The Evangelization Station

Best Catholic Links

Search this Site




Mailing List

Pray for Pope Francis

Scroll down for topics

100+ Important Documents in United States History


Apostolic Fathers of the Church

Articles Worth Your Time

 Biographies & Writings of Notable Catholics

Catholic Apologetics

Catholic Calendar

Catholic News Commentary by Michael Voris, S.T.B.

Catholic Perspectives

Catholic Social Teaching


Church Around the World

Small animated flag of The Holy See (State of the Vatican City) graphic for a white background

Church Contacts

  Church Documents

Church History

Church Law

Church Teaching


Doctors of the Church



(Death, Heaven, Purgatory, Hell)

Essays on Science


Fathers of the Church

Free Catholic Pamphlets

 Heresies and Falsehoods

How to Vote Catholic

Let There Be Light

Q & A on the Catholic Faith

Links to Churches and Religions

Links to Newspapers, Radio and Television

Links to Recommended Sites

Links to Specialized Agencies

Links to specialized Catholic News services


General Instruction of the Roman Missal


Marriage & the Family

Modern Martyrs

Mexican Martyrdom

Moral Theology


Pope John Paul II's

Theology of the Body

Movie Reviews (USCCB)

New Age


Parish Bulletin Inserts

Political Issues

Prayer and Devotions



Hope after Abortion

Project Rachel


Help & Information for Men


Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults




The Golden Legend


Vocation Links & Articles


What the Cardinals believe...

World Religions

Pope John Paul II

In Memoriam

John Paul II


Pope Benedict XVI

In Celebration

Visits to this site

Answering Advocates of Gay Marriage


Note: I recognize that the persons writing this article are neither Catholic nor in full agreement with the Church's teaching on homosexuality. Nevertheless, the urgency of the issue of gay marriage at this time and the compelling arguments raised against it here, make this paper an important resource. The paper was presented by the authors at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia on May 14, 2003.

Marriage a-la-mode
Answering Advocates of Gay Marriage

Claim 1: Marriage is an institution designed to foster the love between two people. Gay people can love each other just as straight people can. Ergo, marriage should be open to gay people.
Claim 2: Not all straight couples have children, but no one argues that their marriages are unacceptable
Claim 3: Some gay couples do have children and therefore need marriage to provide the appropriate context.
Claim 4: Marriage and the family are always changing anyway, so why not allow this change?
Claim 5: Marriage and the family have already changed, so why not acknowledge the reality?
Claim 6: Children would be no worse off with happily married gay parents than they are with unhappily married straight ones.
Claim 7: Given global overpopulation, why would anyone worry about some alleged need to have more children in any case?
Claim 8: Marriage should change, whether it already has or not, because patriarchal institutions are evil.
Claim 9: Gay marriage has had historical and anthropological precedents.
Claim 10: Banning gay marriage is like banning interracial marriage.
Claim 11: The case for gay marriage is more "poignant" than the case against it.
Claim 12: Gay marriage is necessary for the self-esteem of a minority.
Claim 13: Anyone who opposes same-sex marriage is homophobic.

Claim 14: Exceptions could be made for religious communities that disapprove of gay marriage, or religious communities could simply add their rites to those of the state.
Claim 15: To sustain an "ethic of caring and responsibility," we must include gay people in every institution.
Claim 16: Norms of any kind at all are discriminatory.
Claim 17: Almost everyone believes in equality. How can we have that if gay citizens are denied the same rights as other citizens?
Claim 18: Winning the struggle for gay marriage is important for the cause of gay liberation.
Claim 19: What about majority rule in democratic countries?
Claim 20: But gay people are a small minority. Allowing them to marry would mean nothing more than a slight alteration to the existing system and would even add support for the institution. What's all the fuss about?



There's nothing wrong with homosexuality. One of us, in fact, is gay. We oppose gay marriage, not gay relationships (which are already supported by most of the economic and legal benefits given to common-law couples and should be supported by all).

