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BY JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE
same-sex “marriage” present the idea as a step forward for tolerance and
respect. But recent developments place that interpretation very much in doubt.
Legalizing same-sex “marriage” is
not a stand-alone policy, independent of all the other activities of the state.
Once governments assert that same-sex unions are the equivalent of marriage,
those governments must defend and enforce a whole host of other social changes.
government-enforced changes conflict with a wide array of ordinary liberties,
including religious freedom and ordinary private property rights.
It began with the persecution of
Catholic Charities in Boston. The archdiocese eventually closed down its
adoption program, because the state of Massachusetts insisted that every
adoption agency in the state must allow same-sex couples to adopt.
Recently, a Methodist organization
in New Jersey lost part of its tax-exempt status because it refused to allow
two lesbian couples to use their facility for a civil union ceremony. In
Quebec, a Mennonite school was informed that it must conform to the official
provincial curriculum, which includes teaching homosexuality as an acceptable
At last report, the Mennonites were
considering leaving the province rather than permit the imposition of the
state-sponsored curriculum on their children.
And recently, a wedding photographer
in New Mexico faces a hearing with the state’s Human Rights Commission because
she declined the business of a lesbian couple. She didn’t want to take photos
of their commitment ceremony.
The underlying pattern is
unmistakable. Legalizing same-sex “marriage” has brought in its wake state
regulation of other parts of society. The problem is sometimes presented as an
issue of religious freedom, and so, in part, it is. But the issue runs deeper
than religious freedom.
McGill University professor Douglas
Farrow argues in his book A
Nation of Bastards that redefining marriage allows the government to
colonize all of civil society.
If same-sex couples can marry each
other, they should be allowed to adopt. Anyone who says otherwise is acting
against the policy of the state. If same-sex couples can have civil unions,
then denying them the use of any facility they want for their ceremony amounts
to unlawful discrimination. When the state says that same sex couples are
equivalent to opposite-sex couples, school curriculum will inevitably have to
support this claim.
Marriage between men and women is a
pre-political, naturally emerging social institution. Men and women come
together to create children, independently of any government. The duty of
caring for those children exists even without a government or any political order.
Marriage protects children as well
as the interests of each parent in their common project of raising those
Because marriage is an organic part
of civil society, it is robust enough to sustain itself, with minimal
assistance from the state.
By contrast, same-sex “marriage” is
completely a creation of the state.
Same-sex couples cannot have
children. Someone must give them a child or at least half the genetic material
to create a child. The state must detach the parental rights of the opposite-sex
parent and then attach those rights to the second parent of the same-sex
The state must create parentage for
the same-sex couple. For the opposite-sex couple, the state merely recognizes
In her essay in The Meaning of Marriage,
Seana Sugrue argues that the state must coddle and protect same-sex “marriage”
in ways that opposite-sex marriage does not require.
Precisely because same-sex unions
are not the same as opposite-sex marriage, the state must intervene to make
people believe (or at least make them act as if they believe) that the two
types of unions are equivalent.
Public schools in California are
soon going to be required to be “gay friendly.” A doctor has been sued because
she didn’t want to perform an artificial insemination on a lesbian couple. A
private school is in trouble for disciplining two female students for kissing.
All in the name of supporting the rights of same-sex couples to “equality” with
The fact that opposite- and same-sex
couples are different in significant ways means that there will always be scope
for the state to expand its reach into more and more private areas of more and
more people’s lives.
Perhaps some people think it is okay
to shut down Catholic adoption agencies, because the Catholics have it coming
to them: The Church’s enemies are many. Perhaps some people don’t care for
Methodists, and don’t care whether they lose their tax-exempt status.
the Mennonites? These are the most inoffensive people on the planet. They have been
pacifists for centuries. Their continued existence here in North America is a
testimony to the strength of our ideals of religious tolerance and pluralism,
in all the best senses of those terms. But now, in the name of equality of
same-sex couples, the Mennonites are being driven out of Quebec.
Perhaps you think people have a
natural civil right to marry the person of their choosing. But can you really
force yourself to believe that wedding photography is a civil right?
Maybe you believe that same-sex
couples are entitled to have children, somehow. But is any doctor they might
encounter required to inseminate them?
of same-sex “marriage” insist that theirs is a modest reform: a mere expansion
of marriage to include people currently excluded. But the price of same-sex
“marriage” is a reduction in tolerance for everyone else, and an expansion of
the power of the state.
Jennifer Roback Morse is the
senior fellow in economics at the Acton Institute and the author of Love
and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village, newly reissued in paperback.