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10/12/2010

'Traditional marriage' is all about reproducing (the same limited worldview)

by Jeremy Hooper

Kersten HedshotWe're not sure if conservative Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten (pic.) literally borrowed Maggie Gallagher's brain before penning her latest piece. Though the column -- wherein Kersten knocks MN gubernatorial candidates Mark Dayton (DFL) and Tom Horner (I) for supporting same-sex marriage, and backs Tom Emmer (R) for opposing the same -- seriously does read like a National Organization For Marriage press release. A snip:

Marriage is a "conjugal" concept, based on the sexual complementarity of men and women. It channels the powerful male/female sex drive to positive ends, to ensure that children will -- whenever possible -- have the love, support and guidance of both their mother and father. By linking fathers to their children, marriage strengthens an otherwise tenuous bond that is vital for both children's and society's well-being.

This truth about marriage's core purpose is highly inconvenient for same-sex marriage supporters. To evade it, they employ a two-pronged rhetorical strategy.

First, they portray the purpose of marriage as being simply to encourage, and publicly affirm, adults' "love and commitment" -- Dayton's words. If we grant this premise, it becomes a denial of "equal rights" to withhold marriage from two men or two women who care for each other. "How will my same-sex marriage hurt your marriage?" gay-marriage supporters ask. They expect the answer to be "not at all."

But marriage is not primarily about affirming "love and commitment." Otherwise, government would regulate friendships as well as marriages. At its core, marriage is a social institution, whose public purpose is to structure male/female sexual relationships in a way that maximizes the next generation's well-being.

Same-sex marriage advocates' second rhetorical ploy is to charge that their opponents are motivated by fear, bigotry and hatred toward homosexuals. In 2004, for example, Dayton told a crowd of gay-rights activists that people who support a constitutional amendment to protect male-female marriage are "the forces of bigotry and hatred" who "spew hatred and inhumanity," according to the Star Tribune..

FULL PIECE: Katherine Kersten: This year, the family is on the ballot [Star Tribune]

The procreation canard: It's really starting to sound silly at this point. Because this rhetorical logic leap -- which the conservatives admittedly sell as if their life depended on it -- requires so many blinders to fit into our known world. Blinders that ignore the fact that reproduction is not and should not be a marital requirement, and therefore cannot be a marital limitation. Blinders that ignore the many same-sex couples who do or who plan to have children of their own. Blinders that ignore the fact that marriage enhances the stability of all families, homo- or hetero-headed, and threatens no family. Blinders that refuse to see how and why this flawed procreation argument exists in an odd socially conservative vacuum that's been aggressively siphoned into existence by figures like the aforementioned Maggie Gallagher, and to admit that the less sucky world that the rest of us refer to as actuality doesnt come close to matching the "pro-family" crowd's echo chamber!

Now, Ms. Kersten goes on to suggest that in order to get around the procreation argument, we who value marriage equality must (1) Make marriage all about love/commitment, and then (2) paint all opponents of marriage equality as motivated by animus. But that oh-so-reliable red herring overlooks the pro-equality movement's number one claim, which is that the anti-equality opposition is simply WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! We don't need the other stuff. This site, for instance, never turns the fight for basic rights to a personal level, always instead focusing on the goal rather than the characteristics of the human being who is either fostering or limiting the same. And in terms of love/commitment: Well yes, we quite unapologetically work towards an environment where both passion and trust are cornerstones of a healthy marriage (call us crazy). But when it comes to the fight to obtain the freedom to marry itself, the far more important matters involve the civil law, the separation of personal faith-based beliefs from said civil law, and the state and federal constitutions that bear out our arguments. So while it may be convenient for Ms. Kersten to set up a limited scenario that purports to monolithically detail The Gays™, the reality is far more varied/nuanced. Just like the historical marital picture itself.

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