Gay Marriage and Civil Rights

By on January 31, 2007

Is gay marriage a civil right? Two experts debate.

mary-jo-andersonMary Jo Anderson
Crisis Magazine

Mary Jo Anderson is a contributing editor for Crisis magazine. She is co-author of Male and Female He Made Them: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions.

david-linkDavid Link
Independent Gay Forum

David Link is a writer and attorney in Sacramento, California. He is a writer for the Independent Gay Forum.

Part 1: Mary Jo Anderson: Neither a Marriage Nor a Civil Right

Our society is at a crossroads. After two hundred-plus years as nation in which marriage and family values were based on the weight of human experience, we’re told that our society should be “tolerant” of a radical innovation, “gay marriage.”

Every society takes a stand on marriage and family. It is not intolerant or unjust to defend the integrity of marriage. How a culture structures its marriage and family policy determines the success of that society—or its demise. The preponderance of studies indicates that the wreckage from divorce and illegitimacy have weakened our next generation.[1] Marriage should be strengthened, not assaulted further.

The New Civil Rights Movement?

Since 1996, forty-five states have passed laws or amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman. The states have also prohibited recognition of any out-of-state same-sex marriage. The states enacted their laws in response to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA, signed by Bill Clinton, permits each state to determine marriage laws within its jurisdiction. This means that, in effect, DOMA permits each state to enact laws consistent with the will of its citizens.

However, homosexual activists have challenged DOMA, and the matter is now working its way through the courts. The chief strategy of same-sex union advocates is to present the issue to the courts and to the American public as an issue of civil rights, or, more accurately, as a denial of civil rights based on sexual orientation.

Gay advocates use the “civil rights” approach by evoking the authentic struggles of black citizens during the 1960s. They point to laws prohibiting mixed marriages as the equivalent of prohibiting gay marriage. Many black leaders have denounced this scheme as scurrilous. Rev. Jesse Jackson, in a speech at Harvard Law School, called making a connection between the push for gay marriage and the civil rights movement a “stretch.”[2]

Skin color cannot be compared to a behavior pattern. No one is “born that way.” There is no “gay gene,” as science has repeatedly indicated.[3] Research shows that same-sex attraction is a developmental misstep and, with proper education, can be prevented.[4] While we have sympathy for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, society does not accord civil rights based on a behavior pattern.

Legal recognition of same-sex pairs as a marriage is not matter of civil rights at all. Many benefits of marriage can be achieved by non-married persons via other legal instruments. Homosexuals are free to name their partners as medical surrogates and beneficiaries in their wills. Unmarried status does not hamper a gay pair in terms of legal benefits.

No homosexual person is denied the right to vote, to hold a job, to pursue an education, to voice an opinion, or any other right guaranteed in the Constitution. They may marry under the same conditions that all citizens marry: Persons eligible for marriage must be unmarried, be of age, marry beyond the bounds of close kinship, and marry a person of the opposite sex. The same laws apply to every citizen—there are no special laws preventing any particular group from marrying.

In short, homosexual persons are full participants in all of the civil rights afforded all U.S. citizens. So, then, what is the civil rights rhetoric by homosexual activists really about?

It is an attempt to change the meaning of the word marriage in order to put a cosmetic face on an abnormal lifestyle. The reasoning is this: If homosexual pairs are legally “married,” then homosexuality is, as a matter of law, as normal as heterosexuality.

The simple truth is that homosexuals are not asking to be permitted to marry. They are attempting to change the definition and meaning of marriage itself.

What Science Says about Gay Unions

Yet, advocates of gay marriage argue that it would be a benefit to society.[5] The claims are unsupportable. Gay pairs do not establish healthy households.

Domestic violence among homosexual pairs is staggering: 31 percent of lesbians and 22 percent of gay men report physical abuse by a partner in the preceding year.[6] Homosexual persons have double to triple the rates of drug abuse, alcoholism, and depression as heterosexuals.[7] Homosexual persons are fourteen times more likely to attempt suicide.[8] Add to that the soaring rates of venereal disease, hepatitis C, and AIDS among homosexuals[9] and one wonders how gay marriage can benefit society at all.

The risk of sexual abuse for children in homosexual households is fifty times greater than for children raised by their biological parents.[10] Children living in households with adults unrelated to them are eight times more likely to die in childhood than are children raised by their biological mothers and fathers.[11]

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a technical report in 2002 that stated that “children who grow up with one or two gay or lesbian parents fare as well … as children whose parents are heterosexual.”[12] But the report contradicts its own findings and admits that samples were not random and that studies had just begun. There was no long-term follow-up to determine if in fact these children had a healthy outcome. In short, the study is worthless.

Moreover, the report was issued by an eight-person committee and was never seen by 90 percent of the AAP membership, who violently objected when the report was made public. Anger by pediatricians was such that the report’s author sent a confidential e-mail to committee members outlining how the members’ outrage would jeopardize “the work we have been doing to use the AAP as a vehicle for positive change.”[13]

While communities will always have unfortunate situations that should be addressed with compassion, no society should adopt atypical circumstances as a positive model for family life. Children raised by their married biological parents are the healthiest children by an astonishing margin, measured by physical and emotional health as well as educational achievement.[14] The studies underscore common sense: The natural family is the best and only format that should be held up as a model for our society. This model alone renders the most critical service to the nation: The natural family bears, raises, and educates successful, contributing members of society.

A nation protects marriage because it has a compelling interest in preserving the foundation of its society. Only natural marriage can ensure the future of a nation.

The Illogic of Same-Sex Marriage

Accepting gay marriage also involves some logical gymnastics. First, engaging in sex does not make a marriage, as thousands of cohabitating couples will attest. Nor does “love and commitment” make a marriage. What of widowed brothers, living together and committed to each other’s well being? Shall we say a daughter and her aging mother living as a “loving, committed pair” are “married”? And if homosexual pairs are given the same tax benefits of marriage, why not two college roommates? Cohabitating pairs offer no compelling interest to society. Marriage is a “privileged status” because spouses assume grave responsibilities on behalf of society.

