Posted on April 5, 2011
I am not a big believer in people making arguments on the back of who or what they happen to be. When I last made the case in these pages against gay marriage, about a year ago, I didn’t feel the need to mention that I am gay myself. Arguments stand on their own two feet, or don’t, but not on the strength of who happens to be making them. Nor, I don’t mind adding, did I particularly want to drag my own life into what is often a bad-tempered debate. But I am concerned enough about the way things are going to make an exception. Explaining that you oppose gay marriage as a gay man tends to get a baffled response at first. This is understandable given how quickly the debate on gay marriage can collapse into allegations of homophobia. The message, explicit or implicit, is often that being anti-gay marriage means being in some way anti-gay.
I have watched with growing irritation as principled opponents of gay marriage have put up with a stream of abuse for explaining their position. Public figures who try to do so routinely have to contend with the charge that they are bigoted or homophobic.
When Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton confirmed her opposition to same-sex marriage during the general election campaign, there were calls for Enda Kenny to sack her. David Quinn of the pro-marriage Iona Institute is regularly abused in sometimes extraordinary terms for making similar arguments. They’re not the only ones. The reflex response from many gay marriage advocates is to paint all dissent as prejudice, as if the only reason for defending marriage as it has existed to date is some variety of bigotry or psychological imbalance. Actually, gay people should defend the traditional understanding of marriage as strongly as everyone else. Given that it is being undermined in the name of gay people, with consequences for future generations, it is all the more important that gay people who are opposed to gay marriage speak up.
This week sees the first civil partnerships between same-sex couples becoming official under legislation passed last year. That provides gay couples with nearly all necessary legal provisions. Many of us know people who are benefitting from this, or may well in the future. To borrow a clichÃ©, this would be a good time to declare victory and go home.
Instead, the demand now is for gay marriage on top of this, which the Programme for Government commits to exploring. This is not only unnecessary, but verges on selfishness.
The support and status that marriage entails is not a societal bonus for falling in love and agreeing to make a relationship lasting. That is not, of course, to say that love and romance are not an important part of marriage. But they are not the reason it has special status. If romance were the reason for supporting marriage, there would be no grounds for differentiating which relationships should be included and which should not. But that is not and never has been the nature of marriage.
Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman. Not all marriages, of course, involve child-raising. And there are also, for that matter, same-sex couples already raising children. But the reality is that marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not.I am conscious of this when considering my own circle of friends, quite a few of whom have recently married or will soon do so in the future. Many, if not most or all of them, will raise children. If, however, I or gay friends form civil partnerships, those are much more unlikely to involve raising children. So the question that matters is this: Why should a gay relationship be treated the same way as a marriage, despite this fundamental difference?
A wealth of research demonstrates the marriage of a man and a woman provides children with the best life outcomes, that children raised in marriages that stay together do best across a whole range of measures. This is certainly not to cast aspersions on other families, but it does underscore the importance of marriage as an institution.This is why the demand for gay marriage goes doubly wrong. It is not a demand for marriage to be extended to gay people – it is a demand for marriage to be redefined. The understanding of marriage as an institution that exists and is supported for the sake of strong families changes to an understanding of marriage as merely the end-point of romance. If gay couples are considered equally eligible for marriage, even though gay relationships do not tend towards child-raising and cannot by definition give a child a mother and a father, the crucial understanding of what marriage is actually mainly for has been discarded.
What that amounts to is the kind of marriage that puts adults before children. That, in my opinion, is ultimately selfish, and far too high a price to pay simply for the token gesture of treating opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships identically. And it is a token gesture. Isn’t it common sense, after all, to treat different situations differently? To put it personally, I do not feel in the least bit discriminated against by the fact that I cannot marry someone of the same-sex. I understand and accept that there are good reasons for this.
Although gay people and gay relationships have been rapidly becoming more visible, I would not be surprised if the case for gay marriage actually weakens in the future. Much of the support for gay marriage that exists today is instinctive, stemming from the fact that people do not want to be thought of as anti-gay. But that impulse itself only exists because we are still living in the shadow of the recent past. In the already foreseeable future, anti-gay attitudes as such will be all but unthinkable, in the way that actual homophobia already has a scarcely-threatening, almost antique quality to it.
Surely it’s time to have a proper conversation about gay marriage, a conversation where people are no longer made to feel that if they do not offer knee-jerk support to it, they will be branded anti-gay. Only then will the essence and the real reason for supporting traditional marriage be allowed to come to the fore again. The best interests of the children of the nation must always come first.
