Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

The “Right to Marry”

Posted by Tony Listi on April 30, 2009

It is time to stop being bamboozled by the rhetoric of the homosexual agenda. We as conservatives and libertarians of all people should be much more careful about “rights” talk than the socialists. For every right there must be a corresponding duty. If I have a right to health care, then the doctor has a responsibility to give it to me. So then what exactly does it mean to have a “right” to get married?

Please pay close attention: When one starts thinking precisely in this way, one realizes that it depends on what we mean by “marriage.” By marriage, do we mean merely the social institution by which one person binds oneself to another person through certain vows? Or do we mean that exact same institution which is also publicly recognized and ratified by government? Every good debate must define its terms.

Clearly, in the first sense, everyone already has the “right to marry.” There are no laws preventing gay people from binding themselves to each other, making vows to each other, living together, engaging in sodomy together,  expressing affection for each other, etc. etc. Nor am I advocating laws to prohibit such things. This is the emotional straw man that the left and many libertarians like to throw at conservatives.

However, it is certainly true the homosexual relationships are currently not recognized and ratified by the state. And WHY should they be? In order to answer that crucial question, we must ask ourselves why heterosexual relationships are recognized and ratified by the state.

Also, following the wisdom of Aristotle, it is injustice to treat unequal things equally. For example, there is no legal equality between children and adults in America for good and obvious reasons relating to intellectual maturity. Therefore, if we can find reasons that the state recognizes and ratifies heterosexual relationships which do not similarly apply to homosexual relationships, then we have found relevant inequality between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

So why does the state legally recognize heterosexual relationships, i.e. marriages? Because they are the fundamental building block of society. On an existential level, new citizens and thus the perpetuation of society and the state depend upon enduring heterosexual unions. Moreover, heterosexual couples, i.e. parents, are the ones who raise and shape the character of future citizens of the state. These are the benefits that heterosexual couples provide to the state. Even the most powerful state cannot create a new human being and love him or her. Therefore, the state recognizes families, heterosexual couples, legally because of this unique role they play in any society and civilization.

Homosexual couples are necessarily infertile and scarce. There is no equality between heterosexual and homosexual unions. They provide no public benefit such as heterosexual unions do. They therefore do NOT deserve recognition by the state. It is as simple as that.

Ultimately, transfers of property, who can visit someone in the hospital, and every other example that turns into a sap story about “oppression” against homosexuals, all these things are NOT what marriage is all about and can be remedied through other current legal means (e.g. power of attorney, contracts, etc.). So please don’t bring them up. They are irrelevant.

All people have the right to “marry” whomever or whatever they choose. But only heterosexual unions, these unique relationships among human beings, have a right to the attention and recognition of the state.

8 Responses to “The “Right to Marry””

  1. G said

    It’s hard to even take anything you say seriously when you approach the situation with such sensitivity to refer to copulation between homosexuals as sodomy – which I am pretty sure as a christian you are well aware of the origins of the word being connected to the story of Sodom and homosexual rape. If it walks like a bigot, talks like a bigot… guess what, it’s probably a bigot. How are people supposed to read this and take what you say as being fair and reasonable when you have to resort to using loaded terms like that?

    Beyond that, you haven’t provided any reasoning WHY they shouldn’t have the right. It does not change your legal rights in regards to marriage, what difference does it make to extend rights to another group? I mean, I’d stand up against any legislation forcing a religion to recognize and perform gay marriages because well… forcing my beliefs unto others it’s just plain and simple wrong. Gay marriage being legalized doesn’t force any unwilling parties into it.

    In your last paragraph you completely ignored other rights that go along with being married… like joint filing in income taxes, increased ease of adoption (which, by the way, all studies I’ve seen that weren’t performed by biased thinktanks show that homosexual couples are perfectly capable of raising children… don’t pull out any of that “traditional family” crap on me because a “traditional family structure” hardly seems to exist in the United States anymore and most people seem pretty well adjusted), having their partner on their health insurance plans (which is allowed in some states anyways, bless them). I mean, yeah a lot of these things can be resolved through the passage of other laws, but what’s the point when there’s such a simple solution? I mean, unless of course you don’t want your marriage compared to the marriage of homosexuals…. but I mean, hell, I don’t really want my marriage to compared to people who get their marriages annulled, get divorced, live in abusive relationships, etc… but I deal with it because in the end it doesn’t effect me.

  2. M said

    I hate to say it, but I do think G is right. Your post relays more of your personal religious stance on the issue rather than a sound argument against why a homosexual “marriage” should not be so. Yet, I think calling you a bigot is a bit too far. I too disagree with gay relationships because of my faith but I honestly do not believe that changing public policy truly addresses the issue. It seems that so many people see only one solution to the problem- making “marriage” only between a man and woman. But, I don’t think policy is what needs to change I think it’s our culture (yes, that was a “duh!” remark). More effort should go to reaching out to the people in homosexual relationships and challenging their beliefs- why have they chosen this route in life? Sure at times it may seem fruitless, but I’m sure breakthroughs would be made. For policy, only changes the law but it doesn’t change the convictions and core beliefs of those involved- if lasting difference is to be made, that is what needs to be changed.

