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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage

An interview of Tom McClusky
of the Family Research Council

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Jennifer Mesko is an associate editor at Citizenlink' -- Focus on the Family' Action`s public information service. During early 2007-NOV, she interviewed Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs for the Family Research Council on the topic of same-sex marriage (SSM).

The interview was held as the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and as speculation grew concerning legislation to make marriage available to all loving committed couples in New Jersey -- both opposite-sex and same-sex.

We include this interview and an analysis of McClusky`s points because the interview clearly expresses the linkage between gay rights and the institution of traditional -- or opposite-sex -- marriage, as viewed by many religious conservatives.

In the following essay, the words of Mesko and McClusky were slightly pruned to number fewer than 400 in order to stay within generally accepted copyright limitations.

The acronym SSM refers to same-sex marriage.

1. About the institution of marriage:

bulletTom McClusky: Health and wealth and sexual fulfillment -- in each of these categories, married couples always report immense advantages over individuals who remain single or even couples who might decide to live together.
bulletAnalysis: Marriage obviously benefits loving committed couples in the three areas mentioned. Some have argued that it is beneficial in other areas as well:
bulletIt drastically reduces the incidence of promiscuity.
bulletIt reduces the potential for contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
bulletMarried persons tend to be more active in their community and culture.

At the close of the American civil war, marriage was first made available to all African Americans. They benefited from access to marriage. In the 1960s, marriage was made available to inter-racial couples in the U.S. They also benefited from this change. In 2004 marriage was made available to same-sex couples in Massachusetts. Although they and their children are still denied over 1,000 federal benefits and protections that opposite-sex married couples are automatically granted, same-sex couples in that state and their children have benefited from SSM.

Some feel that to deny same-sex couples access to full marriage benefits on the basis of their gender is unethical.

bulletT.M.: Marriage is a sacrament. It's one of the only sacraments that two people enter into equally.
bulletActually, marriage is only a sacrament in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox wings of Christianity. In the case of Roman Catholicism it has been a sacrament only since the 12th century. It is not regarded as such by Protestants who generally regard only baptism and communion as sacraments. 2 It is certainly not considered a religious sacrament by Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, and other secularists.

2. About New Jersey:

bulletT.M.: [Legislation permitting SSM is] "very possible. It's believed that the vote right now would be extremely close.
bulletAnalysis: This is correct. A solid majority of the people of New Jersey favor enlarging the scope of marriage to include both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. This majority continues to increase. However, a vote in the legislature would not necessarily follow the wishes of the citizens; it could go either way.
bulletT.M.: You've seen an eradication of the marriage benefits, by introducing pseudo-type marriage.
bulletAnalysis: Opposite-sex couples in Massachusetts, Canada, and five other countries have not lost any of the benefits and protections of marriage as a result of enlarging the scope of marriage to include same-sex couples. In the U.S., these benefits total approximately 1,400.
bulletT.M.: You start with something like hate crimes, where special benefits should be given to homosexuals.
bulletAnalysis: Hate crimes give equal protections and benefits to heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals. Neither homosexuals or persons of other sexual orientations receive any special benefits.
bulletT.M.: Then you work into something like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which New Jersey also has. They have civil unions. You keep sharing the benefits that are exclusively to married couples, and eventually, marriage no longer means what it means.
bulletAnalysis:  We suspect that McClusky meant to say that "... marriage no longer means what it has meant in the past." That is true. The criteria for marrying has been in a state of flux for centuries. As noted above, marriage was first changed to allow African American couples in, then to allow mixed-race couples, and finally, at least in Massachusetts, to allow same-sex couples. In each case, once the increased scope of marriage became established, few people advocated a return to earlier, more restrictive definitions of marriage. If the past is any guide, this will probably happen in the case of SSM.

3. About the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA):

bulletT.M.: We've seen it already affect marriage. It was ENDA-type legislation that was passed in Massachusetts, in New Jersey, Vermont, in California. A lot of places where you see domestic partnerships or civil unions, it was based on court cases that involved ENDA-type legislation. This is the backdoor to marriage.
bulletAnalysis: The states mentioned are all jurisdictions where the public and legislators decided to extend equal rights to persons of all sexual orientations. This first involved hate crime legislation and anti-employment discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and other grounds. Provision of civil unions or domestic partnerships followed. In the case of Massachusetts, marriage for all loving committed couples was the final step. Once a state starts to give equal protection and rights to persons of all sexual orientations, the final step may well be SSM in that jurisdiction.

