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Jewish World Review March 24, 2000 /17 Adar II, 5760

Thomas Sowell

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'Notion of gay marriage' is product of sloppy thinking -- THE ISSUE OF GAY MARRIAGE is one of many signs of the sloppy thinking of our times. Centuries of laws, policies and traditions have grown up around marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Now the demand is that all those laws, policies and traditions simply be transferred automatically and en masse to an entirely different union that chooses to use the same word.

Homosexuals were on their strongest ground when they argued that what happens between consenting adults is nobody else's business. Now they want to make it everybody's business by requiring others to acquiesce in their unions and treat them as they would other unions, both in law and in social practice.

Why is marriage a government concern in the first place? There are at least three reasons.

First of all, a marriage between a man and a woman has the potential to produce additional people, who are neither consenting nor adults. The wellbeing of these children is important both for their sake and for the sake of the society as a whole, whose future these children represent. This consideration obviously does not apply to homosexual unions.

Second, men and women are inherently in very different positions within a marriage. The inescapable fact that only women become pregnant means that male and female situations are never going to be the same, no matter how much "gender neutral" language we use or how much fashionable talk there is about how "we" are going to have a baby. Laws must make them jointly responsible for the baby that she alone will have. This consideration likewise does not apply to homosexual unions.

Third, time has very different effects on men and women. As the years pass and women lose their physical attraction, men are typically rising in income and occupational status. It is usually easier for a middle-aged man to abandon his wife and make a second marriage with a younger "trophy wife" than for a woman to remarry equally as advantageously. Since a woman has often invested years of her life in creating a home and family, the marriage contract is one way of trying to assure her that this investment will not be in vain.

These and other differences between the sexes simply do not apply when the people in a domestic union are of the same sex. When they are simply "consenting adults," they can consent on whatever terms they choose to work out between themselves. It is nobody else's business and should not be the law's business.

If they choose to consider themselves married, that is wholly different from saying that a whole elaborate body of laws, policies and traditions -- which evolved from the experiences of innumerable generations of male and female unions -- should automatically apply to their very different circumstances. You can call yourself anything you want, including the queen of Sheba, but that does not give you the right to force other people to call you the queen of Sheba.

After years of dumbed-down education, it may be inevitable that we would now have a population which includes many people who cannot see beyond words to the realities that those words are supposed to convey. It is hard to imagine any previous generation of Americans who would have taken seriously the idea of making marriage laws apply to domestic unions which lack the very features that caused marriage laws to exist in the first place.

The issue of gay marriage is just one of many examples of the victim's ploy, which says: "I am a victim. Therefore, if you do not give in to my demands and let me walk over you like a doormat, it shows that you are a hate-filled, evil person." Whatever its failings as logic, this tactic has been a big success politically.

The only reward for giving in to unreasonable demands are more unreasonable demands. Having gotten far more money spent for AIDS than has been spent on other fatal diseases affecting far more people, gay activists are now demanding federal research on the kinds of recreational drugs used in night clubs by homosexuals, so as to make them safer. Imagine if alcoholics were to demand that the feds spend tax dollars to make drunkenness safer!

Homosexuals are not the only group to have played this game -- and won. Our vulnerability to such ploys is far more dangerous than any particular issue or any particular group, because it means that we are sitting ducks for any slick political demagogues who come along and choose to take away anything we have, including our freedom and everything else that makes this America.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author, most recently, of The Quest for Cosmic Justice.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate