*I want to preface this with a disclaimer that these are the most rational arguments I’ve heard in defense of the traditional definition of marriage. I realize people make their own judgments and I am in no way making them for you or trying to bully anyone and their point of view nor alienate anyone emotionally this is simply a cognitive assessment on the topic of redefining marriage. I was asked a while ago what the best arguments I’ve heard in support of traditional marriage are so I did my research and I’ve compiled lengthy material into this fairly concise essay. If certain arguments are off limits then we don’t live in a free society let alone one that thinks.
Arguments Opposed To The Redefinition Of Marriage
The Organic Bodily Union Argument:
Regarding marriage there is the conjugal view and the revisionist view.
In the conjugal view marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.
In the revisionist view marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear.
First of all what is marriage? Most will agree that marriage involves three elements: (1) a comprehensive union; (2) a unique link to children; (3) norms of permanence and exclusivity. While most revisionists wish to dispense with the second element, few would dispute the remaining two.
Regarding (1), while there are many important and/or intimate human relationships (filial, familial, business, etc.), a marital relationship is unique among human relationships because it is comprehensive in scope, involving every aspect of a couple’s being. A marital relationship not only involves the sharing of one’s life, emotions, will, and resources with another individual, but also a sharing of one’s body (sexual relationship, or “organic bodily union”). A relationship that lacks organic bodily union is not comprehensive, and thus not of the marital sort.
That organic bodily union is integral to a marital relationship is evident. Imagine if two people committed to marriage on the basis of their shared love for tennis rather than on a sexually exclusive relationship. Would that make it a marriage? No. It would be indistinguishable from a friendship between roommates. Sexual intercourse is necessary for a bodily union – and hence marriage – because our reproductive organs are the only organs we possess that naturally require the aid of another human being to fulfill their intended purpose. All other bodily systems such as digestion and circulation can fulfill their natural function on their own. Only in sexual intercourse are two bodies “coordinated for some biological purpose of the whole,” and thus sexual intercourse is required for a bodily, organic union of persons:
It follows that for two individuals to unite organically, and thus bodily, their bodies must be coordinated for some biological purpose of the whole. That sort of union is impossible in relation to functions such as digestion and circulation, for which the human individual is by nature sufficient. But individual adults are naturally incomplete with respect to one biological function: sexual reproduction. In coitus, but not in other forms of sexual contact, a man and a woman’s bodies coordinate by way of their sexual organs for the common biological purpose of reproduction. They perform the first step of the complex reproductive process. Thus, their bodies become, in a strong sense, one—they are biologically united, and do not merely rub together—in coitus (and only in coitus), similarly to the way in which one’s heart, lungs, and other organs form a unity: by coordinating for the biological good of the whole. In this case, the whole is made up of the man and woman as a couple, and the biological good of that whole is their reproduction.
Two people of the same sex cannot achieve organic bodily union because they do not share any bodily functions that require a coordination of their bodies. If they cannot achieve organic bodily union, and yet organic bodily union is required of a comprehensive union which, in turn, is an essential element of a marital relationship, then it follows that the same-sex relationships are not, and can never be a marital relationship.
A revisionist could deny that organic bodily union is required for a relationship to be of the marital sort. If so, then why not provide two same-sex roommates with marriage benefits if they desire to get married? What about best friends? Wouldn’t it be discriminatory to prevent them from exercising their right to marriage on the grounds that their relationship is neither romantic nor sexual? If so, then the fact that two people of the same sex are having a sexual relationship should not privilege their relationship above anyone else’s.
We might even ask why three romantically involved individuals cannot marry. Why should they be prohibited from exercising their marital rights just because there are three individuals who are romantically and sexually involved rather than two? On the revisionist definition of marriage there is no principled reason to forbid this, but on the conjugal view there is: two—and only two—people of the opposite sex can create an organic, bodily union. Furthermore, children can only have two biological parents, which makes sense of why marriage has always been understood to be between two individuals of the opposite sex (no more persons are needed to create a child).
Unique Link to Children
Regarding (2), a marital relationship is naturally oriented toward children. This naturally follows from the organic bodily union between spouses since children are the ultimate goal of the human reproductive system. There is a connection between children and the way marriages are created and renewed: sexual union.
What about same-sex couples who are raising children together? Does this justify opening up the institution of marriage to same-sex couples? No. A commitment to raise children together, by itself, does not make a relationship of the marital kind. Two brothers who commit to raising their deceased sister’s child together do not thereby acquire a marital relationship. Furthermore, our social and legal traditions have always recognized a couple as married prior to the birth of their first child. A childless couple is still married in virtue of their comprehensive union and mutual commitment to permanence and exclusivity. The kind of relationship and union they enjoy is naturally oriented toward procreation, and thus is a genuine marriage even if they cannot, or choose not to have children. This is analogous to a sports team. The structure of the team is such that it is naturally oriented toward winning. It may fail to win any games. While it would fail to reach its ultimate goal, it does not cease to be a team.
Permanence and Exclusivity
Regarding (3), the conjugal view of marriage makes sense of our intuition that the marriage ideal entails permanence and sexual fidelity. Organic bodily union makes sense of the permanence of marriage since it involves a coordination of our reproductive system into a single whole. Just as we remain joined to the rest of our bodily systems for the duration of our life, we are to remain with our marital partner (our other sexual half) for the duration of our life as well. Relationships that lack such bodily union have no rational basis for such permanence.
