Calvin Freiburger

Misunderstanding Marriage

Posted on March 15 2010 4:32 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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In response to my March 12 post on gay issues, NewsReal’s Mark Koenig objects to my opposition to same-sex marriage, characterizing it as a rationalization of bigotry for which he “can imagine no rational argument” and inviting me to defend my position.  My pleasure.

First, he seems to have fully adopted the Left’s stereotypical characterization of social conservatism as “a euphemism for a theocratic agenda”:

Social conservatives seek to impose their religious view of morality – including but not limited to the proscription of gay marriage – on the rest of America in clear violation of our Constitutional principles.  The bigoted rhetoric regularly spouted by social conservatives is precisely the reason why leftists have been successfully able to tar and feather the “conservative movement” (as if it were monolithic) as inherently intolerant and hateful.  When applied strictly to social conservatives, this description is quite accurate, much as I suspect Mr. Freiburger would protest otherwise.

This is a severe misunderstanding that must be dispatched before progress can be made on any social issue.  Granted, in the wake of the Peter Sprigg fiasco, and the Family Research Council’s irresponsible decision to vote “present” in response (things I certainly wouldn’t have spent over 1,300 words and an argument spanning over 150 comments here and on my blog opposing if I were any sort of bigot), I cannot say there are no voices that fit such a profile, but they are not the norm.  Neither theocracy nor bigotry enter into the pro-marriage arguments usually made on the campaign trail, around the blogosphere, or in the pages of the Right’s leading publications.  Indeed, despite Sprigg’s idiotic answer to Chris Matthews, FRC itself doesn’t even list criminalization of homosexuality, or anything else that strikes me as “theocratic” or “bigoted,” among its own political goals and priorities.

Mark is welcome to offer evidence showing that his “description is quite accurate” or that social conservatism is “in clear violation of our Constitutional principles.”  Thus far, he has done neither.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to same-sex marriage.  As David Forsmark touched upon this morning, in order to rationally and usefully discuss the issue, we need to first define marriage, its purpose, and the state/societal interest in said purpose.  Here is the real case for preserving marriage.

Institute for American Values President David Blankenhorn put it best when he said:

Marriage as a human institution is constantly evolving, and many of its features vary across groups and cultures. But there is one constant. In all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood. Among us humans, the scholars report, marriage is not primarily a license to have sex. Nor is it primarily a license to receive benefits or social recognition. It is primarily a license to have children […] Bertrand Russell, certainly no friend of conventional sexual morality, was only repeating the obvious a few decades earlier when he concluded that “it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”

Civil marriage’s purpose is clear: People fall in love and have sex, and civil marriage is society’s way of using incentives and obligations to bind them together, not for their own sake, but for the sake of whatever children they might bear (Forsmark has correctly argued that we’ve also lost sight of the obligations half of the equation, but that’s all the more reason to oppose diluting marriage’s meaning further still).

I cannot stress this enough: it is not an affirmation that it’s okay for a pair of people to love each other, or a judgment that any one couple’s love is more “real” than any other’s. Indeed, conservatives and libertarians of all people ought to know better than to seek personal validation from government, or fall for the progressive “Uncle Sam gives us stuff” conception of rights.  Last time I checked, we were the “government bad!” guys, weren’t we?

I find it hard to imagine that it’ll be the state-issued license I find meaningful or fulfilling in my marriage, rather than the vows before my God, my family, and my friends—and the law isn’t keeping a single gay American from any of those things.  In other words, you have the right to think marriage is whatever you want, and arrange your life based on that belief however you see fit, but unless you can reproduce, Uncle Sam doesn’t particularly care.

Regarding benefits such as joint property ownership, hospital visitation, wills, and such, all these things are either already available to gay couples, or would be easily achievable without redefining marriage.  Indeed, no less a Religious-Right boogeyman than Dr. James Dobson has long been on the record in support of such straightforward reforms (are he and Focus on the Family “bigoted,” too?).  If gay activists were truly interested in an honest discussion on confronting true inequality as it arises, I’m certain bipartisan solutions could be found relatively easily, and if they could somehow bring themselves to look past their ideological prejudices, they’d be positively shocked at how humane and accommodating the average conservative would be (even though it shouldn’t be surprising).

I doubt that this will ultimately sway Mark to my position on same-sex marriage, but I hope and pray that, for goodness’ sake, we can at least engage each other in a civil and intellectually sound debate.


Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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