Conservative Commentary: Gay Marriage, Bigotry & The Public Interest

By Dr. T. David Gordon

The Center For Vision & Values
The Center For Vision & Values

Grove City, PA –-(Ammoland.com)- What I find somewhat surprising in the gay-marriage discussion is this: By the evidence of most polls, nearly half of Americans favor gay marriage, even though only 3-5 percent of Americans are gay.

That is, only a very small minority of the population has any personal interest in the matter; so why does nearly half the population favor the matter?

Suppose athletic directors in high schools proposed some special tax benefit for themselves. Would half of the population support giving that small minority such a tax benefit, merely because they wished to have it? I doubt it. So what accounts for such widespread support for a public policy that would only benefit a very small portion of the population? I believe the answer has two parts.

First, for many people, to oppose gay marriage is to be bigoted; it is to oppose homosexuals themselves. For such people, not to approve gay marriage is to be bigoted (an “enemy of humanity,” as Justice Kennedy so breezily put it), and in our pluralistic and relativistic culture, the only value that is commonly shared is non-bigotry.

The last thing we wish to appear is bigoted.

The reason I believe this is what motivates many people is that, whenever I raise the question of the hypothetical public interest in gay marriage, I get blank stares. Whenever I mention that I am open to being persuaded that the public has an interest in protecting homosexual unions, and open to hearing, therefore, arguments to that effect, I get no reply. Indeed, some of my friends and acquaintances appear to be almost shocked when I ask, “Why does the public have an interest in gay marriage? What public good does it serve?” If I had framed the question differently, and inserted “tax benefit for athletic directors” instead of “gay marriage,” the question would be regarded as a perfectly legitimate, ordinary question of public policy.

But in this case, if I raise the question of the public interest or the public good, I get embarrassed, indignant, or horrified looks, rather than reasoned opinion. Why? Because for many people, anything associated with homosexuality is merely a litmus test for bigotry. The first and most ordinary question of public policy – how does this proposal serve the public good? – is not even germane.

Second, for many people, human sexuality is completely disconnected from procreation. The widespread availability of birth-control has disconnected human sexuality from its biological purpose, at least in the minds of many people (though not in their reproductive organs). For them, human sexuality no longer serves the public good of producing other generations of mature and responsible citizens; human sexuality is merely a private good, something that brings pleasure to individuals. And for some people such sexual activity is even more enjoyable for those who are married; thus, to deprive them of marital status is to deprive them of some of the private pleasure of human sexuality.

I hardly know where to begin in responding to such a belief, a belief that effectively reduces public policy to a sexual aid. I might timidly suggest to such individuals that the government and its policies are not obliged to enhance the pleasure individuals derive from sexual activity; government is designed to promote the public welfare. If government’s purpose were to enhance sexual pleasure … well, just think where that might lead. But if we were to grant that government exists to promote the public welfare, then Justice Kennedy would have to grant not only that there are “two tiers” of union, but four: Committed and reproductive (i.e. traditional marriage between a man and a woman), casual and reproductive (e.g., unwed mothers), committed and non-reproductive (e.g. same-sex unions), and casual and non-reproductive (Hugh Hefner). Curiously enough, then, one might argue that the state has more interest in the second than in the third or fourth, because the state does have an interest in the extension of the human race. On the other hand, the children of the second category often require substantial government assistance, and so, perhaps, this category is a “wash,” financially. If this were so, we would indeed be right back to Justice Kennedy’s “two tiers” of committed sexual unions: those that ordinarily produce offspring, and those that do not and cannot do so.

So, once we get over all the emotion, hand-wringing, and fear of bigotry, the question is merely this: Does human reproduction serve the public good?

By the government’s own calculations, it cost my wife and I $225,000 to rear each of our two daughters until they were 21, nearly half a million dollars total. The public now benefits from these two adult, independent, gainfully employed, tax-paying citizens. If the public does not benefit from such citizens, then Cass Sunstein is right, and the state should stop recognizing any unions of any sort (cf. “Privatizing Marriage,” chapter 15 of Sunstein’s Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, co-authored with Richard H. Thaler). But if human reproduction does serve the public good (e.g. Who will pay for my Medicaid when I retire?), then it is perfectly reasonable to consider protecting those unions that ordinarily foster such human reproduction. Every other union, by this consideration, is “second tier,” as Justice Kennedy said, but justifiably so.

