Same-Sex "Marriage": Should America Allow "Gay Rights" Activists to Cross The Last Cultural Frontier?

Anton N. Marco

Copyright 1996-2006, Christian Leadership Ministries


The Issue Joined

In mid-December, 1990, three self-allegedly "homosexual" couples simultaneously applied for marriage licenses in the State of Hawaii. Their action wasn't unprecedented (self-avowed "gay" couples elsewhere have made the same request), but the outcome was.

While all other previous self-proclaiming "same-sex" couples have had to settle for blunt State refusals of such requests, or in gay-friendly cities like San Francisco, for so-called "domestic partnership" registration, the Hawaii Six have been able to leap several legal hurdles. They hoped to become, after an Autumn 1996 trial, the first same-sex couples in the United States to be joined in legal civil marriage.

According to the courts and a legislature-created Commission on Sexual Orientation (which refused to hear any "religious" or "health"-oriented arguments against gays or homosexual behavior{1}) despite legislative action defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman (and in the face of 74% poll-tallied public opposition to same-sex "marriage"), the State's refusal of the Hawaii Six violates Hawaii's Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the Six's right to equal protection, unjustly denying these (and all) same-sex couples marriage benefits in health care, insurance, joint child custody and support, tax filing status and other critical life areas.

Some Americans might not wish to begrudge Hawaii the privilege of sanctioning same-sex marriages. But others not so "accepting" have been distressed that the effects of Hawaii's decision could extend far beyond that State's borders:

"Gay rights" activists are hoping that the U.S. Constitution's "Full Faith and Credit" clause, under whose authority States ordinarily must recognize legal licenses of other States, will mandate endorsement and "transferability" of Hawaiian same-sex "marriages" to every State in the Union.

Gay activists' wished-for scenario: Gay couples by the thousands would flock from around the nation to Hawaii, be "married" there, then return to their home states. There, they'd demand marriage recognition and broad ranges of benefits. If or when denied recognition and/or benefits, gay couples would launch litigation salvos, based, as in Hawaii, on State ERAs or denial of Constitutional "equal protection." In the aftermath of these salvos, homosexuality would at last achieve equal "matrimonial" standing with heterosexuality throughout America, culturally as well as legally.

As Mike Gabbard, who led opposition to same-sex "marriage" in Hawaii, reported:

Homosexual activists are serious about legalizing same-sex "marriage." So far, seven lobby groups have been formed to convince mainstream America that homosexuals should be allowed to marry. These groups are: The Forum On the Right to Marriage (FORM), Hawaii Equal

Rights Marriage Project (HERMP), Inter-National Spouses Network (INS), Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (LLDEF), Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples, Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Coalition (SSMAC), and Freedom to Marry Coalition (FMC).

The FMC is urgently attempting a massive national effort of (1) "state-by-state political organizing (i.e., coming together at a local level now) to start approaching non-gay and gay groups for support on marriage, building a coalition while also in a concentrated fashion developing defensive legislative strategies and (2) public education (engaging the non-gay as well as gay worlds) in understanding real-life gay and lesbian families and how we are harmed by being denied the Freedom to Marry."

Efforts are being made to identify and enlist "key contacts" in every state to "spearhead the work in each state/community." Also organizations and individuals are being asked to sign The Marriage Resolution, which reads: "Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice, RESOLVED, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage." Most groups who have signed the resolution are homosexual activist organizations, but there are others as well, including ACLU, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, Japanese-American Citizens League, National Association for Women in education, and the National Organization for Women (NOW).{2}

For reasons that will shortly become clear, both gay and non-homosexual public policy observers expected a decision in favor of the Hawaii Six to produce nothing short of seismic cultural, spiritual and economic shifts in the terrain of our national life. To the relief of many, in 1998, a political initiative by speaheaded by Gabbard and other Hawaii citizen leaders brought the matter to a statewide vote. By an overwhelming margin of nearly 78%-22%, Hawaii�s citizens reaffirmed the State�s constitutional approval of marriage as limited to opposite-sex couples.

However, as The Washington Blade (one of America�s leading weekly "gay tabloids") reported on April 23, 1999, "[A]lmost five months later, the legislature hasn�t acted on the constitutional amendment at all. And it isn�t expected to in the remaining weeks of its 1999 session. Instead, legislators have accepted an advisory opinion from the state attorney general [well-known to be a strong supporter of "gay rights" measures and same-sex "marriage"] that no action is needed because there was already a 1994 statute on the books that defines marriage as being for heterosexuals only.

"This was the attorney general�s interpretation of the current state of the law even though the 1994 statute was declared unconstitutional by a court." Apparently, despite the voting public�s overwhelming stand against it, those doggedly continuing to support same-sex "marriage" in Hawaii still choose to consider the issue, as the Blade puts it, "very much a political hot potato�"

It�s the same in New England, where in several States gay activists are conducting highly aggressive and very well funded same-sex "marriage" campaigns.

Because Americans for Reason and Justice opposes same-sex "marriage" � not on "religious," but on "traditional" civil rights grounds, we ask open-and-just-minded individuals to give this article, sharing a point of view on this issue seldom heard in the gay activist vs. Big Religious Right-dominated "public square" most careful consideration. Instead of "majoring" in reiteration of "received" ideas about this issue, this paper will endeavor to describe the presuppositional bases for gay activists' claim to the privilege of marriage, non-religious arguments in favor of and opposed to same-sex "marriage," some of the legal and everyday life implications of the same-sex "marriage issue," likely gay activist strategies to secure same-sex "marriage" privileges, possible opposition counter-strategies, and some conclusions that may be drawn in the midst of the current debate.

