Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Thoughts on Same Sex Marriage

In order to address the issue of same-sex marriage it is pertinent to have a preface discussion about gender differences. Sex has deep roots, reaching far beyond what one looks at in the mirror. The purpose of sexual differentiation is plain and simple: to reproduce. Women evolved in a way conducive of attracting a mate who would invest resources in her and her children. Men evolved in order to attract a fertile mate willing to copulate with him. Differences that arose from these two different (yet overlapping) goals are commonly referred to as sexual dimorphism. These differences are not limited to physical dissimilarities, but are a dynamic mixture of cognitive ability (male spacial ability v. female verbal ability for example), personality traits, etc. Although biological factors initiate differences, socialization plays the most significant role in establishing gender roles. Homosexual marriages, or children raised with same-gender parents are taking a chance against what nature evolved to be a family. Half the picture children were intended to see during their development is absent. Although many people don’t accept Freud’s psychosexual theory of personality development including the Oedipus complex, one would be hard pressed to find somebody unwilling to acknowledge the profound impact heterosexual parents have on their children.

In Plato’s Republic, Plato argues that nepotism is responsible for divisiveness in society. This schism could be eliminated if elite men were required to produce children with women held in common, and the children produced raised by nurses leaving the parents and children ignorant to biological ties. Aristotle saw something that Plato did not. He recognized devastating side-effects this societal treatment might cause. He wrote:

Whereas in a state having women and children in common, love will be watery; and the father will certainly not say “my son,” or the son “my father.” As a little sweet wine mingled with a great deal of water is imperceptible in the mixture, so, in this sort of community, the idea of relationship which is based upon these names will be lost; there is no reason why the so-called father should care about the son, or the son about the father, or brothers about one another. Of the two qualities which chiefly inspire regard and affection-that a thing is your own and that it is your only one-neither can exist in such a state as this.1

Aristotle recognized what evolutionary psychologists call kin selection or kin altruism. Altruism, or behavior that involves self-sacrifice, appears to be inconsistent with natural selection. If natural selection favors traits that add to the overall fitness of a creature then how can behavior that reduces survival and fitness be selected? The answer is that animals and people not only have an interest in their own survival but also the survival of their genes. This idea is called inclusive fitness, the reproductive success of those individuals who share many of the same genes. In Politics, Aristotle writes, “in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves.”2 Thomas Aquinas, who was very influential in many Christian nations construct of marriage and family, saw four major driving forces behind marriage. First, the demanding nature of child rearing for an extensive amount of time makes it difficult for mothers to raise infants by themselves. Second, fathers are much more likely to attach to their children if they know with certainty that the child caries his genes and is his own. Third, reinforcing this attachment males feel towards their children is the mutual assistance and affection he receives from his wife. Finally, sexual exchange between the father and mother helps to integrate the father into the mother-infant bond.3 Research strongly supports that children do best when raised by their two married, biological parents who have low-conflict relationships.4, 5 Dismissing the relationship between kin selection (biological parents) and marriage is adultocentric- disregarding children’s rights. Children have the right to be raised by parents in families as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.6 Not only this, children also have the right to be raised in a society which protects legal and cultural institutions which maximize the possibility of them being raised by their biological parents. For this reason I am opposed to same-sex marriage being passed as law.

Something that has taken me by surprise as I have debated the issue of same-sex marriage is how quickly people label me as a “homophobe.” Quick background on me: I have never in my life felt any malice or any degree of hate for a homosexual person. I have had close association with some homosexual people in my life on sports teams, at work, at school, my neighbors, and within my own extended family. My association with them has always been exquisitely pleasant and I value their unique perspectives. Why then would I be labeled as a homophobe for pursuing peaceful discussion while taking the stance of defending marriage to be between a man and a woman? My conclusion is that the term homophobe is a potent deterrent to rational debate. Name-calling and scare tactics enable those unable to support their arguments otherwise to turn weak minds against their opponent. Thomas Sowell writes about this buzzword (homophobe) in The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy:

Writers who have written for years, or even decades, without ever mentioning homosexuals have been denounced for "homophobia" because they began to write about the subject after the AIDS epidemic appeared and did not take the "politically correct" position on the issues. How can someone have a "phobia" about something he has scarcely noticed? Many people never knew or cared what homosexuals were doing, until it became a danger to them as a result of the AIDS epidemic. Whether those people's reactions were right or wrong is something that can be debated. But attributing their position to a "phobia" is circular reasoning, when there is no evidence of any such phobia other than the position itself. Like so much in the vocabulary of the anointed, it is a way of avoiding substantive debate.
Among the writers who took non-"politically correct" positions on AIDS was the late Randy Shilts, whose best-selling book And the Band Played On is a chilling exploration of the political irresponsibility, based on fears of offending the organized gay lobby, that led to thousands of unnecessary deaths before the most elementary public health measures were taken to reduce the spread of AIDS. No doubt he too would have been called "homophobic" if he were not himself an avowed homosexual who later died of AIDS....7

Jeff Lindsey (an LDS member in Appleton, Wisconsin) wrote in his blog: “Homophobia is an epithet to stop argument. Name-calling can carry the day when reason and facts aren't with you. There certainly are bigots that need to be stopped - but the media and the gay lobby is quick to label anyone as homophobic who does not agree with their political agenda or with their lifestyle. But the issue of homosexuality needs thoughtful consideration and debate - not just name calling to force a politically correct decision.”

