Gary is an author, trial lawyer, Mequon-area resident and town of Cedarburg supervisor. He is a columnist for the News Graphic and writes for several Wisconsin area magazines and is a national columnist with The American Thinker and PJ Media. He lives with his wife, Lisa, and has three sons ages 18 to 28. Gary won Ozaukee County in his bid for the Wisconsin Assembly's 60th District in 2011, but came up just 58 votes short.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and announced for the first time that same-sex couples who are legally married are entitled to the same rights and federal benefits that other married couples enjoy. In United States v. Windsor, Edith Windsor was a gay surviving spouse of a same-sex couple in New York who was denied the benefit of a federal spousal deduction due to the definition of “marriage” and “spouse” as established by DOMA. A federal district court granted judgment for Windsor and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Certiorari was granted and in a 5 to 4 decision the Supreme Court announced that DOMA’s Section 3, which included the definition of marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, deprived Windsor of the liberty of the person protected by the 5th Amendment. It was a landmark victory for the gay rights movement and a huge blow to both the traditional institution of marriage and common sense. Allow me to explain why.
The gay marriage debate – euphemistically referred to as “full marriage equality” by the PC crowd - can be boiled down to two diametrically-opposed views on the institution of marriage. The first and more traditionally conservative view was captured in the following September, 2004 comment by a prominent U.S. politician:
I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.
Just a few weeks before the above quote, the opposite viewpoint was succinctly captured in a comment from another prominent U.S. politician:
Freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.
I will reveal who the above two quotes belong to at the end of the article, because their sources underscore the often-misunderstood fact that the debate over gay marriage is less about politics and sound public, political, and social policy than it is about political correctness, emotion, and a never-ending attack on traditional values.
Contained in the above two quotes you have the essence of the two positions in the volatile debate over gay marriage in America. Supporters of same-sex marriage point to its economic benefits, both for those getting married and for states that sanction it. Opponents, however, say same-sex nuptials will actually "devalue" the institution and cost society significantly more in generations to come.
The fight over gay marriage is not new. Beginning in the late 1990s, Alaska, Nebraska and Nevada amended their state constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. DOMA was passed by Congress and proudly signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. It was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress: 85 to 14 in the Senate and 342 – 67 in the House. Even liberal Democrat Senators such as Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, and Patrick Leahy voted for the bill. The only time you see majorities like this in Washington nowadays is when Congress is rejecting Barack Obama’s budgets. DOMA is a short statute and Section 3 is succinct and to the point. It reads as follows:
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
Thirty-seven states followed suit by enacting legislation either identical or very similar to DOMA. In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples are entitled to all of the rights and protections associated with marriage. However, the court left it up to the state legislature to determine how to grant these rights to same-sex couples. The following year, the Vermont legislature approved a bill granting gay and lesbian couples the right to form civil unions. Under Vermont's law, same-sex couples who enter into a civil union accrue all the rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage, though they are not technically married.
The 2000 Census revealed that same-sex couples were raising more than one million children. These families were likely to be denied significant legal protections and financial benefits, relating to child custody, decision-making, health care coverage, inheritance, social security benefits, survivor benefits, and taxes. As a result, the introduction of DOMA spawned a meteoric rise in same-sex civil unions, domestic partnerships, and “reciprocal beneficiary relationships.” In 2000, Vermont legally recognized civil unions granting same-sex partners state benefits available to all married couples.
In 2003, the Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ignited a nationwide debate when it ruled that the state must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Almost overnight, same-sex marriage became a major national issue, pitting religious and social conservatives against gay-rights advocates and their allies. In the days and weeks following the 2003 Massachusetts decision, some cities and localities - including San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; and New Paltz, N.Y. - began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. All the marriage licenses issued to gay couples outside of Massachusetts were later nullified since none of the mayors and other officials involved had the authority to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
More significantly, the Massachusetts decision led to another effort to amend the U.S. Constitution. In Congress, conservative lawmakers, with support from President George W. Bush, attempted to pass an amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide. The efforts to obtain the two-thirds majority needed in both houses to fell short in 2004 and again in 2006. Since 2005, three Northeastern states - Connecticut, New Hampshire and New Jersey - have joined Vermont and passed laws authorizing civil unions. In addition, Maine, Oregon, Washington state and California enacted domestic partnership statutes that grant many, though not all, of the benefits of marriage to registered domestic partners. On November 4, 2008, voters in Florida and Arizona approved amendments to their state constitutions and California passed Proposition 8 – each banning same-sex marriage in those states. A California federal district court found Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, and the 9th Circuit agreed. The stage was set for United States v. Windsor.
