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  • Left Acknowledges Moral Component of Marriage Debate

    Pay much attention to the same-sex marriage debate and you’re likely to hear how people who support marriage as one man and one woman are trying to impose their religious beliefs on other people. Dig in a bit deeper and you’ll find that many proponents of same-sex marriage aren’t very comfortable with political action by religious people and groups to support marriage as one man and one woman.

    When Proposition 8 passed in California, for example, Mormons were widely criticized and even targeted for reprisals based on the widespread belief that the Mormon Church and many of its members had involved themselves in pro-marriage politics. One same-sex marriage activist has gone so far as to say that his “goal” is to get Mormons “out of the same-sex marriage business” and “back to helping hurricane victims.”

    Turns out, however, that not all same-sex marriage proponents have a problem with religious influence in same-sex marriage politics.

    Yesterday a group called Marriage Equality New York published a blog post titled “Faith Leaders from Across New York Issue Statement in Support of Marriage Equality.” According to the statement, its “Signatories Join 734 Additional New York State Clergy and Lay Leaders in Urging Lawmakers to Pass Marriage Legislation.”

    The statement includes an explicit appeal to religious teachings: “Our faith traditions teach us that all people are children of God, deserving of love, dignity and equal treatment, and we, the undersigned therefore believe that gay and lesbian New Yorkers in committed, loving relationships should be able to protect each other with the critical safety-net provided by civil marriage” (emphasis added).

    The statement also includes an explicit call for political action: “We call on the Legislature to pass this legislation for the good of these couples and for the good of our great State” (emphasis added).

    This crystal clear example of mixing religion with politics to support same-sex marriage is not without precedent, as this Heritage backgrounder documents.

    It would be easy to simply disregard such religious calls to political arms as underexposed examples of hypocrisy in the same-sex marriage movement. But the better response is to view such religiously inspired political actions as teachable moments in the marriage debate.

    Let’s start with three points.

    First, although some same-sex marriage proponents might believe that “religion is the chief obstacle for gay and lesbian political progress,” support for marriage as one man and one woman does not require belief in the religious teachings of any particular faith. Reasons to support marriage as one man and one woman include, for example, the public interest in strengthening bonds between husbands and wives and their children, the public interest in creating conditions that make it more likely that children will be born into intact families and raised by both biological parents, and the right and duty of free citizens to make laws that reflect natural human realities.

    In this vein, the Ruth Institute has published a pamphlet setting forth “77 Non-Religious Reasons for Man/Woman Marriage.” This important resource provides compelling evidence that people can and do support marriage as one man and one woman for non-religious reasons.

    Second, it’s perfectly fine for religious individuals and groups to get involved in politics and to bring religiously inspired moral perspectives to bear on public policy issues. As Barack Obama said in 2006, before he was President:

    Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King—indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history—were not only motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

    Advocates on both sides of the marriage debate should respect the reasoned participation in that debate of people of all faiths and no faith at all. The statement issued by clergy who support same-sex marriage in New York is a reminder of this important principle.

    Third, although it is not necessary to appeal to distinctly religious authorities to resolve the marriage debate, there is no escaping the reality that the marriage debate presents inescapable moral considerations. As President Obama said in 2006, “Our law is by definition a codification of morality,” and as the U.S. Supreme Court stated long ago, marriage has “more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution.”

    Many proponents of same-sex marriage might dispute the role that moral reasoning should play in the marriage debate, but an increasing number of same-sex marriage proponents now recognize that moral questions are a key component of the debate. Instead of avoiding these questions, the American public should consider them directly, and courts should afford proper deference to the moral conclusions that free citizens reach on this issue.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Left Acknowledges Moral Component of Marriage Debate

    1. John, Georgia says:

      "Reasons to support marriage as one man and one woman include, for example, the public interest in strengthening bonds between husbands and wives and their children…" ===One moment, please. How does excluding gay couples from marriage "strengthen bonds between husbands and wives and their children?"

    2. Paulc says:

      Kinship is also overlooked. If Steve broke up with Jeve do you really think Steve's parents would be heartbroken. With no children involved, generally speaking, would their ever be strong ties between families? Exception always. I'm talking generally.

      Man/Man & Woman/Woman will never be marriage because its against human nature.

      Your right this is not a religious question this is a natural law question to be answered by the natural law.

      Consequences are so far ignored, for Gay Marriage will result inicestualism, polygamy, polyandry, tribalism and thus the demise of democracy.

    3. Noel, Los Angeles says:

      A morality based on denying happiness to man for the sake of denying it, is not a proper morality, as laws based on such are unjust.

      When religious groups or individuals join the same-sex marriage debate as proponents, and present their perspectives with the preamble, "Our faith traditions teaches us…," the rational status of their substance is coincidental to the fact that their source is not reason, but their interpretation of what they accept as divine or tribal knowledge. While it may be sensible to accept their endorsements for the sake of winning the legislative battle, at stake is something much greater: the integrity of our conviction that reason is the only source of knowledge.

      Secularists are right to ask believers to leave their religion at the door. Belief is superfluous to formulating a proper morality for men. In a rational discourse, reason is the only tolerable substance.

    4. Nathan, St. Louis says:

      Answer for John, Georgia: it doesn't. This and all the arguments against gay marriage are ridiculous and getting more pathetic every day.

    5. Tammy, Ripley MS says:

      This is difficult to address "briefly."

      First I want to be clear that I think it is legitimate and needed for people to speak from a religiously informed point of view on public policy.

      That said, however, I think that in a free society a government needs a COMPELLING secular interest which can't be met in any other way in order to make citizens unequal before the law.

