Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yes on Prop 8-It's about definition, not discrimination

A friend of mine posed a few questions regarding marriage and Proposition 8. It made me really think about why marriage is important and why I support restoring the traditional definition of marriage in California. These reasons can stand outside of any particular religious creed. (I do however, hold strong religious beliefs which also support the importance of protecting marriage. You may read them here.) I'm posting my reply in hopes that it clarifies why people like me feel strongly about this issue.

The principal difference, as I see it, is how we view marriage. I believe marriage is much more than just the legal union of two consenting adults. Traditionally, marriage has been understood as the sanctioned union of a man and woman to be sexually intimate with the realization that this relationship has the potential to create children. In the interest of those children, and society as a whole, marriage has long been a heavily regulated institution.* These regulations, or limits, demonstrate the significance society places on marriage and the importance of the commitment between husband, wife, and child.

I reject the simpler and more recent definition of marriage for the following reasons. Viewing marriage as a mere arrangement of two consenting adults does not take into consideration the significance of procreation or the impact on children. A vital purpose behind limits on marriage is to honor the power to create life and to protect children by ensuring they are raised by both a father and a mother. While it is true that heterosexual couples do not have to prove fertility or even the desire to have children to be married, these exceptions do not nullify the biological truth that only a man and woman can produce a child and that this potential for family warrants special benefits and protections that marriage can provide. Legal marriage encourages the fidelity of couples and the responsibility of parents to care for and nurture the children they bring into the world. Furthermore, this union benefits society in several ways--a few of which include discouraging promiscuity, and increasing the likelihood that children will avoid crime, tobacco, alcohol, and drug abuse. Genderless unions shift the focus of legal marriage from the bearing and rearing of children to the attempt to satisfy the desire for intimate adult relationships. It becomes merely a sanctioned social ordering of couples. In other words, the focus is not on creating and protecting families, but on adult relationships.

When defined traditionally, marriage between a man and a woman is not an infringement of rights. All citizens have the right, or choice, to participate in marriage as it is legally defined or not. Changing the definition of marriage is another matter, and not one based on fundamental rights, but the desire to alter a long-established understanding of it as an institution that encourages and protects the natural creation of families.

Finally, because of the way marriage is traditionally defined, the union of two same-gender adults is not a "separate, but equal" union, but an entirely distinct one. To call such a union marriage undervalues the significance of the procreative power and, to quote a brief to the California Supreme Court, "would necessarily alter the law's current emphasis on procreation and child welfare, refocusing it on affirming and facilitating adult relationship choices. A gender-neutral marriage definition would unavoidably change the message, meaning, and function of marriage by altering its underlying rationale and structure."

If you read this far, thanks for your patience/indulgence. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify my thoughts and hope I haven't offended (or bored to death) anyone who reads this.

Jen B.

*Current regulations of marriage include that marriage is limited to two people, cannot be incestuous, and--until age 18--one cannot marry without parental consent, a court order, and the possibility of requisite premarital counseling. Furthermore, a couple must obtain state permission (or license), be married by a statutorily authorized person, and cannot terminate a marriage without a judicial decree.

** (Added later) Limits on marriage like those above are not unconstitutional and are already in place. The people have the right to legally define and limit marriage. Citizens who oppose current definitions and limitations as stated in the law have EQUAL OPPORTUNITY to initiate changes to the law and should do so using the democratic process. This proposition is misrepresented as an initiative that will take away people’s rights. The right for same-gender couples to marry has not been granted by the voice of the people. To say that Prop 8 takes away rights is misleading and deflects focus from the central issue of defining what marriage IS. A significant change like altering the traditional definition of marriage, should come before the people (and three California Supreme Court judges concur). This proposition does NOT prevent citizens from engaging in the democratic process and putting initiatives on the ballot that could ammend our state constitution to reflect their wishes and beliefs; it only seeks to clarify the legal definition of marriage.

Comments are now closed.


~shari~ said...

Well said Jennifer!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...


Angie said...

First, I think you need to look back much much further to find the REAL definition of "traditional marriage." Women were first abducted (sometimes violently) against their will, then they were sold by their own families and purchased as property by their husband to be.

It has only been the result of years and years of drastic changes to this TRUELY traditional definition of marriage that we now have the luxury to marry someone we love.

So, with that said, it really comes down to your own fear and hate. Maybe you should think about what Jesus would do. When Jesus walked the earth he was loving and compassionate to all of his fellow humans. His focus was not on the rules, it was on love, on people.

