Same-Sex Marriage: Would It Harm Women and Children?

How would changing the legal definition of marriage impact women and children?

The following article from LifeSiteNews discusses one law professor who is — finally — asking just that question.

Julian Rivers, a professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Bristol Law School takes the position that legalizing same-sex marriage would have a negative impact on both women and children. I think he’s right, and I think the discussion about this is long overdue.

The article reads in part, emphases mine:

LONDON, November 7, 2012 ( – The debate about same-sex “marriage” in the UK is not, as the government and other supporters would have it, about “equality,” “rights” or “fairness,” but about “using law to change the meaning of the social institution of marriage.” So says Julian Rivers, a Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Bristol Law School.

Any new definition of marriage that would include partnerships not based on a single man and a single woman for the procreation and protection of children, would “unavoidably call into question its exclusivity, its permanence and even its sexual nature,” said Rivers in a report issued by the Jubilee Centre, “a Christian social reform organisation that offers a biblical perspective on issues and trends of relevance to the general public”. Titled “Redefining Marriage: a case for caution,” it is being submitted to the government as part of the ongoing consultation on “gay marriage.”

“Changing the legal definition of marriage will likewise reflect and support a different view of what marriage is and what it is for.”

According to Rivers, any such change will confirm and bolster the already dangerous trends of “excessive individualism of modern Western society, as well as the collapse of participation in all forms of social action.” It will “reduce” marriage to being only for “sexually-intimate companionship,” disconnecting the institution from its biological and societal functions.

It will also create a social threat to the wellbeing of children, Rivers said. Referring to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said, “Every child has a moral claim on her natural father and mother, grounded in the fact that they brought her into being and that it is in principle good for every child to be brought up by her natural parents committed in relationship to each other and to her.”

“Breaking the intrinsic connections between marriage, childbearing and kinship risks the further commodification of children, in which children become ‘ultimate accessories’ – means to the ends of their parents, and ultimately subject to their agendas, rather than persons of equal worth, with an equal stake in the success of the marriage.”

Click “like” if you want to defend true marriage.

The notion that natural marriage “discriminates” based on sexual orientation is the basis of the argument for same-sex “marriage,” Rivers said. But the real question is whether this discrimination is unjust. Rivers argues that far from traditional marriage being unjust, it “secures the equal value of men and women,” and “promotes the welfare of children.” Civil partnerships already grant other types of unions full legal security.

“Any law which sets criteria for anything discriminates,” he wrote. While it is right to prohibit distinctions based on sex, race, religion or age in political life, business or employment, “sometimes it is right to draw distinctions even on these grounds.” He gave the example of the law that prohibits children under 16 from marrying.

The government’s proposals have failed “to distinguish rationally between relationships and arrangements which are and are not to be treated as marriage in law.”

Moreover, redefining marriage to create a new “gender-blind” institution will threaten the legitimate social advances made by women over the last 100 years.

“Marriage as currently defined is the central social institution which expresses the idea that men and women are equally valuable as men and women. It is only marriage which harnesses gender difference to the purposes of social cooperation.

“Almost all other ways in which difference is acknowledged – from sports teams to public lavatories – depend on segregation. Sexual union in marriage reinforces a comprehensive ‘together-in-otherness’ of male and female.”

Rivers said that the arguments against same-sex “marriage” coming from religious convictions are legitimate and need to be heard – particularly in a country where the great majority identify themselves as Christian – but are not the only arguments worth making. The government’s proposal, he wrote, fails to address “the fundamental question of what a marriage is, and thus it fails to identify and defend the boundaries of any new definition”.

“At root,” he said, the meaning of marriage is socially, not legally defined. It is not the law that makes marriage what it is, but the law that follows the “socially-given expectations”. Marriage itself, in other words, is the underlying, objective reality with the law merely following that template.

He also warned that the creation of same-sex “marriage” will put a premature end to discussion of the open question of the impact on children of being raised in homosexual households. The popular opinion in government is that there is no “significant deficit” for children raised by two same-sex partners. However, Rivers wrote, “the distinctive gender roles of a father and a mother are important in the psychological development of children.”

“It must be at least possible that having two ‘fathers’ or ‘mothers’ will not compensate for the absent mother/father-figure.” Currently same-sex partners can both adopt and foster children; “redefining marriage will render these developments immune from reconsideration. Such confidence seems premature.”

The government has made arguments for “gay marriage” based on notions of “equality, stability and convenience” but, Rivers said, these are poorly thought out reasons for changing so fundamental an institution as marriage: “on closer inspection, these are respectively incomplete, speculative and negligible.” (Read more here.)

