Is the “Good War” Against Abortion, and the “Bad War” Against Gay Marriage?

Is the “Good War” Against Abortion, and the “Bad War” Against Gay Marriage? November 29, 2011

The great Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard recently wrote:

Foes of gay rights are now seen by the press as fighting the bad war, roughly analogous to Vietnam. Pro-lifers are waging the good war, like World War II. “You get much less grief fighting against abortion than you do fighting to preserve traditional marriage,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

If only the media knew. They have missed the most important breakthrough in the struggle over abortion in years: the resurgence of the pro-life crusade. The press elite was beaten on the story by publications such as Christianity Today (“The New Pro-Life Surge”) and Baptist Press (“5 Reasons the Pro-Life Movement is Winning”).

I have a personal investment in the good war / bad war analogy, since I shared that analogy with Mr Barnes over the phone.  He had read my recent pieces (“The Canary in the Mineshaft” and “Turning the Tide in the Abortion Struggle“) reconsidering the pro-life movement.  I’m happy he found the analogy helpful, and it was shared openly with no sense of ownership.  (Although I’d correct one point: the “5 Reasons” article from Trevin Wax was published first at Patheos, and only reprinted at Baptist Press.)

Last week I received a note from Ruth Moon at Christianity Today, who is putting together some quick-hit thoughts, based on Mr Barnes’ article, on the question: “Has the fight over gay marriage made it easier to advocate for pro-life causes since there’s now a more salient ‘bad guy’ in the public eye (in the form of people opposed to gay marriage)?” Since she will (of course) only post a portion of my response, here were my thoughts in full:

The pro-choice camp once contended that pro-lifers opposed abortion because they hate women. It was plainly untrue, and they lost that part of the argument. Pro-choicers now depict pro-lifers as wrong on the facts and too eager to impose their religious values on others, but they rarely depict us as hateful anymore. Yet the gay marriage movement still depicts the opponents of same-sex marriage as hateful toward gays — and they appear to be winning the argument.

The pro-life movement has a kind of romance and idealism that the pro-traditional-marriage movement does not. Pro-lifers are defending the most innocent of all creatures. That’s appealing. But it’s harder to explain whom the opponents of gay marriage are protecting – and so the supporters of gay marriage imagine the worst of motives. If we cannot explain, or they cannot perceive, rational and loving motives for our position on marriage, then those who passionately disagree with us will assume that irrational and unloving motives compel us instead.

Note, however, that this all has to do with the ways in which Christians are depicted. If we have the courage of our convictions, and care more for the approval of God than the approval of men, then we will do what is right regardless of how it shapes our public perception. But there’s no question that the social cost of opposing same-sex marriage is now significantly higher than the social cost of opposing abortion.

In World War 2, “the good war,” the allies fought on behalf of innocents and on behalf of civilization.  The urgency and import of our intervention was clear.  In Vietnam, we fought to arrest the expansion of communism into Southeast Asia, and it proved increasingly difficult to establish a clear connection between our actions and saved lives.  Wherever communism went, it brought hardships, systematic suppression of human rights, and often mass slaughter of counter-revolutionaries.  A strong case could be made for our actions there, but that case lacked the moral clarity of WW2.

Now take a look at this video touting the growing momentum in the pro-life movement amongst the young.

The idealism of the movement is striking.  At one point in the video David French, a Patheos blogger, tells the students at a massive pro-life gathering: “You are a defender of the defenseless.  You want the unwanted.  This is who you are.  This is what you do.”  That’s a tremendously powerful — and appealing — message.  There’s no assault upon the motives of the abortive mother.  There’s no denigration of women and their freedom.  There’s a crystal-clear focus on the protection of the innocent and the vulnerable, along with a belief that protecting innocent life trumps all other concerns.  Moreover, a powerful pro-life argument can be made with no reference whatsoever to the Judeo-Christian scriptures.  With reference to genetics, biology and ethics, the case is just as lucid for the unbeliever as for the believer.

Contrast that with the gay marriage debate.  It’s tough to construct an argument against gay marriage without appealing for justification to scripture.  It’s not impossible.  One can appeal to natural law, but few who are not already committed to natural law will find this persuasive.  And one can make the argument that the legal sanctioning of same-sex marriage (1) further deteriorates the institution of marriage and (2) harms the children whom marriage protects, but the first part is abstract and theoretical and the second part is difficult to demonstrate conclusively.  Both sides can cite studies.  So gay marriage appears to be “victimless.”  To be clear, I’m not saying these arguments fail from a logical point of view.  I think these arguments are correct.  I’m saying instead that they fail to persuade the majority, since the case is complex, the water is muddied, and there are strong countervailing cultural winds.  Unless you are convinced on religious grounds that same-sex relationships are sinful and therefore inherently destructive — for the gay couple, for children they might raise, and for a society built on the marital unit — you’re unlikely to oppose same-sex marriage.

There are other factors as well.  (a) There have been, in movies and television in particular, relentless efforts to stigmatize anyone who disapproves of homosexual relationships.  (b) The issue of responsibility is more complex in the case of same-sex marriage as well.  A credible argument has been made that gay people are “born that way.”  But no one is born pregnant with an inclination toward abortion.  We can ask women and men who are leaning toward abortion to choose otherwise; many people believe we cannot really ask a gay person to choose otherwise.  Also, (c) the gay rights lobby has very successfully made the argument that equal treatment in matters of marriage is a matter of basic human rights, in line with the Civil Rights struggle.  If true, this would justify treating the opponents of same-sex marriage not just as holders of a different opinion, but as human rights violators.  Finally, (d) there’s a sense that the pro-life movement is winning ground while the pro-traditional-marriage movement is losing ground.  No one wants to fight on a losing side.

Consider this little bit of anecdotal information.  As an editor and director for a large religion website now, I can tell you: It’s substantially easier to find Christians and evangelicals to write on the abortion issue than it is to find ones who will write on same-sex marriage.  Academics in particular are terrified that anything critical of homosexuality or same-sex marriage will come up before hiring or tenure committees.  One of the first subjects we addressed in our “Public Square” at Patheos was the same-sex marriage debate, and nearly every person I approached to write on the topic had to ask himself or herself: “Am I willing to give up the next job, the next promotion, the next award, because of my views on this topic?”

In academic circles, you can question the morality of abortion and still be tolerated.  But if you question the morality of homosexuality, you are an oppressor and an opponent of human rights.  They’re perfectly justified in rejecting you, since your opinion is not only factually wrong but morally wrong, reprehensible and oppressive.  By rejecting you, they’re not being prejudicial or intolerant; they’re protecting the rights of gay faculty and students.

This is not to say that the defenders of the unborn and the defenders of traditional marriage have been working at odds with one another.  In fact, I think the latter can take heart from how the terms — and the momentum — have changed in the abortion debate.

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  • Ben Seller

    Doc, once again you knocked it out of the park. Your words were great and that video is powerfulm and the same words you quoted as the defenders of the defenseless really struck me when I heard them. Keep ’em comin’

  • Are these really the two most important issues for Christians in our country? I’m an evangelical who thinks that the priorities and tribalism of the religious right have utterly destroyed our Christian witness with half of the American population, shutting the door of the kingdom of heaven in the faces of millions of Americans whose cynicism is not unfounded. Matthew 23:13.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      It depends on what you mean, Morgan. Obviously, giving witness to the gospel, for instance, takes priority, and that consumes a far greater proportion of evangelicals’ time and resources. If you’re talking about social-political issues, and if you earnestly believe that abortion takes an innocent human life, then it’s hard to argue that there’s a higher priority right now in the social-political realm. I’ve never been particularly motivated to oppose same-sex marriage, to be honest, but I address it frequently because I believe there’s a lot of confusion over the issue, and it’s one of the most frequently debated issues of our day.

      The majority of people involved in the abortion and same-sex marriage issues earnestly believe that they are defending what is true and good. If we think the world will always welcome and celebrate that, then I think we have a faulty understanding of the world (not to mention a blinkered view of history). Also, I don’t think it’s so much Christian conservatives’ efforts in relation to abortion and same-sex marriage that have harmed our witness as it is the caricature of Christian conservatives propounded by those who oppose their social-political agenda. I do believe the “Christian Right” has sometimes overstepped and harmed its witness, to be sure, but more damaging by far is the exaggerated, absurd, often paranoid depiction of Christian conservatives that too many liberal Christians have been happy to endorse in the pursuit of their own agendas.