From a legal perspective, the legal basis for the decision in Windsor is murky and unclear. The majority seemingly went out of its way to mystify the exact reasons for holding unconstitutional a Federal law that was enacted by overwhelming majorities. This murkiness will undoubtedly be the stepping stone and precedent for future decisions regarding gay marriage, the same way the 1965 Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut - recognizing in the "penumbra" of the Bill of Rights a mystical "right of privacy" found nowhere in the Constitution – served as the foundation for Roe v. Wade. Rather than justify its decision based on sound legal reasoning, it did so by baselessly accusing DOMA of representing "discrimination of an unusual character" and indicating "nefarious purposes." Oliver Wendell Holmes must be rolling over in his grave.
On the same day United States v. Windsor was decided, the U.S. Supreme Court also announced its decision in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry. In Hollingsworth, the Court declined jurisdiction on the appeal to the court decision that overturned California’s Prop 8, and did so on narrow legal grounds. The decision applies only to California. Significant is the fact that the Windsor decision left intact Section 2 of DOMA, which allows states to refuse to recognize marriages performed in other states. Left in place are the existing laws of the other 49 states. Thirty-five states still prohibit same-sex marriage in their constitutions and/or state laws. The significance of these two decisions, however, is that under federal law married same-sex couples must now be treated the same as married heterosexual couples. However, this is only the first bite at the apple. This issue will be back. When it returns, it is probably an act of pure optimism to hope that common sense, rather than political correctness and emotion, will drive the debate.
Both Merriam-Webster and millennia tell us that "marriage" is the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband and wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law. Simple. Ancient tribes recognized marriage. As early as the 12th Century, Roman Catholic theologians and writers referred to marriage as a sacrament, a sacred ceremony tied to experiencing God's presence. However, it wasn't until the Council of Trent in 1563 that marriage was officially deemed one of the seven sacraments within Roman Catholic doctrine. No polygamy, polyandry, donkeys, or same-sex couples. Just man and wife. In Ephesians 5 we are told that marriage is between a man and a woman. As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. Marriage was, is, and always will be both a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church and an important institution for people of faith – one ordained by God. And this is what drives the opponents of traditional marriage wild.
The Clandestine Marriage Act of 1753, popularly known as Lord Hardwicke's Act, marked the beginning of state involvement in marriage. And as is the case with most things in life, whatever government touches, it ruins. Not that society hasn't damaged marriage enough on its own with no-fault divorces and nearly half of married couples terminating their life-long committments, but when marriage was co-opted by the state and federal government, the institution of marriage veered directly into the ditch of political correctness. If you oppose gay marriage you are "homophobic" – a politically-charged term I have never understood. What exactly is there to fear again? But if you oppose traditional values and the Biblical institution of marriage as between a man and a woman, apparently there is no phobia.
As a Christian, if asked my views on homosexuality, I respond by pointing out that If it a normal and virtuous act which is not a sin, then we should not be speaking or discriminating against it. But if it is a sin, then we should certainly speak out against it just as we should against adultery, idolatry, lying, stealing, etc. Virtually every major religion – including Christianity – denounces homosexuality and delcares it to be a sin. Both the Old and New Testaments condemn same-gender sex. So, as a Christian, I am told to love the sinner and hate the sin. Must make no mistake about it. The sin of homosexuality is no worse than any other sin. But it is still a sin.
So the debate over gay marriage is as much about religion as it is sociology. 55% of Americans oppose gay marriage, with 36% favoring it. But those with a high frequency of church attendance oppose it by a substantially wider margin (73% in opposition vs. 21% in favor). Opposition among white evangelicals, regardless of frequency of church attendance, is even higher - at 81%. A majority of black Protestants (64%) and Latino Catholics (52%) also oppose gay marriage, as do pluralities of white, non-Hispanic Catholics (49%) and white mainline Protestants (47%). Only among Americans without a religious affiliation does a majority (60%) express support.