This is a human rights issue, and as humans gays should have the opportunity to commit themselves to the person they love just like you. They should be able to raise children within the union of marriage just like you. Their children should be allowed the same comfort that your children enjoy.

Jesus wouldn't judge. Why are you?

Jennifer B. said...

Thanks Shari.

Angie--We disagree on the definition of marriage. I assert that it means much more than just the union of two adults who love each other. I further hold that allowing same-gender marriage does not give proper respect to the power of procreation. Also, children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony and same-gender marriage denies children the opportunity of being raised by the father and mother who bring them into the world.

Finally,love does not mean allowing disobedince to rules. The Savior loved the sinner, but condemned the sin.

I am not hostile to differing opinions, but I request that you share your views with respect and refrain from name calling and insults. The fact that I have a different opinion does not necessarily mean that I am hateful or fearful.

Thank you.

Becky said...

I thought your post was very well thought out and well stated. And your handling of Angie's comment was superb. Thanks for being willing to speak up on such an important and timely topic.

Ken said...

Very well put.

There is a difference between accepting your friends and family members and the people they choose to commit to and share their lives with - and being forced by judges to issue marriage licenses against our collective will.

There is no right to state-issued licenses. As a people, we have, through the state, chosen to issue marriage licenses to regulate a reality that existed long before this state did.

The state did not creat marriage. It merely recognized it.

Click on my URL for more detailed analysis.

Jennifer B. said...

Thank you Ken and thanks for the link. You have effectively dispelled serious misconceptions about this issue.

Queen Scarlett said...


You handled Angie's comments beautifully. I wish you were in my head. Thanks for this post. You are brilliant.

Jennifer B. said...

Queen Scarlett, Thank you so much for your support. I appreciate your courage in standing up for truth even when it is unpopular. Thanks too for the links you referred to on facebook. I'm eager to check them out.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how any decent person could believe this. Many more heterosexual marriages end in horrible divorces that scar children for life. Gays and lesbians are people too, and they deserve every right and freedom that you have. Also, if you insist on impressing your religious views on the law, let's add all the other religions to be fair. That would mean you'd have to wear a burka, lose all right as a woman, and not be allowed to have your own opinions. Consider what doors you may be opening by foisting Christianity on the rest of us.

Jennifer B. said...

Anon.--You are in good company. Many people do not understand how any decent citizen could believe that marriage should be an exclusive right for heterosexual couples.

Of course many marriages end badly--this is a sad sad truth. The failure of people to remain committed to their spouse and children definitely leaves scars, as you pointed out. And yes, gays and lesbians deserve to be treated fairly by the law and by other people. However, my point here is that marriage is not just a legal contract between two people who love each other--it is properly and necessarily linked to the bearing and rearing of children--and children have rights too.

Children need and deserve to be raised by a father and a mother. There are inherent differences in gender that compliment each other and because of this, fathers and mothers have significant and unique contributions to make as parents. Children deserve to see role models for each gender first-hand and to experience cooperation and respect between the sexes. Same-sex marriage denies children this experience and denies them the opportunity of being raised by the father and mother who conceive them. Further, it marginalizes the importance of fathers and mothers by implying that they are not both necessary. Clearly, single parents are capable of raising happy healthy children, but it has been shown that children from broken homes are at much greater risk to become involved in crime, teenage pregnancy, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Finally, many religions support traditional marriage, but this issue is by no means limited to religion. Even people who don't believe in God can recognize that the power to create life is something significant and that the ideal setting for raising a child is in a stable home with a father and a mother. Legalizing same-sex marriage not only poses threats to religious freedoms (see, but contributes to the increasing lack of responsibility of parents in our society to commit themselves to the father/mother of the children they conceive and to raise the children they bring into the world.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! you are agreat thinker and writer.

djinn said...

"Also, children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony and same-gender marriage denies children the opportunity of being raised by the father and mother who bring them into the world."

I can't get this statement out of my mind. Respectfully, Jennifer B., how will gay marriage deny a single child "the opportunity of being raised by the father and mother who bring them into the world?"

And, respectfully, if is this is your desire, wouldn't fighting against divorce do a better job, or perhaps fighting for more widespread availability of contraceptives?

Jennifer B. said...

Gay marriage denies children the opportunity of being raised by a biological father and mother who love and are committed to each other.

This is not my only objective in preserving marriage--it is only one.

Furthermore, diluting the meaning of marriage to be merely the legal union of two adults is hardly helping to solidify and strengthen marriage against divorce. If, as you claimed earlier, having children is not related to marriage, why should divorce matter at all?