Posted by Charity on March 20th, 2009

Same-sex marriage is the hot topic in Vermont this week.  The legislature held a hearing on the issue and a bill was passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The full senate votes on Monday.

I woke up thinking about a post on this topic, but life called me away from the blog today.  As it turns out, Emerson Lynn’s Same Sex Marriage: The Conservative Case reflects some of what I was going to say and what I think is the strongest point.

The crux of the issue is one of social stability. Marriage connotes commitment. The more couples that seek that commitment, the more stable we are as a society. The greater the barriers to that commitment, the less stable we are. That has been conservative dogma for eons.

Thus, the more couples that marry, the more stable we become. If that is accepted, then it also follows that same-sex couples would add to society’s stability, not subtract. That should be something conservatives embrace.

And of course, this point,

The opposition has always been that gay marriage would do harm to one of society’s most fundamental social institutions. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Gays have not done any harm to the institution, heterosexuals have.

I don’t have time to lay out my thoughts on this issue, so for now, a link to Mr. Lynn’s piece will have to do.

14 Responses to “Emerson Lynn: The Conservative Case for Same-Sex Marriage”

  1. Charity I really don’t know where to begin.

    For Emerson Lynn to argue that conservatives back marriage as a solvent that holds society together is one thing. Everyone knows that the stability of community is based on NATURAL FAMILIES (i.e. marriages between one man and one woman solemnized before the transcendent faith of their choosing). To argue that extending marriage to homosexuals as a way to further strengthen society is ludicrous. Marriage is necessarily a compact between a man and woman, despite the redefinitions given to it by the state it only exists as such, hence the language of husband and wife.

    Society is organic and made up of various levels, strata, and hierarchies. The fundamental building block of society and sources of its authority is the natural family, and any revolutionary talk of equality rings more like the bell of the French Jacobins than the freedom riders of the civil rights era. To equate decadence, immorality, and cultural rot with an institution that is thousands of years old is also dangerous. I would have thought a conservative such as yourself would have realized that.

  2. N, I understand the conservative argument against same sex marriage and I understand where you are coming from. And I totally agree that this is not a civil rights struggle akin to that of blacks.

    What traditionalists seem to overlook, though, is that these relationships are going on anyway. They will no matter if they are legally recognized or not. Many of these relationships involve children. It stands to reason then that it is in society’s best interest to encourage stable legal unions for all families.

    Marriage, as it exists today in the US, is not the institution you are defending. You are defending an old definition of marriage that, sadly, has been eroded for decades. Marriage has been reduced to a contract, security of legal benefits. People get married knowing they can just get divorced if they are not fulfilled enough, or whatever. It is no longer taken seriously, not even by the gay marriage crusaders. (The couple that brought Massachusetts court-ordered same-sex marriage are already divorced.)

    I believe that we can only restore traditional marriage by practicing it ourselves.

    My sister stayed with us this summer while she got back on her feet. The other day, she gave me the best compliment ever. She said she was grateful that she was able to see what a healthy marriage looks like. It inspired her to wait for marriage before living with someone.

    For her whole life (she’s in her 20s), divorce, fornication, adultery, and so forth has been acceptable. It is that way for her entire generation. They need to see that there is a better way.

    That is how we change people’s hearts – by showing them what is good and right with our own actions, not by condemning other people’s actions.

    I want to add that I respect your position on this and I understand where you are coming from.

  3. Just out of observation, it appears to me that this issue is less about same-sex couples wanting to be “married” and more about having society validate their lifestyle choices. I say that as a woman who has gay friends that I love dearly – and I accept them just the way they are. Homosexuality isn’t an issue, no more than my heterosexuality is for them. But why should we change the entire face of an institution, simply to validate their choices for them? That’s not a good reason in my opinion. I understand wanting to be accepted – I think we all long for that in some regard. But acceptance won’t come from a law.

    ~T the D

  4. The very fact that marriage has been reduced to a contract has made it possible for gay rights activists (who years ago considered the idea of marriage to be oppressive) to wedge their way into accepting the idea. Marriage is more than a contract and always will be, despite the leveling machinations of gay interests.

    Marriage has been damaged by adultery and divorce and spousal abuse but the fault for these ills lie with the individuals involved not the institution of marriage itself or heterosexuality.

    Just because some individuals have chosen to live a lifestyle that is outside the mainstream does not mean that the majority of people have to accept them or what they do, let alone institutionalize their unions and behavior.

    Similarly society shouldn’t encourage bad behavior. You wouldn’t give an alcoholic a drink or a drug addict drugs, so why would you encourage unnatural sexual behavior?

    But I do hear where you are coming from and respect your opinion.

