How Does Morality Affect Same-Sex Marriage Debate?

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Commentator Joseph C. Phillips shares his thoughts on the morality of same-sex marriage. Phillips is an actor and columnist living in Los Angeles.


Earlier in the show, we talked about the issues and challenges around legalizing same sex marriage. Now, commentator Joseph C. Phillips continues that conversation.

JOSEPH C. PHILLIPS: As we are now standing at the precipice of the radical redefinition of marriage, it may serve us to begin to ask if there remain any objective standards by which we regulate behavior. The recent decision of the Supreme Court of New Jersey directed that state's legislature to create either homosexual marriage or homosexual civil unions.

The majority decision effectively found that homosexual unions were morally equivalent to heterosexual unions, and that those unions were due the same rights and privileges. The justices based their finding in part on society's changing opinions and attitudes. But with so many states having passed the constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, it is unclear where exactly there is evidence of a changing attitude regarding homosexual marriage. But I digress.

Changing opinions, no matter how heartfelt, are not a valid standard by which to measure the morality of behavior. It was not changing attitudes that ended slavery, for instance. It was the ascendance of the principal of equality that ended slavery and eventually led to civil rights legislation, which further codified this principal into law. To argue the reverse is to suggest that morality is the result of history. Of course, of this were true, there is, alas, no moral argument to prevent the future enslavement of racial minorities in this country should attitudes again shift.

It's not tolerance gay activists are after. They already have that. Generally speaking, Americans do not overly-concern themselves with what their neighbors do in the privacy of their own homes. Live and let live is the American refrain. That is, until one decides to expose those private behaviors to the light of day. And demands are made that those behaviors are sanctioned and condoned by the larger society. The mainstreaming of homosexuality is, of course, the true aim of gay activists. To argue, as homosexual marriage advocates and liberal judges have, that the union of a man and a woman and that of two men or two women is objectively equivalent. Of course, once the walls of distinction are torn down, the door is opened to claims by all sorts of relationships to equal status.

If two men are good, why aren't three men better? What about two women and a man? Homosexual marriage advocates are quick to point out that they are not advocating polygamy, but on what standard of behavior can they now base their objection? Once objective moral arguments have been cast aside, it's unclear why marriage redefined to include two men cannot now apply to men who desire a whole harem of women. Perhaps we'll wait until attitudes change. Societies have uniformly seen marriage as a positive good because marriages produce, protect and educate children. The state supports marriage because it has rightly recognized that families are the primary source of moral education in our society, and a free society has a vested interest in strong, healthy, stable heterosexual families.

Indeed, it seems schizophrenic to argue on the one hand that there is no substantive difference in the types of homes in which children are raised. At the same time, we complain about the rates of illegitimacy in communities across the country. If it is true that all family combinations are equal, then let us put to bed for good any further concern over the rising number of single parent homes. For millennia, societies have rejected homosexual marriage - not because we're all a bunch of bigots, but because human reason has judged that homosexual behavior is wrong, a violation of nature, in the same way slavery violates man's natural right to life and liberty. And that does not change depending on which direction the cultural winds decide to blow.

CHIDEYA: Joseph C. Phillips is an actor and columnist living in Los Angeles. This is NPR News.

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