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17 December 2011

Repudiation: Matthew Franck "Advocating Same-Sex Marriage: Consistency Is Another Victim"

In a column at Public Discourse, a religious-conservative online magazine, Mr. Franck makes eight points to conclude that marriage equality will bring about the downfall of religious freedom.  Absurd.
1. The ultimate question about the recognition of same-sex marriage is for the whole society to decide, not for judges on putatively “constitutional” grounds. It is a “constitutional” question in quite another sense—that is, it is a constitutive question, about an institution and a relationship that is pre-political, foundational of society itself, and even more basic than our constitutions or political institutions. Therefore the question should always be referred to the people themselves at the polls—and not decided by their legislators, let alone by judges.
No.  Rights should never be subject to the temperament of a majority at the polls.  This is not just my opinion.  Arguing against the constitutive approach is Wisconsin Family Voice, who oppose marriage equality:  Let’s make this very clear: Truth is not subject to nor is Truth swayed by public opinion polls.

Opponents of equality appear to be far more interested in maintaining inequality than the means by which that is done.  The argue for the ballot, as Mr. Franck does, unless it looks like they might lose at the ballot.  As it happens I agree with Wisconsin Family Voice on this narrow issue, rights should not be subject to public opinion polls or referenda.
2. In deciding the basic question, people should ask themselves, what is marriage? For it is a thing with a nature, and a purpose. Marriage has always been understood, throughout human history, as a comprehensive union of a man and a woman, grounded in their complementary natures—a couple of the kind that is capable of generating offspring, and being father and mother to them. The law of marriage has always fostered and protected this singular kind of relationship that is capable of natural parentage, and the only relationship fully capable of parentage of any kind, if “fathering” and “mothering” are understood as distinctive contributions. Were it not for the fact that the sexual union of men and women regularly produces children, marriage would not exist at all. Its existence and its character are in accord with the nature of that union.
No and no.  Marriage has not always been understood as the union of a man and a woman.  The Bible is filled with polygamists.  It is simply amazing how many opponents of marriage equality have forgotten about marriage in the Bible.  The most extreme case would be King Solomon, see 1 Kings 11:3.

While the purpose of marriage in the Bible was procreation, that has not been the modern understanding for a long time.  No state in the United States requires that a couple entering marriage be able or wanting to procreate.  That is one part of marriage and it is optional.  We have always allowed elderly couples to wed.  We allow infertile couples to wed.  There is much more to marriage than procreation.

Marriage without children is still a legal contract of the commitment of two people for each other.  It implies love and caring (although there are many historic examples of marriage to achieve peace between countries and alliances of businesses which may not have involved love at all).  Marriage is, in the words of the Supreme Court, one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.
3. Same-sex marriage advocates have so far been unable to give an answer to the question “What is marriage?” that does not result in the complete collapse of all shape and form to the institution. That is to say, if men can marry men, and women marry women, we no longer know what the institution is, or what it is for, or what its boundaries are, or who is to be ruled in and who is to be ruled out as eligible to participate in it. Polygamy is back; polyamory is in; even incestuous relations are impossible to condemn. This is not a slippery-slope argument. It is the observation of an explosion bursting a levee with a wall of water behind it.
Marriage equality does not diminish marriage, it expands and strengthens marriage.  Mr. Franck is under the false assumption that marriage is a zero-sum game, that for one to gain another must lose.  No one loses when more people are legally enabled to wed.

Marriage equality is about two people, not an arbitrary number of people.  Slippery slope arguments (that is what Mr. Franck is arguing despite his denial) were disproved in a court case in British Columbia just last month.  Same sex marriage does not open the door for polygamy, no matter how often it happened in the Bible.

Mr. Franck wants a definition of marriage.  Almost what I wrote above.  Marriage is a legal contract of the commitment of two people for each other.  A religion may, but does not need to, bless the marriage which then is also called holy matrimony.  Marriage implies love and caring (although there are many historic examples of marriage to achieve peace between countries and alliances of businesses which may not have involved love at all).  Marriage is, in the words of the Supreme Court, one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.
4. Such a change to the institution of marriage does indeed affect everyone. Our society has already done great damage to the institution of marriage thanks to easy divorce; thanks to abortion, contraception, and a widespread moral relativism about relations between the sexes; and thanks to social policies that make fatherhood optional when children come along. Marriage needs shoring up, not a “redefinition” that is actually a destruction.
Marriage equality affects those who are not in same sex marriages only in the requirement that they acknowledge the legality of marriages unlike their own.  This is separate from the problems in marriages that lead to divorce.  No opposite sex marriage would end in divorce if my partner and I wed.  That is just silly.