Second, once same-sex marriage is accepted, what’s to stop polygamy, incest, or pedophilia? If that is thought far-fetched, consider that polygamy has already been legalized in Holland. Unions of three persons were legalized in 2005.[15] Advocates for polygamy have made the case that there is no logical barrier to polygamy if homosexual unions are declared legal.[16] Homosexual partners Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer are the creators of Big Love, a TV series about a polygamous arrangement. And Mark Henkel, a notable polygamy rights advocate stated, “Polygamy rights is the next civil rights battle.”[17]

The American Civil Liberties Union came to the defense of polygamist Thomas Green and in so doing called for the abolition of all laws prohibiting plural unions. In a speech delivered at Yale University, ACLU president Nadine Strossen stated that the ACLU has “defended the right of individuals to engage in polygamy.”[18]Richard Goldstein, a pro-polygamy advocate, wrote in the Village Voice:

The core issue is whether any intimate behavior that doesn’t cause harm should be allowed. If you say yes, you must consider the possibility that plural marriage, like gay marriage (or any gay relationship), is part of the panoply of choices free people are entitled to make. I’m not surprised that the two largest national gay groups refuse to take a position on this case; it would be a public relations nightmare if they stuck up for [Thomas] Green. But our fates are intertwined in fundamental ways.[19]

Does the Definition of Marriage Matter?

Redefinition of terms is an essential battle for gay marriage. This political tactic—to redefine a legal term—is crucial to all laws and this tactic is rapidly becoming the first course of action for radical causes.

Just twenty years ago few would have imagined that marriage would be so radically subjected to redefinition. In like manner, if the case for gay marriage is triumphant, then the tactic of redefining terms will explode every law that addresses human relationships and obligations. Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, declared, “Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex and family and in the process, transforming the very fabric of society.”[20]

Proponents of same-sex unions suggest that it is time for a legal redefinition of marriage because the traditional concept of marriage was based on religious belief. Where religious norms are tossed out, they say, there exists no non-religious impediment to gay marriage.[21]

This is erroneous. It ignores nature. In fact, marriage is older than religious or cultural norms. Marriage as one man and one woman in a permanent bond predates any political system or government. There assuredly are non-religious obstacles to redefining same-sex unions as another form of marriage. The obstacles are biological, psychological, and sociological.

Yes, Virginia, Sex Still Makes Babies

Homosexual acts are sterile and life threatening.[22] They are irrational—they literally have no meaning and make no sense to nature.[23] Thus, such acts are unnatural.

Man and woman are physiologically and psychologically ordered to each other. The meaning of the design is unity, and the function of the sexual design is procreation. The fact that sexual intercourse is pleasurable is nature’s insurance policy that the species will continue. Marriage requires consummation, the physical union of the two forms of the human being. This unity is both physically and psychologically ordered by nature to increase the bond that makes it possible to assume the lifelong responsibilities of parenthood. Children of both sexes need parents of both sexes—nature provides this condition so that young humans learn to navigate the complete human environment, male and female. Man and woman in the bond of marriage is the image of fertility. The human psyche understands this image as the image of hope, a picture of the human future.

Redefining marriage to accommodate an unnatural act would change the meaning of marriage for all of society. Bluntly, the new meaning would be that sex has no meaning beyond pleasure. This philosophy imperils marriage. Sex for pleasure and nothing greater devalues men and women, reducing them to gratifying objects. A society that accepts such a model has a death wish.


[1] See Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade After Divorce (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1989) and Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing Up With A Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994).

[2] Menaka Fernando and Diana Hernandez, “Same-Sex Unions Draw Civil Rights Parallels,” Daily Bruin, Feb. 27, 2004. See also Brian DeBose, “Black caucus resists comparison of gay ‘marriage’ to civil rights,” Washington Times; Rodney Hayes, “‘Gay rights,’ civil rights not the same, black leaders say,” Baptist Press, May 24, 2004.

[3] See R. Friedman and J. Downey, “Neurobiology and sexual orientation: current relationships,” Journal of Neuropsychiatry 5, no. 2 (spring 1993); Jeffrey Satinover, “The Gay Gene?” Journal of Human Sexuality (1996):8. Since 1990 there have been numerous studies searching for the so-called “gay gene.” None has been found. See National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, “Is Sexual Orientation Fixed at Birth?” Sep. 21, 2004.

[4] See Joseph Nicolosi and Linda Ames Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002).

[5] See Jonathan Rauch, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America (New York: Times Books, 2004).

[6] Lettie L. Lockhart, “Letting Out the Secret: Violence in Lesbian relationships,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 9 (1994): 469–92. Gregory L. Greenwood et al., “Battering Victimization among Probability-based Sample of Men Who Have Sex with Men,” American Journal of Public Health 92, no. 12 (Dec. 2002): 1964–69.

[7] J. B. Lehman, C. U. Lehmann, and P. J. Kelly, “Development and Health Care Needs of Lesbians,” Journal of Women’s Health 7 (1998): 379–88.

[8] C. Bagley and P. Tremblay, “Suicidal Behaviors in Homosexual and Bisexual Males,” Crisis 18 (1997): 24–34.

[9] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “HIV/AIDS among Men Who Have Sex with Men,” Oct. 16, 2006.

[10] P. Cameron and K. Cameron, “Homosexual Parents,” Adolescence 31 (1996): 772.

[11] Michael Stiffman et al., “Household Composition and Risk of Fatal Child Maltreatment,” Pediatrics 109, no. 4 (Apr. 2002): 615–21.

[12] Ellen C. Perrin, “Technical Report: Coparent and Second Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents,” Pediatrics 109, no. 2 (Feb. 2002): 341.

[13] Email memo from Ellen Perrin dated Feb. 15, 2002 (emphasis added).

[14] Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 124–40.

[15] LifeSite, “Dutch Couple Contracts with Second Woman in Netherlands’ First Legal Polygamy,” Sep. 30, 2005.