(Therefore, in so doing we will abstain from dealing with "moral issues" or "physical health threat"-related arguments which, as we have reported, Hawaii's Supreme Court and other courts have served notice will not be entertained as part of opposition legally framed against same-sex "marriage.")

Whatever the same-sex "marriage" debate's outcome in Hawaii, even the most marginal social acceptance of the idea of legalized same-sex "marriage" has been a long time coming, and only began just 50 years ago, with the birth of the Civil Rights movement and with its "gay rights" offshoot, as that sprang from the mind of a self-avowedly "gay" man and Civil Rights activist named Harry Hay...

The "Godfather" of Gay Marriage

If any one person can be said to be most responsible for making homosexuality itself, "gay rights" and, eventually, the concept of same-sex "marriage," "palatable" to the American public, it is an obscure Civil Rights pioneer activist named Harry Hay.{3}

Hay (who, last this writer knew, is still living) abandoned his family's privileged social status in the 1930s to become a Marxist agitator. He married a political cohort; the couple adopted two children and for years worked together to advance socialist and labor causes in various parts of America. Throughout his youth and marriage, Harry Hay felt the pull of a gay sexual orientation. By 1950, that pull was strong enough to induce Hay to leave his wife and children, and fully embrace a gay lifestyle.

In the post-World War II era, the Communist Party U.S.A. (of which Hay and several gay friends were members) frowned on homosexuality in Marxist ranks. But Hay and his friends remained unconvinced that their "gayness" necessarily represented a liability to the advancement of socialism.

Hay had read Alfred Kinsey's groundbreaking Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and been struck by Kinsey's finding that about 10% of men Kinsey surveyed had been "exclusively homosexual" for at least some significant part of their lives.

If Kinsey's 10% figure was even close to accurate, Hay reasoned, homosexuals must represent a population segment approximately as large as Black Americans. Perhaps, he thought, the general public's sympathy could be aroused for gay people if homosexuals were perceived as yet another "oppressed minority"{4} in need of liberation and government advocacy, like Blacks.

In 1950, Hay and his friends founded the Mattachine Society, America's first true "homosexual activist" organization. Its goals were to educate the public about homosexuality and work for the repeal of the (at that time) 48 States' so-called "sodomy laws" (which viewed homosexual behavior as a criminal offense).

Capitalizing on still-unsevered social connections, Hay and his fellow Mattachines traversed the nation, addressing large and small groups and spreading their views through an ever-widening circle of influential publications. Inspired by the Mattachines, several lesbian intellectuals founded a "sister" organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, in 1955.

Hay's Widening Impact

Harry Hay's stroke of true genius was to weld together sexuality and politics, with his assertion that homosexuals were at the same time both a sexual and a political "minority."

No wonder, that as Hay's disciples and influencees have argued their case persistently, his core idea -- "homosexuals are an oppressed minority" -- has resonated strongly with many Americans concerned with minority Civil Rights.

By 1960, State after State had begun to repeal sodomy laws. (Today, only 23 States still have such laws in force.) But not till after the struggle of disadvantaged ethnic minorities culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did the "gay rights" movement as we now know it began to gather real force, through the Act�s provisions making America�s government the legal advocate of these minorities.

The Socio/Political Power of "Minority" Status � and Why Gay Activists Seek It

Certain gains awarded to "minorities" in the decades following the 1964 Civil Rights Act's passage added important incentives to gay militants' aspirations to secure "minority" status. For, through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and various legislative and judicial actions that followed, the U.S. government in effect took America's downtrodden citizens "under its �special protection.�" On behalf of the select number of "suspect classes" listed in the Act of '64, the Federal government would now...

(1) Allow members of suspect/"minority" classes to "claim discrimination" and sue others, with government attorneys as their advocates, at taxpayer expense if "victims of discrimination felt they were denied basic Constitutional rights solely because of the identifying factors, such as skin color or ethnic origin, which made up their class identity. (In such eventualities, the government began after the Act�s passage, taking on the legal cases and expenses of members of these classes.)

(2) Encourage "affirmative action," or active solicitation of minority/suspect class members by government and private employers, to redress past wrongs.

(3) Portion out certain benefits, such as government contracts, to suspect/protected minority class-owned and operated businesses, also to redress past injustices � and deny government contracts to those "discriminating"against officially-recognized minorities.

Of course, these privileges were bestowed to provide a practical "leg up" to "minority" classes, so they might eventually achieve "parity" with the rest of society. Gay activists were quick to recognize that national special minority class recognition of this sort for "sexual orientation" might greatly strengthen their ability to advance their interests; the benefits -- especially the prospect of government�s taxpayer-funded advocacy on gay activists' behalf and government punishment of those "oppressing �sexual orientation�" -- offered prime inducements to seek suspect/minority class status.

And indeed, the extraordinary power of Harry Hay�s and gay activists' sexual/political-"minority" synthesis has over the years given gay activists� social and public policy influence far beyond their true population numbers.

Hay's synthesis has produced both intellectual doubt and political paralysis in would-be opponents of "gay rights." Guilt and social opprobrium attach very easily to perceived "discrimination" against "minorities." Few people in today's America want to be accused of "discriminating against a `minority' group or person."

According to the "secular morality" known as Political Correctness, "minority"/suspect classes, because of the oppression they have presumably suffered, must even be allowed a "latitude of self-expression" denied non-"minority" groups.

Thus, for instance, many Politically Correct theorists refuse to describe "minority" spokespersons' harshest criticisms of "white male oppressors" as "racist." Pent-up rage levelled at "oppressors" excuses such statements, the Politically Correct assert.

