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03/16/2007

Wherein we Dexterously Pen a reply to Penna Dexter

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 18-3In her latest column for BP News, Southern Baptist writer Penna Dexter has the following to say about the reasons behind marriage:

The rationale for marriage is not so people can share in each other’s insurance and retirement benefits. It’s not about inheriting someone’s property or social security check. And, as compelling as the argument sounds, hospital visitation and end-of-life decision privileges are not core reasons to get married. (I don’t remember considering any of these things when I accepted my husband’s marriage proposal.) Arrangements can be made to bestow many of the benefits of marriage on another person. That, though, is beside the point.

Benefits are conferred upon married couples because marriage is important to society. Although the benefits of marriage certainly encourage marriage, they are not its purpose. The “marriage equality” argument says everyone is owed these benefits. That argument would have some merit in a purely socialist economy. In fact, the European governments that allow “gay marriage” or have marriage benefits for cohabiting couples, are now funding expensive programs to deal with the fallout.

Marriage is privileged because of the tremendous impact for good the institution has on the culture. Marriage, with its uniquely positive environment for procreation and the rearing of children, is worth maintaining for the perpetuation of society and the future of the nation. That’s why it is not simply a religious institution, but is protected in our body of law.

Okay, first off -- None of the things mentioned in the first paragraph are suitable reasons to get married in and of themselves. However, all of them are points of protection that are granted to married couples, the likes of which most heterosexuals take for granted. We actually believe Ms. Dexter when she says didn't consider these specific points when she agreed to wed her husband, as she had no reason to do so. After all, she never grew up as someone who would need to ponder all of these benefits individually. She did, however, know that by entering the marital contract with her chosen partner, she would go through life as his "other half," and that as the two walked down the path of life together, their lives would be legally intertwined. Most gay couples do not have such a luxury, and implying that we should take alternate, costly steps to shore up our household protections is very offensive.

Moving on -- the marriage equality movement unapologetically suggests that every couple is afforded the right to marry. However, the idea that this is a concept only prudent to a socialist economy is a complete red herring. We will leave it to more fiscally-minded brains than our own to debate the financial realities of marriage equality, and we'll allow them to find the necessary funds. However, nothing is more American than freedom for all tax-paying citizens. Regardless of what additional costs may or may not be incurred from our marriage allowance, these fundamental freedoms cannot rightfully be denied to us in a fair and just democracy!

3rd paragraph -- This procreation argument is so unbelievably offensive to not only gay folks, but also those married couples who cannot or do not want children. Our overcrowded world is not struggling in the child production department! As far as the child rearing department -- loads of gay couples are and will continue to raise children regardless of whether or not same-sex marriage is legal. By granting the benefits of marriage, THEIR family and THEIR children would only become as protected as the versions headed by their heterosexuals peers! Ms. Dexter is right in separating religious marriage from civil marriage. However, she is short-sighted in saying it needs to be "protected in our body of law," yet only for some of those who finance this government.

In her defense, Dexter does go on to address some of the concerns that we raised by saying:

Certainly, some homosexual couples raise children...But governments should not adopt radical changes in laws that benefit the society as a whole to accommodate atypical circumstances. National policy should be informed by the evidence -- buttressed by countless studies -- showing children do best physically, emotionally and educationally when living with both biological parents. Admittedly, increasing numbers of children are living outside the ideal, but the answer is to encourage the creation of that environment, not to undermine it.

A recent Washington Post story points out the sad fact that fewer children are living in families with their married biological parents than ever before. Divorce contributes to this situation, as does heterosexual cohabitation, which is on the rise. One-third of first births to white women occur out of wedlock; three-quarters of first births among black women take place outside of wedlock. These trends have terrible consequences for the next generation and will cost society dearly. The solution is to strengthen and encourage marriage to cope with these problems -- not to dilute the institution by redefining it as a package of benefits.

But the fundamental flaw in her argument --as with most opponents of same-sex marriage -- lies in the fact that she views our lives and loves as "atypical circumstances." But why are "atypical" simply because we exist in lesser numbers than our heterosexual friends? A government ABSOLUTELY should adopt changes in the laws to protect the rights of minority sects, which is exactly what they would be doing in granting same-sex couples the same freedom to marry. It's enraging the way such a sizable, decent, influential sect of our population has been tyrannically deemed abnormal, and even more enraging how many people mindlessly subscribe to the notion!

Of course the other flaw is that social conservatives like Dexter also view our marriages as ones that would weaken or undermine their hetero-only version of the institution. In fact, it is frightening to consider just how successful they have been in making this wacky illusion seem credible to so many (thanks largely to their commendable ability to stay firmly on message and never for a second rationally consider alternative views). We don't have to tell you that we find both the idea that our marriage weakens society and the notion that an absence of our legal monogamy will somehow keep unwed mothers from giving birth to be ludicrous, absurd notions. We just wish that the majority of Americans would finally wise up and realize that it is divisiveness and discrimination that are "atypical" to the American way, not love and acceptance.

Why marriage is good [BP News]

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Your thoughts

Actually, regarding her swipe at "socialist nations": I'm not trying to claim insider knowledge, exactly, but I do have a good friend who lives in Denmark, one of those demi-socialist nations that has legalized (but limited) registered partnerships. So she has piped some info my way about the state of marriage there.

According to the statistics she found, marriage in Denmark steadily dropped from the 1950s to the 1980s; right before the legalization of registered partnerships, the rate of marriage began to pick up, and are currently at their highest rate since the 1970s. (The same is true of every single nation that has legalized partnerships/civil unions--their straight-marriage rates actually rose after the legalization of some sort of rights for gays.)

The "fallout" Dexter seems to refer to isn't regarding marriage at all, but children being born out of wedlock, which she erronously tries to link to the existence of registered partnerships. In other words, the government helps to pay for the health care of women giving birth out of wedlock. Not only does that not have to do with registered partnerships, it doesn't have to do with marriage--it's kind of part and parcel of universal heath care. They're not paying extremely-high taxes for nothing, after all.

Besides, every socialist nation that has legalized civil unions/partnerships has also seen another trend: people cohabit until they have a child, at which point, they marry. That's why the rate of "first birth out of wedlock" appears to be so high; other rates of births out of wedlock are far lower, because subsequent siblings have married mommies and daddies.

Posted by: Katter | Mar 16, 2007 3:17:47 PM

Well said Katter - I used to live in Norway and I never heard anyone mention a single negative effect of "Partnerships". It was just such a non-issue for them - like it should be here.

The biggest thing I take issue with from Penna's article is her assertion that "National policy should be informed by the evidence -- buttressed by countless studies -- showing children do best physically, emotionally and educationally when living with both biological parents."

Yes, policy should be based on informed evidence but, what are these "countless" studies that she is talking about? The limited studies that exist show children fair just as well in a same-sex headed household as in an opposite-sex one.

In fact, I really can't understand why she is advocating basing policy on evidence as this would tend to undermine every argument "pro-fams" construct against marriage equality. Evidence or "Reality", as I like to call it, is really not their friend.

Posted by: GayMormonBoy | Mar 17, 2007 1:05:02 PM

"But why are "atypical" simply because we exist in lesser numbers than our heterosexual friends?"

I think you answered your own question within the question itself.

Posted by: Chet Lemon | Aug 17, 2007 11:23:28 AM

Lesser numbers do not indicate lesser a claim to humanity. Our existences are 'typical for society. We have always and will always be part of the spectrum.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Aug 17, 2007 11:37:30 AM

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