[16] “‘No Special Rights’ for Those Who Choose ‘One Man, One Woman,’”, Sep. 20, 2005. See also Stanley Kurtz, “Beyond Gay Marriage,” Weekly Standard, Aug. 4/11.

[17] Elise Soukup, “Polygamists, Unite!” Newsweek, Mar. 20, 2006.

[18], “ACLU defends polygamy,” June 25, 2005. See also Geoffrey Fattah, “New battles in Green case may alter polygamy’s status,” The Principle, Aug. 20, 2002.

[19] Richard Goldstein, “Love That Dare Not: Why We Should Support the Right to Marry Plurally,” Village Voice, May 26, 2001.

[20] Ed Vitagliano, “Gay Activists War against Christianity,” American Family Association Journal, Feb. 2006.

[21] For a legal discussion of the movement to redefine marriage other than based on cultural and religious traditions see Dan Cere, “The Future of Family Law: Law and the Marriage Crisis in North America,” Council on Family Law, 2005.

[22] Gay men are prone to “gay bowel syndrome,” and anal fissures and high rates of anal cancer (rare in heterosexuals) also reduce the lifespan for gay men. See Medical Institute for Sexual Health, Health Implications Associated with Homosexuality (Austin, Tex.: Medical Institute for Sexual Health, 1999), 55. See also, R. J. Ablin and R. Stein-Werbolwsky, “Sexual Behavior and Increased Anal Cancer,” Immunology and Cell Biology 75, no. 2 (1997): 181–83. See also Katherine Fethers et al., “Sexually Transmitted Infections and Risk Behaviors in Women who have Sex with Women,” Sexually Transmitted Infections 76 (2000): 348.

[23] Citations of animal homosexual behavior are erroneous. Statistical anomalies exist, but nature displays no homosexual design for mating.

Part 2: David Link: Liberty and Justice for All

The debate over gay rights, and particularly the question of same-sex marriage, has changed considerably over the last quarter century. Mary Jo Anderson’s essay helps illustrate one of the most important changes that is occurring: a change in perspective. Historically, to the extent that homosexuality has been the subject of serious public discussion by heterosexuals at all (and this, itself, only began in earnest during the last half of the twentieth century), heterosexuals have had to struggle with the issue of seeing how sex—and now, marriage—might look from the perspective of someone who is not heterosexual. Since the idea that some people are (or, at the least, might be) not heterosexual is such a departure from historical understandings, this is understandably extremely difficult. More important, it helps to confound otherwise seemingly rational arguments.

Anderson’s essay shows some of this difficulty. Read it through, and ask this question: Does she believe there is such a thing as a homosexual person? If so, what does she mean by that term?

Begin with her assertion that homosexuals may marry under the same conditions that all people may marry: They must “be unmarried, be of age, marry beyond the bounds of close kinship, and marry a person of the opposite sex.”

This statement would have made perfect sense to pretty much everyone reading it fifty years ago. Even today, many heterosexuals would, and do, find it clear and coherent.

But what does a statement like this mean to someone who is homosexual? What does marrying a person of the opposite sex mean for someone who is not sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex?

This question is one that no culture prior to our own has ever really addressed. While homosexual attraction is well documented throughout history, it has traditionally been viewed as something that affects people who are fundamentally heterosexual. People were not homosexual; they had “homosexual tendencies” or “inclinations.” Anderson makes this point in its more modern formulation when she asserts that homosexuality is a “behavior pattern.”

What changed gradually over the course of the twentieth century is that some people began to view themselves not as heterosexuals with a side order of homosexual attraction—heterosexuals engaging in a homosexual behavior pattern—but as people who were homosexual as a first principle—homosexual in the same way that heterosexual people are fundamentally heterosexual. In this, Anderson’s claim that there is no “gay gene” is less an argument than a tactic. There is also no proof of any “straight gene,” yet heterosexuals are allowed to (and do) assert without need of proof that they are heterosexual. They are not asked to prove this; it is simply something they know of their own desires and take for granted about themselves. Until heterosexuals are asked to provide a scientific basis not for their sexual behavior but for their sexual desire and identity based on that desire, it will continue to be unfair to require asymmetrical requirements of homosexuals.

The difference is vital to understanding Anderson’s argument, and it is a foundation for the argument against same-sex marriage. If all people are, at their core, heterosexual, then those who engage in homosexuality are doing something unusual and, from the perspective of Anderson, wrong. It is from this perspective that Anderson can claim that homosexuality is a behavior pattern, or more normatively, an “abnormal lifestyle” or a “developmental error.”

This is where the argument about same-sex marriage has so dramatically altered in recent years. More and more people accept that at least some people are homosexual by nature. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as recently as 1983, only 24 percent of Americans claimed they knew someone who was homosexual. That number has steadily increased each year the question was asked and as of 2001 stood at 73 percent.[1] Even the Vatican has finally come to this position not only in its acknowledgment of “homosexual persons” but also in its efforts to remove priests and seminarians with a “homosexual orientation” from ministry. If all people are fundamentally heterosexual, then no such programs would be needed—or possible. No one would need to be excluded from ministry; they would just need more extensive training to avoid their inclination, much as priests who are alcoholic might.

More importantly, a growing majority of Americans not only accept that some people are homosexual by nature, but they know people who identify themselves that way.[2] This is a revolution without precedent. Prior to our own age, most Western cultures shared the assumption that homosexuality is something shameful. The closet was a cultural strategy that allowed a certain measure of tolerance, but that tolerance could be offered only privately.

The closet has not been completely dismantled, but the fact that today people are divided about the question makes it virtually impossible to maintain the position that homosexual people simply do not exist. The military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” encapsulates the dilemma for most people today. Gone are the days of the assumption that all military personnel are fundamentally heterosexual (though some might engage in the occasional homosexual act). As the Catholic Church also discovered, attempts to fully exclude such people were, realistically, impossible to enforce, since many homosexuals were able to keep themselves successfully closeted.

