mar­riage

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Den­nis Prager

Vot­ers in Maine, Mary­land and Wash­ing­ton will de­cide on whether to re­de­fine mar­riage to in­clude same-sex cou­ples. Given that there are good peo­ple on both sides of this is­sue, how are we to ex­plain their op­pos­ing views?

The pri­mary ex­pla­na­tion is this: Pro­po­nents and op­po­nents ask two dif­fer­ent ques­tions.

Pro­po­nents of same-sex mar­riage ask: Is keep­ing the def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage as man­woman fair to gays? Op­po­nents of same-sex mar­riage ask: Is same-sex mar­riage good for so­ci­ety?

Few on ei­ther side hon­estly ad­dress the ques­tion of the other side. Op­po­nents of same­sex mar­riage rarely ac­knowl­edge how un­fair the age-old man-woman def­i­ni­tion is to gay cou­ples. And pro­po­nents rarely, if ever, ac­knowl­edge that this un­prece­dented re­def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage may not be good for so­ci­ety.

That is why pro­po­nents have it much eas­ier. All they need to do is to fo­cus the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion on in­di­vid­ual gay peo­ple, show won­der­ful gay in­di­vid­u­als who love each other, and ask the Amer­i­can pub­lic: Is it fair to continue to de­prive these peo­ple of the right to marry one an­other?

When added to Amer­i­cans’ aver­sion to dis­crim­i­na­tion, to the el­e­va­tion of com­pas­sion to per­haps the high­est na­tional value, and to the equat­ing of op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage with op­po­si­tion to in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage, it is no won­der that many Amer­i­cans have been per­suaded that op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage is hate­ful, back­wards and the moral equiv­a­lent of racism.

Is there any ar­gu­ment that can com­pete with the emo­tion­ally com­pelling fair­ness ar­gu­ment?

The an­swer is that one can — namely, the an­swer to the sec­ond ques­tion, Is it good for so­ci­ety?

Be­fore an­swer­ing that ques­tion, how­ever, it is nec­es­sary to re­spond to the charge that op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage is morally equiv­a­lent to op­po­si­tion to in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage and, there­fore, the moral equiv­a­lent of racism. There are two re­sponses: First, this charge is pred­i­cated on the pro­foundly false premise that race and sex (or “gen­der” as it is now re­ferred to) are anal­o­gous. They are not. While there are no dif­fer­ences be­tween black and white hu­man be­ings, there are enor­mous dif­fer­ences be­tween male and fe­male hu­man be­ings. That is why sports events, cloth­ing, pub­lic re­strooms, and (of­ten) schools are rou­tinely di­vided by sex. But black sport­ing events and white sport­ing events, black re­strooms and white re­strooms, black schools and white schools, or black cloth­ing stores and white cloth­ing stores would be con­sid­ered im­moral.

Be­cause ra­cial dif­fer­ences are in­signif­i­cant and gen­der dif­fer­ences are hugely sig­nif­i­cant, there is no moral equiv­a­lence be­tween op­po­si­tion to in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage and op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage.

Sec­ond, if op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage is as im­moral as racism, why did no great moral thinker, in all of his­tory, ever ad­vo­cate male-male or fe­male-fe­male mar­riage? Op­po­si­tion to racism was ad­vo­cated by ev­ery great moral thinker. Moses, for ex­am­ple, mar­ried a black woman, the very def­i­ni­tion of Catholic is “univer­sal” and there­fore di­verse and has al­ways in­cluded ev­ery race, and the equal­ity of hu­man be­ings of ev­ery race was a cen­tral tenet of Ju­daism, Chris­tian­ity, Is­lam and other world reli­gions. But no one - not Moses, Je­sus, Bud­dha, Muham­mad, Aquinas, Gandhi, not the Bi­ble or the Ko­ran or any other sa­cred text, nor even a sin­gle anti-reli­gious sec­u­lar thinker of the En­light­en­ment — ever ad­vo­cated re­defin­ing mar­riage to in­clude mem­bers of the same sex.

To ar­gue that op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage is im­moral is to ar­gue that ev­ery moral thinker, and ev­ery re­li­gion and so­cial move­ment in the his­tory of mankind prior to the last 20 years in Amer­ica and Europe was im­moral. About no other is­sue could this be said. Ev­ery moral ad­vance has been rooted in prior moral think­ing. The anti-slav­ery move­ment was based on the Bi­ble. Martin Luther King, Jr. was first and fore­most the “Rev­erend Martin Luther King, Jr.” and he reg­u­larly ap­pealed to the moral author­ity of the scrip­tures when mak­ing his ap­peals on be­half of ra­cial equal­ity. Same-sex mar­riage is the only so­cial move­ment to break en­tirely with the past, to cre­ate a moral ideal never be­fore con­ceived. It might be right, but it might also be an ex­am­ple of the moral hubris of the present gen­er­a­tion, the gen­er­a­tion that cre­ated the self­es­teem move­ment: Af­ter all, you need a lot of self-es­teem to hold your­self morally su­pe­rior to all those who pre­ceded you.

We now re­turn to our two pri­mary ques­tions.

Is the man-woman def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage fair to gays who wish to marry? No, it isn’t. And those of us op­posed to same-sex mar­riage need to be hon­est about this, to con­front the hu­man price paid by some peo­ple through no fault of their own and fig­ure out ways to of­fer gay cou­ples ba­sic rights as­so­ci­ated with mar­riage.

So, the ques­tion is whether re­defin­ing in the most rad­i­cal way ever con­ceived — in­deed com­pletely chang­ing its in­tended mean­ing — is good for so­ci­ety. It isn’t.

By re­defin­ing mar­riage to in­clude same sex cou­ples we are play­ing with sex­ual and so­ci­etal fire. It is not enough to mean well in life. One must also do well. And the two are fre­quently not the same thing.

There are rea­sons no moral thinker in his­tory ever ad­vo­cated same-sex mar­riage. Den­nis Prager is the au­thor of “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs Amer­i­can Val­ues to Tri­umph”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.