  • Reluctant Liberal

    I find the idea that “traditional marriage” secures gender equality incomprehensible. Women have certainly not had gender equality for the past three thousand years, does that mean that “traditional marriage” is a recent innovation?

    All of the things described in this article as flaws brought about by gay marriage are things that happen in male-female marriages as well. And they aren’t new things, either. Instead of alienating significant portions of the population by, in effect, making the claim that gay parents can’t love their children as well as any straight couple could (which yeah, will be taken personally by many people), why don’t we all go directly to the actual problem of mistreating children?

    And children do not need traditional gender roles. Most of the messages I got about gender were damaging and made me a worse person. Virtue is not gendered. Tenderness and nurturing is a virtue for men. Bravery is a virtue for women. Right action can’t become wrong action because of a change in chromosome.

    Sorry about the screed, but this stuff gets my ire up. Am I making any sense here?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think the point that misogyny has been rife for a very long time, through all sorts of marital arrangements, is something worth talking about.

      Your assertion that children do not need traditional gender roles however is not well taken for the simple reason that our modeling of anything else is so recent that it’s impossible to make that assertion. While virtue, courage, etc are not exclusive to either men or women, there are real differences between men and women, male and female. Where we have sinned is by trying to claim that femaleness is somehow or other second rate because it is not like maleness. I grew up with this misogynistic double standard and it was and is horrible in its effect. I probably should write an entire post on this sometime soon.

      Frankly, I think children need their father and their mother in a stable loving home and that anything else is second rate to that. Same-sex couples may be able to love their children as much as heterosexuals, but the questions of whether or not the homes they provide are as good for the children or whether the ways the use technology to commodify both children and women in their quest to be what they are not is a violation of the human rights of both women and children is not even addressed by this assertion.

      The plain fact is that gay couples can not have children. Any child they might raise will always be someone else’s child.

    • Ted Seeber

      I find it gets my ire up too- in the opposite way. You see, I have Asperger’s. It is often compared to being so stereotypically male that my “maleness”, my gender identity, is as inborn as anything else.

      The experiment to educate a male child as a female was a failure in the long run- and he is suing the doctors.

      My question- why are you so bigoted against normal people that you have to pass laws to force children to be educated in the homosexual lifestyle?

      • Ted Seeber

        I really should read links before I post them. I had known about the tragic case of David/Brenda (referred to as John/Joan in the gender identity literature) for more than 10 years now.

        What I didn’t know is that the lawsuit was dismissed upon his suicide in 2004, and the stress over his lawsuit broke up his marriage.

        Still, it is an example that this whole “Gender identity isn’t genetic” nonsense is false.

  • Pingback: Same-Sex Marriage: Would It Harm Women and Children? |

  • Dennis Mahon

    I wish people would stop calling it “gay marriage”- that gives credence to the idea that it does not deserve. Call it what it is: anti-marriage, the deliberate destruction of the institution.

    • Sus

      You could say the same thing about divorce. Heterosexual couples are responsible for the high divorce rate. It seems that lots of people don’t take the vows seriously.

      • Ted Seeber

        I do say the same thing about divorce. Even the annulment rate in the United States among Catholics makes me uneasy.

  • Ted Seeber

    I’m not as sure as many other conservatives that same-sex marriage harms women and their children.

    I am utterly convinced, however, once I remove the biased-and-paid-for political studies that claim that gay is great, that same-sex unions are actually harmful to all the people involved, because they are based primarily on lust rather than love.

    • Fabio P.Barbieri

      I would say that it is possible to confuse love and lust, but that my impression is that if a permanent link is formed, then the two partners tend to go off sex altogether and just become cohabiting friends. They may even exchange the details of their further affairs (because bad habits and bad attitudes don’t die out) with no real sense of impropriety.

      • Ted Seeber

        Near as I can tell, the permanent connection requires children; which is not possible with a homosexual relationship (and seems to be lacking in many heterosexual relationships as well).

