Being Right – Love is Not Enough

Olivia Offner

Last week’s election proved that America is a center-right country. The Democrats may have swept Congress and the White House, but the ballot resolutions pointed to a deeper vein of conservatism intrinsic to American thought. Referendums on same-sex marriage were on the ballots in three states: Arizona, a red state, Florida, a swing state, and California, a decidedly blue state. In each state, voters declared their commitment to upholding the sanctity of marriage. Even California, home of Hollywood and San Francisco, struck down judicial activism and upheld traditional marriage with the passage of Proposition 8. California’s decision has attracted the most media attention, and groups such as “Join the Impact” have held rallies protesting Prop. 8 all over the country. These groups claim to be promoting tolerance and fighting against homophobia. Americans who cast their votes to uphold the sanctity of marriage are not homophobic or intolerant. They simply understand what is at stake.

Advocates of same-sex marriage defend their positions by talking about natural and equal rights. They claim that to refuse a homosexual the right to marry the person he loves is discrimination. Homosexuals are being deprived of their equal rights, they say. This argument is persuasive. They make it seem unreasonable, judgmental and discriminatory to be against same-sex marriage. Don’t you think that homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals, they ask? The answer is obvious. Everyone should have the same rights. But proponents of same-sex marriage aren’t asking for equal protection under the law; they are asking for preferential protection. Homosexuals do have the same rights as heterosexuals; they have the right to marry a member of the opposite sex. Choosing not to exercise this right does not mean the right ceases to exist. Many homosexuals do choose to marry members of the opposite sex. They have exercised their legal right. Many heterosexuals remain single. They too, have exercised their rights. They all have equal protection under the law.

The advocate of same-sex marriage then argues that, though a homosexual can of course marry a member of the opposite sex, this is not equal protection, because the homosexual cannot marry the person he loves. Love is not a right. If we are going to turn love into an inalienable right, then society is going to have a whole slew of insurmountable problems.

If we legalize same-sex marriage on the basis that love is all you need, then polygamous marriages will also have to be permitted. If Paul and Steve can get married, then what can stop Paul from marrying both Mary and Sally. What if Paul, Mary and Sally are all in love? Isn’t love enough? Or what if Paul is in love with his sister Ann, and Ann needs health insurance benefits? Or, on the far extreme, what if Paul is in love with his pet golden retriever? Why shouldn’t he be able to marry Lassie? I am not equating homosexuality with bestiality. I am simply showing that love cannot be the only criteria for entering marriage. In fact, the idea of love as being intrinsic to marriage is a fairly new idea, when you look at the history of the institution. Because marriage is an institution. It is not a right, or even a privilege. Marriage is the cornerstone of what is arguably the foundation of society: the family. Marriage was founded to guard against sin, control human nature and perpetuate the human race.

American voters understand what marriage means, but on the Colgate campus, support of same-sex marriage is very popular, even among conservatives. Students say they don’t have a problem with same-sex marriage because it doesn’t affect them. How does it hurt heterosexual marriage, they argue, to allow homosexual marriage? This apathetic attitude is flawed in its conception. Passing laws that allow same-sex couples to marry isn’t just about the love that Paul and Steve have for each other. The issue is not about love. It is about fundamentally redefining an institution that has been the heart of civilization throughout history. Redefining marriage will have to affect everyone, because it will restructure society as a whole. Our generation has grown up in an age when marriage is already losing its value and dignity. Half of our parents are divorced. Our generation easily dismisses marriage, and claims that changing its definition will not matter. If we redefine marriage to mean anything and everything, then it will come to mean nothing. This nihilistic approach to an institution that is so fundamental to the American story, and to the human story, cannot occur without irrevocably altering the thread of society.

The debate over same-sex marriage is not about rights or equality. All Americans are equal, and have equal rights under the law. It is not about open-mindedness and acceptance. To be opposed to homosexual marriage is not to be opposed to homosexuality. Ballot measures like Proposition 8 are not about discrimination. They are about preservation of marriage and the family, institutions that are crucial to the American way of life. The ban on same-sex marriage is not meant to deny or reject homosexual love; it is simply an acknowledgement that as far as the sacred institution of marriage is concerned, love is simply not enough.