Whether "sexual orientation" constitutes a true "minority" has never been decided by this Nation's highest courts.{5} But "sexual orientation�s" de facto and actual legal recognition as such by municipalities and states has given society the general impression that "sexual orientation" might well deserve to be a "minority" classification. Thus, many Americans are leery of opposing "gay rights" because they don't want to carry "discriminator" labels -- which gay activists are quick to bestow on all opponents.

Wielding Hay's synthesis and the accusatory club of "discrimination," gay activists have been anything but silent and acquiescent...

Gay Activists Strike Back

When in 1969 gay men retaliated against police who tried to raid New York City's Stonewall (gay) bar, "gay pride" and gay "liberation" coalesced in sudden political dynamite. Soon after Stonewall, visible "gay rights" advocacy groups began surfacing in major U.S. cities, with "gay rights" as their watchword.

In February, 1972, a so-called National Coalition of Gay Organizations met at the Armitage Avenue United Methodist Church in Chicago. Invitations had been sent to some 495 gay organizations across America to come and prepare "a gay stance for the 1972 elections." About 200 individuals from 18 states, representing 85 organizations, attended the two-day gathering. Conference attendees hammered out and adopted the 1972 Gay Rights Platform, which included the following demands:

The 1972 Gay Rights Platform

Federal Demands

F1.Amend all federal Civil Rights Acts, other legislation and government controls to prohibit discrimination [against gays] in employment, housing, public accommodations and public services.

F2.Issuance by the President of an executive order prohibiting the military from excluding for reasons of their sexual orientation, persons who of their own volition desire entrance into the Armed Services; and from issuing less-than-fully-honorable discharges for homosexuality; and the upgrading to fully honorable of all such discharges previously issued, with retroactive benefits.

F3.Issuance by the President of an executive order prohibiting discrimination in the federal civil service because of sexual orientation, in hiring and promoting; and prohibiting discriminations against homosexuals in security clearances.

F4.Elimination of tax inequities victimizing single persons and same-sex couples.


F6.Federal encouragement and support for sex education courses, prepared and taught by Gay women and men, presenting homosexuality as a valid, healthy preference and lifestyle as viable alternative to heterosexuality.


F8.Federal funding of aid programs of Gay men's and women's organizations designed to alleviate the problems encountered by Gay women and men which are engendered by an oppressive sexist society.

F9.Immediate release of all Gay women and men now incarcerated in detention centers, prisons and mental health institutions because of sexual offense charges relating to victimless crimes or sexual orientation; and that adequate compensation be made for the physical and mental duress encountered; and that all existing records relating to the incarceration by immediately expunged.

State Demands

S1.All federal legislation and programs enumerated [in] Demands 1,6,7,8 and 9 above should be implemented at the State level where applicable.

S2.Repeal of all state laws prohibiting private sexual acts involving consenting persons [not "adults," emphasis added]; equalization for homosexuals and heterosexuals for the enforcement of all laws.


S4.Enactment of legislation prohibiting insurance companies and any other state-regulated enterprises from discriminating because of sexual orientation, in insurance and in bonding or any other prerequisite to employment or control of one's personal demesne.

S5.Enactment of legislation so that child custody, adoption, visitation rights, foster parenting, and the like shall not be denied because of sexual orientation or marital status.

S6.Repeal of all laws prohibiting transvestism and cross dressing.

S7.Repeal of all laws governing the age of sexual consent.

S8.Repeal of all legislative provisions that restrict the sex or number [emphasis added] of persons entering into a marriage unit; and the extension of legal benefits to all persons who cohabit regardless of sex or numbers [emphasis added].

Later in 1972, gay activists mustered sufficient force to pressure the American Psychological Association (APA) into removing homosexuality from its list of "objective disorders" and declaring gayness "a normal, if divergent, lifestyle." 1972 also saw the launching of The Advocate, a national gay Time-style magazine. (More later on this publication, which is still produced today, and claims to be read by some 50% of American gay men.)

"Gay Rights" Marches On

1970-1975 saw passage of the nation's first statewide and local "gay rights" legislation -- granting "sexual orientation"status and protections equivalent to those enjoyed by disadvantaged racial and handicapped "minorities," based solely on self-alleged "gays'" "sexual orientations."

In 1973 New York Rep. Bella Abzug (D) introduced the nation's first Federal "gay rights" bill to Congress. (Each year since, some Congressperson has introduced a new "gay rights" bill; none has achieved passage to date, though in 1998, one lost by only one vote in the U.S. Senate.)

In 1981, media icon "T.V. Guide" called "the gay lobby... the most effective pressure group in Hollywood." (By 1991, every major network situation comedy featured at least one ongoing "positively imaged" gay character. In its May 1, 1999, issue, "T.V. Guide" reported: They�re young, they�re gay, get tuned to it. Through the closet door flung open by Ellen two years ago, a small battalion of young homosexual characters are streaming into TV�s most-talked-about dramas" ("The OUT Crowd: To be young and gay is no longer a prime-time taboo," p. 45).

In 1987, gay activists sponsored the nation's first "Great Gay Militant March on Washington." The same year, the "gay rights"-promoting Human Rights Campaign Fund announced it had become a "major leage" PAC, 39th among 4,500 political action committees (PACs) nationwide in campaign dollars spent. (Today, gay activist PAC dollar giving ranks in the top tenth of one percent of all PAC giving nationwide.)

By the 1990s, so-called "gay pride" parades were held in most major U.S. cities. Some 125 cities, nine States (including Hawaii) and the District of Columbia had comprehensive "gay rights" legislation in force. As we have seen, in 1990 the Hawaii Six sued the State for refusal to grant three "same-sex" couples marriage licenses.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton's first official act was to attempt to mandate admittance of openly avowed gays to the U.S. military. (Facing overwhelming public opposition, the Clinton administration settled for a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, i.e., enlistees to the military are not asked about their sexual orientation, and are expected to remain silent and celibate (if single) during their terms of service.)