Published in the Irish Daily Mail
COMMENTS (anonymised from the Facebook thread):
Rowland Croucher: In the interests of being fair and balanced – and espousing a mature approach to the pros and cons of contentious issues – I’d particularly urge advocates of gay marriage (and I’m one of them) to read this twice!
~~ This is a great article, well written… I’ll never be an advocate of gay marriage myself and I do not consider myself homophobic or bigotted… We can still love others and be friends without agreeing with them. It takes courage to stand for what you believe to be true.
~~ Â I am a foster carer. I have cared for many kids raised by hetro parents whose right to marry (despite pre existing violent behaviours recorded by the courts) and to have children (also despite the above) were never challenged.
Society is very discriminatory as to whom they will judge and oppress from their rights.
The same law that says marriage is to be between a man and a woman (for the well being of a child apparently) also says marriage is a LIFE TIME commitment (also for the well being of a child) – yet no one seems up in arms at the 1 in 3 marriage failure rate. (even allowing for a no fault divorce)
Can no one see the hypocrisy in all this???
~~ In order to be a good parent you should be these three things: emotionally ready, physically ready and financially ready- wether you are gay or straight. It is sad that the most hurtful things children being raised by gay parents experience are done by people (some represented in this thread) who are adamantly against gay parents. The love comes from the parenting, the hurt comes from the people who expose these children to their bigoted opinions.
~~ Maybe you should read this:Â http://jmm.org.au/articles/13935.htm
~~ Interesting article Rowland. Whilst I disagree with it and find it difficult to understand why a gay man would not want equal rights I do respect his right to an opinion. I think everybody deserves an opinion but I do wholeheartedly believe that opinions against same-sex marriage are homophobic and discriminatory regardless of whether you ‘love’ the homosexual. After all, discrimination is putting the rights of one group above the rights of another. There are varying degrees of homophobia and discrimination in society and not every Christian wants to be labelled a as a ‘Jim Wallace’ or ‘Wendy Francis’, however all seem to be tarnished with the same brush just as all gay men are labelled by the church as promiscuous and anti-God. Both groups should be smart enough to realise that stereotypes simply aren’t true for the majority of people. In the debate about same-sex marriage, many gays and lesbians have forgotten how to listen and be respectful and the Christians have forgotten to love and to educate themselves. My partner and I have invited many church leaders to have dinner with us to get to know what a same-sex couple looks like. Sadly all have refused. We are ready to have a discussion. Is the church?
~~ Can someone clarify for me. When the article, and you responders, talk about a father and a mother being a better basis for child raring, is it talking about performance of different individuals, or is it referring to the innate differences that each gender brings to the table? Because everyone seems to have become defensive about the performance of gay or non gay parents. As far as I can tell, this article was not about that.
~~ I’m gay and I want to get married. And for the record, gay and lesbian people LOVE Christmas so guess we have something in common. Jesus’ message of hope to the world is relevant to everyone regardless of sexual orientation!
~~ Whoever wrote that article is clearly not gay but using that as a cover, which is clever because it allows the reader to feel better about their prejudices.
~~ It’s ridiculous. Not all who marry want to have kids..whether straight or gay and many many lesbian couples have raised wonderful children. I don’t know about male gay couples…but lesbian? yes. One gay man’s opinion will not change my view or the view of many.
~~ Â Same silly arguments – gays can be mistaken too
~~ It makes me sad really, who are any of us to invalidate a loving relationship irrespecutful of whether it’s from the LGBTIS communities, all your ignorance is just hurtful, why can you legitimise a single mother or father or “other broken” family, but no you can’t approve a loving family of same sex parents, I just don’t believe how evil you sound 🙁
~~ Rowland CroucherÂ ‘Can someone clarify for me. When the article, and you responders, talk about a father and a mother being a better basis for child raring, is it talking about performance of different individuals, or is it referring to the innate differences that each gender brings to the table?’
I know some gay parents who do an excellent job of child-rearing…
I know some hetero couples who do an awful job…
And vice versa
Would a gay couple who treat each other with respect/tender love be an improvement on a hetero family where there’s violent/abusive relationship between parents? Sure…
However, yes, I believe boys and girls need role models of the same gender; and the church/(and scouts/relatives etc.) can help. See
for my chapter on this.
As for gay couples having a higher percentage of disinterest in child-rearing, my response is ‘So what?’ An increasing proportion of Gen X hetero couples are falling into this category these days. There are other good reasons to marry…
~~ I think it would be better if we avoided the word ‘marriage’ altogether. And for most of the time covered by scripture polygamy was the dominant form of marriage.
~~ â€Ž”Given that it is being undermined in the name of gay people, with consequences for future generations, it is all the more important that gay people who are opposed to gay marriage speak up.”
