Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-24-_-_Marriage_at_Cana marriage

As indicated in my essay last week on Dr. George’s article addressing the “gay marriage” question, following is a summary of his responses to certain objections. My summary of the main thrust of his argument can be found here and the complete text of Dr. George’s article can be found here.

Objection I: Some, if not all, human beings need meaningful companionship that involves romance (presumably including sex) as well as public recognition. Limiting the legal marriage to one man and one woman, as the traditional understanding of marriage requires, refuses public recognition to homosexual partnerships. Consequently, homosexually oriented people are denied a basic human need for meaningful companionship and hence true human fulfillment.

Reply to Obj. I:  This objection is based on several false assumptions. First, it assumes that meaningful companionship is impossible without romance and sex. But history, and likely one’s own experience, demonstrates the reality of genuine friendship in which emotional, psychological and dispositional intimacy is present without the need or desire for romance and sex (the entire Western tradition from Aristotle, to Aquinas to C.S. Lewis acknowledges the reality of friendship as an intimacy with another that forms a “second self”,” an intimacy that does not require romance and sex). Given the reality of genuine friendship, the assumption that meaningful companionship requires romance and sex, denies the meaningfulness of the intimacy some individuals have whose relationship does not include romance and sex. Therefore, not only is meaningful companionship possible without romance and sex, but the assumption that it is not denigrates the value of those whose deep friendships do not involve sex.

Second, the objection assumes that fulfillment from a meaningful relationship requires public and thus legal recognition of the relationship. A relationship’s meaningfulness does not depend on public/legal recognition. If it did, then non-romantic, platonic friendships would not be meaningful without such recognition (recall that current law, especially after Lawrence v. Texas, which held anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional, legally allows homosexual relationships, so this issue is not whether such relationships are allowed but whether they are legally recognized as marriages). But as indicated above, platonic friendships are possible and do not depend on public recognition for their meaningfulness. As such, fulfillment from a meaningful relationship does not depend on public and thus legal recognition of the relationship.

Third, the objection implies that homosexual orientation is a basic identity and that if the state does not actively recognize it, it necessarily harms or disregards a class of human beings. First, this objection begs the question as to why the legal recognition of homosexual partnerships as marriage is necessary in order to actively recognize homosexual persons and their identity as homosexuals. The law already allows homosexuals to have the same non-marital relationships heterosexuals may have, implying not only that homosexual orientation, but acting on such orientation, is permissible. Besides a simple legal pronouncement that being homosexual is legally permissible would provide the desired public recognition without the need for legally recognizing homosexual partnerships as marriage. Outside of marriage, the state neither singles out nor gives special attention, for example, to a given heterosexual man’s sexual desire for one (or even more than one) women, or to any other sexual desire that a person may have whether heterosexual or homosexual. As such, public recognition of homosexual orientation would not merely present a class of humans from being disregarded but grant them a special treatment not afforded to other sexual desires, except, perhaps, heterosexual sexual desires in the context of marriage. Even with the legal recognition of traditional marriage, the state is not recognizing the sexual desires or orientation as such, but the nature of the relationship and its inherent orientation toward children, which is the basis for the state’s interest in legally recognizing marriage. Finally, the traditional morality underlying traditional marriage treats homosexual persons with the same dignity as heterosexual persons: “in every one it sees the radical freedom to make choices that transcend those inclinations, heredity, and hormones; enabling men and women to become authors of their own character.” Thus, the state neither disregards nor harms homosexual persons by not actively recognizing their orientation through legally recognizing homosexual relationships as marriage.

Obj. II:  Same-sex attractions are innate (due to genetics or some outside factor) and therefore homosexual persons do not choose their orientation. As such, homosexual orientation is natural, or perhaps even intended by God. What is natural or intended by God cannot be an impediment to marriage. Therefore, homosexual partnerships should be legally recognized as marriage.

Reply to Obj. II:  A natural tendency, orientation or predisposition does not, in itself, morally justify a person’s choice to act in accord with that tendency, orientation or predisposition (e.g. supposing alcoholism is a genetic predisposition, it doesn’t follow that the alcoholic should drink excessively). Therefore, whether one has a right or is morally justified in acting according to an innate predisposition does not depend on the mere fact that one is so predisposed; rather, it depends on the morality of the act one is disposed to perform because of the innate disposition. But there is no logical connection between the cause of homosexual desire and whether same-sex unions can be marriages because even supposing that homosexuality is an innate orientation and that acting according to such orientation is moral, that does not, in itself provide a sufficient reason for legalizing same-sex unions as marriages (e.g. if the desire for platonic friendship is caused by genetics or other influences beyond a person’s choosing, it does not follow that such a friendship should be recognized as marriage; the same goes an innate desire for multiple partners–such a desire would not justify polygamy; further, and in the reverse, the absence of a genetic predisposition for one’s sexual orientation would not be an argument against marriage). Additionally, “disabilities or pressing special obligations can be natural” in the sense of not being caused by a person’s choice, “and yet they may prevent some people from getting married.” In that case, what is natural or intended by God would be an impediment to marriage. Consequently, the innateness of homosexual orientation does not entail a right to homosexual marriage.

Obj. III:  Homosexual partnerships often, if not always, involve the partners providing domestic care and support to each other in the same way that heterosexual married couples support each other. Yet, heterosexual married couples are entitled to domestic benefits. Therefore, homosexual partnerships should be legally recognized as marriage so they too may be entitled to the same domestic benefits as heterosexual couples.

Reply to Obj. III:  If the criteria for marriage is domestic care and support, then any relationship (a la the odd couple, two brothers living together, even three men living together, etc.) involving domestic care and support would qualify as marriage. The qualification that the relationship be romantic, involve sex and/or be monogamous begs the question against those who provide each other domestic care and support but are not romantic, sexually involved or monogamous (i.e. why should they not be married and thus entitled to domestic support just because they aren’t romantic, sexually involved or monogamous?). Further, there is no principled basis for adding the qualification of romance and sex unless the traditional view of marriage is correct because: (1) romance is important to marriage because of its orientation to sex; and (2) sex is important only if sex is the complete bodily union required for genuine marriage (see first essay explaining that complete bodily union is what completes or seals the marriage). Likewise, there is no principled basis for adding monogamy as a qualification to relationships entitled to domestic benefits unless marriage is understood in the traditional sense, because under the traditional view “marriage is a comprehensive interpersonal union consummated and renewed by acts of complete organic bodily union” and “no single act can organically unite more than two people at the bodily level” (see first essay on this point as well). As a result, only with the traditional view of marriage is there a principled basis for excluding polyamorous and non-romantic, platonic relationships from being legally recognized as marriage and thus entitled to its domestic benefits. Therefore, unless one wishes to extend marriage to such relationships, one cannot legally recognize homosexual partnerships as marriage on the basis of domestic care and support.

Obj. IV:  The traditional view of marriage allows that heterosexual, infertile couples can be married. But because such couples are not able to have their own biological children any more than a homosexual couple, there is no difference between them. Therefore, even under the traditional view of marriage, same-sex couples should be able to marry.

Reply to Obj. IV:  This objection relies on the false premise that unless fertility is what distinguishes heterosexual relationships from homosexual ones and determines that the former constitutes real marriage, there is no difference between heterosexual marriage and committed, monogamous homosexual partnerships. As explained in the first essay, however, it is not fertility itself but comprehensive organic bodily union that distinguishes real marriage from homosexual partnerships. Only in marriage between one man and one woman is there such a union (see previous essay for the complete explanation). Insofar as such union is possible even for infertile couples (and not for homosexual ones), infertile couples can be married whereas homosexual ones cannot.

Infertile heterosexual couples can achieve complete organic bodily union whether or not conception is achieved, intended or even possible. Consider the organic process of digestion. The parts of the digestive process (e.g. chewing, saliva, stomach, intestines, etc.) form an organic bodily union oriented toward nourishment even if a defect in one part (say, for example, the stomach doesn’t absorb nutrients as it should) prevents actual nourishment. Although nourishment does not occur, the parts are still unified in the organic digestive process that is on the whole oriented toward nourishment (this is also true whether or not the person eats knowing that nourishment will not occur or intending that is should not occur). As explained in the first essay, complete bodily union involves the coordination of bodily parts for the common biological purpose of the whole. Thus, the bodily parts of the digestive process form a complete bodily union. Analogously, in their natural dynamism constituting the procreative process, the reproductive parts of the infertile heterosexual couple form an organic bodily union oriented toward conception whether or not a defect in the parts prevents conception for occurring, whether or not the couple intends conception to occur, or whether or not the couple knows that it cannot occur. Therefore, infertile heterosexual couples can achieve complete bodily union as required for marriage.

Note that this reply that infertile heterosexual couples can be married because they, unlike homosexual couples, can achieve complete bodily union implies that marriage does not require the presence of children, for if it did, infertile heterosexual couples could not be married. But if the argument above is correct, the fact that they can be married implies children are not necessary to make a marriage. While children are not necessary to make a marriage neither are they sufficient for that purpose. For instance, two brothers who live together and share domestic responsibilities, including the raising of their deceased sister’s children, does not make the brothers married. That same would be true if, instead of two brothers, two unrelated heterosexual bachelors were raising children. Consequently, the mere presence of children is neither necessary nor sufficient to make a relationship a marriage. What is necessary and sufficient is a comprehensive interpersonal union, including a complete bodily union.

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