by Judy Eisenbrand
This November Californians will vote to decide whether the state should adopt Proposition 8 which calls for a constitutional amendment to restore the definition of marriage to the union between one man and one woman.
Opponents of Proposition 8 try to frame it as a civil rights issue. It is not. Proposition 8 seeks to reverse an activist court’s attempt to mandate the social acceptance of homosexual unions by redefining marriage. Why is the California Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage to include same sex marriages harmful?
First of all, it removes the protection of children from the center of marriage. The legal institution of marriage with all its extraordinary protections and obligations evolved to support and encourage the risk-taking involved in having and raising children; as Blackhorn 2008 states, “Marriage is society’s most pro-child institution… Marriage says to a child: The man and woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: for every child born, there is a recognized mother and a father, accountable to the child and to each other.”
Contrastingly, the primary focus of homosexual unions is necessarily on the good of the two contracting adults; in fact, every child brought up solely in a homosexual household is denied the right to bond with either a father or a mother. Circumstances such as parental death or abandonment have denied children this right before, but do not excuse planning, intending, or even mandating such circumstances. When on September 15, 2008, another California court ruled that two doctors who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian woman on moral grounds were guilty of discrimination, not only did physicians lose their rights to practice according to their consciences, but children also lost their rights to have both a mother and father.
Secondly, the court’s redefinition confuses the development of sexual orientation in our youth. Many people mistakenly believe that our sexual orientation is purely inborn. In fact, the official stance the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association is that there currently is no consensus that homosexuality is largely genetically determined. More current scientific studies indicate that environment plays the larger role; in particular for adolescents, in one of the largest twin pair studies to date,Bearman and Bruckner (2002) found that if one identical twin had same sex attraction (SSA), there was only a 5-7% chance that the other also had SSA.
Environmental factors that appear to increase homosexuality rates include being raised in an urban area, college settings, an absent or unknown father for homosexual males, and maternal absence or death during adolescence for homosexual females (Lauman 1994, Frisch and Hviid 2006, Green 1986, Bailey 1995, Tasker and Golombok 1995, Lerner and Nagai 2001). Hansen 2008 states, “The data find that human sexuality is malleable, and environmental experiences and influences can and do shape its expression. Moreover, these findings are supported by decades of anthropological and sociological evidence that reveal that rates of homosexual behavior fluctuate-sometimes greatly-with changes in the social, cultural, and legal climate. The more an environment affirms or encourages same-sex sexuality- whether an urban center or a university campus- the more homosexuality there will be in that setting.” Considering what we know about the plasticity, curiosity, and impressionability of young minds, this is not surprising.
Yet the California Supreme Court insists that homosexual unions be equated with heterosexual marriage, sending a message to youth that society values them as equal choices. But so far the data is sobering. The Netherlands has had registered partnerships since 1998 and full homosexual marriage since 2001, yet the average range of male homosexual relationships in the Netherland was 9 months to 2 years, with an average of only 17 months (Xiridou, 2003). The National Health and Social Life Survey found that the mean number of lifetime partners since the age of 18 for men who had ever engaged in homosexual acts was 44.3; for women who had ever engaged in lesbian behavior the average number of partners was 19.7 (Laumann 1994). Considering that the rates of sexual promiscuity, sex with strangers, disease and early death including suicide, and obviously childlessness are all significantly higher for homosexuals, how can we truthfully present heterosexual and homosexual lifestyles as equal choices to our youth? If this issue were not so politicized, surely society would want to give legalized homosexual unions a chance to work before mandating their promotion.
Yet it is very likely that changing the definition of marriage to include homosexual unions will force public schools to do just that. The threat of discrimination lawsuits would be enough to motivate budget beleaguered public schools to scrupulously remove all potential heterosexual bias in what is taught about marriage and family, enforcing a curriculum of neutrality. A 2006 Massachusetts court case ruled that school districts were under no obligation to inform parents in advance of teaching about same sex marriage. Parents who disagree will need to take on the difficult burden on tracking what is taught in public school and try to have their children excused from class whenever homosexual unions are promoted. Other institutions which do not conform to the civil definition of marriage could also potentially be at risk for legal repercussions. Clergy who refuse to perform same sex marriages might lose their state authorization to witness marriages. Religious social service agencies might lose their contractual agreements with the state for community services because of accusations of discrimination. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court granted the right to marry to gay couples, Catholic Charities of Boston, a respected organization that had placed more orphans in homes than any other organization in the state since its founding in 1903, had to shut down its adoptions agency because its insistence on placing children in heterosexual households with both a mother and father was deemed discrimination by state law.
We all want a society characterized by mutual tolerance and respect. Heterosexual marriage and homosexual unions should have different names because they are obviously different and have profoundly different consequences (children). Proposition 8 maintains this appropriate distinction, and thereby preserves marriage as the primary institution that safeguards the rights of children. Proposition 8 also maintains the rights of parents and supporting religious and educational institutions to guide children preferentially toward a biologically coherent sexual orientation without accusations of discrimination or fear of litigation. Homosexual couples will continue to enjoy equal legal privileges under California Domestic Partners Law, Family Code 297.5; as the California Supreme Court minority opinion reads, “California statutes already recognize same-sex unions and grant them all the substantive legal rights the state can bestow.” Conferring the name of marriage, which has established validity across multiple faiths and cultures over thousands of years, upon homosexual unions, implicitly promotes the latter, will profoundly confuse the development of the sexual orientations of our youth, and creates a legal basis that endangers the rights of society to preferentially promote the very institution, heterosexual marriage, that it depends on to survive. The rational choice is to vote ‘yes’ on Proposition 8.