Is this a given?
Far too many false assumptions and simple factual errors in this piece, it seems, for it to carry much weight.
But he is right that vilifying anyone for holding an opposing view is wrong.
~~ The man who wrote this article must be a family-first spy! 🙂 Seriously though, he is entitled to his opinion, and some of my gay friends would disagree. I believe that it takes more than 2 people to raise a child. It takes a community of loving people.
~~ Interesting all the accusations that the writer isn’t really gay, Family first spy etc.
It’s also interesting that if someone has lived a straight life for years, then “comes out” they are praised for finally giving into to their true self. But what about those who have lived a gay life, then “gone back in” so to speak and come out the other door? They invariably get called a traitor to the cause, or in denial.
Is “coming out” only allowed to work one way?
~~ Are you sure, Evelyn?
These days we understand from science that about 4% of people are born with homosexual orientation and another 4% or so with bisexual orientation. Same findings in most animal and bird societies, although the percentages differ.
So ‘coming out’ and ‘going back in’ are certainly observable identifications among bi people. But they do not reflect any change in our innate God-given inclination.
Where we see gay people just pretending to be straight, then that probably is, in fact, denial – which is a state of mental health, not a term of abuse.
As to name-calling, I haven’t personally seen this. But if it happens, it shouldn’t.
~~ Â I was born gay, medically proven in electronic shock therapy arranged by a President of the Baptist Union in Qld, and have lived out a straight life for the last 41 years. I am still married and care for my wife who is now fairly severely disabled. It would be libellous for anyone to suggest I now staright because I am married, a father and a grand-father. A straight marriage doesn’t change anything. I am not sexually active to keep my vows.
Just in the last year I started to come out to those who matter in my life. Can’t rush these things 🙂 My two worlds have finally started to come together and I no longer tell lies everyday about who I am. It is wonderful to now live an authentic life.
I belong to a great group of gay Christians and we meet monthly in parks and shopping centres etc. Some are in permanent relationships and would dearly love to be able to marry. Many of those would really like to parent children. They are good friends. I strongly support gay marriage. We have all had a fairly difficult time in church.
I wrote the article quoted above “What the Bible Actually Says About Homosexuality” which Rowland kindly put on his JMM website.
~~ Â Back halfway up the Wall there was conversation about the fitness of gay vs straight couples as parents.
In 18 years of teaching 4-year-olds, I met a number of same- sex couples raising children, some adopted, a couple born to one mommy or the other.
Honestly– these couples, gay and lesbian, across the board were wonderfully conscientious.
Unfortunately, 1) other parents were highly critical; and 2) these parents were under intense scrutiny, as society at-lager seemed poised to pounce at the first error.
There is, in the States, and specifically in my community (which, for the record, is one of the largest LGBT communities in the nation), a dichotomy, a double standard.
Hetero families, in my experience, could learn much from same-sex families.
Great article, Rowland, no matter what one thinks one believes on the matter. It never, ever hurts to continue to learn and process. Even if this author did turn out to be not who he professes to be.
~~ yes, it’s true that you did putting too many negatives. However, one negative you left out is that there is plenty of research available now, some of it tracking down over two decades, that shows that children raised in a single-parent family or without both a male and female parent, simply do not do as well as those raised in the traditional mother and father family. Much research, heaps of it. Undeniable at this time. The question is now, what about in 20 years time following all the same sex adoptions of the current time? Do we want to risk that experiment? As for your comment, “God is about relationships, committed, self-sacrificing ones and that’s what needs to be modelled”, I somehow think that God is a bit more specific than that. I can’t read your mind, but your comment is so general that it opens the gate for anything.
I’m old enough to recall that, in the 50s, unmarried cohabiting was called, “Living in sin”; in the 60s it was: “Trial marriages”; in the 70s it was “Living together”; in the 80s it was ” Shacking up”; in the 90s it was “Partners”. That one seems to have stuck. Another good example of redefining the English language that is so common now.
~~ My view is that sexual intimacy for gays is acceptable in a monogamous marriage for life, but not otherwise. (Same as for heterosexual marriage). Do Christians who oppose gay marriage actually prefer us to go out and have casual meaningless promiscous sex rather than support gay marriage? Maybe they prefer to pressure us into a staright marriage and tell us that everything will “be fine” on our wedding night. That is just NOT true and is not fair on a straight partner either.