The other arguments here are irrelevant to the discussion of marriage equality.  If my partner and I wed there would be no abortion possible (as we are both male).  Contraception is also not an issue.  Moral relativism are Mr. Franck's code words, he does not like that society is moving beyond his bigotry.

Regarding the "make fatherhood optional" argument, Mr. Franck is, again, wrong.  Children raised by same sex parents tend to do just as well as those who are raised by opposite sex parents.
5. Some advocates of same-sex marriage are “marriage abolitionists,” who see the ultimate goal as a legal order that has no category called “marriage,” and same-sex marriage as a way station on that road. They at least know where they are going. But it is not a destination we should seek. Marriage between men and women makes families, and it is right and proper for the law to foster and protect it.
That is not what I want.  That is not what the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger want.  This is a red herring.  Those who desire marriage equality want marriage, not the destruction of marriage.
6. A common argument in favor of same-sex marriage is that laws against it are just like the old Jim Crow laws against interracial marriage. In 1967, the Supreme Court struck down such laws, calling the right to marry a “fundamental freedom.” But those laws interfered with marriage by introducing an irrelevant ingredient—race—as though it were a necessary one. That is, those laws used state power to redefine marriage, a natural institution, for artificial purposes. Now, it is the advocates of same-sex marriage who wish to use state power to redefine marriage, to make the word mean something new and thus change its nature, by removing its central ingredient, the coming together of a man and a woman to make a family.
The arguments against marriage equality based on sexual orientation are quite similar to the arguments against marriage equality based on race.  Mildred Loving did not make many public statements.  She, at the heart of the right to wed across racial lines, had this to say in 2007:
I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.
Race should be considered an irrelevant ingredient when considering marriage.  So should gender.
7. That 1967 decision of the Supreme Court was universally accepted, practically without a peep of protest, because every decent person would have been ashamed to argue that blacks and whites cannot marry. No denunciations of the decision came from any pulpits. It will not be so if same-sex marriage is nationalized by the Supreme Court. It will be Roe v. Wade all over again. Every growing, thriving, and theologically flourishing religious community in America today is part of the movement to defend the historic understanding of marriage, and they won’t be surrendering their principles. Their theologies may differ, but they share a common moral reasoning about the nature of marriage. And the defense of marriage can hardly be called an “establishment of religion” when it is agreed to by evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and Mormons, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews alike.
No.  Just this month a Kentucky church voted to ban mixed race couples.  They have since rescinded the ban, but to say that there was no protest is denial of reality.  Many religions chose to reinterpret the passages of the Bible, such as Exodus 34:14-16, to no longer ban marriage between a black person and a white person.

Already there are many religious groups that welcome same sex couples.  Religions do not tend to be in complete agreement with each other or internally.  Mr. Franck is not welcome to speak for my religion.
8. These diverse believers also share a quite reasonable fear that in a country that has adopted same-sex marriage, their religious liberty is threatened. For believing what their traditions have always believed, they will be condemned as bigots, and subject to discriminations and pressures. Religious dissenters from the new dispensation, in many tens of millions, will be second-class citizens, and will be chased out of many professions and avenues of business if they will not abandon what their faiths teach them about marriage. Their hospitals, schools, and charitable organizations will be pressured to drop their religious scruples, and to silence their moral witness.
No.  Religious liberty is not threatened.  Today a member of the clergy is welcome to deny the rites of marriage to any couple for any reason.  The government is required to acknowledge marriages that religious institutions can deny.  If Mr. Franck continues to denigrate same sex couples when there is legal equality, he is likely to be shunned, but not demoted to second class status.  If one doesn't like the idea of same sex marriage, then one should not wed another of the same sex.  This isn't about what you believe but about what rights are granted as promised in the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Mr. Franck's conclusion is a repeat of the above and then there is additional dialogue from the conference where he presented these eight points and two more that were not included in his column.

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