This will be my last article on the topic, and then Josh will have the last word.
Now I'd like to give a closing, summary case of why I do not think that it is logical to codify civil unions or marriage between same-sex partners. I will examine three arguments. First, I will discuss the idea that same-sex relationships do not produce the necessary social benefits to warrant legitimization. Next, I will address the argument that homosexuality is genetic, and therefore same-sex unions are allowable. Finally, I will explain why legalizing same-sex civil unions or marriage is discriminatory toward people who are heterosexual.
Why Promote Heterosexual Marriage Over Other Relationships?
To begin, let's talk about why governments offer benefits to heterosexual marriages. The two benefits I have in view are (i) tax advantages and (ii) hospital visitation rights. Why would a democratically-elected legislative body grant these special rights to members of marriage relationships and not to those in other relationships, such as close friends or live-in, unwed couples? The answer has to to with what marriages are able to contribute to society. Notice I do not suppose that every marriage does contribute the following benefits to society, only that they are able to do so.
(A quick note: when I use the term "heterosexual," I am referring to a relationship involving one man and one woman of consenting age. I do not have their sexual preferences in view.)
Social Benefits of Heterosexual Marriage
Male-female marriages have the ability to procreate and raise children in a stable home environment (again: not all marriages produce children. However, heterosexual marriages are unique among relationships in that they are able to do so). This leads to (a) more workers (read: revenue producers for the state) and (b) a more stable society. How is this? The family has historically been considered the most basic unit of society (not the individual as it is sometimes thought in recent times. This is why we call it the "nuclear family." It's the "nucleus" of society. Pretty cool right?).
Research shows that warm, secure families lead to better-adjusted children. Better adjusted children grow up to be better-adjusted adults. Thus we may conclude that heterosexual marriage, in which a man and a woman pledge to live with and love another for life, is the relationship best suited to produce productive and happy members of society.
One final advantage I can see of heterosexual relationships is that they are inclusive. Men and women may participate in heterosexual marriage. States do well to foster associates that are inclusivistic, rather than exclusivistic. Why? As a married man I can tell you from experience that my marriage has helped me learn how to interact with members of the opposite sex in a more respectful and caring way (at least I think so!). This feature of heterosexual marriage, viz. learning to associate better with the other gender, is a bonus for an already-great institution.
Hence the special privileges for this relationship.
But What About Same-Sex Relationships?
Governments have not historically offered the same advantages for same-sex, committed relationships because they are not able to produce the same social benefits as heterosexual ones.
For example, two gay men cannot biologically produce a baby together (lest you think I am discriminating against gay people, let me affirm that I do not think two straight men can produce a baby together either).
In addition, same-sex, romantic relationships are by definition exclusivistic. A woman is not welcome in a homosexual marriage between two men. As such, the men involved in a same-sex relationship do not learn from that relationship how to better-relate to female members of society. On the contrary, their relationship which is most central to who they are (i.e. the romantic one) is exclusionary toward females.
A Comparison With Other Institutions
The government does not confer tax-exempt status on just any organization, such as a for-profit corporation. Rather, certain non-profit groups, which work for the common good, are granted this status. This is because the government wants to encourage churches and non-profits in the work they are doing. Of course, this says nothing about the morality (or immorality) of for-profit corporations (attention, Occupy Movement). Again, these groups are promoted for their positive social impact. This is a good analogue for the issue at hand.
Just as not all organizations are granted certain benefits from the government, neither are all relationships. Being best friends with someone of the same sex is a wonderful thing. My best friend growing up, Micah, was the best man at my wedding. We are still close. However, the government does not offer Micah and I any sort of tax benefits because we are friends. The same is true for all same-sex relationships. Two same-sex friends are not codified into any kind of tax-exempt institution, regardless of what they like to do with each other in private. Governments recognize that their private activity has no bearing on the social benefit of their relationship, and earns them no special, codified status.
What If Being Gay is Genetic?
Josh suggested that the current problem facing the species homo sapiens is overpopulation. Therefore, he argues, same-sex attraction could be a genetic advantage for the species. The implication is that it will help keep our population in check and reduce our (presumably negative) impact on the environment. This makes sense, since, as I mentioned, same-sex relationships are biologically incapable of producing children. However, even if homosexual attraction was beneficial to the species by stemming population growth, that would still not give warrant to codifying same-sex civil unions or marriage.
Here's why: there are other genetic traits that lend themselves to a decrease in human population. A person born with a physical condition that prevents him from procreating would be one example. However, should the government now grant this person the right to a tax-advantaged relationship (or "union," if you prefer) with his best male friend?
What about someone who has a genetic tendency toward alcoholism? Should he be allowed tax benefits for his relationship with his co-worker?
What about someone with a genetic predisposition toward been a great neighbor? He always says hello and is quick to lend a cup of sugar. Should this man be given tax benefits for his relationship with his male neighbor?
The answer to these absurd examples, of course, is no. Clearly, any genetic condition which a person might have--whether beneficial to humanity or not--has no bearing on whether same-sex relationships should be codified. This goes for same-sex attraction. A man may have the genetic condition of being attracted to other men, but this does not change the status of a same-sex relationship as something other than marriage. Calling it a "civil union" only accentuates this fact.
One More Thing...
Legalizing same-sex marriage or civil unions is discriminatory toward people without homosexual romantic tendencies. As the law stands today, any man, gay or straight, may marry a woman. Heterosexual marriage is a free, open, non-discriminatory institution open to all men and women, regardless of orientation.
However, a man without homosexual attraction may not enter into a civil union with another man. Straight men are excluded from this institution. This means that unmarried men who want to obtain the tax benefits and other advantages that would be codified into civil unions or homosexual marriage may not enjoy them. A straight man may not, legally, enter into a civil union with another man. This, I am afraid, is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Is that not what is supposed to be at issue in the whole same-sex marriage debate?
This is a nation that has come a long way in the last 60 years toward free inclusion in our institutions. Is this really the time to take such a great leap backward on an issue as important as this? No. The legalization and codification of same-sex marriage is therefore a discriminatory offense against heterosexually-oriented people, and it should be outlawed.
What About Health Benefits?
The argument could be made that people in long-term, same-sex relationships do not need the tax benefits of a civil union; they simply want to be able to visit their loved ones in the hospital--a privilege denied them under current law. There is a simple solution to this situation which does not involve civil unions at all.
The government (or hospitals) could simply open up visiting hours to close, non-family friends, perhaps those who have been pre-approved on a list designated by the patient him- (or her-) self. This is a simple, non-controversial solution to a very real problem. Loved ones should be able to visit each other in the hospital.
What can we conclude from all this? I have attempted to demonstrate three points: (i) that same-sex relationships, even long-term, exclusive, and committed ones, do not have the capability of producing the same social benefits as heterosexual marriage does, (ii) that genetic traits, whether detrimental or beneficial for the person possessing them and for society, have no bearing on the rule of law as it pertains to codifying same-sex unions. And finally, (iii) that codifying civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples would be discriminatory against individuals without a tendency for same-sex attraction. I have also shown that there is a better option than civil unions or marriage to secure hospital visitation rights for people with same-sex attraction. In light of all this, I hope I have shown why it is okay to stand in support of traditional marriage by casting light on its most notoriously-promoted alternative, viz. same-sex unions.