      • nitpicker

        The idea that you need to call yourselves “Christian conservatives” is the beginning of the problem.

  • I think it is fair to describe same-sex marriage as a social experiment. And I am trying to think of any previous social experiment that turned out great for society. In marriage issues, no-fault divorce was a disaster for the very women it was intended to protect. In education, thirty years ago it was considered “progressive” to teach Hispanic students in the public schools exclusively in their native Spanish: that idea was abandoned 20 year later, when even the teachers had to admit it had done nothing to improve the lot of Hispanic children living in the United States. In sports, Title IX sounded like a great idea– but you have to wonder how many potentially great male athletes never got their chance to play college ball because schools had to do away with walk-on tryouts, in order to conform to Title IX?
    Worst of all, same-sex marriage would experiment with children. How do you justify that?

    • John

      Susan, the situation is actually worse than you portray it. This is a social experiment that has never in recorded history been carried out successfully for a 100 year period. That is what scares me about it so much. other social experiments (e.g., polygamy) that I believe are immoral and unwise have been carried out successfully in numerous societies, as has been “no fault” divorce. From a historical perspective, homosexual marriage is really scary.

    • Susan, many social experiments have turned out well.
      — Giving women the right to vote.
      — Allowing women to own property.
      — Limiting the ability of men to legally beat their wives or force them to have to sex.
      — Ending slavery.
      — Freedom of speech.
      — Freedom of religion.

      The list goes on and on.

    • homer

      So same sex marriage shouldn’t be allowed because of high school athletes, Spanish speaking students, and no fault divorce. None of which have anything to do with two men or two women marrying each other.

      The obsession of fundamentalist Christians with homosexuality is bizarre. All of the time and money wasted on fighting equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Just imagine if that money was invested in education, healthcare, or food- instead of paying con artists like Maggie Gallagher and Tony Perkins huge salaries so they can stir up hatred towards LGBT folks. Sheesh.

      • Barry

        “The obsession of fundamentalist Christians with homosexuality is bizarre.”

        To be honest, they’re also obsessed with the control of women, suppression of science, and extension of the American Empire. And they really haven’t gotten over losing on the whole slavery issue, either.

    • ukeman

      A social experiment that turned out great for society? (in that it ended centuries of injustice): the civil rights movement

    • Anselm

      Spanish? Title IX? Abortion? Same sex marriage? All equal? Where does one begin with this gibberish? The abolition of slavery was a social experiment. And you are correct: it did not turn out great for society, especially for creatures of your kind. Which teachers admitted that bilingual education did nothing to improve the lot of Hispanic children living in the United States? What languages do you speak? Is anybody advocating that churches should be forced to marry same-sex couples? If so, they should be considered to be tainted with the collectivist and statist mindset that so obviously informs your views. Why on earth is the state involved in the issue of marriage? If you can’t stand the idea that homosexuals might be able to get a marriage license and set up housekeeping, and “potentially great male athletes” (Whew, that’s a stretch. How many potential Nobel Prize scientists don’t get a chance?) might not get to play college ball, then maybe you should consider turning off the television, locking the front door, and scurrying to the dark, damp basement of your dreams, where no unpleasant horrors of contemporary life may intrude.

    • Barry

      The issue of women has been covered below, so I won’t belabor it. The issue of learning English is something that I have heard covered, and the result is that hispanic immigrants to the USA learn English as well as previous waves did.

  • Steve Silberman

    Actually, Tim, the reason why you’re losing the argument against marriage equality is because you’re lying — to yourself first, and then to others here. It’s one thing to say airily that “both sides can cite studies,” and another to cite them. There are no reputable studies showing that gay couples getting married harms straight couples; and the studies that are continually and inaccurately cited by opponents of gay marriage — who claim they show that “kids do better with a mom and a dad” — actually show that kids do better with TWO PARENTS, no matter what gender they are. (Citation: ) It’s not hard to imagine why that’s true.

    I’m legally married to my partner, despite the best efforts of Proposition 8 to deny us that right. We have loved and cared for one another, through good times and bad, for 16 years. We deserve the same respect and benefits of long-term commitment that you already enjoy. Even many hardcore, church-going conservatives (like my in-laws) sense in their hearts that the many tangible and intangible virtues of marriage should be open to every couple willing to make that kind of commitment.

    Stop lying, and you’ll start winning. I assume you’ve already learned that fine lesson in many other areas of life. I wish you luck on the journey toward that truth.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks, Steve. I’m curious to know: how many books have you read that make the scholarly case against gay marriage?

      Also, I’ve never believed that your (same-sex) marriage is going to harm my marriage. But I *am* concerned that changing the definition of marriage could be harmful to the institution of marriage — and thus, over the long term, to society, in the same way that no-fault divorce and several other issuances of the sexual revolution have been harmful to marriage and led to social deterioration. Anyway, it would take an awful long time to walk through all of those things, but I just want to be clear on what the concern really is. See

      God bless,


      • Steve Silberman

        Tim, again, feel free to provide citations for “books that make the scholarly case against gay marriage” and I’ll read them. I did read the book called “The Case for Marriage” by the most influential anti-marriage equality advocate, Maggie Gallagher — who has succeeded in getting laws passed against gay marriage in California and elsewhere — and noted that while Gallagher makes a very powerful case for the virtues of supporting marriage, even her co-author, sociologist Linda Waite, believes that those virtues should be extended to gay couples, but that Gallagher does not. That’s telling. Gallagher couldn’t even convince her own co-author in her own book of the validity of the denying equal marriage rights to gay couples.

        Tim, also please note that the phrase “changing the definition of marriage” is a baggage-free as the phrase “changing the definition of education” would be if what you’re really talking about is desegregating schools. My husband and I have a very traditional marriage, thank you, built on all the positive models of marriage we grew up with. The notion that gay people want to “change the definition of marriage” is spin. Spin in the service of denying your fellow citizens the right to commitment, security, and happiness should not be employed thoughtlessly; you should recognize what you’re doing.

        • Barry

          Timothy Dalrymple says:

          “Thanks, Steve. I’m curious to know: how many books have you read that make the scholarly case against gay marriage?”

          Are there any? And by ‘scholarly case’, I don’t mean ‘faking look of scholarship’.

          Timothy, something that you should understand – when you support lies and fraud, there are people who judge you to be a liar and a fraud. That diminishes your moral authority.

      • Steve Silberman

        Also, I find it interesting that so many comments here conflate marriage equality with, oh say, no-fault DIVORCE and other negative “social experiments.” Giving women the right to vote, desegregating schools, and eliminating bans on interracial marriage were all highly controversial “social experiments” that seem to have worked out fine. The selective cherry-picking of “social experiments” here is another reason gay-marriage opponents are losing; the strategy is too obvious.

        I read your link. “The concern was — and is — that the legalization of gay marriage contributes even further to the long-term deterioration of the institution.” Yet until you provide evidence beyond your personal religious beliefs, you could say with equal validity that “the legalization of gay marriage extends the virtues of the institution to those who are currently denied them.” It is only you, putting the cart before the horse, who has decided that if gay people are involved, “deterioration” must be also involved.

        It’s fine if your religious beliefs lead you to feel that way; I understand that. One of my closest friends is an Orthodox Jew who keeps kosher and has never tasted bacon or oysters in his life. What he doesn’t do is attempt to pass Constitutional amendments requiring all supermarkets and restaurants to carry only kosher food, while writing blog posts congratulating himself for “defending” the US against unclean foods.

        • mnemos

          Actually, in that particular link he didn’t claim a position on legalization of gay marriage or whether it contributes to the “deterioration of the institution” – he just said that concern about the institution is a more accurate representation than the red herrings he noted. He might make that case in other posts, but not the link above.

      • Joe Canner

        The easiest solution to this problem is the European model: civil unions (basically a small ceremony at the justice of the peace) to obtain the legal rights, and, optionally, marriage (church service) for whatever religious goals the couple may have. The state should never have been in the “marriage” business in the first place. With the state out of the picture, the church can define marriage as it pleases.

