Kyle Eller: Let's wait before adopting Canada's gay marriage law

Canada legalized gay marriage last week; we could be on the verge of it, too, depending on a Massachusetts court decision expected soon. Either way, the debate is bearing down on us. Personally, I have mixed feelings, but one starting point that'...

Canada legalized gay marriage last week; we could be on the verge of it, too, depending on a Massachusetts court decision expected soon.

Either way, the debate is bearing down on us.

Personally, I have mixed feelings, but one starting point that's clear is that this shouldn't be decided by the courts.

The horrific day in 1973 that legalized abortion in the United States -- let's call it 1/22, as in 9/11, since it, too, takes 3,000 innocent lives a day -- did more than sign the death sentences of 40 million children and counting. It also established oligarchy, supreme rule by a handful of untouchables, as our form of government.

The judiciary makes all the major Culture War decisions while legislatures and Congress putter around the periphery. It's true for porn regulation and prayer in schools. Sen. Rick Santorum's comments about sodomy laws, distorted in the press, were prompted by this overweening power of oligarchic courts and the unintended potential consequences of yet another breach of the separation of powers.


Gay marriage is the same. Barring a constitutional amendment, there is a very good chance courts will legislate yet again. (Technicalities aside, that's how it happened in Canada.)

Beyond that point, gay marriage gets murkier. I am a devoted Christian. My decision to return to that faith -- maybe I'll share that story sometime -- has influenced my thinking. That's not only because scripture and several millennia of orthodox Judeo-Christian tradition are unanimous in calling homosexual acts sinful but also because, on the positive side, faith offers a deeper vision of what family means, in a spiritual and a worldly sense.

And one of the best secular arguments opposing gay marriage ties in. For millennia, traditional marriage and family have been the bricks from which the edifice of Western Civilization is built. That structure is by far the most successful secular enterprise in history, and more to the point, it's all we know; there is no comparable substitute. Family, as we know it, is as important to our self-understanding as opposable thumbs and highly advanced frontal lobes are to defining humanity.

Among other things, functioning families provide the stability and safety that support individual autonomy and achievement in a time of increasing upheaval and pressure. And that's just a start.

Imagine if somebody invented a process to change the composition of the bricks in a building, and you're stuck in an office on the top floor. The inventor says theoretically the process shouldn't bring the building down -- it could make the building stronger, in fact -- but it's an untested and irreversible process. How would you respond? Most of us would quickly deem the experiment too great a risk.

Gay marriage advocates respond that traditional marriage and family are already in trouble with high divorce rates and declining observance of traditional mores. The argument backfires, though -- the resulting cultural devastation is unmistakable and demands shoring up those values, not smacking them with another wrecking ball.

But then, some gay rights opponents seemingly undercut themselves too. How can one condemn promiscuity and then tell people trying to make long-term commitments to buzz off?

Those opponents counter that it's a false choice -- celibacy and therapy aimed at converting one to a heterosexual orientation are also options.


The therapy is controversial, hinging on a number of questions too complicated and inconclusive and politicized to take up here.

But the call to celibacy is standard Christian thought, a calling to turn from sinful acts, just as Christianity calls us to turn from every other sin -- no more, no less. It's the position of most Christian denominations, even very liberal ones, although it's a position increasingly flouted, as North American Anglicans and ELCA Lutherans have seen lately.

Doesn't the religious nature of this call to celibacy highlight a church-state question? Traditional marriage, after all, is a religious and social institution but also a civil one.

The civil side of marriage, not open to gays, confronts us with the sympathetic human faces in a loving, committed gay couple with one partner lacking hospital visitation rights for the other, or left out of an inheritance after an unexpected death. Is this inequality before the law?

Answering yes, some argue plausibly for the middle ground of civil unions -- a parallel structure with the legal character of marriage but a separation from the religious and social character. I once leaned this way.

But now I'm not so sure. This solution still poses difficult questions. David Frum on National Review Online (NRO) posed one -- what effect does treating civil unions and marriage as equal under law have on traditional parenting roles and custody in divorce?

Would gay rights advocates find it acceptable or "separate but equal"? Given our culture's conflating of the legal with the moral, does it even answer the concerns of defenders of traditional marriage? Would it be just another step on a slippery slope anyway?

More critically, as John Derbyshire, another NRO writer, notes, maybe addressing civil issues is as simple as modest changes in hospital policy or more gay people writing wills.


But there's a deeper question still: we're arguing a basic definition. You can make 2+3 equal 6 by changing the definition of "2," but what's left of math?

Black-robed oligarchs work by destroying definitions -- bastardizing the definition of life created abortion on demand, worse than anyone imagined. Isn't this similar: obliterating the only definition of marriage this culture has ever had and the only reason the institution ever existed? What outcomes can't we imagine now?

Maybe we should watch Canada for a couple of generations and find out.

Kyle Eller is features editor of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 723-1207 or by e-mail at .

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