  • Fabio P.Barbieri

    One possible result of “gay marriage” that has not been considered seems to me worth considering, though it may sound paradoxical. It may need not to a less but to a more inhibited and repressed attitude to having sex.
    My reasoning is as follows. First, the demand for “gay marriage” only makes sense if marriage is conceived as a legal permission to have sex. Marriage, of course, is not and has never been that. But if you take sex within marriage to be legal and permitted, validated and right, in itself (that is, independently of the attitude or potential for procreation), then you correspondingly devalue sex outside “marriage”. I am not saying that we may see a decrease in “hooking up” and casual sex, but if sex outside “marriage” loses the sense of validation, permission and correctness in favour of sex in “marriage”, then that will make the commonplace view of sex outside marriage not just cheap but much nastier than it has been. We may be seeing some advance warning of that even now, for instance in the universal rage of contempt visited on Paula Broadwell (even granting she deserved it). But the worst result would be on the homosexual community itself. Everyone knows that most practising homosexuals do not restrict themselves to one partner. Everyone knows that the whole “gay community” rotates around constant exchange of partners. Everyone knows that when we speak of gay bars or clubs, we don’t speak of chaste establishments; but if homosexual relationships become formally divided between the inevitably small group of permanent, formalized “married” couples and the inevitably much larger pool of players, that will make the “community” of players and swappers even more dirty, even more dodgy, and even more dangerous than it already is. And that is one reason I heard at least one intelligent homosexual reject the idea.

    • Sus

      “Everyone knows that most practising homosexuals do not restrict themselves to one partner. Everyone knows that the whole “gay community” rotates around constant exchange of partners. ”

      I promised myself that I would not comment on this subject again because I think my feelings on the subject would be better served if I started my own blog. When I see untruths though, I go crazy and start writing wall of texts.

      I don’t think it’s a fair statement to say that all gay people are only interested in having multiple partners. It certainly isn’t my experience when I have friends that have been together for over 20 years.

      It’s fine not to support something like same sex marriage. That’s what makes America great. We can disagree without being menaced. However, it is not right when you say things that are not correct to move your disagreement forward.

      In looking around, I’d say that there is a group of “people” that are hooking up without commitment with multiple partners. These people are both gay and straight. Being homosexual does not automatically mean the person has no morals.

      • Dave

        Yes, you are right. Still, the statistics are pretty clear that, in general, homosexuals are much more promiscuous than heterosexuals.

        • Sus

          I’ve never found unbiased statistics regarding promiscuity rates.

          • Dave

            I’ve never found any unbiased statistics regarding anything. People tend not to compile statistics on something that they don’t have any interest in.

            • Sus

              So true!!

      • Thomas R

        I’m skeptical of what he’s saying too, but the same-sex marriage advocates I know of do seem skeptical of the idea of monogamy. Last I checked Andrew Sullivan still dates on occasion despite marriage. My cousin is faithful to her “wife” but she doesn’t expect or ask her wife to be faithful and she isn’t. (Granted that really just seems like an unequal arrangement not likely to work long term, regardless of your view of homosexuality, but I could be wrong)

        It is true though that the closest things I know of to permanent same-sex arrangements were couples where one identified as being of a different gender. And also that the early same-sex marriage advocates experienced some fierce opposition from homosexuals themselves as they saw themselves as different. Maybe not promiscuous, but also not placing two-person relationships as legally superior. Take “Grey’s Anatomy” as an odd example. For awhile the lesbian couple maintained a kind of relationship with the biological father of their child. Legally same-sex marriage would not recognize that. They would be the co-parents and he’d be nothing. Gays I think thought of things like this and sometimes rejected being “Virtually Normal” as Sullivan put it.

      • Ailina

        Well, when people like Dan Savage think open marriages are valid, then one can’t help but wonder if most gays don’t think the same thing, since Dan Savage is a spokesman for the gay marriage community and the anything-goes sex community.

  • Aprendo

    This radio broadcast put home whats at stake…and our myth of neturalitiy too…SOMEONE’S IDEA is going to be repressed.

    Just Live and Let Live

    Keep it all in the family (one of the authors is gay by the way)

  • Bill S

    For each controversial issue, I seem to find myself on the opposite side of what the Church has to say in just about every instance. I think it is because I see the Church as a giant control freak trying to tell people how to live their lives.

    So it is with gay marriage. Again, there is the Church condemning something that society as a whole seems ready to accept. Who is more open-minded, the Church or society? Why can’t the Church accept the consensus of rational educated people? Who is more qualified to judge on such things? A group of like-minded celibate men or professionals?

    And it doesn’t just apply to the Catholic Church. It applies to all fundamentalists both Christian and Muslim. In all such cases, it involves believers overstepping their bounds and delving into people’s personal lives. And it seems to be for the purpose of protecting society from some perceived threat. And the Pope seems to be the worst offender, declaring it a threat to civilization. I just don’t get it.

    • Fabio P.Barbieri

      “Society as a whole”? I thought your name was “Bill S”?