        • Steve Silberman

          Except that the state has a compelling interest in encouraging stable, long-term relationships. In other words, the arguments in favor of marriage are correct; it’s just adding the extra “but gay people should be excluded from those benefits because of uh, well…” where things become muddled. And try convincing the millions of couples that wed at City Hall that their marriages are no longer, well, quite kosher, because they weren’t “real” marriages performed in a church. “How long have you been married?” “Oh, my wife and I? We’re not married at all. We’re civilly united.” Come on.

          • Joe Canner

            Steve, I fully agree that the way civil unions are handled in this country is not a good model. In the European model (Germany is the one I am most familiar with) they don’t (as far as I know) call them civil unions. To be legally married you have the civil ceremony; to be married in the eyes of the church you have the church ceremony. If you want both, you have both.

            With this model, the state defines what it means by marriage and the church defines what it means by marriage and the two don’t have to be at odds over the definition. Granted, if someone has a problem with using the word “marriage” for a civil ceremony, then they won’t be happy with this solution, but that is a semantic problem (with emotional baggage) that doesn’t deserve much consideration from a policy standpoint.

            The biggest difficulty with the situation in the US is that states can choose not to honor civil unions (and same-gender marriages?) from other states. Thus, under either the current model or the European model, all states would have to be on the same page or the Feds would have to require reciprocation (i.e., more or less the opposite of DOMA).

          • Anselm

            The state has no compelling interest whatsoever in determining the value and nature of the relationships of its citizens, except under a totalitarian form of rule. Period. The moment it occurs to you that you should determine what type of relationship I have with another human being, exclusive of the use of force, is the moment when I begin to believe that the best way to understand your position is to purchase a gun.

        • GREG SMITH

          Joe ~ I agree with you 100%. However, the Civil Union / Domestic Partnership train left the station a long time ago. Moreover, the opponents of gay marriage , including my own, beloved, Catholic church, also condem civil unions and almost any other gay rights inititive. Too bad 🙁

        • BobN

          The European model is civil marriage, not civil unions. It’s the same model here. We have civil marriage in the U.S., we just let religious figures solemnize them.

          But you know that.

  • Hyhybt

    All right… I just have one question, and it’s admittedly not quite on-topic. But if you’re convinced that being against gay marriage is right and true, why name your position with misleading phrases like “defenders of traditional marriage?” Misleading because the other side is *not* opposed to traditional marriage in the slightest, but instead in favor of expanding the concept to non-traditional marriages, changing traditional ones not a whit.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Well, this is one of many cases where the term the movement adopts for itself only makes sense given the beliefs the movement holds. So, the pro-life movement is only “pro-life” if indeed there is a life to defend. Or the pro-choice movement is only truly “pro-choice” if there is only one agent (the mother) involved. Or the gay rights movement is only a “gay rights” movement if it is indeed defending “rights” and not something like preferences or privileges. In the same way, if you believe that fundamentally changing the definition of marriage would be harmful to the institution of marriage (and thus, over the long term, to society), then opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage is indeed defending traditional marriage.

      I talk about this a little more in an earlier post:



      • Hyhybt

        It’s still dishonest, in this case. You’re knowingly not defending *all* things which are considered by marriage by a sizable portion of your audience: you’re explicitly opposing some of them. The honest thing to do, then, would be use either a term that is more neutral or to otherwise reword it to something along the lines of “traditional-ONLY marriage.”

        It’s all relative, and yes, all sides of most anything play that game… but it remains wrong. If it were up to me, everybody would use the most neutral *naming* as possible and rely on actual argument to make their case. Not necessarily neutral, exactly, but at least avoiding the tactic of choosing a name that those who disagree would not think applies to their side, or which deliberately implies that anyone who disagrees with you is evil.

        In some cases, that may be hard to do… but in *this* case, it’s easy as pie.

      • BobN

        So, you favor civil unions?

  • Derrick

    I teach freshman students how to write, and I can certainly agree with many of your points. Many young people are joining the pro-life movement; they constantly write papers about it. So much that many professors in my department (not me) mark it as a forbidden topic.

    You make a good point about the nature of both debates. It’s easy to argue against abortion from the shared values of our society, but it’s very hard , with those same values to argue against gay marriage–impossible really. From what I’ve seen, the only way to stand against gay marriage is to hold the Christian values and you can’t convince someone else unless they adopt those values (or believe in, as you pointed out, natural law). I think that it will not be a winnable war until, like abortion has, gay marriage exists long enough in our society for us to see it undeniably cause harm to the family and the culture.

    • Kubrick’s Rube

      “I think that it will not be a winnable war until…gay marriage exists long enough in our society for us to see it undeniably cause harm to the family and the culture.”

      As a non-Christian and a supporter of marriage equality, I wonder if this alleged harm be “undeniable” from a non-Christian standpoint? I suspect the public reaction over time to widespread gay marriage will be much more like that to divorce and birth control than to abortion. And I doubt those of us who support marriage equality will classify as negative effects the same things that opponents of marriage equality would, or that opponents would weigh the positive effects as strongly as supporters would.

      Also, if it turns out opponents are wrong about marriage equality causing undeniable harm, or if the rights of 2% of the population end up having a negligible effect on everyone else, will opponents rethink their opposition? What observable results (and I ask myself this as a supporter as well) would change your mind?


    • Hyhybt

      That’s another tactic that deserves to be thrown out: speaking as if all Christians agree on this. (“…hold *the* Christian values”) It’s used by those against to dismiss other denominations as well as those within their own churches as if they did not exist or as if there were no arguments to be made supporting their positions, and it’s used by those on the gay side to argue that the fight is against Christianity in general, or even religion in general, and it’s equally wrong in both uses.

      • Derrick

        Good point. Apologies. I probably should have qualified with “Biblical” or “Evangelical” or some other label. Those tend to open up even more issues though.

        • Hyhybt

          “Biblical” is worse, and for the same reason. Just as the only time you ever hear the phrase “Bible-believing” is when someone is using it essentially to claim that only those who agree with them on every detail of what passages mean, how they are best applied, etc (or at least any which are actually contentious) believes it at all.

          • Frank

            Your side has yet to provide any scriptural evidence that God condones or blesses homosexual unions. Until then the term biblical in supporting God design for marriage and sexuality as one man and one woman is perfectly correct and appropriate.

          • Hyhybt

            Sorry, can’t seem to reply in the right spot… as there is no hard evidence God does *not* bless such unions either, and in fact it’s a point of fierce controversy *within Christianity,* naming your side as the Biblical one is… for lack of a better term, cheating, in the same way that it is cheating to use “Bible-believing” to describe yourself for the purpose of implying that those you disagree with over interpretation and such just don’t believe it at all, or “the” Christian view as if anyone who sees things differently is not Christian.

          • Frank

            Actually there is plenty of scriptural support that homosexuality is a sin. Despite the theological and word gymnastics you cannot change what the bible means.

            So where is the scriptural support for YOUR position? Non-existent.

  • CI

    Besides the fact that you consider the arguments against gay marriage logical (they are not at all, it’s simply your own prejudice*), I agree with this article and it’s extremely well written.

    (*Of course I’m biased because I support gay marriage, but it is your ‘prejudice’ (and not merely bias) because as a supporter I do not deny rights, while you’re attempting to do so. Why those statements are illogical, See: Massachusetts)

  • Nice job, Tim. I agree with you, and have thought myself for a while now that those who oppose gay marriage have lost that battle. However, the supporters of gay marriage should note the change in the abortion debate and understand that no victory is forever. Culture changes, people change, attitudes change. Homosexuality and gay marriage have won approval – for now. But who can say 50 years from now what American attitudes will be? The pro-life movement needs to be similarly wary as we celebrate our advances and victories. No victory is ever final, the pro-life movement needs to make sure that it doesn’t become complacent.

  • Joe Canner

    As a Christian who supports both abortion rights and same-gender marriage rights, I can say that my arguments for the latter are much more solid than for the former.

    I actually believe that abortion is wrong but that, before it would be appropriate to outlaw it, we need to do more to make it unnecessary and to deal with the consequences of unintended pregnancy. In other words, I believe that abortion could be outlawed if other prerequisites were met.

