Forty years ago, I studied sociology as a college student. I distinctly remember studying what was termed “social deviance”. As the term implies, this refers to behaviors or practices which “deviate” or are outside the accepted norms of society. At that point in time, and for all of known history preceding that, homosexual behavior/lifestyle was universally and unquestionable considered socially deviant behavior. Same-sex marriage was unthinkable. As I watch and read the news these days, I find myself repeatedly shaking my head in bewilderment and confusion. How, in a few short decades, did something change, not just from being considered “deviant” to becoming socially acceptable, but now legally sanctioned, something to be proud of, and something that must now be celebrated by all?
Maybe those who are younger have only a frame of reference of such things being “out of the closet”. Maybe some older folks have been carried away on the liberal tide of “tolerance and acceptance.” Maybe there are others like me who are trying to figure out how this has happened. In the past – basically up through the 20th Century – the overwhelming majority of Americans accepted marriage by definition as being between a man and a woman. It was so accepted as to not even be questioned – it was a given. This was the “norm” and those believing and practicing traditional marriage (just called marriage) were “normal.” Those with a homosexual lifestyle were a small minority and considered deviant, because they deviated from that “norm”.
Sure homosexuality has always existed and sadly there has been some persecution of this minority group. But from what I have seen in my decades of living, the overwhelming majority of the “normal” majority have not gone out of their way to discriminate against or persecute gays. I would guess most weren’t even aware of the sexual orientation of others and treated them the same as anyone else. It should also be noted however, that in the past such things were not flaunted in the face of the general public either.
If today’s new standards were imposed on the world of the 1970’s or 1980’s, this “deviant” minority would be totally accepted as “normal”, and the “normal majority” would all be considered “bigots”. Somehow, continuing to believe what everyone used to believe now makes one a bigot? Regardless of the fact that these people treat others with respect and fairness, they are hateful? They are still good, upstanding citizens, upholding moral values and standards that have been around for ages, but now those values are offensive?
Discrimination and persecution of any group of people for any reason is wrong. Religious groups have been on the wrong end of that enough. But saying one thing (traditional heterosexual marriage) is right and supporting it as a valued social institution is not an attack on those who believe something else. We have basic rights in this country to believe and exercise that belief while respecting the rights of others to do the same. But when those “beliefs” are defined by others as being wrong, socially unacceptable, or even hateful, a line is crossed. With their victory, will liberals now show the same acceptance and tolerance that they expect toward those who adhere to age old norms and moral standards and now see nothing to celebrate?
With the announcement of the Supreme Court decision, like the similar earlier announcement regarding Utah law, the celebration was not unexpected. What is disturbing is that the most negative and hateful comments are not coming from those upset by this ruling, but from those who should be content with the victory. It seems that liberal voices won’t miss an opportunity to point out “bigots” (I admit that there are a few vocal ones out there) and say hateful things about those who do not join their celebration. Will the LGBT community not be satisfied until the whole world joins the celebration of their lifestyle? Will we all be forced to march in the Gay Pride Parade? Must we all join the chant “It is the better way, we should all be gay!”? Is it not enough to legally allow others to live as they desire, but must we also deny and abandon the social norms that have stood as a standard through centuries of civilization and which many hold to be dear and sacred?
The language we use
Somehow liberals have been able to hijack the language of this argument. I cringe when I hear the term “same-sex marriage ban”. As if there actually has been some legal entity called “same-sex marriage” that new State laws were written to do away with. How can something that did not exist be “banned” by existing laws? I admit that I have not read the marriage statutes of all of our States, but I am pretty sure that when they were written they did not include any specific language allowing or banning marriage between two men or two women. They were written with the common understanding that marriage, by definition, involved a man and a women. If same-sex marriage was never specifically or legally permitted – actually for the history of our states even considered – then how could existing laws regulating the conditions for which marriage licenses be issued and marriages be acknowledged be considered a “ban”? The mere use of this negative term carries the implication that those laws and the traditional definition of marriage is somehow restrictive and discriminating and wrong and denying people of some rights that others enjoy. Is there also an inherent “ban” on marriage of children or siblings that needs to be repealed to please some? There may be language in State laws “banning” the marriage of a man to his sister, but without any specifically stated “ban” is the door now open for a man to marry his brother?