4. About courts enlarging the scope of marriage:

bulletT.M.: They're going to be emboldened now, with the more homosexual-friendly Congress, and with state legislatures changing over. A lot of times the only stopgap is the state legislature. Until we have a Federal Marriage Amendment, you're going to keep on seeing judges decide how society should be changed or not, instead of the people.
bulletAnalysis: It is true that the only way to prevent SSM in the U.S. is to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) that specifically prohibits SSM. But even that would not be a permanent solution. At the rate at which homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality are becoming accepted as three normal and natural sexual orientations, even if a FMA were passed it would probably be repealed decades later.

It is true that court decisions can and do change society. Faced with a conflict between a state constitution that requires individuals to be treated equally, and state legislation that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying, some courts will opt for the former.

5. The future of marriage in the U.S.:

bulletT.M.: After the Massachusetts decision [permitting SSM], you saw a lot of people wake up, and you saw a flurry of activity in the states, with marriage amendments being passed in a number of states. Since then, it's started to die out a little. The American people are very supportive of marriage being between one man and one woman. More people need to wake up; otherwise, marriage could be lost.
bulletAnalysis: The vast majority of Americans are definitely in favor of allowing opposite-sex couples to marry. A significant majority of Americans are in favor of extending state benefits of marriage to same-sex couples in the form of civil unions or domestic partnerships. By a 50% to 40% ratio, American adults do not currently favor SSM. However, sizeable majorities of high-school seniors and students entering college support SSM. The trend is obviously towards more support for SSM and less opposition to SSM
bulletT.M.: More people need to wake up; otherwise, marriage could be lost.
bulletAnalysis: Extrapolating polling data into the future indicates that Americans will be evenly split for and against SSM within a few years. As present-day youth enter positions of power and influence, SSM may gradually extend across the country on a state-by-state basis. However, there is no danger of marriage being lost. The vast majority of young people look forward marriage in their future. This is in spite of such anti-marriage influences such as Britney Spears` 55 hour marriage, the TV program `Who wants to marry a millionaire,` and the Batchelor-Bachelorette program where people get engaged to be married after having been in each other's presence for only a few hours.
bulletT.M.: There is a revitalization happening, and there are a number of state legislators who are talking about divorce-reform laws and covenant-marriage laws that strengthen marriage. The more positive we can do for marriage while fighting the negative, the better.
bulletAnalysis: Between 1997 and 2001, covenant marriage legislation was enacted in Louisiana, Arizona and Arkansas. These are new types of marriage that typically require counseling before marriage. They are also more difficult to end via divorce. Although they have been discussed in many states, the movement seems to have been stalled; enabling legislation has only been enacted in 6% of the states. Couples have not embraced the covenant marriage option. "Fewer than 3 percent of couples who marry in Louisiana and Arizona take on the extra restrictions of marriage by covenant." 3 The vast majority choose to select "ordinary" marriage with its lack of a requirement of pre-marital counseling and access to easy, no-fault divorce.

No-fault divorce is now available in all 50 states. According to Wikipedia:

"Modern `no-fault` divorce came about because of widespread disgust among lawyers, judges, (and the general public) with the legal fictions that had become commonplace since the mid-20th century. ... lawyers and judges, ... felt that they made oaths meaningless and threatened to destroy the integrity of the American justice system by making lying in court into a commonplace occurrence. 4

Eliminating no fault divorce will be an uphill battle.

bulletT.M.: Marriage will always be around, as far as I'm concerned, as a religious institution.
bulletAnalysis: This belief is supported by the large percentage of couples who choose to marry in church, synagogue, mosque, etc. However, a significant number of couples marry in secular settings without religious content.


bulletT.M.: Once governments stop believing that marriage between one man and one woman contributes to society -- which it does greatly -- that society doesn't have much longer to last.
bulletAnalysis: The vast majority of Americans support marriage between one man and one woman precisely because the institution contributes to the stability of society, and the stability of committed relationships. However a sizeable minority -- which will shortly become a majority if current trends continue -- believe that marriage between two men or two women would also benefit society and should be made available to same-sex couples.

In Canada, SSM was made available in 2005-JUL. It has become essentially a non-issue there. It is now an accepted part of the culture by the vast majority of Canadians.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jennifer Mesko, "Friday five: Tom McClusky," CitizenLink, 2007-NOV-09, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  2. "Is marriage a sacrament?," GodWeb, at: http://www.godweb.org/
  3. "Covenant Marriages," National Center for Policy Analysis," 2001-DEC-05, at: http://www.ncpa.org/
  4. "No-fault divorce," Wikipedia, 2007-NOV-06, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

Additional hyperlinks:

bulletYou can subscribe to Citizenlink at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
bulletThe Family Research Council`s web site is at: http://www.frc.org

Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > Menu > here

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Copyright ' 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-NOV-10
Latest update: 2007-NOV-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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