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Five on Eight

Debating Proposition 8--Should California eliminate marriage for same-sex couples?

'Biology, not bigotry' is the foundation for the traditional form of marriage.

November 01, 2008|Maggie Gallagher | Maggie Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage, which is a major contributor to the "Yes on 8" campaign.

As I travel across California and the country making the case for Proposition 8, I'm often asked, "Why do you care about restoring marriage?"

It's a good question, and not just for me. Why are so many Californians rushing to street corners to hold up "Yes on 8" signs, enduring petty vandalism, and even pettier insults, to make the case for voting yes on Proposition 8?

It's simple: Government did not create marriage. Marriage is older than the U.S. Constitution, older even than the Bible or the Koran. Marriage's deepest roots are in human nature and human experience. Marriage, as a judge on the Connecticut Supreme Court wrote in his compelling dissent to that court's recent ruling allowing gays to wed, is rooted "in biology, not bigotry."

Marriage is a virtually universal human social institution with a certain recognizable shape: It is a public union, not just a private union; it's a sexual union and not some other kind of union; it's a union in which the rights and responsibilities of men and women toward each other -- and toward the children of their union -- are publicly defined and supported, not merely left up to individuals to figure out privately.

Why do so many diverse societies arrive at this core marriage idea? There is something special about unions of husband and wife.

The answer is not hard to see. When a baby is born, a mother is bound to be somewhere close by. But if we want fathers to be there for children, and the mothers of their children, biology alone will not take us very far. We need a cultural mechanism to connect fathers to the mother-child bond. We also need an institution that communicates to the next generation -- in the throes of its own erotic and romantic dramas -- how seriously society takes the need to discipline those dramas so that children do not get hurt.

The word for the way society makes this connection, not only in California but in virtually every known human society, is "marriage." Marriage is a union of husband and wife because these kinds of unions are distinctive and necessary to the whole society.

If Californians vote no on Proposition 8, the great historical cross-cultural meaning of marriage will be replaced by the new government dogma on which gay marriage is based: There is no difference between same-sex unions and opposite-sex unions; anyone who thinks otherwise is just a bigot.

Our children will imbibe this new dogma in hundreds of ways, and the old marriage idea -- marriage matters because children need a mother and a father, long for a mother and a father, deserve a mother and a father -- will be publicly discredited as discriminatory.

A victory for Proposition 8 will not deprive same-sex couples of a single practical right or benefit under California state laws. Civil unions will continue to provide legal protections for same-sex families. But the people of California will reclaim from four state Supreme Court justices the right to define marriage as a union of husband and wife, for generations to come.

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