TCS Daily

On Civil Unions

By Frederick Turner - August 19, 2003 12:00 AM

One point has been ignored in the current debate about homosexual civil unions: there is nothing unnatural about homosexuality. Many species of animals are so organized that the range of endocrine chemistry for individuals includes obligate homosexuality, usually for about 1-10% of the population. Homosexual pair-bonds are frequent in social species; typically they do not reproduce but are exceptionally valuable to the group -- and to the gene-pool from which they come -- in terms of creative invention, courage in fighting group enemies, group organization and solidarity, or social gregariousness.


Among humans there is nothing historically new about homosexuality -- it is central to the Iliad and the Dialogues of Plato. And it is an important element -- subordinate to, but contributory to, heterosexual love -- in Shakespeare. Michelangelo wrote sonnets to his male lover. "The Ballad of Reading Jail" has a genuine moral appeal. Many traditional cultures have an established place and an important mythical role for homosexuality.


Today, homosexuality has indeed been taken up as a bloody rag by those who would destroy western civilization. But it is not itself at fault.


The honor and beauty of homosexual love is itself as much under attack by academic leftists, neo-Marxist Gramscians and deconstructionists as is the superior nobility and sacrifice of heterosexual love. It is the propaganda in favor of a narcissistic psychological formation that is at fault. Our enemies don't want to make us all homosexuals; they want to make us all so selfish that society can no longer operate by promises and voluntary cooperation, and must be controlled by a tyrannical socialist elite. Homosexuality is just a useful weapon for breaking down the language of commitment and morality -- a way of authorizing evil behavior in general, whether heterosexual or homosexual.


Would the bishop, asks a friend of mine, have been ordained if he had, abandoning his family, run off with a woman, not a man? But next time, the propagandists hope, the adulterous heterosexual bishop will be ordained. Next time, they hope, the blue dress will be no problem to a president; because then their own behavior, perhaps, would be acceptable, and State control will begin to replace the moral constraints of civil society.


One solution to the whole "gay marriage" problem might be this.


Legal civil union between men and women serves the legitimate interests of the State in two ways: the reproduction and nurture of the population, and the creation of a fundamental social bond that has huge economic and moral benefits (two can live as cheaply as one; friendship and partnership makes people more effective; married men live longer than unmarried ones; married women are much less likely to be in poverty than unmarried ones; etc). Homosexual unions fail to serve the State on the first count, of reproductive service; but so do post-menopausal heterosexual marriages, like mine, for instance. The second benefit of civil union -- the social benefit of recognized partnership -- applies just as much to homosexuals as to heterosexuals, and the State would be right in giving homosexual unions the same tax and legal benefits that heterosexual empty nesters enjoy.


But the word "marriage" is an ancient religious term, and for the State to appropriate it or seek to warp its meaning to cover homosexual unions would a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state -- it would be Newspeak. Thus I would support "civil unions" for gay couples -- we should be delighted that they want to form lasting unions and constrain themselves against promiscuous and medically dangerous sex. But leave the word "marriage" and its sacramental meanings to civil society and common usage and churches to define.

1 Comment

"Civil union" does not go far enough
Heterosexual married couples are not demoted to the status of a "civil union" if their marriage fails to produce offspring, though perhaps they should be according to the logic of the argument advanced here. And if “marriage” is a strictly religious term, then it has no business being in the State’s vocabulary at all. Also, I'm not sure what Dr. Turner means here by "the superior nobility and sacrifice of heterosexual love." Does this refer to the risk and sacrifice of time involved in raising children? Because I think homosexuals who risk being rejected by their families, friends, and communities might take offense to the idea that heterosexual love makes "superior" sacrifices. While it is certainly noble to devote one's time and energy and love to children and the reproduction of the species, it is also noble to risk savage violence at the hands of bigots because one refuses to be ashamed of one's love for another human being. If homosexuality is natural, and homosexuals make up a substantial portion of our population, then they deserve more than patronizing tokens and half-measures.

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