Politics & Policy

Undefining Marriage

What’s gender got to do with it?

‘I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage” is the title of an article Doug Mainwaring wrote earlier this year. A tea-party activist in Maryland, he found out the hard way — through the eyes of his kids — that children really do flourish with both a mother and a father active in their daily lives. “To be fully formed, children need to be free to generously receive from and express affection to parents of both genders. Genderless marriages deny this fullness,” he wrote. Mainwaring talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about last week’s Supreme Court decisions and the future for marriage.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Did the debate about gay marriage end last week?


#ad#DOUG MAINWARING: The debate about marriage absolutely did not end last week. Not even close. In many ways, I feel like the national debate hasn’t even begun to occur. Eric Teetsel got it right in his recent article, “On Winning the Marriage Debate.” Popular support has been gained not through the triumph of ideas, but through what amounts to nothing more than a beauty pageant. We are no longer a nation of ideas. Policies are products; people are brands. We pay no attention to intellectual boxing matches such as those between Lincoln and Douglas, or Hayek and Keynes. Instead we have beauty pageants in which contestants primp and pose for the affections of the audience voting from home.

The tide has turned in support for genderless marriage via slogans and celebrities. The current window of opportunity for the advancement of same-sex marriage is based on a fragile narrative and an aura of acceptance, both of which could evaporate very quickly if real, substantial debate were to be had in the public arena.

LOPEZ: As a gay man, did you feel that your rights were vindicated by the Supreme Court rulings?

MAINWARING: No. I would have to be intellectually dishonest to tell myself I am “more equal” today. My objection to same-sex marriage hinges entirely on the use of the term “marriage.” Marriage is one thing and one thing only. Two men or two women in a relationship can call themselves “married,” but only by applying the term in a metaphoric way. The term applies only to one man and one woman. The institution of same-sex marriage is not progressive in any way. It does not advance society. It is purely regressive. We are not redefining marriage, we are undefining it.


#page#LOPEZ: Why does marriage matter?  How does it make any difference whom we call married?

MAINWARING: There are so many ways to answer this question. I’ll focus on just the two at the top of my list.

Number one: Same-sex marriage, while undefining marriage, will also undefine children. Sadly, our society has become mcuh too focused on satisfying the selfish desires of adults, while ignoring the needs, rights, and desires of children. The New York Times ran an article in June by a gay dad called “The Misnomer of ‘Motherless’ Parenting.” The author’s conclusion — “so, motherless parenting is a misnomer” — doesn’t make sense. It’s an example of a non sequitur. This whole piece can be summed up as an adult justifying himself rather than empathetically taking up his children’s needs and desires. I find this very sad.

#ad#His final two lines: “Still, the overarching idea behind parenting by gay men should be that it is great for a child to have one or two dads, and that not having a mom in your daily life can be hard. And that it is O.K. to long for a soft cheek instead of a stubbly one.”

He’s wrong, it’s not okay to long for a soft cheek and find instead only a stubbly one. That child’s longing deserves to be addressed and satisfied.

To me, it almost seems better to have single gays, rather than couples, raising kids. At least with only one dad in the house, there is an open, truthful admission that someone — mom — is missing. When a second dad is present, it seems to me like an enormous act of hubris, declaring that the parent’s sexual needs and need for a particular type of companionship overwhelmingly trump the kids’ deep need and desire for a mom. The presence of the second dad is almost a defiant rebuke against the children’s yearning for a mom.

The author writes that “we have to help our kids find a narrative that is honest about the circumstances,” but the reality is that the children are being asked to live their lives pretending that the absence of a mom makes no difference. Most kids end up playing along, but these men ask way too much of their children.

It would be better for these guys to be honest and say to their kids, “We don’t actually care that you don’t have a mom. Just deal with it.” Motherless parenting is not a misnomer. It remains the heart of the issue.

LOPEZ: What’s your second answer?

MAINWARING: That same-sex marriage will lead to greater government intrusion into all of our lives. I firmly believe that those who are the prime movers of same-sex-marriage legislation want to see government have more control. When families are weakened, as is the case with so many fatherless families, children are brought up looking to government, not family, for help and sustenance. We run the risk of turning into the Obama administration’s dream for America and Americans, as displayed in last year’s “Life of Julia.” Throughout her life, Julia’s most important relationship was with the government. I can’t imagine a more Twilight Zone—like future for our progeny.

LOPEZ: Did you always see this issue as being so important?

MAINWARING: I started speaking out on this issue a few years ago when Maryland’s legislature took it up. Originally, I was a proponent of same-sex marriage, with a laissez-faire attitude. But I found it increasingly difficult to defend same-sex marriage in conversations and, in the end, to myself. Finally I had to admit that I could no longer justify my support and had to change my stance on the issue. Interestingly, my experience has been the mirror opposite of David Blankenhorn’s.

This is an important issue facing America, but it is also arising as an important issue around the world. Think about it: Within the last few years, same-sex marriage has popped up around the globe — in every hemisphere. There are so many related issues: children’s rights; the use of surrogacy (by heterosexual, as well as gay, couples and singles). Most people don’t have a clue about the problems surrounding surrogacy for all parties involved. I suspect a huge global resistance to the implausible notion of genderless marriage will soon emerge. I also suspect that the strongest resistance will first take root in nations less selfish, less materialistic than our own.

#page#LOPEZ: How is defending traditional marriage a conservative cause?

MAINWARING: I disagree with the premise of the question. I actually do not think that defending traditional marriage is a conservative cause. It’s simply a Main Street, commonsense cause. Ten or 20 years ago, the notion of genderless marriage seemed laughably implausible to most people. The fact is, it remains an implausible notion — an implausible notion with a terrific PR team.

To oppose genderless marriage is very mainstream, very normal, very human. It is not homophobic and does not stem from hatred, bigotry, or lack of sophistication or education. It is simply a matter of stating the obvious. Like Newton’s law of gravity, natural law can’t be defied or ignored for long. The consequences are staggering. Wiley Coyote is able to resist gravity for a few yards as he speeds off the edge of a cliff, but gravity always wins and sends him plummeting to the canyon floor below. American society has now gone over the edge as same-sex marriage continues to advance through legislative, judicial, and executive fiat, as well as through some recent wins at the ballot box, but soon the forward momentum will cease, and the cause will be in free fall.

#ad#LOPEZ: What do you think the future of marriage is?

MAINWARING: I have high hopes for the future of marriage. While we are clearly in troubling times, the relentless push for genderless marriage will eventually ignite a more intense debate on the topic.

LOPEZ: You’ve worked with churches, including the Catholic Church, in trying to fight gay marriage. Do you worry about their religious freedom in the years to come?

MAINWARING: I think there is a movement afoot to end religious liberty. After all, religion, like strong families, is a bulwark that protects individuals against government invasiveness.

Political correctness serves as the radical Left’s indictment against religious liberty. I’ve always stuck to purely secular arguments when speaking about my opposition to genderless marriage because as I waded into the national conversation, it quickly became obvious that those who relied on either religion or tradition were immediately dismissed and treated as unserious, if not vilified. Political correctness seeks to silence all opposition to the advancement of progressive ideals. It is a powerful weapon, adroitly wielded by radical progressives to protect the fragile narrative about the goodness of their ideology and actions. Through it they suppress free speech, intellectual curiosity, and, yes, debate. They know that if people are free to speak truthfully, the progressive narrative would quickly crumble.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor at large of  National Review Online.

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