      In view of that, and given the state of heterosexual marriage in this country (divorce rate, single parenthood, etc) I find it very difficult to accept the "non-religious" reasons offered here as compelling reasons.

      For instance, "the public interest in strengthening bonds between husbands and wives and their children,"

      This should be no different if the couple is same sex. Providing the option for marriage (or a marriage like commitment) for same-sex couples does nothing to weaken the ongoing interest in strengthening hetero couples, while adding to the stability of "non-traditional" relationships. Unless you take the tack that a homosexual should abandon their homosexual relationship and force a pairing with a heterosexual spouse "for the children" – then rejecting same sex unions in facts WEAKENS those homes to the detriment of the children. and the artificially constructed pseudo-hetero home will also be unstable.

      " the public interest in creating conditions that make it more likely that children will be born into intact families and raised by both biological parents,"

      Same logic – this would be the government attempting to dictate the composition of the family, otherwise, stability (via commitment) is to be preferred over dictating makeup. Whether or not the parents are both biological is not relevant given your stand and mine in favor of widespread adoption.

      "and the right and duty of free citizens to make laws that reflect natural human realities."

      And this is the most telling. the reality before is is that gay couples DO exist and will continue to exist. They will be parents too. whether or not we think it is ideal for a gay person to be married or a parent isn't relevant. A HUGE number of children of heterosexual parents are being raised in less than ideal situations. Holding homosexuals to a standard most heterosexuals do not meet is not the way of a free society.

      (To be clear, I'm not interested in arguing over the word "marriage" – people will call themselves married no matter what the document says – I'm interested in equality before the law)

    6. Ben, Houston, TX says:

      hmm well time to find out of this site really wants debates to "flourish" or if this comment disappears…

      The title is "should moral reasons play a part" but its arguing for "religious reasoning to play a part"… these are two different things. The point of this article is pretty muddled for me, since it mixes these two ideas pretty freely. First point section is vile bs, second point is appeal to authority that religious reasons are ok to use when making a political argument… Last section basically a repeat of the 2nd, except saying law is religion AND law is morality, again confusing the two.

      For the first section:

      "Reasons to support marriage as one man and one woman include, for example, the public interest in strengthening bonds between husbands and wives and their children, the public interest in creating conditions that make it more likely that children will be born into intact families and raised by both biological parents, and the right and duty of free citizens to make laws that reflect natural human realities."

      Yes adam and steve living next door are somehow weakening the bonds of my marriage. How is that, exactly? This is the kind of scaretactics that makes people hate what the mormon church did in california.

      Intact families raised by both biological parents? There are plenty of orphans out there thanks to the oh-so-perfect heteros, is it so bad if a gay couple wants to marry and adopt one and save it from a life in foster homes? There's no evidence that they are worse at raising kids, anyway.

      "make laws that reflect natural human relaties"? what exactly is that supposed to mean? the reality that men should be with women? who decided that? are we going to go around to all the primate societies in nature that have well documented cases of homosexuality and impose "natural realities" on them? most people are right handed, we should impose "natural realities" on those improper lefties? "most people do it" doesn't mean "all people should do it".

      Second section:

      Obama says religion in politics is ok, therefore its okay? Fine, but what about this great quote from another speaker?

      "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. "

      Sounds pretty contradictory right? Guess who? SAME GUY. Guess when? SAME SPEECH. In other words, this author use quotemining, using the SETUP obama used to talk about religion and politics to try to show him arguing the opposite of what he was actually saying. very professional.

      So yeah… didn't particularly like this article… same anti-gays lying bs fearmongering i always see. i've been searching for a reasonable argument that reasonable people are using against gays (cause surely half the country isn't THAT stupid and/or bigoted) but i've finally realized, there isn't one. it's all religion-inspired fear and hatred.

      • Married31Years says:

        Have to agree entirely, Ben. I'm getting pretty sick of supporting "traditional marriages" because, even if I agree with the proposal, there are so many fools out there pushing ridiculous, irrational and easily refutable arguments that it makes the rest of us look stupid. "77 Reasons" is just one such example.

    7. Joseph Dooley says:

      Restricting marriage to man and woman is no more bigoted than restricting driver's licenses to people who can reach the pedals. The state has a compelling, secular interest to limit dangerous behaviors and provide incentive to successful behaviors, ESPECIALLY when it comes to marriage.

      Marriage has always been about legally obligating the man to provide for his wife and child. Why? Because the nuclear family is the fundamental building block of civilization. Witness the cultural decay in the black community over the last 40+ years, in which half of children grow up with no functional father, to see what I mean.

      A man and woman are necessary to perpetuate the human race. The complementary natures of man and woman also provide a more favorable atmosphere for childrearing. Two mothers cannot make up for the fact that a child has no father.

      It goes without saying that people should be able to love anyone they want. But the state recognizes and favors the ideal of opposite-sex marriage is the stabilizing force of civilization, more stabilizing than a policeman on every corner.

    8. Married31Years says:

      The Ruth Institute does this cause no favors with "77 Reasons," several of which were immediately and compellingly refuted when I raised them in discussions with liberals, and many of which I simply refused to raise because I myself recognized them as patently invalid and easily refuted. Many of the "reasons" could easily be levied against the practice of adoption! Shall we also outlaw adoption? Crips, one of my friends even pointed out the namesake of the institute, Ruth, was married twice and therefore a contradiction of the institute's motto "One man, one woman, for life."

      Ruth Institute, do us all a favor. Withdraw this poorly considered list of "77 Reasons" and give us GOOD arguments that don't make us look like fools when we raise them!! Are you truly supporting traditional marriage? Because this effort looks more like an exploitation of "confirmation bias" in an effort to pump a chosen market segment for donations!

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