  5. Unnatural Sexual Behavior? God, it’s scary to think of the many elected PREverts in public office who get to vote on this issue. Aren’t some of them ‘married’ to their cousins?

  6. Who gets to decide which sexual acts are bad?

    N.P. West?
    Ted Haggard?
    Jim Dobson?
    Someone in the government?

  7. Dear Ms. Tensel,

    It is an interesting suggestion that there is a conservative reason for supporting same-sex marriage. It is not a new one, of course, but it is an interesting one. Ultimately, however, it all falls rather short.

    One thing conservatives defend is not simply the social construct of marriage; it is not marriage’s social function that is deemed the sole building block for all societies. Conservatives also believe that nature informs language; that words, though incompletely, correspond to realities that are important for knowledge, the very knowledge that forms the foundations of ethics, religion, science, and so on. If words like marriage, husband, wife, man and woman, are elastic; if they are not signifiers of real, ontologically sure things but are always mutable and fluid, then we will find ourselves losing more than we think: we will actually lose the ability to think. Truth goes out the window.

    We already see this sort of thing in this thread: When N.P. West suggests that gay unions are “unnatural,” he is apparently stepping into an ethical maelstrom of vagaries. But nature is really quite clear on the matter, despite the sophistries of those who believe nature is not one whit clear. We accept all kinds of things as “final” or “static”; human history might be construed as a long fight between those who accept the fixed and those who crave the novel; between those who believe the fixed is life-giving and those who believe the fixed is deadly.

    One thing you wrote in the comments thread is very interesting:

    What traditionalists seem to overlook, though, is that these relationships are going on anyway. They will no matter if they are legally recognized or not.

    I would note that if this is true, then surely gay-marriage advocates agree with this truth. Hence, it seems justifiable to ask this sort of question: If gay relationships are going to continue no matter what, how does my opposition to gay marriage adversely affect those who are in committed gay relationships? Of course this is an inversion of what gay-marriage advocates say to straights: How does anyone’s gay marriage affect your straight marriage? But if gays and lesbians define for themselves what constitutes a marriage for them — as they often aver — and not the state, then how does a law against gay marriage threaten what they have defined for themselves? Are their relationships to one another so vulnerable that NOT legalizing gay marriage adversely affects their love?

    In other words, if we all define for ourselves what marriage means, and not the state, or the church, or even nature, then how does a law against gay marriage impede a self-defined couple from loving one another?

    (By the way: what are the organic, etymological roots of the word, coupling? A thoughtful person would immediately see that heterosexual unions are the source of this idea: hence, homosexual coupling is not an organic but an imitative construct, emulating what nature shows so readily to be normative — and life-giving — within heterosexual relations: Heterosexuality is essential, while homosexuality is contingent.)

    Egads, I see I’ve gone on too long. Forgive me.

    Peace and mirth,


  8. Oh, one more thing.

    Who would have thought that something so wonderful as this blog could come out of Vermont?

    I jest, of course. I love Vermont.

    Thanks for letting me be your guest.


  9. Yeah, and I got in trouble with a liberal (see comments, GMD) replying to your excellent comment posted on that little Ag alert I did, Charity. Liberals are sooooooooo sensitive. I see money in a Support Group for them. Or maybe a Ministry.

  10. Emerson Lynn is a bright guy, and I appreciate the fact that Charity is thinking this through with an open mind. I also appreciate that fact that Charity is recognizing that gay people are already in marriage relationships (although they are not recognized in law), and are already raising children. Of course recognizing these marriages will stabilize these relationships to the benefit of the spouses and their children. And that is a social good.

    The word marriage has changed in meaning constantly over time and place. Women especially should remember that.

    And let’s not forget that the only reason the marriage relationships between same-sex couples have not been recognized in law in the past is because of ignorance and bigotry. Marriage equality won’t end the tradition of marriage, it will end the tradition of bigotry.

    Today many people, including many people of faith, recognize the bigotry. Discrimination in the marriage laws limits the religious freedom of gay people who are spiritually called to marriage, and the communities of faith that want to be able to join them in religiously solemnized civil marriage.

  11. Dear Tom,

    With all due respect, I must disagree.

    You have suggested that “marriage” has changed over the years. No it hasn’t. Marriage has NEVER meant anything that is not essentially heterosexual; marriage, whether polygamous or monogamous, has always been about men and women in sexual union (and in some cases, mere spiritual union). The apparent elasticity of the definition of marriage does not suddenly suggest that marriage could be redefined beyond the “gametes,” so to speak, in sexual union.