But Congress had a bargaining chip that the general society no longer possessed. Lesbians and gay men who wanted to serve in the military wanted to serve in the military. Many people give things up in order to get other things they want more, and Congress determined that if homosexuals wanted to serve in the military deeply enough, they would have to give up—temporarily—their newly achieved public identity as homosexual. They could be homosexual and even have homosexual sex; they just had to be discreet. In exchange, the military promised they would not go on the kind of “witch hunts” that had characterized some prior periods. Such a bargain makes no sense if some people are not, at their core, homosexual.

It is fair, I believe, to begin any discussion like this by raising this critical question. If people who claim to be homosexual are not, in fact, correct about this foundational fact, then we are having one kind of discussion. I am not in a position to have that discussion and could not conduct it competently.

I not only believe that I am homosexual in exactly the way that heterosexuals are heterosexual—inherently, unvaryingly, fundamentally—I also believe that most Americans are in agreement. And if some people, however few as a percentage of the general population, are homosexual, the question then is what to do about them.

Fundamentally Gay

It is here, then, that Anderson’s argument has to be engaged. If homosexual people do not, in fact, exist—if they are, in fact, fundamentally heterosexual but acting contrary to their sexual nature—then much of her essay makes sense. People who are fundamentally heterosexual might well be worth moral or public attention if they are not acting in concert with what can be construed as a biological imperative of heterosexuality: reproduction.

Such moral mandates are inconsistent with our country’s notions about personal liberty and individual autonomy. It should go without saying that Anderson’s vision of the liberty promised in our Constitution is a somewhat limited one when it comes to sexuality. If two of her concerns with homosexuality—lack of procreation and lack of two proper gender role models—were applied to heterosexuals, the realm of family law in this country would look very different than it does now.

But Anderson does not extend her concerns to propose, say, a ban on single heterosexual parents raising children or a requirement that all heterosexuals, as a condition of being married, must procreate and, presumably, prove it to the state. Her argument is animated only when these concerns can be aimed at homosexuals.

As a homosexual, I find the idea that I have an obligation either to marry someone of the opposite sex or at a minimum to refrain from acting in accordance with my own sexual orientation cruel at least. What sort of options are these to impose on a class of citizens in a nation that prides itself on its promise of liberty (not to mention justice) for all? Would any heterosexual live under such a government-imposed regime?

Equally important to me as a citizen, it is a position that seems to me to cause actual harm to the greater society. If I were to accept Anderson’s view and find myself some good woman to marry (declining Anderson’s alternate invitation to live a celibate life, which very few Americans would find reasonable), how would that be good for the woman I chose? I will assume Anderson’s position is that it would be good for me, somehow, to act as if I were a heterosexual, even though I know I am not, because acting in this way makes me more “moral” or (if she is not making a moral argument) more socially acceptable or correct.

But even if this is good for me, how is it good for the woman I marry? According to the standards of prior generations, I should not be candid with her about my sexual orientation, since I am wrong about that fact. My attraction to men is inappropriate, something I should be ashamed of, and I should keep it to myself or, at the most, confess it to a priest or other moral authority to ask forgiveness or seek correction.

I doubt even Anderson would ask such deception of me. By more modern standards, I should be fully honest with any potential spouses about my attraction to men (which has never varied in my entire life) and hope for the best. Modern marriage is based on the trust of the partners, and trust requires candor.

There are, I am sure, some women who might want to marry me under those conditions. But is this really any woman’s ideal? Is it anything most reasonable women would even accept?

The same, of course, is true for lesbians and any potential men they might choose as mates. While there might certainly be some takers, this is hardly the image of wedded bliss most people have in mind when they talk about marriage.

This leads to an obvious, but underarticulated point. When it comes to marriage, heterosexuals and homosexuals are incompatible. Heterosexuals should marry heterosexuals, and homosexuals should marry homosexuals.

This is not a theoretical objection to Anderson’s position but a very practical, everyday one. I cannot speak for her, but I can certainly say that if I were a heterosexual woman, I would not be looking to march someone like me down the aisle.

And that is where so much of her argument ultimately fails. It is not just homosexuals who have a stake in the fight for gay marriage; it is heterosexuals as well. It is in the best interest of heterosexuals to make sure that, if and when they choose to marry, the person they marry is not engaging in a deception that society not only approves but is actively encouraging through its laws. The best way—and really, the only way—for society to assure that is to assure that homosexuals are not steered toward the closet. Every gay man and every lesbian who is countenanced in and supported for presenting themselves as heterosexual to promising spouses is a potential divorce in waiting.

Majorities v. Minorities

Anderson makes a legitimate point that marriage should be about more than sex—or, at least, sexual pleasure. As an argument against gay marriage in America, though, this carries very little weight. Heterosexuals won the battle to enjoy the pleasure of nonreproductive sex four decades ago when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that married couples had a constitutional right to use birth control that the government could not interfere with. The natural consequence of this constitutional right is that the government may not command that married couples ever have children if they choose not to. The right to use birth control was subsequently expanded to unmarried heterosexuals. And it is a right that nearly all heterosexuals have embraced with vigor. According to Planned Parenthood, 98 percent of American women use birth control at some point in their lives.[3]

It is here, I believe, that most heterosexuals may first have begun to understand the perspective of homosexual couples. If heterosexual couples have a constitutional right to enjoy sexual relations while choosing never to have children, why should homosexual couples be treated differently under the law?

More importantly, in light of the Constitution’s equal protection clause, how could heterosexuals give themselves the right to enjoy their own sexual lives while denying it to a minority? The entire foundation of equal protection is to prevent majorities from using their political superiority to privilege themselves in law. And this is a constitutional principle. It was expressly designed to restrict political majorities, however large, from denying minorities rights that the majority wishes to reserve for itself.

Anderson is certainly right that many states have voted to change their state constitutions to expressly deny homosexuals equality in marriage. But it is important to focus on that for a second. In each of those states, the concern was that the guarantee of equal protection should be taken at face value, meaning that same-sex couples should be treated equally to their heterosexual counterparts. The voters, therefore, preemptively withdrew that promise of equality before it could be claimed. For the first time in our nation’s history, we are seeing majorities in some states explicitly reject as a constitutional value the idea that a particular minority is entitled to the equal protection of the laws.

