Monday, December 23, 2013

Op-Ed: Gay Marriage Ruling Opens Door to Legal Confusion

My Op-Ed, as recently published in the Standard Examiner:

The recent overturning of Utah's Constitutional Amendment 3 was a shock in its timing and delivery. The large media frenzy which broadcast gay marriage ceremonies live into Utahn's living rooms appeared hasty and one-sided.  In this context, it is time to take a step back and examine the larger picture.  We need to take a thoughtful moment to question and ask ourselves to what end we are headed.

First let me say that I am not a hater.  Nor, am I a bigot.  I have wonderful gay and straight friends and neighbors.  Unfortunately, the casual use of these derisive labels has poisoned healthy debate on this important subject.  By silencing and thus marginalizing those with a contrary view point from those supporting the same-sex marriage cause, public discourse has become highly polarized. Perhaps it is that civil minded people are fatigued by having to defend themselves against slanderous and untrue accusations.  Or, that these civil minded citizens are reluctant to rebuff strong and passionate rhetoric with equal vigor; not because of acquiescence, but rather out of disbelief and confusion that divisive tones can so quickly and needlessly escalate.

I have a deep sense of sympathy for my friends and neighbors in the LGBT community who struggle to validate their same-gender proclivities while yearning for acceptance in a judgmental world.  Certainly, it must be a difficult and challenging life experience.  Nevertheless, it seems the validation and acceptance that is sought is being pursued in ways that run contrary to the interests of society at large.

Society has an existential interest in children and the relationships that produce them.  It may be hard to believe but Utah right now is teetering just above replacement in its fertility rate.  The rest of the U.S. is below replacement which means that unless we have in-migration, our nation's population is set to decline.  This decline means that there will not be enough young people to care for the old.  There will not be enough young workers to pension their grandparents.  Many of our economic problems are symptomatic of this inverted age pyramid.  If society bears no children, society has no future.  Thus, insisting that the State endorse marriage between two people of the same gender runs contrary to the need for society to perpetuate itself through reproduction through the traditional family setting.

It may be argued that these same-gender unions are not hurting anyone and that it simply recognizes a contractual agreement between two consenting adults.  Indeed, on an individual level this appears to be the case.  However, on a broader level, when the laws are changed and the guiding arm of state statute offers its citizens legal alternatives to traditional family creation; and, these alternatives are taught impartially in our schools to the rising generation; we can only expect that the effect would be to inhibit our future capacity to reproduce, with all the consequences that implies.

Another major problem linked to same-sex marriage laws relates to its ripple effects within the law.  For thousands of years, marriage has been clearly defined through tradition as union between man and woman.  If this traditional definition is no longer valid, then what other possible combinations are available?  Is there a limit to the number of people that can exist in a marriage?  What about polygamy?  Recently, a judge struck down provisions of Utah's anti-polygamy laws and cited the overturn of anti-sodomy laws in Texas as his precedent.  We cannot assume that changing laws to include members of the LGBT community will not have an effect on other aspects of the law.

Yet, another complication of sanctioning same-gender marriages is that it equates homosexual relations with those of heterosexual ones and asserts rights based on that supposed equality. This in turn has the potential to upend conventional protections given to individuals. The law provides protection for various classes of people including race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, citizenship, family status, disability, or veteran status.  Each of these protected classes, with the notable exception of religion, is an easily identifiable trait.  Men and women are defined at birth biologically.  The law offers special protections based on these biological definitions.  However, it is uncertain whether same gender attraction is a physical condition that is imbued at birth, or nurtured through life experience.  Perhaps it is part of both.  Nevertheless, the certainty of this characteristic in the individual is made known through personal choice.  A person must take action and engage in a physical relationship with someone of the same gender in order to assert the claim of being gay.  Otherwise, any claim could be suspect.  This then begs the question, does someone's choice to engage in a same-gender relationship afford them new rights like the right to marry?  What other rights can be argued based on these personal choices?  What other sexual choices can individuals make to afford them new rights?  Do these rights disappear when their choices change?  As you can see, this is a frontier of foggy uncharted legal territory with far reaching implications for society.

Historically, we live in a country where rights beget freedom and freedom begets choices.  Reversing this paradigm so that choices create rights threatens to open the door to legal confusion.  In this process, the traditional values and norms that have served society for millennia could be left in the lurch.  May we all take a step back, speak in soft tones, and honestly listen to both sides of this debate.  Our posterity will thank us for it.    

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Mr Peterson,

    I went to the Sutherland Institute's First Freedoms Forum last Thursday. I hope you are listening carefully to what they are saying about this subject and other bills being presented this session, particularly the equal rights bills. I am in complete agreement with Sutherland on fairness!

    Thanks for your good work, and keep it up.

    John Brockbank
    4038 W 4000 South]
    West Haven, UT 84401



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