1993 witnessed the second "Great Gay March on Washington." Official estimates of gay activist spending during this four-day gathering were around $177 million -- more than on any previous public event in our nation's Capitol's history.{6}

1993's "Great Gay March" also had a "platform." Early drafts of this document repeated in particular 1972's demands concerning marriage (one marriage unit might include any number and any variety of sexual combinations; legal benefits for all cohabiting persons regardless of sex or numbers).

Perhaps sensing that these demands might appear a mite too radical to the American public, gay activists "split" their impact as follows:

C)We demand legislation to prevent discrimination against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trangendered people in the areas of family diversity, custody, adoption and foster care and that the definition of family includes the full diversity of all family structures.

24.The recognition and legal protection of whole range of family structures.


C-28. Recognition of domestic partnerships.

C-29. Legalization of same sex marriages.

(Emphasis the author's)

Comparing gay militants' entire 1993 "March on Washington" platform with the 1972 Gay Rights Platform reveals a remarkable consistency between the two. But the first and foremost demand of both platforms is the addition of "sexual orientation" to the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act's list of protected/suspect classes, in company with traditional, immutable categories like color and ethnicity.

"Minority" Status the Key to Whole "Gay Rights" Agenda -- Including Same-Sex "Marriage"

Why was (and is) gaining "minority" status so important to gay activists? Because possession of "minority" status is the key that will enable gay militancy to achieve all of its aims most easily and quickly.

Consider how achieving even the appearance of "minority" status-equivalency has already helped advance the various goals of the 1972/1993 Gay Rights/March on Washington Platforms...

1972 Federal Demand #1: "Minority" Status for Gays

Most importantly, "minority" status brings with it the ability to claim discrimination if a member or members of a minority class are denied access to employment, housing, public accommodations and/or public services.

Again, the ability to claim discrimination includes the privilege of having government sue the offending party (or parties) at taxpayer expense, on behalf of the offended "minority." In other words, an accused "discriminator" will be compelled to pay for at least a portion of his or her own prosecution costs (with tax dollars), as well as for his/her own legal defense.

Under "gay rights" legislation, any job applicant merely openly claiming to be gay may well be tacitly threatening a lawsuit (if denied employment) at a job interview. Or any self-alleged "gay" employee may use a threatened lawsuit to maintain job security.

In any event, "minority" status would give activist, self-avowed "gays" considerable clout in numerous life and employment areas. Several cities with "gay rights" legislation in force (San Francisco and Denver to name two) have already instituted affirmative action goals for gays in city employment.

1972 Federal Demand #6: Support for Gay/Lesbian-Taught Sex Education Of "Gayness" as Healthy, Normal

Next, if "sexual orientation" enjoys the same legal status as oppressed, disadvantaged "minorities," it follows that "gayness" also should enjoy the same kind of cultural recognition. If African and Latino Americans can argue for "Black and Hispanic Studies" departments on university campuses, gay activists can demand "Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Studies." If African Americans can celebrate Black Pride Weeks, why shouldn't gays celebrate Gay Pride Weeks?

If African or Hispanic American lifestyles can be taught as normal and healthy, why shouldn't gay American lifestyles be (the APA says they are) taught as normal and healthy?

From 1993-1995, nearly $38 million worth of Federal grant money was given to promote "gay rights"-related "health studies" in America's public schools.{7}

1972 Federal Demand #8: Aid for Gay Organizations To Combat Effects of "Oppressive" Society

By 1982, an exhaustive study revealed that the Federal government was then providing 58% of funding all American "gay rights" advocacy organizations.{8} It is commonly known that per-case Federal spending on AIDS research (which here in the U.S. has largely benefitted gay males) far exceeds spending on research for other diseases producing comparable or much larger mortality rates.

1972 State Demand #4: "Non-Discrimination" Against Gays in Insurance, Bonding, Etc.

"Gay rights" lobbyists were largely responsible for AIDS being declared a "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (1991). Thus, AIDS has become the world's first 100% fatal disease to be protected by "minority rights," thus making "non-discrimination" against AIDS sufferers mandatory for employers, insurers, etc.

1972 State Demand #5: No Denial of Child Custody, Adoption, Visitation, Foster Parenting Rights to Gays

Recent years have witnessed scores of legal battles nationwide, some successful, some not, for gay parents and single individuals over such matters. Most "gay rights" bill states allow gays to adopt, etc., without impediment.

In November, 1995, "the New York Supreme Court -- noting `fundamental changes' in the American family -- ruled (4-3) that neither heterosexual nor homosexual couples have to be `married' to adopt a child together. And in July of last year, the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that homosexual unmarried couples in `committed relationships' are permitted to adopt children under District law."{9}

1972 State Demand #8, 1993 Platform Demand #C-29: Legalize Same-Sex "Marriages"

Perhaps the same-sex "marriage" issue most aptly illustrates the power of Harry Hay's sexual-political "minority" synthesis -- and of "sexual orientation�s" presumed "minority" status. As public policy analyst Whitney Galbraith has observed, "[t]he key to the [Hawaii Supreme Court's] decision [regarding same-sex "marriage"] was the court's declaring same-sex couples to be part of a `suspect class.' By doing so [the] Hawaii court placed the burden of proof on the state to show that its marriage regulations were `narrowly drawn' to serve a `compelling state interest,' the most difficult standard of judicial review."{10}

Without ruling that "sexual orientation" should come under a suspect-"minority" class "umbrella," the Hawaii court could not have claimed authority to demand "strict scrutiny" judicial review. Here is how the power of "minority" status impacts issues like marriage:

African American, Hispanic and disabled individuals can't be denied marriage licenses just because their skin color is dark, because Hispanics are "different" from other Americans, or because the disabled may not be able to do things other Americans can. If gays are indeed part of a suspect class "sexual orientation," the argument follows, they should not be denied such privileges as marriage either.

Two Other Presuppositions Key To Gay "Marriage" Recognition

If the presumption that "sexual orientation"constitutes some kind of immutable "minority" status is the most crucial key to promoting same-sex "marriage," two other presumptions are also critically important in taking gay activists' case to the public.

In addition to believing "sexual orientation" is a "minority," the public must presume that homosexuality is "normal and healthy" (and probably innate), and that homosexuals are "just like anyone else (in emotional needs and behavioral proclivities), except for their choice of sexual partners." If this is so, there should be little reason to deny gay unions marriage recognition.

The third presumption follows from the second: If gays are "just like everyone else..." then gay activists desire the same kinds of marriages as "everyone else." Thus, placing the marriage imprimatur on gay unions will have merely negligible effects on society at large.

As we will see, for significant reasons gay activists arguing for same-sex "marriage" recognition now treat these presuppositions as "givens," trying as much as possible to avoid making analysis of the three a part of the debate. This paper will address these issues further on.

Gay Activists Perceive Numerous Advantages To Securing Same-Sex "Marriage" Recognition

That legitimization of gay relationships by marriage is a prime goal of gay activists is clear from numerous sources. Gay activists perceive well the advantages of such recognition; one writer in a Denver gay tabloid wrote:

The most obvious advantage [of same-sex "marriages"] is the hope that society, including but not limited to, our families, schools, and churches, will not only accept our relationships, but our homosexuality as normal... In addition to societal and religious beliefs, we will have all of the tax, insurance, and legal benefits available to "straight" married people. The marital and spousal deductions and diminished inheritance and estate taxes alone would save us millions and maybe even billions.{11}

In a question-and-answer section of To Have and to Hold, official same-sex marriage organizing guide of the activist National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the writer(s) back up the above assessment:

Q.Do we really need marriage?

A.Yes. Many of us are asking for our equal right to marry the one we love and care for, just as non-gay Americans do, and the rights and responsibilities that go with marriage. Nowhere in the US do gay, lesbian and bisexual couples receive the same recognition or benefits, not even in communities with domestic partnership laws. Instead, gay, lesbian and bisexual couples face tremendous discrimination and are treated as second-class citizens. We are refused family health coverage, joint taxation benefits, inheritance rights, bereavement leave and more. Even our own children have been taken away from us.{12}

Elsewhere, "To Have and to Hold" points out that...

If legally married, gay, lesbian and bisexual couples would have a greater ability to care for and protect their families, including the option to:

Quite a benefits list indeed. If one wonders why there has been no pressure for same-sex "marriage" in history before the present day, perhaps it is because never before now has there been so much financial advantage to marriage itself, at least in terms of societal benefits and government-bestowed tax breaks, insurance, etc. Marriage now offers substantial "perks" to people who might otherwise wish to remain single.

In any event, one can understand why homosexual activists regard the issue of "lifestyle affirmation," achievable through domestic partnership or marriage recognition, as crucial to achieving "equal rights" in American society. Consider the following statements by Jeffrey Levi, former executive director of the activist National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, to the National Press Club during the 1987 gay March on Washington:

The demands of the March on Washington reflect what [our] agenda will be in the years ahead. They include passage of the gay and lesbian civil rights bill, an executive order dealing with that branch's discriminatory policies -- from the military to security clearances; passage of similar measures at the state level as well as repeal of sodomy laws.

But our agenda is becoming broader than that: We are no longer seeking just a right to privacy and a right to protection from wrong. We also have a right -- as heterosexual Americans have already -- to see government and society affirm our lives.

Now that is a statement that may make our liberal friends queasy. But the truth is, until our relationships are recognized in the law -- through domestic partnership legislation or the definition of beneficiary, for example -- until we are provided with the same financial incentives in tax law and government programs to affirm our family relationships, then we will not have achieved equality in American society" (emphasis added).

One can also understand why few gay activists remain satisfied with what they perceive as temporary "domestic partership" recognition. Activist Phyllis Burke said of San Francisco's "domestic legislation":

I hated it. As the law was written, there were absolutely no tangible benefits to legally registering. You got a piece of paper that said you were responsible for each others' living expenses, and that was it. Domestic partnerships held no legal weight whatsoever in terms of health insurance, child custody, inheritance, or taxes. I thought it was a marriage sham for untouchables.{14}

At the same time, activists recognize that the legitimization of same-sex "marriage" is not an idea with high approval ratings among the American public. In previously-mentioned Hawaii, opposition to same-sex "marriages" rose steadily once the "Hawaii Six" launched litigation to secure it. In publications usually read only in gay circles, activists like Kath Weston give some of the reasons for this intransigence:

Because meanings are inseparable from practice, the level of resistance in the United States to granting gay families legitimacy should not be surprising. At stake is far more than a cultural nostalgia for more customary ways of symbolically constituting relationships. Applying for insurance coverage, filing taxes, and fighting child custody cases are just three instances that interpolate the symbolic oppositions which inform gay kinship into everyday experience.

The material and emotional consequences that hang upon which interpretation of kinship prevails are truly far-reaching. Who will be authorized to make life-and-death decisions when lovers and other members of gay families are hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated? Will court rulings continue to force some parents to choose between living with their children and living with a lesbian or gay partner? Should a biological grandfather who has never spoken to his grandchild because he disapproved of his daughter's lesbianism retain more legal rights vis-a-vis that child than a non-biological co-parent who has raised the child for ten years? Will the phrase "related by blood or marriage" be allowed to stand as justification for refusing lovers public accommodations; denying them visiting rights at nursing homes, prisons, in hospitals; disqualifying gay families for family discounts; or withholding the right to pass on a rent control apartment after death?

How will conflicting conceptions of kinship play themselves out during disputes over death or inheritance, which are so often complicated by strained relationships with blood or adopted family? A person need not be especially politically oriented or active to worry about the way such conflicts will translate into the most personal areas of their lives...{15}

Considering the 1972 Gay Rights Platform's Demand to redefine "marriage," i.e., unrestricted "sex or number of persons entering into a marriage unit; and the extension of legal benefits to all persons who cohabit regardless of sex or numbers," it's not surprising that the definitions of "marriage" offered by gay activists today are vaguer than one might expect, not even including sex in the formula:

Legally, marriage is best understood as a relationship of emotional and financial interdependence between two people who make a public commitment.{16}

Elsewhere, To Have and to Hold explains in a sidebar:

...[M]arriage as an institution has evolved over many centuries. For most of Western history, marriage was primarily an economic institution, an alliance between families to insure legitimacy and the inheritance of property. Slaves were denied the right to marry, and most of the laboring population did not marry. Marriage did not become a sacrament in the Christian Church until the 12th century.

In the last two hundred years, as democratic revolutions have extended our notion of equal rights, and as feminist movements have fought to win equality for women, marriage has been redefined again. Today, with birth rates low and many heterosexual couples choosing not to have children, marriage as an institution represents a committed union between two people, traditionally a man and a women.

Thus, today's struggle for marriage for same gender couples can best be seen as one more step in a long historical evolution of marriage as an institution -- toward a democratic union of equals, regardless of gender, race, or class status.{17}

A recent same-sex "marriage" case in Canada implied that the entire question hinged on whether "long-lsting and intimate relationships" involving "the financial dependence of one partner" should have a legal right to marriage-style financial support. In other words, according to social commentator Charles Colson, "the case defined marriage as the right to sue for support.

Here in the U.S., a case pending before the state Supreme Court of Vermont argues that [self-alleged] homosexuals should be entitled to the �bundle of rights and privileges� attached to legally recognized marriage. Again, the key issue is gaining entitlement to certain government benefits" (BreakPoint, June 21, 1999).

Other reasons why gay activists wish to define marriage so vaguely should also become apparent further on. For now, we'll move on to explain the reasons gay activists give for insisting that same-sex "marriages" should be legally recognized and sanctioned.

Gay Activists' Main Arguments In Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

Basing their conclusions largely on the unquestioned acceptance of the three key "unspoken" presuppositions we've mentioned earlier, gay activists employ the following public arguments in their attempt to promote the idea of legal recognition for same-sex "marriages":

1) Gays, lesbians and bisexuals are being "discriminated against" when their unions are denied marriage recognition.

To Have and to Hold claims:

This is not the first instance of government interference in a couple's choice to marry. Less than thirty years ago interracial couples were prohibited from legally marrying. Today, very similar discriminatory arguments are being used to prohibit same-gender couples from marrying.{18}

Of course, this argument presumes that there is, or ought to be, a virtual legal equivalency between skin color or race and "sexual orientation."

2) Marriage is a "basic human right" and choice of marriage partners should in no way be regulated by government; therefore same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry.

Again, from To Have and to Hold:

Marriage is an important personal choice and a basic human right. The decision to get married should belong to the couple in love, not the state.{19}

Here, the operative presumption seems to be that every "sexual orientation" is fundamentally like every other, and relationships involving any and all "sexual orientations" should be freely chosen by the individuals in relationships and then recognized without question by the state.

3) Civil and religious marriage will remain separate institutions if same-sex marriages are legalized.

Legally, religious and civil marriage are two separate institutions. Though many faiths do perform same-gender marriages now, they have no legal recognition as civil marriages. The state should not dictate which marriages any religion performs or recognizes, just as religions should not dictate who gets a civil marriage license from the state.{20}

These statements seem to presume that recognition of same-gender "marriages" will have little social impact, in either religious, civil or economic spheres.

4) Same-gender couples cannot legally marry in any state, no matter how much they feel a "need" to, or how much their families need civil marriage's protections, benefits and responsibilities.{21}

In Virtually Normal, Andrew Sullivan's book-length apologia for same-sex marriage, the author asserts that...

The introduction of gay marriage would not be some sort of leap in the dark, a massive societal risk. Homosexual marriages have always existed, in a variety of forms; they have just been euphemized. Increasingly they exist in every sense but the legal one. As it has become more acceptable for homosexuals to acknowledge their loves and commitments publicly, more and more have committed themselves to one another for life in full view of their families and friends. A law institutionalizing gay marriage would merely reinforce a healthy trend. Burkean conservatives should warm to the idea.{22}

Elsewhere, Sullivan explains further:

In the contemporary West, marriage has become a way in which the state recognizes an emotional commitment by two people to each other for life. And within that definition, there is no public way, if one believes in equal rights under the law, in which it should legally be denied homosexuals.

