Short and to the Point
Proponents of same-sex marriage are quick to offer short, pithy and powerful rhetorical statements to support their position as they challenge the views of those who support traditional heterosexual marriage. “Why would you deny people the right to be in a committed relationship?” “Why would you prohibit people from loving whomever they want?” Those of us who support traditional marriage must learn to respond to challengers with equally brief and powerful arguments and rhetorical statements. There’s a difference between how we engage Christians who support same-sex marriage and how we respond to non-believers who support same-sex marriage. We need to make the Biblical case related to homosexuality with those who identify themselves as Christians yet fail to see homosexual behavior as sin. The Bible is clear in its teaching in this area. We need to confront and engage believers who deny the truth of God’s Word. But our unbelieving friends couldn’t care less what the Bible says about any of this. Our discussions with secular challengers need to be philosophical and reasonable, given the modest facts that all of us can agree on. With that goal in mind, here is a simple argument for traditional marriage in three steps:
STEP ONE: Governments play one of three roles
Governments play one of three legitimate roles when addressing the activities of their citizens:
Governments PROHIBIT some activities
Most of us are grateful that our government steps in and prohibits illegal activities that can harm our society. We’re glad, for example that government has established and continues to enforce laws that prohibit pedophilia or the victimization of children.
Governments PERMIT some activities
The vast majority of activities (even some which might be considered immoral) are permitted by our government. We are free to speak our mind, pursue our dreams and live wherever we want. We are even free to commit adultery if we so choose. Governments make a decision about which activities are permissible; evaluating behaviors that may endanger the future stability of the nation.
Governments PROMOTE some activities
Our government promotes many activities and behaviors that it recognizes as ideal and beneficial for the health of the nation. As an example, our government sometimes provides incentives for companies that hire employees that live here in the United States. Our government promotes this business model because it keeps jobs in this country rather than exporting them overseas.
This first truth, that governments are legitimately tasked and expected to prohibit, permit or promote certain activities, is the foundation of our argument for traditional marriage.
STEP TWO: Loving, two biological parent households are ideal
It’s impossible to deny the fact that children thrive best when raised by two loving biological parents in a low-conflict home. While other forms of family (loving single parent families, adoptive families, blended families or homosexual families) are also capable of raising children well, statistics continue to demonstrate what we already know intuitively: kids do best (by every relevant form of measurement) when they are raised by the mother and father who conceived them. In 2002, a non-partisan research group called Child Trends reported that “family structure clearly matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.” Sexual orientation is not what defines a healthy environment for children. Instead, it all comes down to whether or not children are being raised by two biological parents who love each other and love their biological child.
Even the United Nations has come to recognize this truth about child rearing. In 1989, the United Nations (UNICEF) crafted the foremost human rights document related to children. It is called the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” and it guarantees children the right to be raised by their two biological parents whenever possible (UNCRC Article 7). The ideal form a family for child rearing (a loving, low-conflict two biological parent household) is recognized by this internationally accepted human rights group.
Proponents of same sex marriage would like to frame the debate as a battle between those who affirm heterosexual relationships and those who affirm homosexual relationships. This is an incorrect representation. Proponents of traditional marriage are not comparing sexual behaviors, they are comparing child-rearing environments. Studies repeatedly demonstrate the benefits of low-conflict, two biological parent households in the lives of children, and the right to live in such a household is guaranteed by the United Nations.
STEP THREE: Government ought to promote the ideal
Proponents of traditional marriage favor the promotion of an ideal form of the family institution while recognizing that many other forms of family ought to be permitted by government. When we say that a particular form of child-rearing family ought to be promoted, we are simply saying that we want more of these family units rather than less. We recognize the value that this form of family unit has in creating well-balanced, thriving children even as we recognize the rights of children in this regard. For this reason, proponents of traditional marriage seek to promote, permit or prohibit the following forms of family:
Government ought to promote loving, low-conflict two biological parent households. These are the ideal family unit, as previously described; families of this kind have the best opportunity to raise thriving children. Government can promote this form of family in a number of ways, but at the very least, it can recognize unions between people who may someday become biological parents as “marriages”.
Government ought to permit many other forms of family, including low-conflict single-parent family households, low-conflict adoptive households, low-conflict blended households and low-conflict same-sex households. There are many times when two biological parents are simply unavailable or unable to raise their children. Government ought to permit other forms of low-conflict families even as it promotes an ideal. The title of “marriage” is reserved for the one form (loving, low-conflict two biological parent households) that government hopes to encourage above all others. For this reason, unions that cannot result in biological children ought not be promoted with the title “marriage”.
Government ought to prohibit abusive, dangerous households of any kind. A loving single-parent, adoptive, blended or same-sex household is far better than a violent two biological parent household. While low-conflict, two biological parent households are ideal, those who support traditional marriage recognize that not all two biological parent households are non-abusive. For this reason, we support the laws that are already in place to prohibit and restrict those who would inflict violence on one another or on their children.
It’s true that honoring same-sex couples with the title of “marriage” would go a long way toward reducing the homophobia that many people have demonstrated toward them over the years. Nobody should be treated poorly on the basis of his or her sexuality. The reduction of homophobia ought to be seen as a “good thing”. But the recognition of the rights of children ought to be seen as a “greater thing”. While some would like to characterize the debate over marriage as a battle between good and bad, it is really a battle between good and greater. Our society has to make a decision here between the benefits we might extend toward homosexuals and the rights we must recognize on behalf of children. Government is uniquely tasked to navigate such moral dilemmas, deciding between two apparent goods as it ultimately defends the right of children as its primary obligation. For this reason, proponents of traditional marriage believe that loving, low- conflict, two biological parent unions are the form of family relationship that ought to be promoted by our government. The title of “marriage” ought to be uniquely reserved for this promotional effort.Click here
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