SUNDAY March 07, 2004

Gay marriage threatens the fundamental unit of society -- the family

By Paul T. Mero

    Utah should support a federal constitutional amendment to recognize 
legal marriage as only between a man and a woman. But it should do so 
for the right reasons, understanding why it is needed, what it really 
means for the long term and just who will benefit.
    This is a very curious debate. Homosexual marriage is often 
portrayed as an assault against the family or as a struggle for human 
rights. In reality, it is more a testimony against failing families and 
broken homes.
    Clearly, a federal marriage amendment would prevent states from 
recognizing homosexual marriages. But it would not save our broken 
homes. Surely it would serve to remind us that a real mom and dad, 
together, still produce the best future for their children and our 
nation. But it would not do one thing to make a family better, let alone 
    This point seems to be lost on many "pro-family" advocates. A 
federal marriage amendment is no panacea. Troubled families still would 
produce a truckload of personal and social dysfunction for their 
children, including oftentimes the same homosexuality that comes back to 
haunt so many of these parents. Laws do not make people good; they will 
not make promiscuous homosexuals more faithful, and they will not make 
bad parents into good ones.
    It helps to understand that, in legal terms, the family is prior to 
the state. The family created the state, not vice-versa. This is the 
perverse irony of the gay argument favoring marriage it requires the 
state to create it, unlike the natural family.
    We ask the state to sanction certain forms of marriage, not because 
the creation of the natural family depends on it, but because, as a 
matter of public policy, society seeks to maximize its futurity. 
State-sanctioned marriage is really, and only, about two things -- 
child-bearing and child-rearing -- two things, by the way, homosexuals 
do not do very well.
    All of this goes a long way to inform us about what adversarial 
forces really threaten the family. The family is the seed-bed of 
civilization. Discourage or destroy its natural functions and our future 
is in jeopardy. Take away its procreative powers, take away its 
nurturing elements, take away its autonomous functions, take away its 
pluralistic representation, and we will have threatened the family.
    The real threat of homosexual marriage is that it is the antithesis 
of authentic family. It pretends to give life and cannot. It pretends to 
nurture and does not. It pretends to seek autonomy but is ever 
dependent. It pretends to pluralism but only finds diversity.
    In other words, it pretends to civilization. It only plays house, 
and only then as the state allows it to. This is its threat; it does not 
form naturally. It is dependent upon the state for its organization. And 
that is the antithesis of freedom.
    A federal marriage amendment says nothing about homosexual 
relationships. They will continue unabated and as usual. A federal 
marriage amendment is primarily an expression in favor of enduring 
freedom. It is further recognition, and now it seems a necessary 
reminder, that the family is the fundamental unit of society. This is 
the real value of a federal marriage amendment.
    Serious pro-family advocates would do well to heed this lesson. 
Fighting to protect the family is more than a religious exercise, though 
it is that. We fight for the family because pluralistic, autonomous 
families create freedom. The family is the only natural institution that 
can honestly come by the title "enemy of tyranny."
   Paul T. Mero is president of the Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based 
conservative think tank.

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