Most people assume that heterosexuality is a given of nature and thus not vulnerable to cultural change, that nothing will ever discourage straight people from getting together and starting families. But we argue — and this is important — that heterosexual bonding must indeed be deliberately fostered by a distinctive and supportive culture.

Because heterosexual bonding is directly related to both reproduction and survival, and because it involves much more than copulation, all human societies have actively fostered it (although some have also allowed or even encouraged homosexuality in specific circumstances). This is done through culture: rules, customs, laws, symbols, rituals, incentives, rewards, and other public mechanisms. So deeply embedded are these, however, that few people are consciously aware of them.

Much of what is accomplished in animals by nature ("biology," "genetics," or "instinct" ) must be accomplished in humans by culture (all other aspects of human existence, including marriage). If culture were removed, the result wouldn't be a functioning organism whether human or non-human. Apart from any other handicap would be the inability to reproduce successfully. Why? Because mating (sexual intercourse), which really is largely governed by a biological drive, isn't synonymous with the complex behaviors required by family life within a larger human society.

So how could marriage be harmed by adding a few gay couples? A good question, especially when you consider the deplorable state of marriage right now, which has been caused by hedonistic and irresponsible straight people.

Marriage is a complex institution. It must do several things (and, from an anthropological and historical perspective, fostering the emotional gratification of two adults is the least important). It must foster the bonds between men and women for at least three reasons: to encourage the birth and rearing of children (at least to the extent necessary for preserving and fostering society); to provide an appropriate setting for children growing to maturity; and — something usually forgotten — to ensure the co-operation of men and women for the common good. Moreover, it must foster the bonds between men and children, otherwise men would have little incentive to become active participants in family life. Finally, it helps provide men with a healthy masculine identity based on a distinctive, necessary, and publicly valued contribution to society — fatherhood — especially when no other contribution is considered acceptable.

Without public cultural support for a durable relationship binding men, women, and children, marriage would initially be reduced to nothing more than one "lifestyle choice" among many — that is, it could no longer be encouraged in the public square (which is necessary in a secular society). In fact, doing so would be denounced and even challenged in court as discrimination — the undue "privilege" of a "dominant" class, which is a breach of equality as defined by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But discrimination in this case should be allowed — and could be under the Charter — in view of the fact that marriage, as a universal institution and the essential cultural complement to biology, is prior to all concepts of law.

In short, redefining marriage would amount to a massive human experiment. Some experiments work, it's true, but others don't. Remember that an earlier experiment, changing the divorce laws, set in motion social forces that would not be evident for forty years. This new experiment would be unprecedented in human history, and yet we haven't taken the time to think carefully about possible consequences. Instead, we've allowed emotion to sweep aside all other considerations.

Marriage a-la-mode

Welcome to "Marriage a-la-mode." The title refers not to marriage with ice cream but to marriage according to whatever the current fashion happens to be and, more specifically, to a series of four satirical paintings produced in the eighteenth century by William Hogarth. Although there is some satire in what follows, our aim is not to lampoon gay people or gay relationships but merely to challenge the claims made by those who advocate gay marriage. And those claims have been very successful, so far, in Canada.

At the moment, three legal rulings are being examined in connection with the possibility of redefining marriage to include gay couples. In Egale v. Canada (3 October 2001), British Columbia's Supreme Court ruled that the current definition of marriage — a union between one man and one woman — should be retained. But in Halpern v. Canada (12 July 2002), Ontario's Superior Court of Justice ruled that this definition infringes on the right of gay people to equality under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And in Hendricks and Le Boeuf v. Canada (18 September 2002), Quebec's Superior Court agreed with Ontario — adding that it would permit gay couples to marry anyway if Parliament refuses to revise the definition within two years. All three provincial judgements have been appealed by the federal government. The appeal in British Columbia has been defeated; those of Quebec and Ontario are still pending. Meanwhile, Parliament has been conducting public hearings across the country. What follows is based on (a) our research, commissioned by Canada's Department of Justice; (b) the affidavit1 based on this research produced for the federal government; and (c) our presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.2

Our approach has been both comparative (see below) and dialogical. One of us is a man, the other a woman; one is Jewish, the other Gentile; one is gay, the other straight; one specializes in Western civilization, the other in Eastern civilization; and so on. As a result of our collaboration, we have been able to gather a great deal of evidence, both historical and cross-cultural, to support our answers to the claims made by advocates of gay marriage.