    On the other hand, the same cannot be said for same-gender marriage. There are no policy changes that could be made to make homosexuality less common and there are few if any ways to provide the rights and privileges of marriage to same-gender couples outside of the context of marriage.

    Furthermore, we have a long and growing history in this country of providing civil rights to people despite the fact that they are sinners. Accordingly, we revert to the relative harm involved when determining legality. As such, the argument for criminalizing abortion will always be more compelling than that for banning same-gender marriage.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks for sharing, Joe. Obviously we have differences of opinion, but those are good thoughts and well expressed.


    • Richard Robertson

      You said: “As a Christian who supports both abortion rights and same-gender marriage rights,…” I’m trying to be as logical as I can, but the term Christian is “Christ-like” and never in a million years would Christ have supported abortion nor same-gender marriage. My statement would be “logical Christian belief”. Akin to this: if a person picks-and-plucks at the Bible, instead of accepting the whole book, they don’t have to agree with me, they must agree with God/Christ. The process was: God had his words put to paper, he said he never changes and the last verses said not to take from nor add to. That’s logically final, literal and Holy words. I don’t care if you or anyone else believes what it says or accepts it; it is still true. As such, the Holy Book for Christians is the Bible and it says very plainly that 1) Thou shall not kill (murder) and abortion accomplishes that. 2) That homosexuality (not this modern word but obviously the act) is an abomination to God. My simple, little human, definition of abomination is far above a sin; it turns his stomach, so, why would he, or I, support same-sex anything (marriage, union or rights). Everyone knows history tells us, even from Biblical teachings, same-sex is nothing new. Monarchs favored it, countries allowed it, or not. I remember reading that in Sodom, a father offered to turn over his daughter, to be raped, to the crowd instead of his house guests who were angels (not male nor female). But NO, NO, they insisted on the guests whom they thought were men. God developed such a soured stomach he destroyed the city and its inhabitants with fire. Now, those are the facts people. Whether you or I believe it, or not, it is still truth. Like someone said earlier, are you really talking about “rights” or “privileges and choices”? America was organized using Christian-Judeo principles, thus, making the Constitution, Bill-of-Rights and the Bible like brothers. When the government used them together, instead of separate, they seemed to work just fine. I’m a supporter of the original documents more so than revising everything. Admittedly I’m not a PhD, but I do know right from wrong; that’s not something you can find anywhere more often than in the Bible. I know, that’s my belief, not necessarily the law but that’s one of the reasons why I am Christian. I have a really serious, albeit extreme, solution. You people on the other side can have California or Massachusetts, (I don’t care, pick one) and make it a separate country, frame your own governing documents and make anything you want legal or “right”. Seriously, go for it.

  • Jessica

    I think there is a hidden link to the two topics that we need to focus more on emerging research on donor-conceived children. These kids are now coming of age and are hurting, and not because they have bad parents but because of how, in a nut shell, they have come into being through the manipulation of natural law(Elizabeth Marquardt has fascinating research on this issue).

    When you consider that most kids raised by same-sex parents are either from a previous divorce or are donor-conceived, you begin to see that the structure that a same-sex marriage provides for the rearing of children falls short, no matter how good the intentions of that couple are. Of course, this aspect of the discussion forces heterosexual people to face some truths about their attitudes on the subjects like divorce and donor conception too, which will cause resistance. But, truth reveals itself over time.

    I think movements lay in the people who are products of cultural shifts. The pro-life college kids are products of divorce, wide-spread acceptance of abortion, etc. It’s not surprising that the movement is growing today. I anticipate the same will happen when the wave of children raised by a same-sex couple come of age. Just like the kids of divorce, they’ll be saying: it’s not like I think my parents didn’t love me or were not good people, it’s just fell short.

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    There are three factors that I think make opposition to same-sex marriage so much harder to sell than opposition to abortion.

    First, the case against abortion as such is exponentially stronger than the case against same-sex marriage as such. There’s no need to point to snything beyond an abortion itself to explain opposition to it, but as Tim pointed out, the same does not hold for same-sex marriage.

    That the potential effects of legalizing SSM are long-term not just for society but for the married couples themselves is the second factor in making opposition so difficult a sell. Each abortion is a discrete event so changes in the law do not retroactively affect those that got or performed abortions in the past. Changes to marriage law on the other hand will affect same-sex couples over time, either in allowing them to gain the legal and social benefits of marriage (if the law changes in one direction) or in possibly losing previously acknowledged rights (if the law changes in the other direction).

    This brings me to the third factor. While abortion laws change one’s personal options in a discete situation, marriage laws change one’s public status forever. People who make the difficult choice to get an abortion can sink back into anonymity and live the rest of their lives the same as anyone else, only being villainized and stigmatized in the abstract. LGBT people exist continuously and concretely as individuals so it’s harder to explain why this subset of our friends and relatives must be kept as second-class citizens.


    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Good points, Scott. Very good points. Thanks.


  • Blake

    Why can’t both arguments be winning for the same reason? I would argue the appeal to humanity of the fetus is more similar to an appeal for the humanity of gay folk then an appeal to keep tradition in place for religious or non-religious reasons. By this reasoning both arguments (pro-same-sex-marriage and anti-abortion) are gaining traction for the same reason: both arguments are closer to the idea of the golden rule and second greatest commandment as opposed to the “Law” of tradition.

    Two points. 1. Perhaps arguments against same-sex marriage aren’t winning because fundamental universal rights are at the core of the issue. Raymond Gaita makes an excellent case for this point on the Brisbane Times (I tried to provide a link but got flagged for being too spamy. Google it. “To reject gay marriage is to be blind to our common humanity”)

    And a commentator on another blog recently accused many in the anti-same-sex-marriage debate of abandoning the teachings of Jesus in favor of worshiping “1950’s style family”. I had never thought about the opponents of gay-marriage in that way before, but in really, it rings true. Especially considering how much the public opponents of gay marriage are willing to distort fact and mislead the general public in what I’m sure they feel is a well-meaning attempt to persuade others. But their tactics smack of hypocrisy and the Machiavellian moral relativism of “the end justifies the means”. They had a chance to put forward good secular arguments against gay marriage in the Prop 8 trial in CA and failed miserably. Their own witnesses ended up supporting the other side. Perhaps the social costs of opposing gay marriage are more due to instantly being aligned with such hacks: who wants their name lumped in with Brian Brown & Bryan Fisher?

  • Mike D’Virgilio

    This is a test. Why do my comments come up as spam?

    • Joe Canner

      Too much talk about “sex”…

      • Mike D’Virgilio

        And I thought I was being careful. I’ll have to review and excise. Thanks.

      • Mike D’Virgilio

        Actually one or two sex’s or sexual got me the “spammy” award. That’s annoying.

  • As long as abortion kills people and gay marriage doesn’t kill anyone, abortion will always be the “easier” fight.

  • Mike D’Virgilio

    Isn’t it interesting how the proponents of same-gender “marriage” destroy liberty in the process of pushing their views on the rest of us. We can’t dictate their morality, but they sure think they have the right and responsibility to dictate ours. In fact, there are plenty of secular reasons to defend real marriage, the kind of marriage that has existed for literally millennia. I’m reading Plato’s Dialogues, and wouldn’t you know it those Athenians actually believed marriage was between a man and a woman, even if some of them might prefer boys.

    In all of history marriage existed for one reason and one reason only, and it wasn’t to affirm a romantic relationship. It existed and exists because men and women together can create new life. Marriage existed prior to the state, and the only interest the state has in marriage is because of procreation. So the state cannot now re-define marriage to mean something it has never meant. Period.

    What is frustrating about this piece is that real marriage can proudly be defended in many ways. But what is more important to me, and should be to everyone who believes in real marriage, is that the proponents of SSM insist that if you do not agree with them you are a hater and a bigot, and they want to enshrine this view in law. So, if you do not agree with them you will need to be legally discriminated against. Does anyone really think that this position is or will be accepted by a majority of Americans who are not ideologically driven? Does anyone really believe that most Americans think that if you believe marriage should be between a man and a woman you are in effect a racists? Really?