The idea of political correctness is an influential weapon gay-activists arm themselves with. I find the history of homosexuality in popular scientific thought to be particularly telling of the power this weapon yields. In 1973 the term homosexuality was removed from the official nomenclature of the DSM-II (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Such action would make one think this represents popular scientific thought on the matter right? Wrong. A poll taken in late 1977 of ten thousand Psychiatrists of the American Medical Association showed that 68 percent answered in the affirmative when asked "is homosexuality usually a pathological adaptation as opposed to a normal variation?" Again, in 1995 a poll of various psychiatric institutions revealed that a large majority of psychiatrists believe that homosexuality was a pathological adaptation. So if the scientific community decides to disavow homosexuality as a mental illness without research (or even popularity within the scientific community) to back it up why was this change made? Plain and simple: political correctness being pushed for by gay-activists. Political correctness trumps research. This reality was made clear when a group of researchers headed by Charles W. Socarides presented a report summarizing two years of research. They observed and unanimously documented the fact that exclusive homosexuality was a disorder of psychosexual development. At the end of this two year study, new members of the Executive Committee who ordered the study deemed their conclusions “not acceptable.” And so, good science is effectively filtered by gay-activists in the name of political correctness. I guess the same people who lament the far right trying to block evolution being taught in schools are guilty of a similar offense themselves.8

Many members of the LDS church who are supportive of same-sex marriages being legalized criticize the church for continuously choosing the wrong side of every political battle.9 They quickly make a comparison to blacks and the priesthood. I would respond with a question: is the church today the same as it was in the 70’s? The first presidency and quorum of the twelve is now saturated with PhD’s and expertise in various fields of study (this hasn’t always been the case). Are these men uneducated bigots? Is the idea that the church would stand up for marriage in order to suppress the rights of a minority group even fathomable to one with experience with the church? There must be more to the church’s stance than that which the church is continuously accused. I challenge anyone caught in a crisis of thought regarding this issue to study it out, trust our leaders and allow the facts to vindicate our position. How grateful I am that the church has stood up when called upon, proving to all that we are not ashamed of truth, and we will protect the family as the seedbed of civilization.

In my experience with members of the church who support same-sex marriage I have often heard them use Joseph Smith’s own words to validate their position. “I teach the people correct principles and they govern themselves” said Joseph Smith as cited by John Taylor.10 Focus is on the latter part of this quote, implying that the church must avoid infringing on others’ rights. Often reference is made to Satan’s plan in the pre-earth life equating these rights to agency. There are a few visible errors in this thinking. I don’t think this position represents a correct understanding of agency. In Heavenly Father’s established plan, agency is not something that can be taken away. People will always have the ability to act according to their own accord. Even if rules or laws are put in place, this in no way infringes upon one’s agency. “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.”11 This way of thinking also fails to acknowledge the first part of Joseph Smith’s words, to teach correct principles. The church has not really taken a political stand, it has taken a moral one. It has stood up for the family as being ordained by God and between one man and one woman. It is consistent with the churches long-time position, one which they have already made several proclamations to the world.12

1. Aristotle, supra n. 17, at Bk. I, ii.
2. Aristotle, Politics, in The Basic Words of Aristotle Bk. I, ii (Random House 1941).
3. Aquinas, supra n. 21 at Q. 41, A. 1.
4. Parke, M.; Are married parents really better for children? What research says about effects of family structure on child well-being (Policy Brief No. 3) Washington DC: center for law and social policy. 2003.
5. McLanahan, S.; Sandefur, G.D.; Growing up with a single parent: what hurts, what helps. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. 1994.
6. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 7.
7. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy BasicBooks, New York, 1995, pp. 216 – 217



10. Journal of Discourses 10:57-58.

11. Doctrine and Covenants 58:28

12. For more on Agency see Dallin H. Oaks, Free Agency and Freedom, BYU Devotional and Fireside Speeches, 1987-88.


Thomas said...


Your comments are excellent. You know that I study this issue quite a bit. It is apparent that you have as well.

There are many aspects or perspectives in which this issue can be viewed. The evolutionary argument I have yet heard, until now. You make a good point.

Your comments on scare tactics, and on agency, are right on the money. And, you articulate them very well.

Thanks again.
(BTW, I'll probably be quoting you in the future.)