In fact, it's perfectly possible to combine a celebration of the traditional family with the celebration of a stable homosexual relationship. The one, after all, is modelled on the other. If constructed carefully as a conservative social ideology, the notion of stable gay relationships might even serve to buttress the ethic of heterosexual marriage, by showing how even those excluded from it can wish to model themselves on its shape and structure.{23}

Of course, no public sanction of a contract should be given to people who cannot actually fulfill it. The state rightly, for example, withholds marriage from minors, or from one adult and a minor, since at least one party is unable to understand or live up to the contract. And the state has also rightly barred close family relatives from marriage because familial emotional ties are too strong and powerful to enable a marriage contract to be entered into freely by two autonomous, independent individuals; and because incest poses a uniquely dangerous threat to the trust and responsibility that the family needs to survive.{24}

So long as conservatives recognize, as they do, that homosexuals exist and that they have equivalent emotional needs and temptations as heterosexuals, then there is no conservative reason to oppose homosexual marriage and many conservative reasons to support it.{25}

Elsewhere still, Sullivan suggests that homosexuals would embrace marriage "with as much (if not more) commitment than heterosexuals." If we accept unquestioned Sullivan's (and other gay activists') key assumptions about this issue, we might (absent "religious" objections to gay sexual relationships themselves) agree "there is no public way" in which marriage recognition should be legally denied homosexual unions. However, we note that Sullivan either contradicts some gay activists, who as we've seen think no kind of human relationship should be denied marriage imprimatur, or he is ignorant of, or wishes to conceal, the more radical aims of other activists. As we shall see, Sullivan elsewhere gives hints that the latter position is his actual one in this case.

Same-Sex "Marriage": The Outworking Of a Long-Term Legitimization Strategy

Even a cursory review of academic and popular "gay theory" literature concerning homosexual relationships indicates that "gay theorists" have carefully devised and executed a strategy to secure same-sex "marriage" recognition over an extensive time period.

Where few books dealing with "homosexual issues" were to be found at this writer's local library just a few years ago, volumes upon volumes crowd the stacks today. (Browsing through these books' introductions and acknowledgments, one is struck by the number written on tax-paid government-sponsored grants or fellowships.) Broadly referenced, several themes relating to gay relationships and same-sex "marriage" seem to sum up a line of reasoning as follows:

Given the past half-century's record of decay and growing instability throughout the institution of heterosexual marriage, of the growth of non-procreative heterosexual married and single relationships, and of the "pleasure-principled" advance of the "Sexual Revolution," whatever differences that ever might have obtained between gay and "straight" sexual lifestyles have been blurred almost beyond delineation.

Any old-fashioned "moral consensus" that might once have been discerned by comparing married and single heterosexual lifestyles has been trampled to insignificance. Current mores therefore have rendered homosexual relationships, by comparison, "virtually normal," as Andrew Sullivan puts it, and therefore "eligible" for marriage recognition.

Furthermore, "gay theorists" have done extensive research about "diverse family" structures, paralleling gay activists' own "expanded marriage" paradigms, from history and (mostly, as recognized by anthropologists, "primitive") cultures. "Surely there's room," these researchers imply, "here in America for such `diversity,' and in this light, intrinsic value judgments should cease to be made between America's `family ways' and other cultures'." America should be open to a "diversity" of definitions of the family -- including the "chosen family" structures suggested by "gay theorists" and activists (of which more later).

To illumine the latter point, self-avowedly gay (and also activist) historian John Boswell claims to have discovered evidence that in Premodern Europe, same-gender sexual relationships were sanctioned by Christian churches.{26} To help make his case, Boswell employs the following definition of "marriage":

It is my understanding that most modern speakers of English understand the term "marriage" to refer to what the partners expect to be a permanent and exclusive union between two people, which would produce legitimate children if they chose to have children, and which creates mutual rights and responsibilities, legal, economic, and moral, although these vary by couple and jurisdiction. (Certainly a union that entailed no change in rights or responsibilities for either party would not be considered a marriage by most people.)

Such a relationships is both more and less than any variety of heterosexual coupling in the ancient world, most of which were property arrangements -- except those of concubine and lover; few were based on emotional or affective considerations or hopes (again, excepting concubine and lover).{27}

Boswell and other activists imply that yesterday's and today's "traditional" marriages may be "affectionately" inferior to the Premodern world's and today's illicit and "more open" unions.

Gay Activists Try to Capitalize on the "Homosexualization of America"

Dennis Altman, a historian of the "gay rights" movement, has called this "deconstruction" of heterosexual norms "The Homosexualization of America" (also the title of his book dealing with this subject).{28} Another avowedly gay historian, Jonathan Ned Katz, describes this process in some detail:

[S]ince the first quarter of the twentieth century, our society's dominant order of different-sex pleasure has encouraged the use of energy in a variety of heteroerotic activities. This stimulation of hetero pleasures completely apart from procreation constructs a heterosexuality increasingly congruent with homosexuality.{29}

Moving from Krafft-Ebing and his reproductive "sexual instinct" to Freud and his lusting "libido," we experience the historic shift from the late-Victorian procreation ethic to the modern "pleasure principle."

Sexual pleasure is going up in value in Freud's middle-class universe and reproduction is going down -- the falling birthrate indicates a historic rejection of the old procreation ethic. By the end of the nineteenth century, Freud explicitly suggests, the imperative to beget had already lost much of its old hold over the private practices of the middle-class:

If one makes a broad survey of the sexual life of our time and in particular of the classes who sustain human civilization, one is tempted to declare that it is only with reluctance that the majority of those alive today obey the command to propagate....{30}

Today's public destabilizing of heterosexual tradition is also clear in the rise of divorce and the creation of new families. "Between 1960 and 1980," say D'Emilio and Freedman, "the number of divorced men and women rose by almost two hundred percent; the divorce rate itself jumped ninety percent." Second marriages "had even less chance of surviving." By the 1980s the "traditional two-parent familiy with children accounted for only three-fifths of all living arrangements." The idea and reality of "the family" is pluralizing before Americans' astonished eyes. Lesbian couples and gay male partners bring up their children from former marriages, or adopt children; single heterosexual women impregnate themselves with the help of an obliging male and a turkey baster, as do numbers of lesbians.