— T. David Gordon, Ph.D., is a professor of religion and Greek at Grove City College and a contributing scholar with The Center for Vision & Values.

© 2013 by The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The views & opinions expressed herein may, but do not necessarily, reflect the views of Grove City College.

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Jane
Jane
7 years ago

Why are we discussing this at all. A homosexual ‘marriage’ is a fiction and everyone knows it.

Marinvet
Marinvet
8 years ago

Jane,

I’m straight and have been married for 22 years, but I don’t need to force everyone else to be just like me. What you personally consider to be “sin” should impact your life, not be forced on other people. Jews believe eating pork is sin, but I’m going to eat bacon. Some southern baptist churches believe that interracial relations and marriage are sin. However, those marriages should not be illegal because of that. My religion and relationship with God guides me in my life; I’m not going to force others to follow my religion.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

Marinevet….no one is keeping you from getting married as long as you qualify (marriage to opposite sex). But if you want State sanctioned abominable sin, well, that’s another matter entirely.

Marinevet
Marinevet
8 years ago

If we lived in a theocracy, biblical interpretation would be relevant to our civil laws. We don’t, and it isn’t.
.
Anyone is free to believe their religious beliefs and follow them, but Jews shouldn’t be able to ban me from eating bacon, Quakers shouldn’t be able to ban me from going to war to protect my country, and anti-gay Christians and Muslims shouldn’t be able to ban gay American citizens from getting married.

FrankInFL
8 years ago

Ask the wrong question; get the wrong answer. Simple as that. He asks “Why does the public have an interest in gay marriage?” and makes two errors simultaneously: (1) it’s the GOVERNMENT we’re concerned about, and (2) it’s ANY marriage that should be the subject of the question. Why does the GOVERNMENT have an interest in marriage? ‘Marriage’ is a contractual matter. It should be nobody’s business beyond those contracting marriage: -m- males and -f- females where either -m- or -f- may be any number (including zero). Yes, this would open the door to three men and eight women contracting… Read more »

Chuck Anziulewicz
Chuck Anziulewicz
8 years ago

DEAR CTHULHUCALLING:

This column by T. David Gordon has been reprinted on at least two other gun enthusiast websites besides this one. Despite the fact that many of my Gay friends own guns and support the 2nd Amendment, there still seems to be a disturbing amount of anti-Gay sentiment amongst gun enthusiasts.

Mike
Mike
8 years ago

I guess being a professor of religion does not include a biblical worldview on this topic of homosexuality. God says its a sin and leads to eternal death. I would think that would end the debate because regardless of what YOU think, its what God thinks that is important and HE is the eternal judge.

Drew
Drew
8 years ago

As I see it, when the government began regulating marriage and using it as a criteria for benefits, it became something of a two-headed creature: one head is the religious marriage, which remains free to be applied as the churches see fit; the other is the secular marriage, the one that is licensed and regulated by the state and, by virtue of being a government institution, must be available to all people without restriction. The government can’t force a church to perform gay marriages, but the churches can’t prevent the government from recognizing the same. As to why this is… Read more »

Cthulhucalling
Cthulhucalling
8 years ago

T. David Gordon could get a job at the circus with all the contortions that had to be done to make this sound like anything other than a piece justifying discrimination against gays. With his mental gymnastics, he fails to account for couples that choose not to procreate at all, gay couples that produce children via surrogates and in-vitro, nor does he even begin to address the elephant in the room: why the government is involved with the business of marriage to begin with. There is a difference between “marriage” (a legal contract) and “holy matrimony”, which is the religious… Read more »

Marinevet
Marinevet
8 years ago

For the athletic director issue, the correct question to ask would be “should athletic directors have *the same* tax benefits as every other American?” Most people would certainly answer yes. Some straight couples have children, and some don’t. Both type of straight couple has the full right to marriage. Some gay couples have children, and some don’t. Yet, in 36 states, both types of gay couples are denied the right of marriage. That inequality isn’t right, and more people are realizing that every day. In ten years or less, all 50 states will have marriage equality. And we’ll be a… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

What? Open our minds until our brains fall out? And does anyone really think a sane and godly society should treat the grave sin of homosexuality with the “equality, dignity, and respect” that we treat the God-sanctioned sanctity of (traditional) marriage? We must remember that all of society will reap what just a few want to sow in this matter, and that sin tends to reap a curse, and not a blessing. The author here makes a perfectly good point, but it’s only one among so many other valid reasons to reject the temptation to allow this sin to destroy… Read more »