    • Dave

      Re: open-mindedness

      “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid. Otherwise it is more akin to a sewer, taking in all things equally.” ~ GK Chesterton

      Surely, Bill, you do not mean to say that the “consensus of educated people” is always right? I think there is no evidence for this proposition at all, as a matter of fact.

      • Bill S

        A consensus of educated people is reached through rational discussion as opposed to Church Teaching which is dictated by the Pope and the Magesterium. I have more faith in a diverse group of professionals than a select group of celebate men.

        • Ted Seeber

          The Truth isn’t Democratic, Bill, and just because a Pope said it doesn’t make it a lie.

        • Dave

          Personally, I have more faith in Jesus to fulfill his word than in a “diverse group of professionals.” By the way, 50 years ago, the exact same “diverse group of professionals” said the opposite of what they say now, and who knows what they will say 50 years from now.

          Jesus, on the other hand, is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

          • Dave

            By the way, in case it isn’t clear, I also have *absolutely no faith whatsoever in the ‘select group of celibate men.’* None, nada, zilch.

            But I do have all the faith in the world that Jesus is capable of fulfilling His promise to protect the Church from error. (Indeed, it would make NO SENSE to bring the truth without instituting a mechanism to preserve that truth.)

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Bill, I just can’t let this pass. Do you really believe that “a consensus of educated people is reached by rational discussion?” What century are you thinking of when you say that? Certainly not this one.

    • Ted Seeber

      “For each controversial issue, I seem to find myself on the opposite side of what the Church has to say in just about every instance.”

      20 years ago I was like you on that. I found out the hard way that my feelings on those subjects lacked rational thought. And that the Church had already considered a large number of cases that I had no idea even existed.

      There is no way one person thinking can match 2000 years of wisdom.

      • Bill S

        There is also not much that the Church can do about 2000 years of errors. I’ll take modern progressive thought over archaic primative thought. And on what basis was it decided that gay marriage is evil?

        • Ted Seeber

          The 2000 years of errors is why the Church is correct. Modern progressive thought, which doesn’t have that record of trial and error, is missing the data of the errors. And thus is doomed to repeat them.

          Gay marriage isn’t EVIL by Church Teaching, it’s simply a lie. It was tried and found to be wrong to replace philia and storge with eros. And that, in essence, is what sins against chastity in general are- replacing philia and storge with eros, replacing actual love with mere lust and no consideration for the other party. Doesn’t matter if it is homosexuality or heterosexuality, what matters is the lack of intent of good for the other person.

          If you don’t have failure, how can you find Truth?

        • Faith

          I think Bill S that you should study history more deeply even if you have an aversion to it, just to prevent yourself from making ignorant statements. The Catholic Church arose from Ancient Roman/pan-hellenistic cultures which, as you might recall had what we might regard as surprisingly modern takes on sex. Homosexuality, adultery, abortion, etc were common. The early Christians were attracted to Christianity in spite of its narrow views on sex. Only they found these teachings to be more reasonable, more humane views than the current fashion at the time. Sex that was part of trying to live a life of self-control and virtue was revolutionary! This progressive view you tout is simply slipping back to a more ignorant understand of humanity. Who were the first Christians? The apostles and other Jews who suffered persecution because they embraced this new faith. Slaves who found new dignity in life through Christianity. And woman were attracted to it as well because it raised women to whole new level of dignity. A dignity that would reverberate through time and bring equality in political terms eventually. You might try reading Mike Aquilina’s Roots of the Faith to getter a better historical understanding of what really happened. He makes the subject surprisingly easy to understand.

  • Manny

    I fully agree with the argument presented. However I will say that in my debates with the other side on this issue, this line of reasoning doesn’t convince them, and it probably only has a marginal persuasion to those who are totally unsure. That’s been my experience. I hope I’m wrong.

    • Ted Seeber

      The other side of the issue is so irrational that I’ve largely given up. I figure 200 years from now they’ll be gone anyway- having died out from a lack of intelligence and reason.

    • Dave

      The other side is largely not interested in listening, and I believe that (paraphrasing Christ) if their deceased relatives came back to tell them the truth, they would not be interested in hearing it. I have found that they are either not capable of thinking deeply, or they refuse to. Most refuse to even discuss the topic when I ask the deeper questions “what is marriage?” and “what reason does government have for taking an interest in marriage?”

      • Ted Seeber

        I’m convinced for most of them, what their deceased and not-so-deceased ancestors think is precisely what they’re running away from.

  • Jen Wells

    The link for Prof. Julian River’s paper on Redefining Marriage: A Case for Caution is