Friday, June 1, 2012

The Marriage Debate: A Debate About Rights or Definitions?

In an important blog post, Amy Hall over at the Evangel blog makes the argument, as the title of her post suggests, that when it comes to the debate over gay marriage, We're Arguing Definitions, Not Rights. She begins by stating that One common misconception in the same-sex marriage debate is the idea that the traditional legal definition of marriage is a violation of equal rights. She suggests that marriage rights is a myth commonly used by gay activists.

This is an important point and something missed by many people.  When the case is made for a redefinition of marriage, it doesn't take long for the rights argument to be put forward.  "How can you rob me of my right to be married?" This is effective in America because America is defined by rights.  But is marriage a right?

The fight over rights is a big deal today.  Oftentimes when one promotes some form of social engineering or social change, the argument from so-called rights is made.  Remember the health care debate?  For many it was a debate over rights.  Marriage is no different.

But Hall's four points are significant when thinking about the issue of the "right" of marriage:

1. Nearly everyone who thinks the government ought to issue marriage licenses favors defining marriage in some way. That is, they favor excluding some combinations of people (polygamy, incest, etc.), not individuals, from the definition. Even judges. Even you!

2. You can’t consistently argue that by excluding certain combinations of people, traditional marriage violates equal rights—unless you also argue to remove every single boundary from the definition of marriage and say anyone can marry anyone, in whatever combination of numbers they like.

3. If you’re not willing to argue this, then you’re for having a definition with boundaries, which puts you on equal footing with the traditional marriage supporters.

4. So the question is, which definition should we use? It’s fine for you to argue that your definition of “two people who love each other” is better than my definition of “one man, one woman,” or someone else’s definition of “one man, multiple women,” but we need to start off by understanding that we’re arguing definitions, not rights.

This is an excellent set of arguments.  If marriage is about rights, then there are no boundaries.  After all, if denying same-sex couples access to marriage is robbing them of their "right," then denying any for of relationships is denying them their individual rights.  This leads us directly to the slippery slope argument that has been made for years by proponents of traditional marriage.  By the means of equal rights, the arguments made for gay marriage can easily (and are being) made for other sexual and marital lifestyles.  Proponents of polygamy, polyamory, incest, pedophilia, etc. can easily make the same arguments for their "right" to marry as same-sex proponents have been making for years now.

This means then that Hall's basic premise is correct.  We are debating the definition of marriage, not the right of marriage.  And that debate over definitions may be one worth having but when we make arguments from rights we do so dangerously.

Thus the debate over the meaning of marriage remains a crucial one.  How a society defines itself and the parameters by which a society sets is crucial. If the definition of marriage is a fickle one, then boundaries are not only worthless, but unconstitutional.  And if saying no to marriage violates one's individual rights, then does saying no regarding anything else violate one's personal constitutional rights?

This is why the Founder's defined rights as originating with God - our Creator - not with government.  Government picks favorites and eventually rationalized all types of depraved behavior especially large, secular governments (like ours).  But rights that originate with God are very different.

Hall is right:  We are arguing about definitions, not rights.  And that should change the debate.

Amy Hall (Evangel) - We're Arguing Definitions, Not Rights  

This was originally posted on August 15, 2011 but is reposted here in light of the federal repeals court ruling the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

For more:
Blogizomai - The Missing Gene and Ray Boltz: The Theistic Argument, Did God Make Him This Way?
Blogiozmai - The Missing Gene: The Failed Search For the Gay Gene
Blogiozmai - The Piling Evidence:  Homosexuality Is a Choice  
Blogizomai - Is What is Natural Moral?:  Homosexuality and the Animal Kingdom (Part 1)
Blogizomai - Is What is Natural Moral?  The Great Chasm Between Nature and Morality (Part 2)
Blogizomai - Is What is Natural Moral?:  The Way Forward is Backwards - Cave Men and the Return to Amoral Sexuality (Part 3)
Blogizomai - Is What is Natural Moral?:  Monogamy and What Jealousy Says About Naturalism (Part 4)
Blogizomai - The Slippery Slope: From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 1
Blogizomai - The Slippery Slope: From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 2
Blogizomai - The Slippery Slope:  From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 3
Blogizomai - The Slippery Slope:  From Victorian Values to Bestiality . . . And Beyond - Part 4   
Blogizomai - The Next Step: Is Polyamory the Next Sexual Movement?
Blogizomai - Where Does The Madness End? The Dire Destination Of The Homosexual Agenda - Part 1
Blogizomai - Where Does The Madness End? Where the Homosexual Agenda Leads - Part 2
Blogizomai - D'Souza: The Equal Protection Hoax
Blogizomai - Marriage and the Limits of the Law and Courts:  Why Only the Gospel Regenerates & Changes Behavior 
Blogizomai - What's the Big Deal:  Christianity and Homosexuality   
Blogizomai - Jesus is into Offending People:  Its Time For Christians to Admit the Obvious and Proclaim with Boldness
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