  3. Azl said

    What exactly is the weight of governmental recognition or ratification? If the government has in place procedures that allow homosexuals to bind themselves and those procedures are indistinguishable from those binding heterosexuals, why is that significant?
    I mean does the government have some special role which gives it a duty lend credence to some legal activities over others? Does allowing gays to marry in a civil sense even constitute that?
    I mean, I understand why religious marriages will never include homosexuals, because they mean something entirely different from civil marriages. But a government piece of paper does not create a marriage, nor does the absence of one prevent a marriage. It’s an act of recognition alone, which I presume happened for pragmatic reasons – taxing, legal inheritance, blah blah blah.
    Like, does government recognition confer some special status that we can’t allow? I don’t particularly think government recognition lends any credence at all. We’re not talking about a national proclaimation that gays and straights are now the same, we’re talking about procedural rules to secure the same pragmatic ends – taxes and whatnot. Wouldn’t we still be free to judge homosexual unions however we want?

  4. John Hendrix said

    There are two distinct entities named “marriage”. These two distinct things are different and their sharing of the same name confuses the argument. These two different entities are:

    “Spiritual” marriage. By “spiritual” marriage I mean the mutual conscious intention by a couple to merge themselves into a lifetime partnership. In my view, a spiritual marriage is what is created by the vows exchanged, by the mutual commitments two people share, and—if they’re religious—the participants might also be conscious of an additional covenant that is created with their God.

    “Legal” marriage. Legal marriage is a creation of the state. It is comprised of the set of legal arrangements enforced by the state. The state creates a legal marriage by issuing a marriage license (no pedantic nitpicking, please) and terminates a marriage by a divorce decree. Among other things, legal marriage protects the participants’ property rights, provides legal status for children, establishes that the survivor—barring wills and so on—inherits their partner’s property, and entitles a partner to sign “do not resuscitate” orders.

  5. John Hendrix said

    (I had a misfire, this comment was meant to be part of the previous post)
    Now let’s consider why the state does not participate in spiritual marriage.

    In my view, two people can exchange vows anytime, anywhere and God will still hear them; after all, God is everywhere, right? Such an exchange is equally available to both straight and gay unions. (Ignore whatever religion-based prohibitions on homosexuality might exist, no pedantic nitpicking, please.) In my view, a spiritual marriage is willed to exist by the participants and is a state of mind.

    A church can—if it chooses—lavish wedding ceremonies both straight and gay unions. Again, the state does not participate.

    Furthermore, considering spiritual marriage existed prior to legal marriage, it is possible to have a spiritual marriage without legal marriage. To use allegorical situations to make my point: does anyone believe that it occurred to Adam and Eve that they might need to get a marriage license? Or that this thought occurred to the first caveman and cavewoman? No it didn’t because no such thing existed until afterwards.

    Some folks may wonder why doesn’t the state participate in spiritual marriage? In my view, there are two reasons:

    1. lack of interest, and
    2. lack of standing.

    The lack of interest arises out of a lack of consequences that the state would otherwise have to deal with.

    The lack of standing arises because it has no interest in church activities (e.g., weddings) or oral agreements folks enter into ( e.g., exchanges of wedding vows).

    Now let’s consider why a state does participate in legal marriage.

    The state has substantial interest in legal marriage. Why? Consider these reasons:

    Legal marriage is a set of legal arrangements that the state must administer and adjudicate. Most of the issues arise out of a marriage’s end (e.g., death, divorce, separation) and any kids produced by the marriage (e.g., child support, visitation rights.) These issues include property settlement and alimony. Laws specify the rules for handling these concerns.

    Legal marriage must usefully support the society’s needs, traditions and values. By “state” I am referring to the government that was organized by members of our society and culture. One intention of organizing this government, among other intentions, was to provide a framework that supports the organizers’ society’s needs. Put another way, creating a government that didn’t support the society would be pointless waste of effort. Put yet another way, since the society created the state for the purpose of supporting it’s own needs and traditions, the legal marriage institution created by the state was designed with the intention of supporting the society that created the state. Consequently, the status of legal marriage reflects the value that our culture assigns to families. Sterile homosexual parings are of neither use nor interest to our society, nor do they constitute a family. (Chill, Bob, I’ll fully deal with the “nor do they constitute a family” contention later in this email.)

    In summary, government is—for want of a better term—a life-support system created by its society to preserve itself. Society designed legal marriage for the purpose of supporting and sustaining itself and its traditions. Society is obligated to its members to not weaken, damage or destroy its own life-support system. Resisting losing and unnatural alterations to its life-support system is a matter of self-preservation.

    Regarding spiritual marriages and property

    Legal marriage provides protections with respect to property and so on, as opposed to a purely spiritual marriage, which doesn’t. Consequently, the state has no means to extend property protections available to the legally married to those who aren’t legally married.