    Moreover, other words related to marriage have not changed their import: “wife” and “husband” have always found their meaning in the context of heterosexuality: “Woman” actually has roots in “wife”, as in “wife of man,” or wif-man. It is only relatively recently — in the deliberate attempt by activists to control politics by the changing of language in order to reshape the psychology of the electorate — that we see such words lose their inherited, traditional meanings.

    Your suggestion that Ms. Tensel is “thinking this through with an open mind” is, in my opinion, rather condescending. A quick perusal of essays here proves to me that Ms. Tensel is obviously an open-minded person. Also curious is your description of Mr. Lynn as “bright.” In doing so, you appear to include yourself in that set of “bright, open-minded” people who understand. But I think open-mindedness, at least how pop-culture understands it, is wildly over-rated. I am reminded of that idiotic bumper sticker — Minds are like parachutes: They only function when open. Any skydiver knows that a parachute functions BEST when properly closed, for it is then that the thrill of skydiving — freefall — is possible. A parachute, at least to those who know the sport of skydiving, should ONLY open when needed. In fact, in a perfect world, skydivers would prefer to land with no chute at all (and there are some working toward this, by the way).

    In other words, open-mindedness is not really a pre-condition for successful living: it is the mind closed around truth — and not the mind open to the idea that truth is relative — that not only survives but has the capacity to evolve. Think of two adventurers on separate treks. There’s the man who has closed his mind to the stifling idea that the coordinates on his compass mean something; and then there’s the man whose mind is open to the liberating idea that N, S, E, W are just elastic fictions, bearing no relation to fixed reality. Of the two adventurers, only the closed-minded man actually has the adventure. The other man frolics in open-minded futility.

    Notice, by the way, how open-minded gay-marriage advocates are about words like marriage, wife, husband and family, and yet how closed they are about words like commitment, love, stability, law, rights, equality and homophobia. Curious, no?

    In the end, this debate is profoundly philosophical. It’s about ontology, about nature and the essence of being, of being human. It’s about epistemology, about the nature of truth and how we know it. It’s about ethics, about how we behave in light of what is and what we know. This is no simple issue about “rights.” Those who think it is trivialize both sides of the debate.



  12. Bill, I finally got a chance to read your comments. Thanks for taking the time to share your opinion.

    I fully appreciate the importance if words and their meanings. I had a brief post in the past about changing the definition of the word “marriage.”

    Honestly, the only reason I see for supporting gay marriage is that, without legal recognition, these relationships lack certain legal benefits enjoyed by married couples.

    The ideal situation would be to have a nationally recognized civil union, reserving the word “marriage” for its traditional meaning. Since we don’t have that, the only way these couples can get those benefits (on the federal level) is to change the (legal) definition of marriage.

  13. Dear Charity (may I call you by your first name?),

    It is a pleasure to “meet” you.

    I know that “certain legal benefits” are instantly conferred upon heterosexual couples at marriage, but is it true that gay couples have NO access to those same benefits? Every lawyer I’ve discussed this with has said that such benefits are easily granted to gays and lesbians — and anyone else — if they but make the necessary steps.

    Doesn’t the gay marriage argument thus devolve into merely granting certain legal rights to gay couples more quickly? And doesn’t this, then, mean that we MUST be reductionistic, reducing marriage to nothing more than a relationship wherein certain legal rights are granted to two parties in contract with each other? Is this how we want marriage to be understood throughout the generations, as a mere contractual construct between “committed” parties? (Are a builder and investor contracted to each other “married” since they have certain legal rights that those outside that contract don’t have?)

    Gay marriage is imitative, derivative. It is an imitation of what you have with your husband, despite it being utterly different at its core. The very idea of gay marriage “forces” you to view marriage differently; once gay marriage is legalized, you can NEVER say — and have your freely spoken convictions embodied in the state or protected by that state — that marriage is solely between a man and a woman. If you have children, the state will not permit you (and this without laws against it) to teach your children that marriage is about one man, one woman: your children will be told something different at every turn (and thus they really wont be yours). The social, epistemological and ontological impact of gay marriage is HUGE. This is not about fairness: this is about the very nature of everything that is.

    Just some crazy thoughts, I know!

    Peace to you,


  14. So when we talk of “traditional” marriage, can someone please clarify which tradition? Arranged marriages, marriages of social standing, polygamy? Up until recent history, that’s what “traditional” marriage was. Love was not often even in the equation. Seems like a lot of you are hung up on this silly notion that marriage is somehow always intricately tied to religion. It’s not.

    N.P., I can always count on you for a good laugh… “unnatural”? So that’s the criteria by which we judge the goodness of something now? Do you drive a car? Take medicine? Use plastic? Crap in a toilet? Those are all unnatural things too, I expect you’ll be starting a movement to stop those things, as well?