Celibacy? Is that realistic? As far as the Baptist Church is concerned, it doesn’t matter one scrap whether gays are practicing or not. The list of prohibitions of not being allowed to lead, teach, exercise any ministry or do any act of Christian service applies to both. (Non-practicing murders, rapists and terrorists are just fine.) How popular do you think you would be if you picked on 5-10% of heterosexuals and told them they had to get divorced and live a celibate life in order to be acceptable to the church? Yet this is what many say to gays. But many say to even non-practicing gays that we are not welcome to even attend church, as I was told. The Baptist Church no longer forms any part of my life.
Sorry, but I was born gay. I know how I was born. I don’t need you to agree with me to know that. I am now proud to be gay and enjoy being gay very much. I am not sexually active in order to keep my wedding vows. God creates some people gay and I am one of them.
~~ Yes, studies show kids do better with two parents than with just one. But do you know of any studies comparing kids from straight homes with kids with gay parents? Would you agree the anecdotal evidence is that kids with two same-sex parents do better than kids with two opposite-sex parents?
And, regarding “our innate God-given inclination” being not up-to-date with the accepted scientific research. Which branch of science do you believe refutes the claim that sexual orientation is natural, normal, unchosen and non-pathological?
~~ There may someday be such long-term evidence, one way or another. But for now, all we have is anecdotal, for the most part, simply because hetero couples raising children far outnumber homosexual couples raising children.
It is not unusual for conclusive evidence to be slow in coming. Often it is anecdotal evidence that brings situations/ dilemmas/ whatever to light and draws expert data collectors to begin serious study.
~~ It seems by virtue of the fact that gay couples having children is a recent development, there is little “conclusive evidenced-based research over the long term”.
But it is accumulating.
As a journo collecting anecdotal evidence wherever available, my assessment is that with the high incidence of parents who are absent workaholics, or shopaholic materialists, or violent alcoholics, or boring TV addicts, etc, only about 2 in 5 families with a mum and a dad provide genuinely sound parenting. With same-sex parents this rises to about 4 in 5. They try harder, for the reasons …. Â suggests.
But I would love to hear what others have found, especially those, like Heidi, in contact with a number of such families.
~~ And as you added, the evidence is coming. I suppose, in some regard, over time the numbers may even out somewhat, simply because LGBT couples drift from the spotlight.
But when you have to actively choose to raise a child, that right there shows an admirable level of commitment.
Remember, also, that marriage and raising children can hardly be treated as a ‘lab experiment’ to clinically gather data. These are real live people, real live families– real, live lives. It pretty much has to be anecdotally explored.
~~ Yes and no.
Numbers will never really even out. All the research shows homosexual orientation is about 4% and bisexuality around 4% also. This seems pretty constant throughout history, across all races and cultures.
So same-sex parents will only ever be a small minority of the parenting population.
But, yes, it may even out in the sense that gay people wanting marriage are increasing proportionally as are gay couples wanting children.
And yes, agree about the admirable level of commitment. (I presume you have seen the youtube clip of Zack Wahls in Iowa.)
~~ Here are two paragraphs from a study in 2005 by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Children born to and raised by lesbian couples seem to develop in ways that are indistinguishable from children raised by heterosexual parents. Ratings by their mothers and teachers have demonstrated children’s social competence and the prevalence of behavioral difficulties to be comparable with population norms. In fact, growing up with parents who are lesbian or gay may confer some advantages to children. They have been described as more tolerant of diversity and more nurturing toward younger children than children whose parents are heterosexual.
In one study, children of heterosexual parents saw themselves as being somewhat more aggressive than did children of lesbian parents, and they were seen by parents and teachers as more bossy, negative, and domineering. Children of lesbian parents saw themselves as more lovable and were seen by parents and teachers as more affectionate, responsive, and protective of younger children, compared with children of heterosexual parents.
~~ Consider some of the products of disastrously non-ideal families: JS Bach, Beethoven, Leo Tolstoy, Louis Armstrong, Nelson Mandela, Prince William …
So, to attempt an answer: We should encourage all parents – same-sex, opposite-sex, sole and separated – to provide for their kids as much as possible of the environment needed for an ideal upbringing, including security, love, discipline, adult role models of both sexes, examples of loving committed relationships – same sex and opposite sex – plus other educational, social and spiritual guidance and whatever else we value.
The evidence so far does seem to bolster the hypothesis that this can be achieved with diligent parental focus regardless of the gender of the live-in parents.
~~ Â It seems God has created humankind with an incredible range of shapes, sizes, colours, languages, intellectual capacity, physical prowess, artistic talent, sexual orientation, intro/extroversion and so on. Societies have at times marginalised some groups on colour or physical disability or sexual orientation. So has the Church.
We are today – in both the Church and wider society – working through the historic exclusion of gay couples from marriage and parenting.
