Adam & Steve in Nebraska

The occasion of the overturn of Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage seems as good a time as any for my gay marriage manifesto. More on the decision itself if study warrants it. It's easy to hate judges, and this is a Clinton appointee, but after Roemer and Lawrence, he may not have had a choice.

I’ll begin with the obligatory caveats and disclaimers. I happen to have had over time several friends who suffered from same-sex attraction, including one whom I call a close friend, and I am grateful to them for their candid discussions with me about their lives. I have learned a lot from them. Each has handled his condition and thought about it in a different way, but I have nothing but respect for their struggles and their honest efforts to find a moral way to live. One such friend poignantly put it to me in a late-night college bull session,
“RC2, this life is so painful and so lonely. Do you think anyone in his right mind would choose it? Do you honestly think I wouldn’t leave it if I could?”
The last thing in the world I would wish to do is hurt one of these friends of mine, and the last thing I would wish to see is any of them persecuted or denied his basic civil rights because of his orientation.

Moreover, I think it can’t be denied that professing Christians often send mixed-messages to people like my friends. (I’m talking ordinary pew-sitters. Don’t get me started on those idiots who show up at funerals with those “God hates fags” signs. They get me livid. Do these people think they are helping?! ) “Leave that lifestyle,” we say. But how possible do we make it for people to do so? Friends attempting to live chaste lives and seeking the support of the Church have told me with great pain of the rejection they receive if they ever dare to admit that they suffer from this affliction. As Fr. Harvey of Courage points out, an important key to a person with homosexual orientation's ability to live a chaste life is achieving normal, loving, non-sexual friendships with persons of both sexes. If the very people best able to offer those stable relationships refuse to do so, how can we expect people to live chastity? This is –or ought to be—a point for examination of conscience for Christians.

Secondly, it is commonly said that the Church in effect persecutes homosexuals, or is the enemy of homosexuals. On the contrary, the Church upholds the dignity of these persons –even where they themselves refuse to. For the Church, homosexuals fall into two categories: married and single. Some homosexuals do marry, you know (no, silly, I don't mean in Massachussetts. I mean they marry persons of the opposite sex). And our culture currently takes it as a given that homosexuality “entitles” you to a freebie divorce. The Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, for example, left his wife and kids in order to cohabit with his male lover. But why, if they are equal in dignity, should gays get a free pass out of vows freely taken? We expect heterosexual people to work through their problems and save their marriages or make the best of it, right? (Oh. Whoops! But we should, right? And anyway, the Church does).

And as for single homosexuals, I have a fair number of single friends, some of whom are women “of an age” where the possibility that they may never marry is a real one. They have normal libidos, and normal temptations and desires. Do you think they don’t get lonely sometimes? Do you think it doesn’t cross their minds at times to take comfort in the arms of a lover? They don’t--not because they are repressed, but because they have learned that love means something and they aren’t willing to cheapen that meaning. The point is, the Church doesn’t ask of single homosexuals anything it doesn’t ask from any single person. It’s called chastity.

Who has the higher opinion of the homosexual person? The one who says, man, you are weak, and therefore can’t be expected to fulfill your commitments or achieve the freedom of self-mastery, so we’ll just leave you to do as you please? Or the one who says, yes, you are weak, but everyone is weak in some way, and you have the same possibilities as everyone else to achieve self-mastery, to carry your cross with dignity, and to become holy?

There is more to be said on that theme, but all I really want to say here is that society can have all the best will in the world towards persons of homosexual orientation, and still not affirm “gay marriage” as a good. Andrew Sullivan and others go ballistic when they read that same-sex orientation is inherently disordered, but it is. This doesn’t mean what Sullivan says it does. It doesn’t mean that homosexuals are more likely to steal or murder or cheat on their taxes than others; it means that same-sex desire is in itself disordered. That this is not crushingly obvious to us is a function of our reluctance to speak frankly about what same-sex attraction means lest we be labeled bigots and haters and have eggs thrown at our homes. What it means is this: deep in the heart of man is the drive to perpetuate the species – a drive to plant his seed in a life-giving womb in order that he may live forever through his progeny. When this drive becomes directed not towards the womb, but towards. . .ahem. . .another place, well, can anything be more obvious than that somehow something has gone wrong –that this is inherently disordered? Same-sex attraction frustrates this fundamental, life-giving and life-affirming drive. It doesn’t mean that everyone who suffers from this attraction is evil, anymore than a person with a disposition towards alcoholism is evil. But we don’t tell the alcoholic, go ahead drink all you want. We expect him to control his impulses, even as we judge his occasional benders mercifully when we know his weakness.

It is one thing to say, sorry, but for personal reasons I can’t contribute to the perpetuation of the species. It is of another order entirely to proclaim that because one can’t, the entire culture must be forbidden to prefer the womb (forgive me, but we must be blunt) to the anus. The culture that would result from such a turn would be truly the culture of death, in that it would ipso facto affirm that it is not in any way important to engender another generation. It would be virulently anti-child, because a people obsessed with itself is threatened by kids, seeing them as competitors and usurpers rather than as a precious link to immortality. (Or the reverse: the child as petted emblem, which amounts to the same thing.) And it would be profoundly anti-woman, inasmuch as a society which thinks same-sex marriage is just as good as traditional marriage is saying there is nothing important or special about the unique contribution of the feminine to culture. The womb, child-bearing? Whatever. Utterly insignificant. "Gay marriage" is the logical opposite of the equal dignity of women with men. In the end we will have one or the other, not both.