    The charge of bigotry rests on the assumption that romantic attraction is the same as skin color. I have no doubt that some people can’t change who they are attracted to, but I also know that there are many people who have thought they were homosexuals, lived the lifestyle, and then changed. They are now heterosexuals who are attracted to the opposite gender. You can’t change skin color. The real hate brigade is on the side of SSM. If we fail to point that out strongly, shame on us.

    • “In all of history marriage existed for one reason and one reason only, and it wasn’t to affirm a romantic relationship. It existed and exists because men and women together can create new life.”

      Of course. That’s say to couples who can’t have children, who perhaps are raising adopted children but biological ones: “You know, you don’t have a REAL marriage.”

    • Hyhybt

      That you even use the phrase “lived the lifestyle” makes everything you say suspect.

  • Steve Silberman

    > Isn’t it interesting how the proponents of same-gender “marriage” destroy liberty in the process of pushing their views on the rest of us.

    It *would* be interesting — if it were true. Somehow, Mike, your right to marry your wife does not “push” anything on me whatsoever. It does not “destroy my liberty.” All I do, thinking of your right to marry your wife, is wish you the best.

    Yet somehow, when I have the right to marry my partner of 16 years, it suddenly destroys your liberty — when you don’t even know us. In other words, the only “liberty” my right to marriage destroys is your liberty to prevent ours from happening.

    That’s the very simple contradiction that millions of people, both religious and not, can see plainly. And that’s why the “war” on other people’s love, security, and commitment is losing. It’s not rocket science: My liberty ends, properly, where it would cause harm to your life. But under DOMA and other bigoted laws, your “liberty” can come crashing into our lives and interfere with the most important and intimate decision that my partner and I will ever make.

    More and more people recognize the unfairness of that. It speaks to the goodness of people.

  • louis 9

    You present a quandary, Tim — that is, that one position (anti-abortion) is easier to “defend” than the other (anti gay-marriage) — but don’t offer adequate understanding or any real solution. Further, your squishiness on the issue of SSM betrays your lack of depth on the issue. Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture offers a much clearer articulation of the challenge that problem presents.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Louis, I’ve written about each of these issues in greater depth elsewhere. This was just a post comparing the two cases/movements. Different posts serve different purposes.


  • Kubrick’s Rube

    “[I]f you do not agree with them you will need to be legally discriminated against.”

    How exactly are you “legally discriminated against” when same-sex couples marry? And if there is an answer to this, is it a greater or lesser form of discrimination than being legally denied marriage?

  • Jessi

    I have to say I read the blog as well as all the comments . I have my own opinions on both abortion and gay marriage in which I will not defend. However, I will say that as far as same sex marriage and the argument for defending and upholding the “sanctity of marriage” doesn’t really work for me . We have many ” man – woman ” marriages fail . They married because of convenience, stupidity, or even youth to which have led to many of what we have come to know as no fault divorces and in my opinion that is just as damaging . Those things ruin “the sanctity of marriage ” and that is simply society at this point . I do not truly see how allowing some to marry based on gender in a non religious argument could be a “winning ” argument .
    Well written article Tim, glad to
    See you seem to be doing well .

  • FlexSF

    Any adult that imposes restrictions on another adult (restricting or banning abortion, or preventing or repealing gay marriage) is a bold faced ***hole. Christianity deeply disgusts me. Looking forward to the federal court annihilation of proposition 8 and every other insulting, intrusive gay marriage ban that has nothing to do with protecting traditional marriage and everything to do with showing disdain towards the gays. If the Christians don’t like it, I don’t care because I have no respect for their man made religion, and I want them to pay for what they’ve done.

    I feel equally disgusted about abortion restrictions. Just because a Christian doesn’t like it isn’t a good enough reason to restrict it or ban it. It is nothing more than an intrusive attempt for a Christian weasel to show their disdain towards the private life of an individual whom lives differently from them.

    The Christian Klan needs to be force fed from the poison cup which they wield. They need to mind their own god-damned business!

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      “Any adult that imposes restrictions on another adult (restricting or banning abortion, or preventing or repealing gay marriage) is a bold faced ***hole.” So you oppose laws against murder, theft, insider trading, and dumping toxic substances into the water? I think you need to refine your statement a bit.

      Anyway, happy to have this kind of hatred on display. Thanks.


      • Basil

        How is my getting married equal to murder, theft, insider trading, or dumping toxic wastes? Is there a victim?

        Is it not hateful to equate my marriage to a murder or a toxic waste dump? What if it was your marriage, your relationship to your wife -I think that would be a pretty despicable analogy.

        I understand your reaction to FlexSF’s tone (more than anything else). But you might feel differently if you were gay and aware of the evil rhetoric aimed against you, or the range of religiously sponsored legal discrimination intruding into almost every aspect of your personal life.

        We can’t get past anger until we deal with injustice. A good place to start might be to stop equating gays to criminals.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Basil, you’re being silly. It’s called argument by analogy. I did not “equate” gay marriage to murder. I was clearly responding to the assertion that no adult has a right to tell another adult what to do. We don’t live by that principle — that was my point.

          If we’re going to move forward in this argument, we need to stop with this faux-offended “You just equated me to a murderer!” stuff. You’re a smart enough guy to know that an argument by analogy is not the same thing as equating the things analogized.


          • Basil

            Tim, you are not being honest. You mention two things in the same breath. We ALL believe murder is bad, so therefore homosexuality has to be just as bad…? Come on dude, that’s not right. It’s argument by implication. How the heck are murder, toxic waste dumping and gay-marriage analogous? Two of those three have easily identifiable victims, the third does not. What’s the analogy?

            I’m not faux-offended, I’m just totally over the whole meme of “homo[deleted for spam filter]ity is equal to [insert name of favorite despicable sin here]”. It’s just incredibly obnoxious. It was the whole core of the anti-Prop 8 campaign in California which played on the whole “gay men are pedophiles out for your kids” archetype which unfortunately has pretty deep roots in our culture.

            I get that you were annoyed, or taken aback, by the vehemence of FlexSF’s (who I don’t know) statement. But did you really read it to try and understand it? He, like many (probably most) LGBT persons is completely fed up with the naked hostility of the Christian community and their imposition of discriminatory laws targeting LGBT citizens. The prop-8 campaign in particular just left the LGBT community much more radicalized, and I think in the end that is actually a blessing, because it made us all, as individuals and as a community, much more motivated to confront discrimination in the civil sphere, and bigotry in the religious sphere.

            Personally, I don’t care about the later — I think if people want to believe that being LGBT is a sin, that’s fine. I have my own religious belief (which are actually intensifying over time), and I think believing that being LGBT is a sin is just completely daft. But I respect the right of people to believe things I find suspect. It is a first amendment right to believe what you want, no matter how stupid (sorry, I’m being really blunt today).

            However, I am quite vehement about my civil rights — my equality under the law is supposed to be guaranteed under the 14th amendment. People’s first amendment religious views are not grounds to abridge my equal rights under the 14th amendment. Anyone who thinks they can legislate on the basis of their theology is just a [insert favorite expletive] as far as I am concerned. I think, in a way, that is the sentiment that FlexSF was reflecting.

            Saw your post on Krauthammer — dude stay away from him. Even among the DC pundit class (which are a very suspect bunch), he’s a piece a work. He’s really arrogant — which comes through loud and clear in interviews with him — and his writing is pretty “ethically challenged” – lots of misleading statements or just flat-out lies. You’re better than that.

            Besides Krauthammer doesn’t anything about economics.

  • Hyhybt

    If you don’t mind being asked… why would gay marriage not *encourage* rather than weaken the “institution” of straight marriage? To strengthen marriage, it seems to me, you need to encourage people, particularly those growing up, that just living together is not good enough. They will see for themselves, whether anyone likes it or not, that gay people do in fact pair up in a very similar manner to straight people. Either the gay couples are allowed to marry or they are not. If they are, then they can be expected to, at least so far as straight couples are still expected to) making a consistent example. If they are *not* allowed to marry, then you (not they who are just living together, but those who stopped them from being able to marry) are saying that in some cases just living together is better (even if you don’t approve of their doing that either, and no matter how clear you are on that point.) “And if ‘just living together’ is good enough for the gay couple down the street, which it must be because it’s all they can do,” the younguns will think, t”hen maybe it’s good enough for us too.”

