How Conservatives’ Arbitrary Definition Of Marriage Condemns LGBT People

Posted on

CREDIT: The Heritage Foundation

Ryan T. Anderson

Ryan T. Anderson

CREDIT: The Heritage Foundation

Opponents of marriage equality have their own turn of phrase to identify the issue: “redefining marriage.” At the heart of their argument is an arbitrary assertion that “marriage” is for man-woman couples only, and thus anything that the government offers same-sex couples that it calls “marriage” is not, in fact, marriage. The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson exemplified this point at a recent conference when he told a gay person in California that he can’t get married:

ANDERSON: You can’t get married… You can be issued a marriage license in the state of California, but you can’t actually get married. And I’m sorry to say it that way, but given what marriage is — and it’s not discrimination, because everyone is equally eligible for entering into the marital relationship, where you understand marriage as a union of sexual complimentary spouses, a permanent exclusive union of man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father. If you’re not interested in entering into that sort of a union, you’re not being discriminated against.

What you’re asking us to do is to redefine marriage to include the adult relationship of your choice. The adult relationship of your choice happens to be a same-sex couple. There are other adults who want to have marriage redefined to include the relationship of their choice, which may be the same-sex throuple or the opposite-sex quartet… It seems to me that your position ultimately leads to simply the dissolvement of the marital union.

Listen to the exchange (via Jeremy Hooper at Good As You):

In a sense, this “sexual complentarity” language, which Anderson has also described as the “conjugal view” of marriage, is a new spin on an old argument. It’s the same as the “ick factor,” the “basic plumbing” argument, and the Facebook-needs-to-have-a-“Vomit”-button-for-pictures-of-gay-couples complaint. It’s distaste and disapproval for same-sex sexuality, couched in a policy argument that condemns and refuses to sanction such sexuality.

For two people to actually be “sexually complementary,” the only criterion is that they be sexually interested in each other. Conservatives are essentially dismissing the reality of non-heterosexual orientations and the lived experience of people with such orientations. People who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual may have the same desire to find a committed partner to care for and build a family with — completely irrelevant of other polygamous and polyamorous relationships, Anderson’s favorite strawman — but they may only find such a connection with a person of the same sex. Anderson blatantly explains that this should disqualify them from the legal benefits of marriage, but as Judge Robert Shelby explained when overturning Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, the right to marry includes the right to choose who to marry.

Churches are free to limit their recognition of marriage according to their religious beliefs, but imposing that definition on society serves only to deprive same-sex couples and their children from the same legal protections that other families enjoy.