Daily Archives: June 28, 2011
More on Traditional Marriage: Classic Francis Beckwith
When the mayor of San Francisco was passing out marriage licenses for gay couples in defiance of state law in 2004, philosopher Francis Beckwith suggested a better way to handle it than the legal remedy which was sought:
I believe, however, that given present circumstances that the best strategy is to take the mayor at his word and employ “street theatre” in a provocative way in order to force the other side to defend their marital nihilism in all its glory. Here’s the plan: Have about 50 folks go to San Francisco city hall and request marriage licenses, but not for gay marriages, rather, for other sorts of “unions” that are also forbidden by the state: three bisexuals from two genders, one person who wants to marry himself (and have him accuse the mayor of “numberism,” the prejudice that marriage must include more than one person), two married couples who want a temporary “wife-swap lease,” a couple consisting of two brothers, two sisters, or a brother and a sister, an adult mother and son, and a man who wants to add a second wife and a first husband in order to have a “marital ensemble,” etc., etc. Let’s see if the mayor will give these people “marriage” licenses. If not, why not? If not, then the jig is up and the mayor actually has to explain the grounds on which he will not give licenses to these folks. But what could those grounds be? That it would break the law? That marriage has a nature, a purpose, that is not the result of social construction or state fiat? If so, then what is it and why? (source)
Beckwith goes on that article to state that marriage isn’t a social construction, but an institution with precise meaning and confers a specific benefit to society.
. . . [O]nce marriage is defined merely as a contract between consenting adults rather than as an institution grounded in our natures as men and women, recognized and honored by the wider community, then marriage simply does not exist. According to the mayor of San Francisco, marriage is not something we enter; it is something we create or undo by our willfulness. It is not part of the order and nature of things that we honor and preserve by subjecting ourselves to its moral grandeur; rather, it is like the colors of traffic signals, diplomatic immunity, or the dollar amount of parking fines, arbitrary rules created by governments in order to facilitate safe travel, economic transactions, international relations, state funding, and/or public peace.
Marriage is a covenantal institution recognizing that men and women need each other to survive and flourish. We’re two sides of the same coin. If men can marry men, and women can marry women, why not the other institutions that Beckwith suggests, above? No, marriage has a meaning and a purpose grounded in something greater than just state law. It is grounded in our own nature, which must have both genders present to see its fulfillment. Which means that folks like myself who, according to detractors, “deny” gays the “right” to marry are not denying them anything–they never had this “right” in the first place. You can’t deny a man something that isn’t his to begin with.