by Jennifer Thieme

Gay activists have marketed “gay marriage” as an issue of equal rights and compassion, but at it’s heart it is not about either. It is about changing the function of marriage as a public policy by making small changes to certain words in the law surrounding marriage and family. As a matter of justice and social responsibility, we must try to forecast what will happen to people and society as a result of those legal changes.

Traditional marriage really means gendered marriage. It means that marriage, as a public policy, has a gender requirement – each gender must be present. This is why we see terms like “bride” and “groom” on marriage licenses. We have historically recognized this gender diversity as a fundamental feature of marriage due to the procreation that can happen between the couple.

“Gay marriage” is a change in policy from gendered marriage to genderless marriage. Marriage licenses and other areas of law surrounding marriage and children will be forced to remove references to gender such as “bride,” “groom,” “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” “father.” These terms will be replaced with gender neutral terms such as “spouse,” “partner,” “parent,” etc. This is why the accommodation of gay people into the institution of marriage changes marriage from gendered to genderless. Now you can understand why this change is not simply allowing gay couples “equal rights,” and why it is not analogous to the ban on interracial marriage that was overturned in 1967.

Unfortunately, the change from gendered marriage to genderless marriage will bring about the most sweeping and uncompassionate power grab of the State into family life we have ever witnessed. It’s because we will be replacing an objective, pre-political reason for marriage (procreation of children, and public recognition of parents’ attachment to them) with a subjective, state-defined one (love, equality, time spent with the child, etc). Gendered marriage is the only institution we have that publicly recognizes and affirms the biological connection children have with their parents. Genderless marriage removes this. Thus, gendered marriage is far more compassionate than genderless marriage.

Conservatives, and libertarians for that matter, should be extremely alarmed at the change from gendered marriage to genderless marriage. How many have heard the story of Lisa Miller, the bio mom who lost custody of her bio daughter to her former lesbian lover due to their civil union? The lover is not related to the child by blood or adoption, and this did not matter to the judge who made the ruling. Lisa escaped with her daughter to Central America. Her name appears on the FBI and INTERPOL Wanted Lists for parental kidnapping, and the Amish pastor who helped her escape has been convicted of “aiding an international parental kidnapping of a minor.” He might be looking at three years jail time.

Lisa’s biological connection to her own daughter was disregarded in favor of a public policy aimed at promoting equality. The objective, natural, and pre-political reality lost, and the subjective, artificial, and state defined reality won.

Imagine the precedence this case sets for all families. Imagine the sorts of incentives that will be institutionalized and promoted once genderless marriage becomes the norm. Where is the compassion here? Is this really the world we want, one where biological connections no longer have priority in the eyes of the law?

As far as social issues go, the battle over marriage is the Roe v. Wade of our time. In 1973 most conservatives (or liberals for that matter) would never have dreamed we’d be looking at 50 million abortions by this time. We’re at a similar point now with the battle between gendered marriage and genderless marriage. Genderless marriage will be the most sweeping power grab over families and children ever witnessed in our country, and we won’t be able to get our freedoms back once it’s in place. Liberals probably do not care about replacing a natural and pre-political institution with an artificial and state defined one … but conservatives and libertarians should be up in arms over it.

We must be willing to safeguard our natural and pre-political liberties at whatever cost to us personally, or else we will lose them. I am sincerely afraid that good people are backing away from the support of gendered marriage due to fear and ignorance, not because they proactively understand the consequences of genderless marriage. We must take courage and do what is right, because the change we’re debating will impact our posterity far more than it will impact us. After all, most of us had a mom and a dad, but we’re telling future generations to be happy with “parent 1” and “parent 2.”

Remember: gendered marriage is the compassionate choice.

Jennifer Thieme is the Director of Finance & Advancement for the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund. The Ruth Institute promotes the understanding of marriage from a variety of disciplines, such as economics, law, philosophy, physiology, history, and religion. Stay updated on the marriage issue by signing for the Ruth Institute newsletter.

Image: Ancient Roman Marriage; courtesy of Agnete