As the "gender gap" between women and men narrows, so does the sexual orientation gap. The convergence of heterosexuality and homosexuality becomes ever more apparent. The instability of homosexual relationships (unsupported by law and the dominant culture) no longer serves to distinguish them essentially from the many heterosexual relationships destabilized by divorce.

Starting in the 1970s, the cohabitation of increasing numbers of unmarried, young, different-sex couples became "highly visible," making the cohabitation of same-sex couples seem quite ordinary. "As Americans married later, postponed childbearing, and divorced more often, and as feminists and gay liberationists questioned the heterosexual orthodoxy," say D'Emilio and Freedman, "non-marital sexuality become commonplace and open." Another traditional distinction between hetero- and homosexuals vanishes.{31}

Katz continues:

The convergence of hetero and homo lifestyles is furthered by the ascendance of the consumer economy and its pleasure ethic. ("Double your pleasure, double your fun....") This challenges the old work ethic, helping to usher in a major transformation of sexual values....

The commodification of pleasure further breaks down old distinctions between hetero and homo. "As the dominant middle-class culture has come to attach more value to sexual fulfillment and pleasure," say the historians, it becomes difficult to preserve heterosexual marriage as the only legitimate site for sexual expression.{32}

For, as pleasure pursuits, heterosexuality and homosexuality have little to distinguish them. Heterosexuals are more and more like homosexuals, except for the sex of their sexual partners. Political scientist of sex Dennis Altman calls the growing legitimacy of recreational heterosexuality the "homosexualization of America." Heterosexual ways of life, he suggests, no longer differ essentially from gay and lesbian life modes. The homogenization of heterosexual and homosexual heralds a paradoxical emerging trend: the declining significance of "sexual orientation."{33}

Self-styled "gaylegal" scholar William Eskridge adds to this perspective:

Bisexual, gay, and lesbian activists ought to deny the centrality of heterosexuality, particularly as it has been developed around rituals and taboos of manhood in American society. As Adrienne Rich has suggested, bisexual, gay, and lesbian consciousness can undermine claims that compulsory heterosexuality is the universal norm for our society. Rich challenges Americans to rethink sexuality, not from the assumption that everyone must be heterosexual if at all possible, but from the assumption that people are polymorphously sexual, that there is a "lesbian in us."

If Rich's point is true (and I believe it is), then the bisexual, gay, and lesbian community should reject the image that we are a subculture on the margins of mainstream heterosexual culture, for this internalizes the traditional assumption that we are deviants from the norm. Instead, legally as well as culturally, the norm is up for grabs, and as a community we must contribute to the reformulation of the norm.

The gaylegal agenda then becomes something more than just our struggle for equal rights to engage in sexual intimacy, marriage, and military service. Often in alliance with feminism and critical race theory, gay, lesbian, and bisexual legal studies becomes one fulcrum for shifting the norms that surround intimacy, marriage, and the military.{34}

One senses the depth of such "gay theorist" convictions when reading about the extensive social experimentation, which we will now discuss, already engaged in by gay activists trying to make their "new families" a social reality.


{1}According to avowed gay activist attorney Evan Wolfson, arguments rooted in "morality" or "religion" should not be recognized in public debate on this issue. Wolfson has said, "For government to interfere with the freedom of an individual -- whether religious or personal -- there must be valid secular reasons."

{2}"Homosexual Activists Start `Marriage' Lobby Groups," SPHA Bulletin, December 1995, p. 6.

{3}Cf. Timmons, The Trouble with Harry Hay (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1990).

{4}Ibid. p. 151.

{5}The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Evans vs. Romer, et al., did not, in fact, settle this question. More on this point later.

{6}Cf. "Capital Gains," Out magazine, Fall 1993, p. 91.

{7}Cf. "A healthy dose of homosexuality?" The Washington Times, National Weekly Edition, May 26, 1996, p. 33.

{8}Cf. Enrique Rueda, The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy (Washington: Devin Adair Co., 1982).

{9}"The Family Defined," Chalcedon Report, June 1996, p. 9.

{10}Cf. "Matrimony in Hawaii: Marriage On the Rocks?" Rights in America newsletter, vol. 2, no. 5, p. 1.

{11}"Gay and Lesbian Marriages: To Be Or Not To Be," Quest, February 1992, p. 20.

{12}"To Have and to Hold," (Washington, D.C.: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 1995), p. 3.

{13}Ibid. p. 6.

{14}Phyllis Burke, Family Values (New York: Randon House, 1993), p. 104.

{15}Kath Weston, Families We Choose (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), p. 18.

{16}Op. cit., "To Have and to Hold," p. 3.

{17}Ibid. p. 11, sidebar.

{18}"To Have and to Hold," p. 15

{19}Ibid. p. 15.

{20}Ibid. p. 15.

{21}Cf. "To Have and to Hold," p. 15.

{22}Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), p. 183.

{23}Ibid. p. 112.

{24}Ibid. p. 180.

{25}Ibid. p. 185.

{26}See Appendix 1, which discusses Boswell's "proofs."

{27}John Boswell, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (New York: Villard Books, 1994), p. 10.

{28}Published by Beacon Press, 1982.

{29}Jonathan Ned Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality (New York: Dutton, 1995), p. 39.

{30}Ibid. p. 59.

{31}Ibid. p. 185.

{32}Ibid. p. 186.

{33}Ibid. p. 187.

{34}"A Social Constructionist Critique of Posner's Sex and Reason: Steps Toward a Gaylegal Agenda," The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 102, October 1992, No. 1, pp. 374-375.

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