Becker
Becker
8 years ago

What this has to do with guns, I don’t know. All we can do if we don’t like the queens is to show our disgust and let them answer for what they do. Of course there are a thousand ways to sin and no one is immune. It is just when we support it that we make ourselves just as guilty. God hates no one, just their sins. If gays think they aren’t sinning, then let them answer to him one day. If we support them, in what they do, we might as well be doing it too. But if… Read more »

Chuck Anziulewicz
Chuck Anziulewicz
8 years ago

Oh, lord. Where to begin? “By the evidence of most polls, nearly half of Americans favor gay marriage, even though only 3-5 percent of Americans are gay … so why does nearly half the population favor the matter?” Whereas 30 years ago most people couldn’t name any friends, family members, or co-workers who were Gay, today most people. Social networking platforms like Facebook have also made the proverbial “closet” virtually obsolete. And with that awareness has come vastly increased understanding, acceptance, and support. “Human sexuality no longer serves the public good of producing other generations of mature and responsible citizens;… Read more »

Adrian B.
Adrian B.
8 years ago

“whenever I raise the question of the hypothetical public interest in gay marriage, I get blank stares.”

Dumb is clearly contagious. You need smarter friends.

The public interest in same-sex marriage is the same as in heterosexual marriage: A society in which individuals can protect themselves, their relationships, and their families on an equal basis, without arbitrary discrimination from the government, is better for everyone. Is Grove City College a remedial education center for the mentally damaged and deranged? It certainly sounds like it.

Harry
Harry
8 years ago

In his hurry to write off same sex relationships, the author forgets two self evident things:-

– LGBT couples bring up children too, some their biological own, some through adoption, surrogacy etc., just as straight couples do.

– child rearing aside, it is in the public interest to encourage stable long term relationships.

Also, Christian doctrine is irrelevant when one is considering the public interest. The US is a secular state.

Dr. Zaius
Dr. Zaius
8 years ago

Hey Bill, most would say that your retort is indicative of bigotry. Unfortunatly for you, you do not see the anti-Christian, anti-traditional marriage bigotry that your side promotes.

David Henderson-Rinehart

If government’s involvement in marriage is purely concerned with reproduction, then the government is focusing on the wrong thing. The same rights, responsibilities, benefits, and protections should be extended to all parents, regardless of whether they are married or not. And those who are married but are not parents should not get those things that are related to reproduction. But that is not the government’s sole interest in marriage. There are other situations, such as conflict of interest laws (e.g. a judge must recuse himself if his spouse has a vested interest in a case), bribery (a company that buys… Read more »

john
john
8 years ago

so if studies show that married couples, whether same or opposite gender couples, live healthier lives and exhibit greater mental good health, wouldn’t that be enough of a public purpose, in and of itself, to warrant marriage equality? and query: what study did the author ever come across that suggested sex within marriage is more enjoyable? i’ve heard the opposite far more often.

Lance
Lance
8 years ago

The comparison of gay marriage to “tax benefit for athletic directors” is completely and utterly asinine. For one, we are not talking solely about “tax benefits”, we are talking about treating EVERY American with equality, dignity, and respect. I don’t want to get married only for the tax benefits; I want to get married out of love and commitment to be shown the same respect my heterosexual neighbors are shown, to announce to the world that I LOVE my husband, and to have that love recognized by not only the government, but by everyone. For the “author” to equate love… Read more »

Tamist
Tamist
8 years ago

Okay let me put this real simply for you: gay marriage ABSOLUTELY serves the public good. Wouldn’t you agree that it is in the public interest for couples to settle down into monogamy instead of being promiscuous, which would promote the spread of disease? Marriage promotes monogamy, which everyone I think would agree is a good thing. That’s not to say that gay couples can’t be monogamous without marriage – but giving them the same tax benefits and legal recognition as heterosexual couples promotes their union, helps keep them together and prevents discrimination (I would say we also have a… Read more »

Bill
Bill
8 years ago

Mental gymnastics such as these put forth by Dr. T. David Gordon are indicative of bigotry.

It is unfortunate that Dr. T. David Gordon is unable to see this.

However, bigotry does have a tendency to fog the lens through which we view the world.