Until now, I have said nothing about non-heterosexual marriage in America for one reason: opposition to it makes so little sense to this heterosexually married man that it hardly seems worth saying anything more. But as I read or watch the news on the issues now before the Supreme Court, I am impressed that opponents’ absence of sense or abundance of hypocrisy needs more than silent contempt as a response. Even the obvious seems worth repeating.
Given the issues now before the Supreme Court, I am impressed by the contradiction urged by those who tout the Constitution but too often flout it. They assume or assert the Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which gives the states powers not given the federal government, in urging state authority to determine who has or has not the right to marry. But they ignore Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution, with its “full faith and credit” clause, which requires each state to recognize the legislative acts, judicial decisions, and public records of all other states, and thereby to honor marriages made in other states. So some states refuse to recognize legal, out-of-state, same-sex marriages. New Mexico, among other states, might recognize legal, out-of-state, same-sex marriages but continue to refuse legal, in-state, same-sex marriages. The sense of this split is what exactly?
Meanwhile, the institution of heterosexual marriage continues to crumble, with an abundance of help from attitudes and values prevalent in, but not exclusive to, the “Me Generation.” Its selfishness plays against the selfless sharing and sacrifice required by marriage. So about half of first marriages and more than half of second marriages end in divorce. In addition, the rates of extra-marital shenanigans—when last I looked, the rates of infidelity were 70 percent for men, 60 percent for women—make it impossible to take seriously the appeals to the “sanctity” of marriage, especially by those, like Newt Gingrich, who prepare for their next spouse by cheating on their current one. But this is old news to most people.
Non-heterosexual extra-legal relationships and legal marriages have nothing to do with these rates of failed marriages or of successful infidelities. Legal recognition of non-heterosexual relationships cannot impair the institution of marriage or weaken the marriages of heterosexuals, who are doing just fine screwing up both all by themselves. One might ask why non-heterosexuals have learned so little from this dismal record of heterosexual marriages. I suppose the answer is that they are equal in their romantic longings: love is blind, hope springs eternal, and, later, variety is the spice of (married) life—not exactly a recipe for marital success. I rather like the quip, apt in this context, that when both spouses are faithful to one another, they have a same-sex marriage.
The idea that the purpose of marriage is procreation is obviously hypocritical. State and church have long permitted heterosexual marriages between partners at least one of whom is infertile, whether either knows it. If procreation were the purpose of marriage and heterosexuals cannot fulfill it, and if the state were to insist on supporting marriage for that purpose only, then the state should mandate fertility and capability testing as a pre-requisite of marriage and, if infertility or incapacity before procreation occurs, should dissolve the marriage. The state should also bar marriage of post-menopausal women or erectile-dysfunctional men. Such state action would, of course, further enhance the attractions of stud strippers and nubile secretaries. Otherwise, the marriage of those who cannot procreate fulfills no purpose which the marriage of non-heterosexuals cannot fulfill. (Anti-abortionists should support same-sex marriage, since many same-sex couples would be prospective adoptive parents for the unwanted babies ensured by restrictions on abortion.)
This idea that the purpose of marriage is procreation is, in its lineage, a religious one which honors the Genesis injunction to multiply and the Leviticus injunction decrying same-sex relationships. However, desirability of multiplication in a pastoral or agrarian society is far different from the desirability of multiplication in an urban or industrial society, and the Biblical prohibition of atypical sexuality testifies more to its moral salience than its social prevalence. Even so, marriage in America is a civil function, the ceremony of which a religious institution may or may not perform as an agent of the state. To invoke procreation as the purpose of marriage is to breach the long-established separation of state and church, and, in effect, to impose religious beliefs or inflict social constraints on those of different beliefs and practices.
The hypocrisy here is quite remarkable. Those who profess to embrace the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you—practice to the contrary. Many of them make much of their opposition to the imposition of Sharia law, but make nothing of their support for the imposition of Christian law (also evident in the abortion controversy and the re-definition of human life). As I often quip, “others”—those of different races, genders, orientations, ethnicities, etc.—are so much like people that it is hard to tell the difference. So my rule is not to treat them differently and to let the joys and sorrows, the heartbeat and the heartbreak, of marriage be available to all equally.