Monday, May 27, 2013

Questions To Ask Advocates Of Homosexual Marriage (Part 2)

(Part 1 of this series can be found here.)

If you make your son go to bed at 8 P.M. when he's a five-year-old, but you let him stay up later when he's fifteen, are you an inconsistent hypocrite? Advocates of homosexual marriage often accuse their opponents of being inconsistent and hypocritical. For instance, why do you want to base our nation's public policy on Biblical prohibitions of homosexuality, but you don't want us to have laws based on something like the dietary rules found in the Pentateuch? Or if you think the government has reason to give preferential treatment to the heterosexual relationship, because that relationship can biologically produce children, then why don't you outlaw marriage between infertile heterosexuals? Aren't opponents of homosexual marriage being inconsistent and hypocritical?

But all that opponents of homosexual marriage are doing is applying the same sort of reasoning that advocates of homosexual marriage accept in other contexts. The Bible distinguishes between something like homosexuality, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, something like the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic law. The dietary laws are said to have been fulfilled by Jesus and to no longer be binding as they were in the past (Mark 7:19, Romans 14, Colossians 2:16-17). By contrast, no such thing is said or implied about homosexuality. To the contrary, the New Testament repeatedly condemns it (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Jude 7), and the earliest patristic Christians reaffirmed that condemnation. We distinguish between laws that are still in force and laws no longer in force. Just as we do that with the Bible, we also do it in other contexts in life. If a five-year-old boy is told to go to bed at 8 P.M., it doesn't follow that the parents are doing something wrong if they don't enforce that bedtime when their son is fifteen. Some rules only serve a temporary purpose or are only meant to apply in some contexts, not all contexts. We apply laws to non-citizens that we don't apply to citizens. The government acts by different standards during wartime than during times of peace. Etc.

What about the issue of infertile heterosexual couples, which I mentioned above? It seems that the advocate of homosexual marriage is making a faulty assumption here. Why think that the ability to biologically produce children is the only relevant factor? That factor is often highlighted by opponents of homosexual marriage, because it's one of the distinctions between the two types of relationship. But it doesn't follow that no other factor is to be taken into consideration when judging whether infertile heterosexuals should be allowed to be married. Even though that couple can't produce children, there are other reasons for allowing them to be married. For one thing, our marriage laws already allow it. Even if you think a mistake was made by allowing it, we crossed that bridge a long time ago. By contrast, homosexual marriage isn't yet recognized in most places, it's still in an early stage even where it's been recognized by the state, and it involves far fewer people. Such distinctions warrant differentiating between the two situations. Outlawing marriage of infertile heterosexuals would require a lot of additional effort and turmoil that wouldn't accompany retaining a rejection of homosexual marriage that's already in place or overturning homosexual marriage where it recently gained acceptance. Furthermore, it wouldn't be practical for the state to get involved in trying to judge when couples are and aren't fertile. By contrast, we know that a rejection of homosexual marriage is practical. We've been doing it for hundreds of years, and we're still doing it in most places. Considerations like these have to be taken into account. To act as though marriage between infertile heterosexuals is in the same category as marriage between homosexuals is simplistic.

Even if opponents of homosexual marriage are inconsistent and hypocritical by not opposing marriage between infertile heterosexuals, how does pointing out that inconsistency answer their underlying argument for giving preferential treatment to one type of marriage over another? An argument that's not applied consistently can be a valid argument, despite the inconsistency in its application. Does society benefit from the heterosexual relationship in ways in which the homosexual relationship doesn't benefit society? Yes, at least in some cases. (Later, I'll argue that it's so in all cases. But I'm setting that aside for now.) If we have good reason to give preferential treatment to at least some heterosexual relationships, then simply saying that the people who make that point don't apply it consistently is an insufficient response. A good argument applied inconsistently remains a good argument.

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