Perversely, this shows why equal protection is so profoundly important in the first place. Majorities really can sometimes ignore the perspective of a minority. That is the original sin of our nation. It is not necessary to compare African-Americans and homosexuals in all ways in order to see what they do have in common as a constitutional matter. Majorities had the power to—and did—use the democratic prerogative to ignore their perspective as human beings, denying numerical minorities in the political sphere the equality the Constitution required.

It took well over a century for the white majority to see the world the way African-Americans do and come to a shared perspective. That change was epochal, and it is still going on.

The recent rounds of constitutional amendments withdrawing equal protection from same-sex couples show that a majority of citizens in many states still do not understand the perspective of homosexuals when it comes to relationships. This is neither unusual nor should it be unexpected. In fact, it is surprising that citizens in so many states (namely, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, and Connecticut) have given virtually equal legal treatment to same-sex couples. It was only in 1985 that the California cities of West Hollywood and Berkeley became the first governmental entities in the world to provide legal recognition to same-sex couples, followed in 1989 by Denmark, which was the first to offer national legal recognition.

Today, same-sex marriage is available nationally in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa, and rights equivalent to marriage are available to same-sex couples in countries as varied as Croatia, France, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.[4]

Perhaps Anderson is correct that societies that accept gay equality have a “death wish.” But I tend to think the intemperance of her rhetoric is out of proportion to the issue. There is little, if any, harm to heterosexuals in allowing homosexuals to marry one another,[5] and there is some benefit to heterosexuals in removing more closeted homosexuals from the potential heterosexual marriage pool.

More important, even than that, though, is the benefit to homosexuals. No heterosexual can truly appreciate what the world looks like when you are denied the right to marry the one person you truly love. This is simply beyond the experience, and even the imagining, of most heterosexuals. The damage from that emotional void has harmed generations of lesbians and gay men who have patched over its ruin for centuries. The positive difference this change will make to every single homosexual is incalculable.

Like all other Americans, homosexuals take the promises in our Constitution seriously. The liberty to marry someone you are not attracted to is little liberty at all—for either partner to such a sham. And the promise of equality is a cruel taunt if it can be taken away by the very majority it was intended to limit in the first place.

I choose to take the longer view. The ancient notions and stereotypes about homosexuals that still animate some political discussions are eroding with each generation and within every heterosexual who knows and cares for someone who is homosexual. It takes time for these one-on-one interpersonal relationships to work themselves into the larger political sphere, but that is happening, and the changes it will bring are inevitable. That was always the hope of our founders: that, over time, an enlightened citizenry would be able to learn from its mistakes and correct them. I believe we are undergoing just such a correction and that we will once again prove our founders right.


[1] Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, “Inside-OUT: A Report on the Experiences of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals in America and the Public’s Views on Issues and Policies Related to Sexual Orientation,” p. 5.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Betsy Illingworth, “Birth Control in Developing Nations,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 2006.

[4] See National Center for State Courts, “Same-Sex Marriage”; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, “Where You Can Marry: Global Summary of Registered Partnership, Domestic Partnership, and Marriage Laws” (November 2003).

[5] Anderson cites a number of “studies” that are supposed to show that homosexual relationships (not necessarily marriages) are harmful either to homosexuals or indirectly to the larger society through their believed damage to children. It is unfortunate that such widely rebuked or misinterpreted misinformation has shown up here, since it is accepted by no one except those who already believe the conclusions Anderson reaches. Her references in this section of the essay are the product of selective citation and wishful thinking. For example, Paul Cameron’s errors and disinformation have been more than soundly refuted for years by Greg Herek at UC Davis (see Greg Herek, “Paul Cameron”). Of her reference to “gay bowel syndrome,” the less said, the better. But even a simple check of Wikipedia reveals that this brief fad of the 1970s was abandoned by the medical community in the 1980s because (1) it’s not confined to gays, (2) it’s not confined to bowels, and (3) it doesn’t fit any scientific definition of a “syndrome.”

Part 3: Mary Jo Anderson: The Nature of Marriage Can't Be Changed

Marriage is a serious topic that engages Americans in very serious thought—not emotion—over the conditions for and consequences of our shared future. Prior to any sweeping change in the legal structure of our nation, we need very sober, long-view deliberation.

Societies set moral parameters for the common good. We readily understand that laws based on moral precepts are in the interest of all, irrespective of individual rationales. But wherever society makes laws, some will see it as a curb on their personal liberty—just ask polygamists. David Link would have us accept his premise that, as regards marriage, “such moral mandates are inconsistent with our country’s notions about personal liberty and individual autonomy.” Yet the phrase “liberty and justice for all” has never meant, nor can it mean, that people are free to do as they wish. That historic phrase means that under the law we shall be treated equally; it does not indicate that special categories will be created to accommodate each and every vision of “individual autonomy.”

Slipping down the Slope

We are a nation organized publicly by the consent of the governed. It is our collective consent to some restrictions on personal autonomy that enables us to live in an orderly society. The gay community understands this well—it is the very reason they seek to change the consent of the American people as preparation for the radical cultural change they envision. The following examples illustrate this truth.

Michelangelo Signorile advises gay activists in Out magazine:

The trick is, gay leaders and pundits must stop watering the issue down—“this is about equality for gay couples”—and offer same-sex marriage for what it is: an opportunity to reconstruct a traditionally homophobic institution by bringing it to our more equitable queer value system … a chance to wholly transform the definition of family in American culture.[1]

Judith Levine’s article “Stop the Wedding: Why Gay-Marriage Isn’t Radical Enough” in the Village Voice argues that, if patterned on marriage, same-sex unions will make “queerness” normal, but it will also restrict “achievement of real sexual freedom and social equality for everyone.” She writes:

Marriage—forget the “gay” for a moment—is intrinsically conservative. It does not just normalize, it requires normality as the ticket in. … Marriage pushes the queerer queers of all sexual persuasions—drag queens, club-crawlers, polyamorists, even ordinary single mothers or teenage lovers—further to the margins.[2]

Levine advocates the 1972 the National Coalition of Gay Organizations’ call for the “repeal of all legislative provisions that restrict the sex or number of persons entering into a marriage unit; and the extension of legal benefits to all persons who cohabit regardless of sex or numbers” (emphasis added). Should this be a civil right? Does it benefit the whole of society? Recall how frequently advocates insist in public forums that legalizing same-sex marriage is not the open gate for polygamy or polyamory—then reread the above statement. Most same-sex union promoters understand that logically there is no basis for prohibiting polygamy once marriage is defined according to one’s “individual autonomy.”

