How NOM Sees Same-Sex Couples: They Don’t

Michael Bradley, University of Notre Dame

This week’s newsletter from the National Organization for Marriage demonstrates how little appreciation the group has for who same-sex couples are and how they live their lives. The post, written by NOM president Brian Brown, highlights an essay from University of Notre Dame philosophy graduate student Michael Bradley rehashing the “definitional argument” against marriage equality. The argument states that because marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, “two men or two women simply cannot form the sort of relationship that marriage is.”

Bradley goes on to offer this rhetorical question to defend his point: “What are the essential characteristics of marriage?” Brown is all too happy to answer (emphasis is his):

Love, commitment, permanence, exclusivity, faithfulness between a man and woman who vow to be there for one another, and for their children.

That’s the heart of what marriage is, what we fight for, and what government cannot change.

The definitional argument itself is tautological and arbitrary. This is particularly obvious when Bradley simply dismisses the comparison to pre-1967 bans on interracial marriage, because even though they also applied an arbitrary definition to marriage, it doesn’t count because it didn’t impact the “essential” — another arbitrary qualifier — definition of one man and one woman.

But NOM’s response is particularly telling, because aside from the assertion that a marriage must be “between a man and woman,” all of the other characteristics could easily describe same-sex couples. In fact, it is because of these qualities that many same-sex couples want to marry under the law. The legal protections that married couples enjoy become particularly important as they age or if sickness strikes. Likewise, many same-sex couples are already raising children, and those children benefit when they are legally linked to both of their parents as equal guardians in the family.

It doesn’t matter to NOM if same-sex couples have love, commitment, exclusivity, faithfulness, or a vow to be there for one another and their children. The mere fact that they’re gay is enough for them to be excluded from all the securities and protections of marriage.