Proponents of same-sex marriage—in legal terms defined as “equal” or “genderless” marriage—often argue this point: “How does gay marriage affect you personally?” In a Meridian Magazine article titled “The Inequalities of ‘Equal’ Marriage,” writer Mary Fielding Summerhays articulates how same-sex marriage affects everybody and “may actually affect heterosexuals more than homosexuals, for it dismantles traditional family law and replaces it with a new paradigm of genderless union.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley, then prophet and leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church, gave an address in October 1998 titled “What are People Asking About Us?” He said:
We cannot stand idle if [people] try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.
The true danger of same-sex unions and the redefinition of marriage is the threat to the family unit. I cringe when I hear the term “modern family,” because the term, for me, has come to symbolize the changing values and attitudes toward the family and its structure.
The Purpose of Marriage is to Create Families
In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles, which is the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declared:
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between a man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.
The purpose of marriage is to create a stable, lasting and permanent foundation for families. Mothers, fathers and children benefit from this institution.
In her article, Summerhays writes: “Marriage as an entity is designed to protect those made vulnerable by procreation. First on that list are the infants that are born to women.”
She cites Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, who said,
The child is entitled to a relationship with and care from both of the people who brought him into being. Therefore, the child has a legitimate interest in the stability of his parents’ union. But no child can defend these entitlements himself. Nor is it adequate to make restitution after these rights have been violated. The child’s rights to care and relationship must be supported proactively, before harm is done, for those to be protected at all.
The second on the list, Summerhays writes, is the women who bear the children. Through the marriage contract, women have claim on their husbands for the support of themselves and their children. “Historically, gendered marriage has tied men to their children and to the mothers who sacrificed to create them. This arrangement not only overcomes but also compliments the biological differences of men and women,” Summerhays writes.
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
Lastly, “gendered marriage addresses the rights of fathers. Fatherhood is the most fragile biological relationship in the father-mother-child triangle,” Summerhays writes. “The bond between the mother and child is obvious. The father less so. Marriage closes this gap by legally binding a father to a mother and child, giving him both rights and responsibilities that, by the way, dramatically affects the successful socialization of children.”
Summerhays continued: “I interviewed a lawyer once and asked her to imagine a world without legal marriage. She abruptly responded: ‘It would be chaos. Women and children would be chattel. They could be abandoned without the slightest thought. They would have no legal recourse.’”
Thus, “marriage is the protective sanctuary that allows children to have a relationship with both father and mother. That relationship provides them with the stable and long-term care and nurturance they deserve,” Summerhays writes.
How Do You Take Gender out of Marriage Relationships?
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states:
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.
You cannot remove gender from the marital contract without first extracting the primary function of marriage—to create a family. Same-sex unions cannot procreate; it is a biological impossibility.
…Protections regarding procreation cannot be extended to a homosexual union because that union cannot procreate. The solution to the problem cannot be to add protections to a power that does not exist. The only way these non-procreative unions can become legally equal is to remove several biological protections—protections that the law extends to the procreative unions found in traditional marriage, Summerhays writes.
Thus, the only way to remove gender from marriage is to remove the protection of family bonds—the child to his mother and father. Marriage becomes, in essence, government recognition of an emotional union, Summerhays writes. “States that have ratified homosexual marriage have done so by removing gender from the law, stripping rights from children and fathers and, in some cases, from biological mothers.”
The Inequality of Equal Marriage
“The invention of genderless marriage has the potential to affect the nature of traditional relationships more than the nature of gay relationships. According to this new definition of equality, court judgments are already being handed down that strip biological distinctions and hence ignore biological rights,” Summerhays writes.
In other words, equal marriage can only be equal by redefining marriage into something less than what it is. The civil rights movement toward equality was about extending God-given rights to every person regardless of race, nationality or color. No freedoms or protections were removed, they were extended to all. “Equalizing” marriage cannot do this. The law can’t give each marriage the same protection without first eliminating the foundational tenets of gender roles and family relationships—the very protections for which marriage was designed.
Trying to redefine marriage into something it isn’t wreaks havoc on family law. “Families with three homosexual parents [listed on the birth certificate]; a loss of father’s rights; children without the right to a mother and a father; adoption policy protecting homosexual adults over defenseless children; and heterosexual marriages being redefined—this all sounds so implausible, but it is now historical fact,” Summerhays writes. “These events are the first tremblings of a tidal wave of familial case-law chaos—that is, if genderless marriage continues unabated.”
Summerhays cites “The Family: A Proclamation,” which states: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”
The ideals behind same-sex marriage undermine the very foundational doctrines of marriage, that is the creation of a stable family unit. Children are vulnerable and need the protection of their parents. Mothers and fathers need the stability and commitment of each other as well as the legal safeguards protecting their rights as biological parents. Deconstructing those rights to favor “genderless” roles creates confusion and chaos. Now is the time to stand up and defend “traditional” marriage—that is, between a man and a woman. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to render a decision in June on a case about California’s Prop 8 and The Defense of Marriage Act. The ramifications of this decision will have “enormous impact on our future, the stability of family and religious freedom,” Summerhays writes. How will you make your voice heard?