Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Gay Marriage and Hetero Divorce

I have made this link in verbal arguments with my fellow conservatives but haven't actually written anything about it. Don't have time to analyze, but this article makes most of the points I would have. And since it is published by a subsidiary of Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministry, it has more credibility than I do for people that think in such terms:

Divorce is in the background of the gay marriage debate in at least three ways. First, gay marriage is the end of the trend that no-fault divorce began. The legal innovation of unilateral divorce began to reduce marriage to nothing but a temporary association of individuals. If marriage is merely a free association of individuals, there is no principled reason to exclude gay couples, or even larger groupings of sexual partners. The permanence of marriage was one of the key features that distinguished it from an ordinary contract.

Second, the high divorce rate and the resulting non-permanence of marriage made the institution of marriage more attractive to same-sex couples than it otherwise would be. If marriage still meant one to a customer for life, I seriously doubt that we’d be hearing about same-sex marriage today. Gay couples evidently have a more relaxed concept of both permanence and fidelity than do heterosexual couples. Gay activists would be much less likely to invest time and energy working for the right to marry, if divorce were available only for adultery or cruelty.

Most importantly, the high divorce rate has made it difficult to articulate opposition to gay marriage. People who have been divorced may feel hypocritical if they voice opposition to a system they felt they had to use. People who secretly fear they may need a divorce someday are reluctant to bad-mouth the easy availability of divorce. People who are not confident in their own ability to keep their marriage together for a lifetime, won’t speak out against the culture of divorce. A significant subset of such people will be reluctant to voice their opposition to gay marriage. People who have lost confidence in marriage as an institution of exclusivity and permanence are simply not going to have the heart for a fight over gay marriage.

Just to emphasize my point: note that in the rest of the article Ms. Morse does not advocate a Constitutional ammendment forbidding unilateral divorce, but has some helpful cultural suggestions on how to confront it. Legal issues, of course, are important in this as in the gay marriage debate, but a mature and effective Christian response need not resort to demagoguery or panicked extremism.

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