Much of the New Testament I believe urges acceptance of diversity and an end to exclusions, so I come at this with a theological viewpoint.
I agree with you on scientific method. Except to note that the social sciences deal more with probabilities than with absolute verifiable fact.
So my answer is: Yes, the evidence – from the pediatric associations and elsewhere – is now sufficient to support the hypothesis that kids with gay or lesbian parents do just as well or better than kids with a mum and a dad.
For some recent findings, just google “research children same sex parents”.
~~ “Do you hold to the position that God is the source of same-sex monogamy”?
Most Christian scholars today do not believe either the Old or New Testament teaches monogamy as the only option. Many forms of union are accepted depending on the circumstances.
Certainly, for most Western societies and most Christian communities monogamy makes the most sense. But variations are not prohibited in Scripture.
~~ Yes, the test sample will always be small by virtue of the minority status of gay couples wanting children. And I suspect there may be a subtle bias in the sample because being a small, brave, pioneering group, today’s same-sex parents are aware they are under scrutiny and are trying extra hard.
Not that that’s a bad thing. But if we ever get to the place where same-sex parents are as normal and ordinary and mundane as heteros, there may be a slackening off.
So the long-term surveys will be intriguing.
And you are absolutely right about the sub-text of this discussion – or sub-texts, because there are many.
For example, I think you and I might have different views on the “long standing assumptions of the nature of family”. Is the nuclear family as we know it today really all that long-standing?
~~ I appreciate the civil tone that this thread has maintained, even as we disagree.
Thing is, or perhaps things are, I don’t expect anyone to change– their ops or their lives– based on what I or anyone here. This discussion of the ‘suitability’ of LGBT couples as parents is a young one. There is much yet to learn.
But how much good ‘stuff’ would be lost if we waited 10 or 20 years for all the data before we actually stepped
out? While certainly, solid scientific evidence is desired, as someone pointed out, this is often very difficult to come by in the social sciences. Sometimes it is only through careful examination of anecdotal evidence that new revelation occurred.
But we keep talking. And– we keep listening.
~~ Your point about missing out on ‘good stuff’ only makes sense if you assume that the ‘data’ will support your position… which – with all due respect – seems a little one-eyed.
I’m pretty sure the children of the Stolen Generation would have appreciated the government waiting another 10 -20 years to get a clearer picture of the effects of removing children from their biological parents. Clearly that was a social mistake which we are still paying for as a society, but at the time ‘popular’ thought was that this policy was socially responsible and even progressive.
For good or for bad, yours and my heritage and family background is set. We (as a society) are making decisions on behalf of generations to come – I’m not keen on the idea that our rationale for significant social change is “we didn’t want to wait any longer for more evidence” . I like the idea of talking and listening – the mandate for the inevitable change seems to be coming from popular opinion rather that social science and reasoned debate.
~~ ‘The Bible is the best historical evidence around on the subject and why are we not referring to this? The fact is homosexual practices were an abomination to God in the past and they will be forever more’
Re Homosexuality and the Bible –
~~ Â I believe it was jacques ellul that said “Christians are to be the trouble makers, not the do gooders of this world” take comfort in talking about these topics is my advice 🙂
~~ â€Ž’Those who do not have gay friends or do not know gay couples are not well placed to have a sensible opinion on this subject; for it is the freedom of such lovers and couples to live open and dignified lives that is at stake here…
~~ Have you managed to read any of the four articles Rowland linked above? They are fairly thorough so take some time – but are well worth it.
Keith Dyer’s is probably most relevant to your question about the Biblical texts. He shows that Scripture teaches clearly that certain specific same-sex acts are prohibited. Same as certain opposite sex acts are sinful.
But not all. And certainly not loving, faithful, life-long unions.
~~ The central issue about gay marriage is about two people falling in love and making a commitment to spend the rest of their lives together. While the impact on children is important, it’s not the central issue. We have several couples in our gay Christian group. They are each very close. Two are falling in love right now. When their eyes meet across the room, none of us can get any sense out of either of them. It’s fantastic to see and perfectly natural for us.
~~ Â Some criticize us for living in a gay lifestyle. What do they mean? Gay couples I know wake up beside the one they love, have toast and coffee for breakfast, go to work, come home get tea on, do the washing etc. They leave random “I love you” notes in their partners lunch box, shirt pockets, 5 pages on in the book they are reading. They hold hands when they say grace or go for walks on remote beaches or mountain tracks. They go to separate churches, arrive late and leave early to avoid awkward questions by judgemental Christians. Most want to wait until “marriage” before coming together.
They dream of being baptised together and most of all being able to get married in front of friends and family.