Next, consider Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships. This organization specifically endorses “households in which there is more than one conjugal partner” as entitled to government support.[3] That is, they seek government sanction for polygamy and polyamory. Beyond Marriage also endorses “children being raised in multiple households or by unmarried parents” and “queer couples who decide to jointly create and raise a child with another queer person or couple, in two households.” Lest any assume this group is a fringe element, I urge them to read the full statement and note the signatories.

Redefining Our Terms

The tool gay activists have employed to achieve this “transforming” change is a redefinition of legal term marriage. Here Link attempts to discount all of human history except for the last half of the twentieth century, when the homosexual movement organized politically. Are we to accept that in all of history to this point—10,000 years or so—not one culture has ever discovered the benefits to society of same-sex unions? Not one culture has made same-sex unions a revered option for marriage? The only reasonable reason that such benefits, options, and “rights” have not been cultivated is that homosexual unions are injurious to society. History is full of varieties of pagan cultures not subject to religious taboos; surely one would have discovered this asset to society. They did not because there is no benefit to the common good, the societal whole.

Link suggests that contemporary American heterosexuals “have had to struggle with the issue of seeing how sex—and now, marriage—might look from the perspective of someone who is not heterosexual.” He seems to think that if they “see” it from his perspective they will accept a redefinition of marriage to include homosexual behavior. In reality, Americans do “see” it, and clearly: They have rejected it.[4] Americans realize that marriage predates politics and lawmaking bodies. Marriage draws its meaning from biology, not governments. The function of government as regards marriage is to appreciate it for the service rendered to the whole community and to protect it from misuse such as bigamy or polygamy.

In short, marriage already has its “perspective,” and that perspective is understood by human nature. That is to say, it is understood above and beyond politics. Or, in reverse, politics cannot change human nature or the meaning of marriage by decree.

Gay Marriage in History

What Americans struggle with is how we might defend the legal meaning of marriage from uninformed demands on society. Still, Americans have ensured that those who pursue alternative lifestyles retain the same treatment under the law that all Americans enjoy. Thus, those who follow a homosexual lifestyle are not discriminated against in employment, services, housing, etc.

Link restates my point that no one is discriminated against in the law concerning marriage: “Homosexuals may marry under the same conditions that all people may marry.” But he asks, “What does a statement like this mean to someone who is homosexual? This question is one that no culture prior to our own has ever really addressed.”

Of course the question has been addressed prior to our culture. The gay culture has simply rejected the answer: All prior cultures protected marriage from redefinition to include homosexual relationships. Even the most public declaration by the emperor Nero of his homosexual “marriage” met jeers from a notably hedonistic culture.[5] The point is not who or if homosexuals should marry but that marriage laws are applied with the same criteria to all citizens. That an individual might pursue a homosexual lifestyle does not burden the society with any obligation to change the legal definition of marriage.

Link is really asking, “What is the wider society willing to say about committed homosexual persons who desire to have their relationships recognized publicly?” The code of marriage may disappoint some, but it is not unjust. It is simply the recognition that some have rejected marriage in its actual meaning as one of their personal options.

A short digression: Male and female are not interchangeable. One of the purposes of marriage is to provide men and women a window into the wholeness of reality. Nature joins the two halves of the human species so that each can benefit from the other to integrate humanity. Same-sex unions attempt to negate the importance of gender. The mistake is compounded when children are involved. Is the child in a lesbian household served by an example that acts as if the male does not matter? Or at best, his one function is fertilization?

Link’s Particular Errors

Link asserts, “Anderson’s claim that there is no ‘gay gene’ is less an argument than a tactic. There is also no proof of any ‘straight gene.’” We can sympathize with Link’s own tactic here, yet most people easily grasp that nature’s design is utterly “straight”; otherwise we would be parthenogenetic. Again, we come to the heart of our societal dilemma: How to acknowledge human biology and science without hurting persons who have mistakenly assumed that a behavior trait is their inherent nature?

Link says, “I not only believe that I am homosexual in exactly the way that heterosexuals are heterosexual—inherently, unvaryingly, fundamentally—I also believe that most Americans are in agreement.” What he or I “believe” is not at issue. Science and human history simply do not support Link’s premise. Science has demonstrated that there are no inherently homosexual people; rather, there are people with same-sex attraction. Same-sex attraction can occur when developmental missteps and social contingencies happen during the toddler years (see footnotes 3 and 4 in my original essay).

Link claims that “more and more people accept that at least some people are homosexual by nature.” Agreed. I do see that the homosexual agenda, media hype, and politics have crafted this opinion. It is devoid of truth, however.

Link attempts to enlist the aid of the Catholic Church: “Even the Vatican has finally come to … acknowledgment of ‘homosexual persons.’” But Link misunderstands the very point he attempts to make. The Vatican’s term for homosexual acts is “intrinsically disordered.” The Catholic Church makes a clear distinction between the homosexual act and the person precisely to prevent the assumption that the person is defined by the act. Persons have free will and can freely choose not to engage in such disordered acts.[6]

An important untold story is the failure of the gay community to acknowledge that many people with prior homosexual lifestyles have made meaningful changes.[7] Some sought change, even a heterosexual desire and eventually marriage. Many simply hoped for release from a destructive subculture characterized by disease and violence.[8]

As for the rebuttal of the “gay bowel syndrome,” some context is important. Homosexuals object to this term; they view it as prejudicial to same-sex relationships. They have a point: Anyone, including heterosexual women, who engages in anal sex is vulnerable to the syndrome. The term “gay bowel syndrome” describes a cluster of infections typically found in men who have sex with other men due to the prevalence of anal intercourse. Even homosexual literature reports the danger of gay bowel syndrome.[9] This set of infections includes various sexually transmitted gastrointestinal ailments such as proctitis, proctocolitis, and enteritis. It is widely reported in medical literature.[10]

So while it may be true that gay publicity efforts effectively erased the term “gay bowel syndrome,” it is also true that they have been unable to erase the syndrome in the bodies of the infected persons.

The same sort of dissembling is at work on the issue of AIDS deaths in homosexuals. Link wishes to discount as a source the Paul Cameron study that examines the rate of AIDS deaths among homosexuals. Yet despite criticism of Cameron’s methodology, the Cameron study does cite Center for Disease Control studies that support his conclusion.[11] In addition, a study done by a hospital in Vancouver illustrates the effect that AIDS has on gay and bisexual men.[12] The homosexual culture has internal reasons for parsing the truth of AIDS deaths: It undermines their public claims that it is an “alternative lifestyle” with no different risks than heterosexuality.

No one makes the case for homosexuality as a healthy lifestyle. The purpose of an attack on methodology (Cameron) or terminology (gay bowel syndrome) is to drag a red herring across the known truth that practicing homosexuals suffer greater disease rates and lower life spans than heterosexuals do. We all want to save lives and promote good health. But this takes a commitment to the truth, however uncomfortable it may be.

The Nature of Marriage

The most accurate comment that Link makes concerns Griswold v. Connecticut. Link notes:

It is here, I believe, that most heterosexuals may first have begun to understand the perspective of homosexual couples. If heterosexual couples have a constitutional right to enjoy sexual relations while choosing never to have children, why should homosexual couples be treated differently under the law?

I think Link is correct—here is where marriages began to fail and the divorce rate skyrocketed. Why? Essentially, couples reduced their relationship to little more than pleasure on demand. Emptied of the deeper realities, marriages atrophied. I am not saying that without children a marriage is null. I am pointing out that an attitude that distills sex to little more than pleasure is corrosive. We have seen its effects in the divorce rates and the social consequences of broken families. This claim is worthy of a separate essay where it could be developed properly. Suffice it to say here that marriage needs to be rediscovered in its fullness. I hasten to add, however, that same-sex unions would worsen the well-being of marriage. Some suggest that permitting homosexuals to marry is the tonic marriage needs. The idea is about as sensible as using counterfeit dollars as a tonic for an ailing economy (as has been said by others).

Legalized same-sex unions are not a civil right at all but merely an attempt to redefine marriage to include a lifestyle that is injurious to the whole of society. Society does not disadvantage any group when it promotes marriage. Quite the opposite: Protection and promotion of marriage ensure a stable community and healthier society for all citizens.


[1] Michelangelo Signorile, “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do,” Out, May 1996, 30.

[2] Judith Levine, “Stop the Wedding: Why Gay-Marriage Isn’t Radical Enough,” Village Voice, July 23–29, 2003.

[3] See

[4] Over forty states have enacted marriage protection laws.

[5] See Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum—Nero, chapter XXVIII.

[6] See Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357–59.

[7] See Robert L. Spitzer, “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 32, no. 5 (October 2003): 403–417.

[8] See,, A. Dean Byrd, “Fordham University Dissertation Furthers Spitzer's Landmark Study on Sexual Re-orientation Success,”, March 13, 2006; Bob Davies, “Seven Things I Wish Pro-Gay People Would Admit,”

[9] Jack Morin, Anal Pleasure and Health: A Guide for Men and Women (San Francisco: Down There Press, 1998), 220.

[10] See H. L. Kazal et al., “The gay bowel syndrome: clinico-pathologic correlation in 260 cases,” Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science 6, issue 2: 184–92; N. Sohn and J. G. Robilotti, Jr. “The gay bowel syndrome: A review of colonic and rectal conditions in 200 male homosexuals,” American Journal of Gastroenterology 67, no. 5 (May 1977): 478–84; and

[11] P. Cameron and K. Cameron, “Gay Obituaries Closely Track Officially Reported Deaths from AIDS,” Psychological Reports 96, no. 3 (2005): 693–697.

[12] R. S. Hogg et al, “Modelling the Impact of HIV Disease on Mortality in Gay and Bisexual Men,” International Journal of Epidemiology 26 (1997): 657–661. See also J. Aldous et al, “Impact of HIV Infection on Mortality in Young Men in a London Health Authority,” British Medical Journal 305 (July 25, 1992): 219–21.

Part 4: David Link: Gay Marriage as Simple Fairness

I would like to thank Mary Jo Anderson and for the opportunity to exchange our views. While it’s clear that she and I disagree on a great deal, one passage in her response does more, I think, to clarify the debate than nearly anything I have read in decades of exploring the subject of same-sex marriage. In answer to my question about whether Anderson believes there is such a thing as a homosexual person, she candidly answers in the negative. In her view, “science has demonstrated” that all people are heterosexual. Her science informs her that “there are no inherently homosexual people.”

This is inordinately helpful, and I am grateful for her honesty. I am fairly sure that many others join her in this belief without being so straightforward, and it goes right to the heart of what kind of conversation such people are engaged in. They are not so much having a debate as an intervention, doing their very best to convince those of us who are homosexual that we are wrong about ourselves.

Anderson understands that I find this patronizing and condescending but takes what she understands to be the higher ground. That leaves me arguing that she is wrong about an idea and her arguing that I am wrong about myself—wrong about my never-varying lack of sexual attraction to any woman. And this is not—or not necessarily—about behavior. If I never had sex with anyone ever again, I would still be a gay man, unattracted sexually to any woman.

If my own perspective about my own life is going to be completely ignored, taken out of the debate, then there is nothing left (for me at least) to discuss. Anderson’s view of my life is the only correct one, and my view of my own life, my own experience, my own soul, is irrelevant, distracting, and (as Anderson repeatedly implies or says outright) socially harmful.

