Saturday, October 18, 2003

Conservatism and Homosexuality 

Instapundit pointed me to this article on The Right Coast, referring in turn to this article from the WSJ opinion page about homosexuals and gay marriage or civil unions. It calls to my mind the opinions or positions of several different conservative bloggers and pundits on the issue of gay marriage or gay civil unions. The criticism that many have of social conservatives is that their position on gay marriage is really just based on their personal moral opposition to homosexuality, and not on any practical argument. If that were actually true, then it would certainly be a violation of the conservative philosophy itself, which teaches us among other things that public policy should never be based on the moral or ideological leanings of a few. Some conservative Christians have argued essentially that Christians ought to accept that our culture is no longer a Christian one, and concede the issue of gay marriage as a way of protecting ourselves, in the belief that if we support the civil liberties of an opposing group, our own civil liberties will be more secure.

However, as time goes on it becomes increasingly clear that homosexuals are not going to be satisfied with simple tolerance. They and their political allies have promoted laws in a great many places to make it illegal for anyone to even speak against the lifestyle. They have promoted educational initiatives that encourage, not just tolerance of, but the practice of, a homosexual lifestyle. In some cities and other countries, these laws are reality. We don't have to speculate about whether this will happen. It's happening now. Every concession and retreat by the social conservatives has only resulted in emboldening the advance of the enemies of traditional values. With the exception of a few moderates such as Andrew Sullivan, the gays will not be satisfied until the Christians are completely muzzled. But that's really beside the point.

We don't have to make homosexuals out to be perverts, child molesters or predators to understand what's at stake here. To understand it, let's look at why the state supports marriage in the first place.

Governments and societies for almost all of recorded history have recognized that it is in the context of marriage that children will be most successfully raised. For society to perpetuate itself, a number of things have to be passed on from generation to generation. These things include property, education and values. If these things are not passed on, then society falls apart from one generation to the next. So, the state and society itself have an interest in ensuring that children are brought into the world in an environment where this will occur. Giving benefits and preferential treatment to married couples in legal and financial matters ensures that the couples who actually bring the children into the world are the ones who do that in most situations, and discouraging procreation outside of marriage further ensures this favorable environment in the majority of child-rearing situations. The state has never had the resources to pursue the large-scale raising of children until very recently, and given the usually less-than-ideal results when it does, should not be encouraged to pursue it anyway. This is the basic reason why religion and government for most of human history has encouraged marriage for the purpose of raising children, and discouraged raising children in any other arrangement.

Those who marry and are unwilling or unable to raise children still get these state benefits, because the practical and political obstacles to considering people only officially married if they have children or intend to have children are enormous, and end up destroying many of the benefits to supporting marriage in the first place.

Outside of the link to childrearing, civil unions or marriages become just another transfer payment, just another subsidy and interest group, just another welfare case. The state doesn't subsidize love, straight or gay. It subsidizes childrearing. Heterosexual couples are not given benefits because they love each other, but because they are presumed to be undertaking the enormous challenge and burden of raising children.

What social conservatives are arguing is that breaking this link between marriage and childrearing is deadly to society. We don't have to speculate about this, sadly. We've seen it happen already. No-fault divorce, child custody laws, the foster care system and the welfare state have all made it easier and easier to raise children outside of the bounds of marriage, and the results have been disastrous, as practically any conservative and most moderates and libertarians agree. All of the social indicators- addictions, criminal behavior, poverty, education- crash when marriage and childrearing are not in most cases occurring together.

This is not a civil rights issue. It's entirely beside the point whether homosexuality ought itself to be outlawed or discouraged, or whether it is immoral or not. Most of us agree that homosexuality probably does not need to be outlawed. I certainly don't think it should be. But civil unions or marriage actually confers the benefits of marriage on them without any presumption of the corresponding burden of raising children.

Anyone who calls himself a conservative ought not be rushing to dismantle the very fabric of our society. Part of being a conservative is recognizing that there are lots of issues far bigger than any one person's ideas or desires or experiences. This idea is not something society wants now or has ever wanted. It's being foisted on us gradually and not so gradually by a few. Any conservative worthy of the name needs to get behind the effort to slow or stop this disastrous experiment. This will not be the first time that an elitist few have shoved their destructive ideas down the throats of a society, or the first time that a society was destroyed by the dreams of their leaders.

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