The number of American states that have legalised same-sex marriage now stands at four. One of those states is Iowa. The reasoning the supreme court of Iowa used in its recent ruling on the issue shows how radically and harmfully marriage must be redefined in order to justify same-sex marriage.
In its ruling on same-sex marriage, the Iowa Court set out the principle of equal protection. It said the principle “demands that laws treat alike all people who are ‘similarly situated with respect to the legitimate purposes of the law’.”
Few could disagree with this principle. It insists that people in similar situations should be treated alike but it allows that people in dissimilar situations don’t have to be treated alike.
Are same-sex couples and heterosexual couples in ‘similar situations’? One would have thought not, especially as regards marriage. Historically, marriage has been society’s way of giving support and recognition to men and women so that they can better raise their children together. Even though not all married couples have children, the vast majority still do, and it is for this majority that marriage as a social institution has been devised.
Obviously heterosexual couples can have children and same-sex couples cannot. Therefore, with regard to marriage, they are not in similar situations and therefore it is not discriminatory to allow opposite-sex couples to marry, but not same-sex couples.
To get around this, the Iowa court comes up with its own very novel view of the purposes of marriage. It said that marriage provides an institutional basis for defining relational rights and responsibilities; marriage allows people to pool their resources; marriage recognises people’s commitments; marriage provides comfort and happiness; marriage is a status, not a contract.
Notice what is missing from this picture; children. Children, and their need for a mother and father are now absent from what the Iowa court’s view of marriage. It removes children from its vision of marriage in order to ‘prove’ that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are ‘similarly situated’ with regard to marriage.
And notice something else; the purposes it attributes to marriage could be attributed to all sorts of other relationships. Marriage “provides an institutional basis for defining relational rights and responsibilities”. Well, so does a business partnership.
Marriage “enables people to pool their resources”. Again, so does a business partnership.
Marriage “recognises people’s commitments” and “provides comfort and happiness”. Well, if that is so, then why not recognise every form of commitment that “provides comfort and happiness”.
Finally, “marriage is a status, not a contract”. I’m actually not sure what the relevance of this statement is to the issue at hand.
None of the above purposes, outlined by the Iowa court are unique to marriage. Here is what is unique to marriage; a man and a woman come together in a sexual relationship for the ultimate purpose of having children, among other purposes, and commit to one another in a public ceremony.
To repeat, not all married couples have children, but the great majority do. Remove the above purpose from marriage, and there is nothing unique and distinct about it and there is no need to give it the special status it has always enjoyed.
Allowing same-sex marriage effectively destroys marriage as an institution by redefining it out of all recognition. Once we recognise same-sex marriage we are effectively declaring that we no longer see any special benefit in trying to ensure that as many children as possible are raised by their own mother and father. That is far-reaching indeed.