  • Mike D’Virgilio

    Steve, you answered your own question, although you didn’t really ask. You use the phrase “bigoted laws”. So anyone who believes the law should honor real marriage, as I called it, are in your mind bigots. My liberty to affirm marriage as it has existed for thousands of years is, by law, negated. I, and all those who agree with me for whatever reasons, will be treated as outlaws. And to you, those who think like me are by your definition not “good”. As I stated and will always affirm, the bigotry is on your side, although I have no desire to enshrine that into law.

    • Steve Silberman

      “So anyone who believes the law should honor real marriage, as I called it, are in your mind bigots.”

      Oh, I very much support laws honoring real marriage, being in one myself. But comments like yours speak for themselves, and answer Tim’s question as to why so many people are put off by the arguments made by opponents of marriage equality. Casually dismissing and disrespecting other folks’ marriages as “fake” is a really, really, really weird way to argue for the virtues of marriage; hardly a “good war,” even on its face.

      • Mike D’Virgilio

        Steve, it’s not weird at all. Marriage is between a man and a woman. You can redefine it if you want, but it doesn’t make it marriage. There is no such thing as marriage “equality” because marriage it what it is. Marriage exists and has always existed because of one thing, and that one thing isn’t romance. It is children, procreation. What is really, really weird, is for people like you to claim people like me are bigots and haters because we believe marriage is what it has been for thousands of years.

        • Steve Silberman

          There’s nothing here but circular definitions and sophistry. You may as well be telling Rosa Parks to move her butt to the back of the bus because “The back of the bus is where Negroes sit.” I assume your enthusiasm for child-rearing doesn’t include informing infertile couples that their marriages are shams, or encouraging adoption by gay couples, though there are thousands of kids in foster care looking for stable and loving families. You can repeat “marriage is between a man a woman” as many times as you like, but it’s not a magic spell that makes tens of thousands of loving, caring, faithful couples suddenly disappear.

        • Hyhybt

          No matter what anyone says to the contrary, procreation can only *logically* be the defining basis of marriage if procreation if it is required. Instead, people *claim* procreation as the basis for all marriage only when using that as an argument against same-sex couples marrying, then turn around and make excuses why that doesn’t apply to opposite-sex couples who cannot or do not wish to have children.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            Actually, the theology of the Christian church (West and East) has long seen pro-creation and child-rearing as the primary purpose, or one of the primary purposes, of the institution of marriage. That doesn’t invalidate any particular marriage that cannot fulfill that purpose. But it connotes that the *institution* or marriage is intended as a vessel for bringing life into the world through the complementary love of the husband and wife.

          • Hyhybt

            “One of.” Meaning there are others. And no one of the several is *necessarily* present in a given marriage (at least, not for many branches of Christianity. I do not know about all of them, and I have been told that Catholics are supposed to imagine that sterile man-woman couples still count as being for the purpose of procreation, but that’s your problem and not mine.

            I do appreciate your answering, though. If it wouldn’t be pushing too much, would you mind answering my question about why allowing gay marriage would not be *strengthening* marriage for future generations? It was fairly long, and dated the 30th.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            Well, it begs the question on both sides. If you think that marriage simply means “an enduring partner-commitment of two consenting adults” (or something like that), then giving same-sex partners the ability to enshrine their own such commitments would arguably strengthen the institution of marriage. After all, wouldn’t you rather have gay couples committed for life, rather than moving from one relationship to another? But if you believe (as most Christians do, we would say, from biblical grounds) that marriage is the union of a man and a woman…” (whatever else you might want to say), then giving the imprimatur of the state to a *different* definition of marriage serves to degrade the institution. For most Christians, there is an objective definition of what marriage is. When the church and the state recognize that definition and work with it, then the institution will remain strong and will serve for a stronger society. When the church or the state adopt a different definition and encourage people to act as though marriage is something that it’s not, then the institution will weaken, to the detriment of society.

            In outline, at least, I think that’s how the argument would go.


          • Hyhybt

            OK… but that doesn’t get to what I was asking about in the least. I apologize for not being clear. I mean that fitting gay couples into marriage, at least civilly, allows marriage to remain a standard which it is reasonable to expect all in relationships to aim for. Whereas creating a separate entity for gay couples, or else not recognizing them at all, makes those gay couples by necessity an example of how marriage isn’t necessary after all. If it’s good enough for Bill and Ted (who seem to be doing all right; and it must be OK that they’re not married, since they’re not allowed to be) then, so it would appear to those approaching the age for such things, it must be OK for *us* to just live together too. A message sent much more strongly than anything they will hear in church.

  • Carol Morrisey

    Marriage is the legal union of a man and a woman, for the purpose of protecting their children and the mother caring for them. When you have 2 of the same gender, it is not a complementary pair. Men and women are not interchangeable. If children end up being raised by such a pair, they are being shortchanged, because children need both a mother and a father. Gay couples are free to live together and to apply legal contracts such as joint ownership, durable power of attorney, etc. as they please. But to call their unions legal marriage leads to infringement of the rights of others who will now be coerced into going against their principles. Case in point: the adoption agency in (I think) Massachusetts which closed rather than be forced into placing children with gay couples. There is no reason this agency could not continue to function as before. Gays could open their own agency. There is also the case here in Michigan of a graduate counseling student expelled from her program because she referred a gay client to another counselor. It was against her principles to assist him with that relationship,though she would have helped with another type of problem. People who believe gay relationships are wrong should not be discriminated against. And there is no need for gays to have the name of marriage, which is meant only for complementary pairs.

  • carolyn

    I am curious where you got the information for the statement “a credible argument has been made that gay people are “born that way.” I have read of nothing that I consider credible in reference to gays “being born that way”. As the mother of a gay son I would like nothing more than to think that his upbringing had nothing to do with his life choices. References please. (Btw I am very sad with my sons’ sexual choice.)

    • Hyhybt

      Why do you take the default position you do, that it must be upbringing or choice until proven otherwise? Why does the testimony of countless gay people count for nothing?

    • Kubrick’s Rube


      I’m sorry you’re having trouble with and feeling guilt over your son’s orientation. If you’d like a good starting point on this issue, I’d suggest Tim’s series on Christianity and Homosexuality from earlier this year, especially:


    • Basil

      So what you are saying is that you love your son less, or not at all, because he was honest enough to tell you that he is gay? What a great mother you must be!

      • carolyn

        there have been many studies on the fact that deveoplment in childhood contributes to sexual identity. i am asking for studies showing that it has been shown that gays are born that way.

        • Basil

          Here is a decent study of sexual orientation in twins — there are lots of these studies right now in the scientific community. Unfortunately, they are dense and very technical — it’s written by/for biologists

          This one, like most, finds that there are a number of factors, but that there is a strong genetic component.

          • Steve Silberman

            Carolyn, my parents were sad about my being born gay too. They sent me to a therapist who told me after a few sessions, “I don’t think you really need to be seeing me — you seem very well-adjusted.” And 30 years later, thank God, my parents and my devout in-laws celebrated our wedding enthusiastically, happy that we had both found such obvious goodness in one another. I’m willing to bet that your son is praying that you come to that kind of understanding too. Life is very short — don’t waste time. Love your son as he is.

    • Gerry

      “As the mother of a gay son I would like nothing more than to think that his upbringing had nothing to do with his life choices.”
      Most mothers I know, mine included, “would like nothing more than” the happiness of their children. [Editor cut the rest of this comment for nastiness.]

  • Basil


    Why are you characterizing political debates as religious “wars”? That seems to have a lot of really disturbing implications.

    • carolyn

      you misunderstand me. i love my son very much.i do not have to agree with him to love him. love does not mean you have to accept everthing your child does in his life.

      • Basil

        I had a long reply, but I hit the spam filter. Oh well. I’ll try later.

        There are a lot of good scientific studies on the origins of sexual orientation.

        More later

      • Basil


        A close friend who is a Biology professor at Penn State once shared a scientific article with me on brain anatomy (complete with pictures of brain slices). It was very dense reading, esp since I am not a biologist. Whether it is due to genetics, hormones in the womb when you were pregnant with your son (there is a lot of writing in the scientific community right now about this – it may also play into birth order as well, since the chance of a boy being gay increases if he has older brothers), or the course of brain development during childhood , or some interplay of all these factors – your son’s brain is just wired differently from the brain of a heterosexual person. His brain is physically different, and that difference is apparently observable to doctors. He is wired so that he is attracted to other men. That was not his choice, it is innate, and it will not change.