A 2006 Pew survey found that sizable majorities of white Protestants (66%), Catholics (63%) and those without a religious affiliation (78%) favor allowing homosexual couples to enter into civil unions that grant the secular legal rights of marriage without entering into the actual institution of marriage. This includes me.
Ask anyone. They are all in favor of equal rights for homosexuals. Count me among them. When it comes to housing, jobs, public accommodations, government benefits, equal protection under the law, tax benefits, etc., homosexuals should have the same rights as everybody else. But being homosexual does not give you the unique privilege of rewriting Merriam-Webster's dictionary. You may enter into civil unions or whatever else government wants to call it. Marriage, however, always has been, and always will be between one man and one woman. Not animals, multiple partners, or same-sex couples.
When it comes to same-sex marriage, the fur flies. In excess of 70% of Americans oppose gay marriage, almost the same proportion as are otherwise supportive of gay rights. So let's pass a U.S. Constitutional Amendment granting homosexuals who have lawfully entered into a "civil union" all of the rights and protections afford a man and wife. Understand, however, than ten years from now when we begin to see groups of three or more people (any conceivable combination of men, women, or the simply confused, questioning, and/or unaffiliated) who want to enter into such a civil union, society will have eliminated any legitimate objections to such arrangements and a growing number of people will correctly conclude that if two men can enter into a civil union, why not a man and three women. Why not an entire softball team?
Once the door we are opening is opened, there is no closing it. Even today, bestiality organizations like the Zoophile Organization (ZETA) or the world's first bestiality-rights organization (EFA) are growing in membership. Bestiality brothels are growing by leaps and bounds. Civil unions between human beings and reptiles, fish, cattle, and assorted other mammals are not far off. Those who believe such claims are simply the hysterical rantings of an alarmist should look back 40 years ago when claims about the possibility of gay marriage were similarly dismissed and ignored. And yes, you can marry dead people in France. Post-humous marriage will find its way to the U.S. in the next decade. The proverbial slippery slope is a proverb for good reason.
This article focuses on the common sense and legal arguments against the notion of same-sex marriage. A similar article could be written about the societal and familial damage same-sex marriage has on a society. Surveys show that same-sex marriage and the erosion of traditional marriage tend to go together. Traditional marriage is weakest and illegitimacy strongest wherever same-sex marriage is embraced. I will be the first to admit that society has done significant damage to the institution of marriage without any help from the homosexual community. Yet, children raised without a father and a mother are at a disadvantage whether they are raised by a single parent or by two homosexual fathers. That is different than saying they turn out badly - and there are always exceptions. But time has shown that children with both a father and a mother (and only one of each) have the greatest advantages as they grow into adulthood.
You need look no further than the last two generations of no-fault divorce laws in the United States to understand that family disintegration destroys lives. No-fault divorce laws began in California and spread to rest of the country. Those liberalized divorce laws helped change our attitudes and behaviors about the permanence of marriage. There’s no question that liberalized marriage laws will help change our attitudes and behaviors about the purpose of marriage. The law is a great teacher, and if same-sex marriage proponents have their way, children will be expelled from the lesson on marriage.
The disintegration of marriage and family is directly related to the slow disappearance of God and faith from public discourse in America. If you have no faith, then it will be hard to understand or accept marriage as a holy institution between one man and one woman, ordered by God and a sacrament as it is in most religions around the world. Granting homosexuals all of the secular rights and privileges of traditional marriage would solve everything – unless the debate is fueled by a phobia on the part of same-sex marriage advocates – a silent fear and loathing of religion seething deep within them. It is about politics and optics. This is why the very senators who voted for DOMA and the president who signed it, now applaud its demise. Senator Harry Reid called the Windsor decision "a great, historic day for equality in America." You just can't make this stuff up.
Remember the two quotes in the beginning of this article? The first quote – the ultra-conservative and more traditional viewpoint in favor of traditional marriage and opposed to same-sex marriage - was that of Barack Obama. The second quote – the ultra-liberal and politically correct position in support of “full marriage equality” – was uttered by none other than former Vice-President Dick Cheney. In the ongoing debate over gay marriage, everything isn’t what it seems. Conservative people of faith do not hate homosexuals. They are simply striving to protect the time-honored religious institution and tradition of marriage. Perhaps the real bigots are the ones celebrating the Windsor decision.