    I guess everybody is familiar with Court TV where a judicial proceeding is televised as “Judge Judy” heaps scorn on the procession of folks who appear before her. I recall reading an interview with “Judge Judy” (or someone with a similar show; I cannot recall who it was) where she expressed her irritation with what she regarded as the inexplicably stupid problems people get themselves into.

    One issue she fumed about was the property disputes that arise out of co-habitation. One scenario she described is where an unmarried couple is living together. The woman helped to put her boyfriend through college expecting that she will benefit from the expected future increase in his income. Afterwards, he dumps her for another woman and she hauls him before “Judge Judy.” “Judge Judy has to explain that she can’t do a damned thing for the girlfriend unless (a) they were married, or (b) the girlfriend had a contract covering this contingency.

    “Judge Judy” expressed her exasperation with this situation: why didn’t the girlfriend protect her property rights by getting married to this guy before investing so much money and time into him?

    In my opinion, the couple described by “Judge Judy” had a spiritual marriage—or at least they did at some point in the past—but, obviously, never a legal one. The girlfriend—believing that she was investing in her future and not in the future of her boyfriend’s future wife—was behaving as though she believed they were married. Had the girlfriend insisted on getting married before investing so much energy and money into her boyfriend then a judge could do something to compensate her for her husband’s breaking their legal marriage.

    Regarding “Fake” marriages.

    Our marriages are generally understood to be a combination of both spiritual and legal marriage. I’ve also pointed out that it is possible to have a spiritual marriage without a legal marriage. Indeed, it was impossible to have legal marriage until you had marriage law.

    But consider the possibility of a legal marriage without a spiritual marriage. This would be a legal marriage entered into for the purpose of obtaining the legal privileges of marriage but without the participants having any pretense that a spiritual marriage exists.

    Consider, for example, a woman who is citizen of another country who pays an American man to marry her and remain married to her until she can obtain her green card. I consider such an exercise a “fake” marriage even though it is a legal as any other legal marriage. Why would I characterize such a marriage a “fake” when it is clearly a legal marriage? I consider this marriage to be a “fake” marriage because it is all about obtaining the legal advantages of legal marriage and nothing else.

    The notion of same-sex marriage has a similar “fake marriage” flavor even though I believe that same-sex marriages will almost always include spiritual marriage. Why do same-sex marriages—in spite of the inclusion of spiritual marriage—remind me of a “fake” marriage? Because same-sex marriage would allow homosexuals to use our society’s institution of marriage for purposes that nobody ever intended, that is, to obtain society’s legal approval for homosexual couplings.

    • Tristan said

      Wow – really well argued until the very last paragraph. You perfectly pointed out that there is a legal marriage and a spiritual marriage – so far so good. And I grant you that a spiritual marriage can occur at any time with or without the blessing of a church.

      I also grant that a legal marriage is a state sponsored structure with the intent to grant rights and responsibilities and that one can make use of that contract to have a “fake” marriage (per your example marrying to get a green card).

      So then the question becomes, “what is the reason that a person enters into a spiritual and/or legal marriage”? I can see many reasons for both but I would guess that for most people it is a combination of love for the other person and a desire to combine their life with that person and to share both responsibilities for each other and for the relationship. I suppose it is possible that there are men and women in the world who looked at their future spouse and thought, “good breeding stock” or “this person will be of great help to me in being a solid building block for society”. That is not to say that those thought might not be included with, “I am so in love with you that I can’t imagine not spending the rest of my life with you and growing old” but I’m guessing they are secondary (or even tertiary).

      Given that the primary motivation for marriage is happiness of the individuals and a desire to care for each other we can see that ‘spiritual marriage” fulfills the desire for happiness and “legal marriage” for the ability to share rights and responsibilities. But even your own Judge Judy examples points out the problem with basing a marriage on the purely spiritual. Without the assurance of the legal a spiritual marriage faces many anxieties about the future. And those anxieties and fears impact the individuals ability to pursue their “inalienable right to happiness”.
      The state gains nothing from granting the write to sell liqueur but it does so because some people in society desire it. The state gained nothing from overturning sodomy laws (that applied to both heterosexuals and homosexuals) but there was a recognition that individuals have the right to make those decisions in private for their own happiness.

      I see no reason that the state cannot also recognize the desire of homosexual couples to take care of each other in the same manner that heterosexual couples do. Recognizing this right does not damage heterosexual couples marriage (if Bob and Fred get married down the street from me I won’t divorce my wife). Nor does it curtail heterosexual marriages (if Bob and Fred can’t get married I doubt they are going to run out find nice young women to marry – mores the pity if they do).

      And the risk of “fake” marriages (such as the one portrayed in the movie “I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry”) is a non-starter. We don’t outlaw people marrying foreign born individuals because some of those marriage might be fake. We simply investigate them if there is reason to be suspicious.

      The result is that a group of people in our society are given the ability to pledge themselves to each other and take care of each other making them happy with no detrimental impact on society at large.


  6. […] similar happened here. Attempting to speak out against the gay marriage, this blogger argued that the state ratifies […]

  7. hawkmeeuw said

    Dude, following your logic, the state should encourage and legalize polygamy.

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