If two people love each other, they should be able to get married, right? This is the popular logic for so-called gay marriage. “Love is love.
What if the slogan is gibberish? It is not a definition or even a description of love, and it certainly is not an intelligible proposition or premise in an argument. An apple is an apple, but it does not follow that a McIntosh is a crabapple is applesauce is apple cider is apple pie. A wide variety of loves dovetail in marriage, it’s true, but is there a “marital love” distinguishable from other kinds of love that, once experienced, entitles lovers of any variety to marry?[Note: this essay was published by Touchstone Magazine and is reprinted with permission.]
More to the point, “Love is love” is misleading in the gay marriage debate because the defining characteristic of both marriage and homosexuality is not actually love, but sex. We are reminded of this fact when we remember that a marriage is not a marriage until it has been consummated, and that a homosexual relationship is not a homosexual relationship unless it is in some way sexual. Now, to observe that both marriage and homosexual relationships are distinctly sexual is not necessarily to equate the two. And the fact remains that many homosexual couples love each other, and that love is an integral part of marriage. But what makes both marriage and homosexuality recognizably different from other kinds of relationships is not love but sex; and, as we shall see, sex is what makes homosexuality and marriage so distinct from each other.
To say that I think marriage ought to be a cold and stubborn contract void of romance and affection, or that I think infertile couples or couples that choose not to procreate are not really married, is an erroneous characterization of my thesis. I am, however, admittedly playing the role of Mrs. Lynde, who voiced a practical and cautionary word when she saw Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert Blythe walking together: “Anne is a young woman and Gilbert’s a man. . . . He’s a fine fellow, and Anne can’t do better. I hope she won’t get any romantic nonsense into her head.” What I am trying to argue is that although marriage is a comprehensive union of love, what makes it distinct and different from other kinds of companionship is not love, but sexual-reproductive complementarity.
What I am trying to do is almost impossible. I am trying to convince you that the role we have given love in marriage is not too weak, but too strong. The most basic value of autonomous marriage-for-love (as opposed to arranged marriage, for example) is that the best reason to marry and stay married is love, especially “romantic love,” and our appreciation of marriage has suffered much for it. Elevated so highly above marriage’s other aspects as to obscure them, love has greatly diminished the meaning of marriage, and now is the hour of our discontent. With gay marriage, the most basic value of marriage-for-love has reached its zenith. It is the beginning of the end. Gay marriage stretches marriage-for-love to the breaking point…
Continue reading in the May/June 2016 edition of Touchstone Magazine