Apparently there is a new coalition forming around a document called the Manhattan Declaration. It presents itself as a statement of conscience on three topics: life, marriage, and religious liberty. According to this site:
So, the first point for discussion: is the coalition surrounding this document really all that significant in the gay marriage debate? Will it provide impetus and even greater coherence for the Christian anti-gay movement? Or is it a bunch of “feel good” (for the anti-gay Christians, at least) hand waving in the face of a dying world view?
The marriage section is what caught my eye, particularly this passage:
According to this, recognizing gay marriage will make it impossible to restore a sound understanding of the concept of marriage. But what is the “correct” or “sound” understanding? If I read this correctly, they are saying that gay marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions (as in sex???) – which is a false concept of marriage. This is in contrast with a “correct” understanding of marriage as a way to promote and protect life.
OK, I get the part about procreation being a bit of a challenge for gay couples. We (my lesbian partner and I) had to be more intentional in conceiving our son than the average hetero couple bonking in bed.* And for gay men, it can be a difficult hurdle. But what do you suppose they mean by “acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life”? Because if I’m reading this right, gay and lesbian couples can do this sort of thing. Beyond generating life by various means, we can promote and protect life by raising kids or caring for each other in illness and old age. In fact, civil marriage makes it much easier for gay couples to support each other during their lives together and after one spouse dies. Gay marriage encourages “spousal communion” and the rearing of children by providing certain protections for families headed by gay and lesbian parents. It’s pretty commonsensical to me that giving people financial and social protections will make it easier to form and maintain stable, life-fostering families of all sorts, not just ones headed by a man and a woman.
The other point I beg to differ on is the idea that gay marriage is just about sex and romance. What on earth do these anti-gay-marriage folks think married/committed gays and lesbians do from day to day? I can tell you that it ain’t all about sex and romance! Mind you, we have a toddler to put a damper on things – but even our childless gay and lesbian friends aren’t exactly throwing Gay Pride parades in their living rooms each weekend. We do pretty much the same boring stuff as any hetero married couple. You know, go to work, clean the house, go grocery shopping, pay the bills, mow the lawn, etc. The vast majority of our lives has precious little to do with sex. Our same-sex commitments have far more to do with the promotion and protection of family life – which this document claims is the true understanding of marriage. The point that these anti-gay-marriage folks are completely missing is that we can already have sex and romance without the benefit of marriage. Marriage brings other benefits. Ones which are remarkably similar to those promoted in this declaration.
So, the second point for debate: do people who endorse this document truly think that gay marriage is so fundamentally different from hetero marriage? Do they really believe that gays only see marriage as a way to have socially acceptable sex and romance? Do they really not grasp the concept that marriage for gay couples is just as much about mutual support and family life? Or do they just not care? Is the language in this document just another declaration that gay sex is icky, couched in supposedly loving, life-valuing Christian language?
*IMO, our efforts to get pregnant were more reflective of the fruits of our marital love than a lot of the pregnancies resulting from horny heteros getting it on. Our son was truly “conceived” in our hearts and minds, before he ever came to life in my body. However, this brings us to another statement of the marriage “ideal” in this declaration:
This is an interesting philosophical point of view. It presents marriage, and the marital sex act specifically, as a fusion of everything it means to be human. Our son definitely represents the union of my mind and spirit with my partner’s. But, they’re right. We didn’t have the union of body at the same time – unless you count the fact of my partner pushing the plunger during my IUI.
Which brings me to the third point for discussion: does the lack of one aspect of the totality of being human in the act of conceiving a child invalidate the marriage covenant? OK, sure, hetero relationships often omit one or more of these at the moment when their kids get conceived. But at least they have the potential for this perfect union. Gay relationships don’t. However, does this lack imply that gay marriage will fundamentally erode the “true” culture and meaning of marriage because it falls short of the ideal at a fundamental level, not just in practice?
I’m thinking of the second and third points of discussion in terms of talking to Christians who might be sitting on the fence. In spite of the vitriol, there really are people who find themselves swayed by discussions about what marriage really means for gays and lesbians – moved to a more open-minded concept of the function of civil marriage in society. For thinking, compassionate Christians who don’t just have a knee-jerk reaction to “teh gay”, there are points in this declaration that raise real questions about the meaning and purpose of marriage. What I wonder is, how does a person who supports gay marriage address these questions?