        Your son took a huge risk when he came out to you. It was the most difficult thing he has ever done. He has opened himself to you, so that you see him honestly, for who he really is, not some easy lie that you might have preferred. He did it because he loves you, and on some level, he must have hope and faith that you will not reject your son for who he is. You should feel honored because he took thevrik and has shared the most personal part of himself with you. At lot of children, straight or gay, don’t share anything like that with their parents. Once the shock wears off (and it will), it will ultimately bring you closer together than you ever could have imagined.

        It doesn’t mean that you have to approve of every man he dates , or believe that he should wait until he shouldn’t wait for “Mr. Right” – whatever standard you believe in should be the same whether he is straight or gay. Trust me when I tell you that really this is inconsequential in the end. Your son will ultimately want someone to love, someone to build a life together with, and maybe to start a family – his being gay doesn’t change any of that. Those are probably the same things you want for him, and his being gay does not alter them.

        Life is short. This is your opportunity. Take a chance and show your son the same love and respect that he showed you. You won’t regret it.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Basil, I appreciate the intention behind this comment. While I think you give too short of shrift to volitional elements in the formation of homosexual proclivities, I don’t suspect we’ll make any progress on that here.

          What I really want to comment on is your idealized vision of ‘coming out’ in the second paragraph. You describe a single kind of coming-out experience and assume that it’s the same for everyone (since there’s no reason supplied for why it would be true of this person and not others, I’m assuming you think it’s this way for everyone). Is it always “the most difficult thing he has ever done”? Is it always “because he loves you”, always a sharing of “the most personal part of himself”? Do children never ‘come out’ for less noble reasons? Ever? Really? And are our sexual preferences always the most personal part of ourselves?

          Maybe you simply think it’s best for the mother to assume the best of motives, to assume this idealized vision of the gay person coming out to his parents. I don’t doubt that those things are often true, and I have great sympathy for those who feel they have to come out to parents who will, they know, be disappointed. We certainly agree that the mother should show love and respect. But I find this idealized, heroic vision suspect, if it’s projected onto every person who comes out.


          • Basil

            You’re right, we won’t make any progress on “volitional elements”. There are none. I’m not being facetious (at least I am not trying to be), I just have never met, or even heard of, anyone who at the age of say 16 says to themselves: “I think I will choose to be attracted to [men/women] instead of [women/men].” It just doesn’t work that way – you don’t pick your attractions. I didn’t, and I’m sure you didn’t. This isn’t to say that orientation is perfectly clear cut, I tend to think Kinsey had it right when he sort described it as a numerical scale between totally hetero to totally homo — with a fair number of people falling somewhere in between.

            I’m not trying to idealize “coming out”. It is such a misnamed process, because it has nothing to do with wanting to announce yourself to the whole world. It is a process of accepting who you are, as God made you. It is a conscious decision to be honest about yourself and reflect that with those you love. There are certainly many times when “coming out” to one’s family is not ideal — when say a teen is “caught” kissing someone, or looking at some erotic picture or…you get the idea. And I am sure that when people are “outed” in an unplanned and sudden way, it makes for a lot of conflict. Coming out is just really hard, and doing it the context of a conservative family makes it that much harder. I have first hand experience on that.

            Nor am I believer that it is always good for a teen to come out. Adults yes, but teens, no. If a teen is in a homophobic, where they are likely to be abused, or made homeless, then coming out is probably a bad idea. It is better to wait until you are independent. That is a hard but very sad truth.

            What I was trying to stress to Carolyn is that her son is being open and honest, and he is intensely vulnerable. I can’t stress that enough. Her degree of acceptance is really going to determine what kind of relationship that she has with her son in the years ahead. If she is vehemently condemning — say rushing him off to any of the myriad of quack “reparative therapies”, she will alienate him, and possibly push him towards depression and suicide. If she is grudgingly accepting, but makes clear her displeasure with his “choice”, he will likely be hurt and resentful, and as he grows into adulthood, things will be strained and he will drift away — as a defense mechanism — because no one wants to hang around where they feel unwanted and viewed with suspicion.

            If she is accepting, then yes, she can have a very close relationship with her son. And if the bar to that acceptance is a fear that of not having grandkids, or her son falling into a degenerate “lifestyle” — well she should be open about that, but she should know that it doesn’t have to be that way. She should not be afraid. Gay young people aren’t substantively different from their straight peers…they date, sometimes they behave badly, and eventually most of them hope to meet the right person and settle down and have a family. She can be “Mom”, and voice her opinions on his future boyfriends, just like she would if he was straight. What she should know is that “gay” does not mean childless — the gay couple we bought our house from was moving out because they needed a bigger place for their kids. The last figure I saw (from CA) was that 28% of gay couples have kids, and that this is growing over time. The only difference is that same-sex couples can’t become parents “by accident”. That’s not a bad thing.

            It is a lot for a parent to absorb. But she should have hope, because her son has not given up on her yet. Whatever her trepidations, she should take comfort in that. Being gay doesn’t change the hopes and dreams that she can have for her son, nor does it substantively alter the dreams and goals that he will have for himself. He is still the same young man that he was before he told her, he’s just being more honest now.

  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    Thank you for a thoughtful article, Dr. Dalrymple.

    There seems to be a great need for the homosexual community to acquire “affirmation” for their lifestyle from the general community. This “in your face” campaign has diluted much of the good will otherwise exhibited to individual homosexuals, and has made it very difficult for Christian (celibate) homosexuals to become and remain accepted into the Christian community.

    The best, and most exhaustive article I have ever read on this subject, and on the attendant need to publicize homosexuality and gain “marriage” status, is from a “ancient” 1994 article. It defined and even predicted the controversies that continue today by a minute tail which seems to want to wag the dog.

    This is a link to the article:

    I recommend it highly. A short quote from the conclusion of the article:

    “To endure (tolerance), to pity (compassion), to embrace (affirmation): that is the sequence of change in attitude and judgment that has been advanced by the gay and lesbian movement with notable success. We expect that this success will encounter certain limits and that what is truly natural will reassert itself, but this may not happen before more damage is done to innumerable individuals and to our common life.”

    The prophecy of “more damage” is fulfilled in our present time.

    May G-d have mercy on us.

    • Kubrick’s Rube

      From the article you linked:

      “For most people marriage and family is the most important project in their lives. For it they have made sacrifices beyond numbering; they want to be succeeded in an ongoing, shared history by children and grandchildren; they want to transmit to their children the beliefs that have claimed their hearts and minds. They should be supported in that attempt.”

      This sums up my support for marriage equality pretty well.

    • Basil

      It’s not a lifestyle, it’s a life.

  • The most disturbing thing to me is that every argument mustered against same sex marriage is an argument that was once mustered against my own interracial marriage.

    I feel very strongly about same sex marriage because I know that my own marriage would still not only be forbidden, but actually a crime carrying a jail sentence, in many states if it was not for “activist judges” declaring it legal through the land.

    Once, not too long ago, there were people claiming that to permit interracial marriage would change the definition of marriage and harm society, that the children would be harmed, that it would be damaging to the traditional family, etc.

    Given that, can you explain why you think your activism against gay marriage is particularly different from past activism against interracial marriage?

    • Frank

      Simple skin color is clearly genetic, sexual preference is not, at least all science so far has not found any link nor expects to find one.

      • Steve Silberman

        Frank, you haven’t read the science. You haven’t even done a simple Google search, or you would have found complex considerations of what science has actually found, like this: . My question to you is, how do you reconcile your lying with your religious beliefs?

        • Frank

          Steve I suggest expanding your research beyond wiki. You may actually learn something!

          But even from the wiki you posted it states clearly there still is no proof. So my statement stands!

          • Hyhybt

            “No proof” and “no link” are vastly different statements, especially in implication.

          • Frank

            If there is a link it has to be proven no? That’s what science does right?

  • As far as abortion goes, I see nothing to indicate that we on the pro-choice side have become convinced, or have stopped arguing, that the so-called pro-life side is primarily motivated by a puritan desire to punish women for having sex.