I also cringe with the inappropriate use of language in declaring a couple “husband and husband” or “wife and wife.” The terms “husband” and “wife” are gender specific – defined in relation to the opposite gender. The female spouse of a man is his wife. The male spouse of a woman is her husband. Men don’t have husbands. Women don’t have wives. Shouldn’t the redefinition of the institution of marriage – which is what has happened – also be accompanied by new terminology? Why hasn’t someone come up with some other terms to describes these same-sex spouses? Or will “Spouse One” and “Spouse Two” do? Maybe this new kind of “marriage” also needs a new name because it is not really marriage, but some other kind of union. Calling it marriage is a mockery.
Right or Privilege?
Contrary to the recent ruling stating that marriage is a “right”, marriage has always been considered a “privileged institution.” Has our pervasive entitlement culture contributed to this issue being seen as a “right” claimed and demanded those who want it? There are certain, but few, inherent “rights” for all. However other things are actually privileges that are granted only to those who meet certain conditions or qualifications associated with that privilege. Societal laws are supposed to be restrictive and limiting and it is proper that laws exist to regulate social privileges. The purpose of such laws is to keep institutions within accepted norms for the benefit of society as a whole. Without conditions – if such benefits are indiscriminately given to anyone and everyone – the privilege is meaningless.
The Constitution of the United States grants authority to States to regulate marriages. As the grantor of the privilege, States should have the right to set the conditions, not those who may be demanding it. This is totally reasonable and proper. Any changes to State law should be accomplished through the legislative process or a vote of the people, not by a few unelected justices. If, as many believe, marriage is a ordained by God, then He is the grantor of the privilege and the conditions He has set are very clear.
I have heard no discussion of the genealogical nightmare that will result from the legalization of same-sex marriage and families created artificially, but as a genealogist it concerns me. Pedigree charts are based on the biological reality that each human is the offspring of a male parent and a female parent. Pedigree charts branch off in an organized manner with paternal and maternal lines. Sometimes there are blanks with unknown parents, but the organization and form of the chart remains the same. I can’t even wrap my head around a pedigree chart with individuals with 2 mothers and no father or 2 fathers and no mother. What a confused mess! Sadly that declaration can apply to the families as well as the pedigree charts.
Equality sounds so noble, but this is not really about equality. I have heard comparisons between gay rights and civil rights. The only relevant comparison I see there, is that the civil rights battle has taken over a century, while this new victory came about in less than a decade. Even the comparison between legalized same-sex marriage and laws allowing whites to marry blacks are not accurate. Men are men regardless of the color of their skin, national background, or ethnic group. Marriage is about the union of two genders. A man and a woman join together to produce children and create a family, whatever color they may be. Gender is something much more fundamental than the varied skin hues and physical features exhibited by humans.
What we are really dealing with is a radical change in societal norms – and over a very short period of time. Am I the only one who finds this alarming? We have just witnessed the radical destruction of a societal norm that has existed for millennia – for marriage as it has existed throughout known time has been changed so radically as to no longer be the same institution. If such a fundamental norm for a foundational social institution can be changed so dramatically and quickly, what other societal norms that have existed for centuries can also be altered by prevailing popular opinions – or by the whim of a handful of judges? What other socially deviant behaviors will become accepted as normal and even celebrated? What will happen to our society if norms can change with every generation? We are speeding down the slippery slope without any brakes!
I recently saw a graphic about futuristic novels written in the past, but set in time periods of the present or now recent past, making comparisons with actual present situations. I don’t recall any futuristic novels with the premise of a society with a norm of same-sex unions and where those in heterosexual unions are considered deviant and must go underground to escape persecution. Somehow that scenario has not even been in the imagination of novelists of past decades. Before you react with “That is absurd! That could never happen”, you should realize that this is exactly how everyone would have responded 40 or even 20 years ago to the suggestion that marriage of two men or two women would become legal. Which leaves me shaking my head again in bewilderment, wondering how we got from there to here.
For another perspective on this issue:
Bruce Hafen gives some real answers to my question “How did we come to this?” from the perspective of Family Law in the August 2015 Ensign.