It is a mind-boggling experience to walk through the streets of Dublin these days. Left, right and centre, posters are screaming at us, “Yes to equality”, “Yes to equality”, “Yes to equality”. But when we ask ourselves what does this mean we are confronted with a choice of two very worrying conclusions. The first is that the members of our political establishment – across all party divides – have no grasp of the English language, nor of the logic which normally guides human reasoning. The second, probably more plausible – since they are all reasonably well-educated men and women – is that they are deliberately attempting to deceive and manipulate the electorate which put them into power, all for some unfathomable reason.
The starting point of their error – or deception – is the fundamental error of thinking that equality, fairness, and justice can be achieved by obliterating or ignoring the differences which distinguish one thing from another.
Men love women in one way, men love men in another way – generally, but not always, in the disinterested love we call friendship. The same is true for women. Arguably the love found in friendship, be it between people of opposite sexes or of the same sex, is the purest and most generous form of love there is. But the love of a man for a woman, given the full complementarity of their sexual natures, is a truly unique expression of love. No other love is like it, in either its form of expression or in its potential consequences. This makes it very special both for them, for the human life which that love can generate and for human society as a whole. This is the only love which generates new love as well as new life, not just the love of man and woman, but the love of children and parents, the love of siblings, the love of uncles and aunts, the love of generations down through the centuries, our love for our ancestors – and for those of faith, their everlasting love for us.
This love is very special. It is special not simply because it is expressed sexually but special because of how it is expressed sexually and because of the potential consequences which its physical expression has. It has its own unique form of communication and which come from both nature and society. Its rules of engagement have been refined and developed over millennia but rest on one constant element – the complementary sexual gifts of male and female. Remove that element from the relationship between two people and we have something entirely different. You may have love but you do not have the raison d’etre for the institution we call marriage.
Marriage is the name we give to this structure, these rules of engagement which we have created around this unique relationship. Marriage is the name which society and its laws give to this venerable edifice. It is not only there in statute law but also used to be there in common law – when a man and a woman, outside of the laws of society, independently established a mutual sexual bond with each other, we called it ‘a common law marriage’. When two people got married but then discovered that the male partner was unable to perform the “marriage act” our understanding was that no marriage existed. Marriage is no fluffy, luvvie dovey thing. It is a fundamental building block of our civilization.
Society has taken on itself the task of establishing the rules for this relationship because of the multiple implications it has for its members in general and for the flourishing of individuals, generation after generation, who come into society by virtue of the acts of love of its married members. It is not the love itself that demands this. The love of friendship, sexually expressed or not, does not require society to manage it, the love of siblings, aunts and uncles does not require it. The sexual expression of the love of a man and woman does. The management of love is not the business of society. The management of procreation – and many of its consequences – is. That is why marriage exists.
What has happened to create in our world today this demand of a redefinition of marriage which takes from under it the very foundation on which it is based. It is the emergence of another demand, the demand for a social recognition and approval of the sexual expression of the love of friendship between men themselves and between women themselves. This expression of love has been disapproved of in most societies in varying degrees down through history. That is a matter of fact on which we make no judgement. What we can judge is that there is no question but that this disapproval has been accompanied by appalling injustices.
However, the efforts now being made to win approval for this physical expression of love, by seeking to equate it with the love of a man for a woman and a woman for a man, and to apply to it all the structures which nature and society place around that relationship for the protection of families and society, is profoundly misguided.
To suggest, to argue, that maintaining the traditional definition of marriage is to deny equality to two men or two women who want to love each other and be committed to each other’s company for life is a denial of equality is deeply flawed.
The nature of things must always be taken into account when a judgement is being made about the fairness or otherwise of their distribution among people. The different nature of the way in which love can be expressed – as between a man and a woman and between two of the same sex – make the application of the test of equality in this case meaningless. Think of these different forms of expression as a language. They are different forms of communication. We do not need to go into detail. It is obvious. Now consider two people seeking a diplomatic post in a foreign country. They are equally qualified in all respects except one: one of them does not speak the language of the country he wishes to be posted to; the other does. Is the obvious preference of one over the other an unjust discrimination? Is it an unjust denial of equality? No. The reality is that they are not equal in this respect. In the same way the relationship between two men or two women is not equal to the relationship between a man and a woman. Nature, not society has determined that.
The longing for respect, recognition and approval by homosexual people needs to follow a path other than that being pursued at present, the path of redefining marriage. The pursuit of this end can only result in the ultimate destruction of the very thing they wrongly identify as the panacea for the injuries suffered in the past, or which they anticipate in the future.