Indeed, apart from children, there would be no reason for governments to involve themselves with the regulation of marriage:
A thought experiment might crystallize our central argument. Almost every culture in every time and place has had some institution that resembles what we know as marriage. But imagine that human beings reproduced asexually and that human offspring were self-sufficient. In that case, would any culture have developed an institution anything like what we know as marriage? It seems clear that the answer is no. And our view explains why not. If human beings reproduced asexually, then organic bodily union—and thus comprehensive interpersonal union—would be impossible, no kind of union would have any special relationship to bearing and rearing children, and the norms that these two realities require would be at best optional features of any relationship. Thus, the essential features of marriage would be missing; there would be no human need that only marriage could fill.
‘The Historical Thus Traditional Definition Of Marriage’ Argument:
Historically marriage has always been defined as a legally binding covenant or wedding between the different sexes, male and female. The word wed even means to take a spouse of the opposite sex. Even the word marriage in cooking language has always denoted the combining of ingredients that are not alike in order to obtain a rich and robust complimentary flavor in one dish. Indeed, it would be a redefinition of the word to apply it to male-male and female-female relationships. Words have meaning. I can’t start calling camels pumpkins just because I feel that camels have the right to be defined as pumpkins. When we all close our eyes and think of a camel, guaranteed we’re all imagining a tall brown hairy spitting animal with humps standing in a desert or something of the sort not a round orange colored fruit. The earth in this universe has definition and our society is framed around it. Another example of definition is people born with female biology are female. People born with male biology are male. Society has made the designation that females go into the women’s bathroom, males go into the men’s. Some will point out that there used to be designation between the ‘coloreds’ and the whites with usage of facilities. Why is there still segregation of men and women? In 2015? Why are there mens and womens bathrooms? If bathrooms become undesignated what follows? Predatory men lurking next to urinating women? Or perhaps not that criminal. What if it’s a 14 year old girl sharing a bathroom with a well intentioned 40 year old man? It’s worth noting that the only modern solution we’ve seen to bathroom merging is individual, locked bathrooms rather than stalls. Most people still don’t accept a 60 year old man using a stall next to a girl. I’m confident declaring that the majority of people want separate bathrooms for the sexes. What does this have to do with marriage? If the definition of marriage is useless and worth redefining where do we stop? Should a person’s sex have no definition?
‘Redefinition Of Marriage Is A Thinly Veiled Attempt To Nullify The Sexes’ argument:
The redefinition of marriage is an attempt to nullify the significant differences between the sexes. Marriage is the building block of society. Changing its nature will therefore change society. Among other things, same-sex marriage means that because sex (now called “gender”) no longer matters for society’s most important institution, marriage, it no longer matters in general. Most Americans who support same-sex marriage feel (and “feel” is the operative verb here, as the change to same-sex marriage is much more felt than thought through) that gays should have the right to marry a member of their own sex. It is perceived as unfair to gays that they cannot do so. And that is true. It is unfair to gays. But it is not only gays who experience unfairness. Plenty of people cannot marry the one they love. A man cannot marry a married woman whom he loves, a woman cannot marry her brother whom she loves, a man cannot marry his refrigerator whom he loves, for example. Ridiculous examples, but they make a point. There is no general right to marry someone you love.
But the price paid for eliminating this unfairness is enormous: It is the end of marriage as every society has known it. And it is more than that. It is the end of any significance to the sexes. Men and women are now declared interchangeable.
‘The Nullification Of Male Female Leads To The Nullification Of Mother Father’ Argument:
Since men and women are interchangeable; there is no use for a father and mother in a child’s life let alone the biological mother and father. The words mother and father are now irrelevant. I wonder if many same sex couples when deciding to have or adopt children would be worried about providing an influence of the opposite sex as them for their children? I’m willing to bet most of them would not. As the saying goes back in the 1970’s feminist age: A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. I wonder if to same sex couples a child needs the influence of the opposite sex like a fish needs a bicycle? If not, then where is the concern? How could society so flippantly change the definition of marriage without considering the implications, the floodgates it would open in regard to all other definitions?
‘Why The State Is Interested In The Traditional View Of Marriage’ Argument:
The state recognizes marriage as it is traditionally defined, aside from the fact that it has been historically defined and accepted by the mainstream as male-female from the beginning of time, because of these reasons…
If you’re a gambling man, which relationship has higher odds of producing offspring? Male-female relationships have the highest odds of producing offspring. In fact they are the only organic union that produces offspring. Offspring are good for society for two reasons: they grow the population to defend against encroachment and tyranny and they grow the economy to prosper and achieve success. And really they are two sides of the same coin because the country with the largest economy will always be the country with the largest defense. Our geopolitical future depends on population. If it keeps at the same rate, the US will not be a super power and Europe has already collapsed. The only advantage we still have while our population numbers are falling is that our GDP is still more than double that of the 2nd place country (China). If our GDP dips below China we will be creamed because they have a population of 1 Billion to our 300 Million.
The state has an interest in supporting the nuclear family because it has the highest odds of producing functioning adults and functioning adults breed innovation, entrepreneurship, lower crime rates, etc.
The Empowered Courts Argument:
If it is not amended into the state constitution by the voters that marriage is a union between a man and a woman it gives license to activist judges to decide what marriage is in regard to any union. It opens the floodgates for judicial misuse. Fortunately we live in a country in which the government works for us, not for its own suspect agenda. In the US the courts are independent.
*Update: June 26th 2015, the SCOTUS made the unprecedented ruling that same sex marriage is granted to the nation through the feeble support of the 14th amendment.
John Roberts said it best when he said, “If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
He goes on to say, “Five lawyers (now judges) have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law.”
After all, as Justice Kennedy had pointed out 2 years prior to Obergefell vs. Hodges “regulation of domestic relations is an area that has long been regarded as exclusively a province of the states.”
It turns out judicial misuse is upon us with fervor.