The Reproductive Mandate

Part of the difference may lie in our differing views of this country and its philosophy. It does not appear to me that Anderson takes the notion of personal liberty seriously, at least not when it comes to adult, consensual sex. When Anderson quotes me as saying “such moral mandates are inconsistent with our country’s notions about personal liberty and individual autonomy,” she makes it sound as if I am a libertine arguing for Mardi Gras 365 days a year (366 in leap years).

To be clear, I have no quarrel with reasonable—and equitable—limits on sexual behavior. The moral mandates I am concerned about are not reasonable social limits on sexuality but limits on homosexuals that heterosexuals would not be willing to live with themselves. If the kind of biological imperative Anderson views as the very premise of all marriage is to be the limit on sexual morality, then heterosexuals would have to obey it as much as homosexuals.

And in this, she lacks the support even of heterosexuals. Most heterosexuals are happy, even eager, to have children, and this is a good thing for the species and consistent with a perfectly sensible biological order. However, heterosexuals do not impose any reproductive mandate on themselves when they marry—and under our Constitution, no government could impose such a mandate. That is what “liberty” in our Constitution means. The government should not demand couples to reproduce, nor remove from them medical options to avoid reproduction.

So why, then, should heterosexuals object when homosexuals enter into legal relationships that will not (sexually, at least) produce children? Why should homosexuals be chastised for not living up to a biological imperative that heterosexuals are themselves free to ignore?

Moreover, for couples who have children using the technology that is now well-developed, how are same-sex couples different from our fellow heterosexuals who have children by non-sexual means? It is at least arguable that it is best when children have one parent of each sex. At the very least, though, there is nothing like a consensus among scientists and researchers about this. Far more important, though, if Anderson were correct about this, it would be a powerful argument against both same-sex couples having children and any form of single parenting, whether the parent is gay or straight. However, the argument has nothing to do with whether same-sex couples who do not want to have children should be allowed to marry or form some other kind of legally recognized relationship with one another.

Radicals and Gay Marriage

I cannot let pass Anderson’s many references to some members of the gay community with whom I disagree. Her citations to Michaelangelo Signorile and Judith Levine and the signers of the Beyond Marriage manifesto suggest she may wish she were having this debate with them rather than me. For the record, I find their arguments every bit as problematic as she does, which is why I have never either made such arguments or in any way endorsed them. I will stand side by side with Anderson when it comes to opposing polygamy or the imposition of some “queer value system,” whose parameters I can’t even begin to imagine. I’m here to argue for the equal rights the Constitution of my country promises and not much more. I don’t want to change the family; I want to make sure lesbians and gay men who come after me will not have it used against them the way it is now being used.

Griswold and Marital Sexuality

Perhaps our second largest disagreement has to do with the role sex plays in the committed relationships of both heterosexuals and (for those who take my side) homosexuals. Anderson sees in Griswold v. Connecticut an attitude change among heterosexuals, who began viewing their relationships as “little more than pleasure on demand” and “emptied of the deeper realities.” I believe that Griswold, and the move toward a broader conversation about sexuality in general, has helped people put sex into a more informed and favorable context. This was, of course, brought about by the technology that made Griswold necessary: safe and very effective birth control. The enormous societal advance of allowing women—and men—to make decisions about parenthood rather than being its captive is, in my view, not only good for women and for men but for children as well.

In such a context, the sexual relationship of the parents becomes not something to be wary of but something to be cherished, or at least anticipated—a larger part of the intimacy we expect, in the modern world, that adult partners will share. Perhaps it does not work out that way in all cases, but Anderson’s despondency seems wrong to me. There have always been people who view sexuality as little more than pleasure, which is the very reason that the discipline and restraint of marriage are valuable social goals. The pleasure of sex is independent of the commitments of marriage. The more pleasurable sex can be within marriage, the better. Removing the anxiety of unwanted children from the already long list of concerns every marriage has seems to me to have been a big step forward.

Moreover, this more contextual view of sexuality has helped homosexuals as much as heterosexuals. The broader social understandings about marriage include a supportive community that helps keep the partners together. I believe this is good not only for children the adults may have but also for them as a couple, particularly once the children have grown and begun their own independent lives. And that social focus on the value of adult relationships applies whether the couple is homosexual or heterosexual. The broadening social communities that support tens of thousands of domestic partnerships, civil unions, and even same-sex marriages help provide a social superstructure that will be as valuable for generations of same-sex couples as the social support for heterosexuals marriages has been for centuries.

Interchangeable Parts

Finally, I have to reiterate what I believe to be an essential point for those who take my side of this argument seriously. When it comes to marriage, heterosexuals and homosexuals are incompatible. This is not only true sexually (as anyone who has witnessed one of these “mixed marriages” can attest) but emotionally as well. Certainly one part of homosexual attraction, like heterosexual attraction, is sexual. But sex is not all, as anyone, homosexual or heterosexual, who has been in a relationship of any duration will tell you. Love is more than sex; joy and simple fun, common interests, social life—all of these are enhanced by the honesty and depth that can come only when the partners view one another in their broadest human context. I imagine that in some exceptional circumstances a homosexual and a heterosexual could develop such a relationship, but I think common sense suggests that this would be the exception rather than the rule.

Interestingly, Anderson makes this point better than I could when she says that “male and female are not interchangeable.” If this were not exactly as she says, homosexuality would be a non-issue. Homosexuals are exactly as attuned to the differences between males and females as heterosexuals are. The fact that the differences play out differently in attraction does not diminish the importance of the differences a bit.

But as male and female are not interchangeable, neither are heterosexual and homosexual orientation.

The growing change in American attitudes is evidence that heterosexuals now understand this difference and its relative importance for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. While Anderson recognizes this change and views it with alarm, I think it is making for much better relationships not only among heterosexual and homosexual couples and their families but between heterosexuals and homosexuals in the broader culture. I think this is healthy for all of us, our children, and the generations yet to come.