    The fact that the so-called pro-life movement is almost entirely anti-contraception, is almost entirely opposed to reality based sex education, and is utterly unconcerned with natural failure to implant seems evidence enough to me that concern for fetal life is not central to their dogma. The first two are known to actually increase the abortion rate, something you’d imagine people truly concerned iwth fetal life would not support, and the last results in more natural abortions than the sum of artificial abortion and live births together.

    Anyone genuinely motivated by concern for fetal life would see natural failure to implant as a grave concern, yet the so-called pro-life movement never discusses it at all.

    Quite simply I look at the actions of the so-called pro-life movement and I ask “will these actions reduce the abortion rate?” And the answer is no. Those actions will, however, punish women for having sex. QED.

    • Frank

      The difference is woman have a choice whether to have irresponsible sex, the child has no choice in his/her conception.

      So no pro-life is not about punishing anyone just protecting the innocent.

  • bondboy

    Defenders of traditional marriage who want to go “back to the Bible” should be consistent. The biblical example of traditional marriage includes polygamy, virginity tests and the sale of women. Women in the bible are property. So I’d like to see some advocacy for the sale of daughters. There are no equal rights in the bible.

    Also, can we dispense with the idea that abortion involves only one right — that of the fetus? You say that pro-life protects the innocent. But most people understand that abortion rights protect the right of the woman who is bearing the child. And it only impacts the rights of poor women who have little mobility, since abortion will always be available to those who have money and can travel.

    What I never understand is why some people are so desperate to force women they don’t know to bear children they don’t want. What do I care that a woman in a state across the country is ending a pregnancy? Why would anybody care?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Have you never actually read an extended argument from someone who goes “back to the Bible” to defend traditional marriage? Whenever I hear people raise this objection, they seem to think that this is going to strike Christians with the force of a sudden revelation, as though we’ve never thought of this ourselves or never heard of it before. But any sophisticated defender of traditional marriage will be able to explain this to you.

      There are ways of differentiating between the laws that are context- and time-specific (especially ceremonial laws for the ancient Hebrews, or forms of social organization for that theocratic state) from the moral prescriptions that are more universally human. Some of it has to do with examination of the moral teaching itself, with how it was taught and applied in that context, and whether it was taught not only in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) in the context of the states of Judah and Israel but also in the New Testament as a general moral teaching. There are stories (and stories are not always *prescriptive*) of polygamy in the Old Testament, but no law legitimizing it, and it becomes clear in the OT and especially in the NT that a man is supposed to have one wife. There are rules against eating the rock badger in Leviticus (I believe it’s Leviticus), but that’s not taught repeatedly and it’s certainly not taught by Jesus or Paul. By contrast, the image of marriage as one man and one woman is taught from Genesis through to Revelation, and there are specific statements against homosexual relationships in both the OT and the NT.

      There are sophisticated arguments that the Christian defenders of gay marriage can make regarding those passages, but the passages are there, and at least on their face they speak against homosexual relationships as a general moral matter, as a departure from God’s intention for human sexuality. You can agree with it or disagree with it; you may not think the argument is successful. But people need to realize that this “Then why don’t you stone adulterers?” objection has an objection that was developed many, many centuries ago.


      • Hyhybt

        Thank you; although I’ve pieced that together, it’s good to see someone say it all nice and clear. When I was asking about it elsewhere a couple years ago, all I got in response was that the Holiness Code didn’t apply but the moral laws did, with no explanation of how, since Leviticus does not separate them, you can be absolutely certain which are which. Even when I repeatedly *asked* how.

        I would still, though, think it’s a valid argument for dismissing *Leviticus* from consideration. Leviticus says men who lie with men should be put to death, but then, it says a lot of people should be put to death for stuff we all do all the time that nobody objects to, so why not argue over Romans or Corinthians instead?

  • BobN

    If you really believed what you say you believe, you wouldn’t lie about what you oppose. You don’t oppose “gay marriage”. You oppose legal recognition of gay relationships, including civil unions. If you’re like most of those who oppose gay marriage, you also oppose any and all equal rights for gay people, from repeal of DADT to work-place protections.

    That you guys (and gals) will no longer even forthrightly state your opposition says a lot about how far we have come and how unprincipled your opposition is.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I don’t know whom you’re referring to here (it’s hard to see from the comments Dashboard), but I think Christians who oppose gay marriage should be as vigorous in defending the human and civil rights of gays as they are in defending the human and civil rights of non-gays. I’m open to civil unions; haven’t really made up my mind on that. But thanks for calling us unprincipled.


      • Basil

        Are we debating on religious grounds or legal/civil grounds? It is one thing to oppose something on religious grounds, but it is quite a bit more extreme to use civil law to legislate religious doctrine. We still have a constitution and a 14th amendment which grants us equal treatment under the law. It is not possible to square unequal treatment of LGBT persons with our broader constitutional principles of equality, and this is why you are seeing more challenges to discriminatory laws in the federal courts.

        Christians who oppose gay marriage almost invariably oppose other civil and human rights for LGBT persons, and often go to ridiculous extremes to express their hatred and opposition. It seems to be part of identity politics. The examples are as numerous as raindrops in a thunderstorm. Michelle Bachmann, for example, should logically be spearheading legislative initiatives to combat bullying of teenagers in schools. You think she would, given the fact that the Anoka-Hennepin school district has seen 9 or 10 teen suicides triggered by bullying in the last 2 years (the state of Minnesota has designated it a suicide “hot spot”), and the school district is located in her Congressional district. In fact, she is indifferent, and in the past as a state legislator, she vehemently opposed anti-bullying legislation. For the record, her favorite pastor is much worse, he speaks approvingly of executing gay people, characterizes gay people as pedophiles and predators, and vehemently opposes anti-bullying laws to protect teens.

        There are secular homophobes, but the driving engine of homophobia in our society is religiously inspired, financed and organized. You cannot credibly overlook that, it is undeniable fact. If Christians, or rather, the broader religious community of all stripes, feel uncomfortable about this reality, then they have an obligation to drive homophobes back under their rocks.

        I look forward to the day when I will see Catholic prelates, Mormon bishops and evangelical pastors lobbying Congress to pass laws to combat bullying and employment discrimination against LGBT citizens. Until that happens, all this talk about being unfairly “stigmatized” and unjustly labeled as “bigots” just seems dishonest and surreal.

      • Basil
    • Hyhybt

      Wow, that’s an overactive spam filter!

      There are grounds (invalid ones, in my opinion, but grounds reasonable people can hold) for opposing the inclusion of gay couples within what is already known as marriage without believing gay people should be killed, or discriminated against in employment or housing, or even having *some* of the rights of marriage. (Never all, because the name itself is one of them.) It’s just that most people who argue against gay marriage do so out of disapproval of gay people in general, and so not only oppose fair treatment in other matters but also drag general anti-gay arguments into any discussion of marriage.

  • Barry

    Timothy Drymple: “And one can make the argument that the legal sanctioning of same-sex marriage (1) further deteriorates the institution of marriage and (2) harms the children whom marriage protects, but the first part is abstract and theoretical and the second part is difficult to demonstrate conclusively. Both sides can cite studies. So gay marriage appears to be “victimless.” To be clear, I’m not saying these arguments fail from a logical point of view. I think these arguments are correct. I’m saying instead that they fail to persuade the majority, since the case is complex, the water is muddied, and there are strong countervailing cultural winds. Unless you are convinced on religious grounds that same-sex relationships are sinful and therefore inherently destructive — for the gay couple, for children they might raise, and for a society built on the marital unit — you’re unlikely to oppose same-sex marriage.”

    ‘Both sides can cite studies.’

    And one sides cites garbage studies from junk science ‘think tanks’.

    The reason that people are no longer believing those lies is that they’re gaining experience and finding out that those lies are indeed lies.

  • Barry

    “The pro-choice camp once contended that pro-lifers opposed abortion because they hate women. It was plainly untrue, and they lost that part of the argument. ”

    It’s plainly true, as we see again and again and again as the right seeks to outlaw birth control, lyingly calling everything under the sun an abortifacient, and strives to make sure that third-world women don’t get aid for healthcare (while having no problem spending billions to kill them).