The latter make no fewer than twenty of these. Our primary task here is to refute each of them. One reason for organizing the material in this way is that no one else, to our knowledge, has actually done so. Maybe too many people have assumed that there is no need to defend what they take for granted. In other words, they have been complacent. Another reason is to reinforce a claim of our own: that the burden of proof is always on those who want change. Their claims must be evaluated first, not ours. Without some compelling reason for change, after all, why bother? More to the point, in this case, why take the risk of a massive experiment?

Before discussing those arguments, though, we are going to discuss an underlying assumption about heterosexuality (and the underlying problem here is associated with heterosexuality, not homosexuality.) By definition, of course, this assumption is unstated. Even so, the arguments based on it are quickly becoming conventional wisdom in the most influential academic and political circles. Opposing it, therefore, always involves counter-intuitive and "politically incorrect" arguments.

Most people, both gay and straight, assume that heterosexual bonding is a given of nature for straight people. But we argue — and this is a matter of fundamental importance — that it must indeed be deliberately fostered and supported by a distinctive culture. We refer here and elsewhere to "heterosexual bonding," because the word "heterosexuality" could be understood as a reference to mere heterosexual copulation, which is not what concerns us in this essay.

Much of what is accomplished in animals by nature (often known as "biology," "genetics," or "instinct") must be accomplished in humans by culture (which includes not only elite culture and popular culture but all aspects of human existence aside from those that are determined by nature). Although no particular culture is genetically encoded, the ability and need to create culture is genetically encoded. We are equipped and even driven by nature, paradoxically, to be cultural beings. This has made us more flexible than animals, which rely entirely (or almost entirely in the case of a few primate species) on nature. And this, in turn, has greatly facilitated our adaptation to new circumstances or environments and thus fostered human survival. Culture is not a superficial overlay on something more primitive and basic, in short, but a defining and fundamental feature of human existence; if it were somehow removed, the result would not be a functioning organism, whether human or non-human. Apart from any other handicap would be its inability to reproduce successfully. Why? Because mating,4 or copulating, which really is governed by nature, is not synonymous with the complex behaviors required by family life within a larger human society.5 So the sexual behavior involved in marriage is governed not only by nature but also by culture. This explains why it includes both universal features and culturally variable ones. More about that in due course.

All societies have found it necessary to establish norms. We define the latter as cultural ideals6 — models, paradigms, collective preferences — which are supported by rules7) That is because no society can have it all, just as no individual can; every society must make choices. And choosing one thing — one form of behavior, say — inevitably means not choosing others. Because nature itself does not enforce norms, moreover, culture must do so. Every society has found it necessary — whether formally or informally, directly or indirectly — to reward some forms of behavior and either not reward or punish others. These ways of doing so have varied a great deal from one society to another and from one period to another even within the same society. Small-scale societies often rely on group control: Act in this way, and you will be shamed by society; act that way, and you will be honored by society. Large-scale societies usually find it necessary to add individual control: Act this way, and you will be guilty even if not publicly condemned; act that way, and you will be justified even if not publicly acclaimed.

Because the most common sexual tendency for human beings, by far, is heterosexuality (our species reproduces sexually, after all, which has an evolutionary advantage over the asexual reproduction of some other species); because heterosexual bonding is directly related to both reproduction and survival; and because it involves much more than copulation, every human society has had to encourage heterosexual bonding actively (although some have also allowed homosexual bonding, too, in various circumstances). This has always required a massive cultural effort, usually religious,8 involving myths, rituals, symbols, theologies, rewards, privileges, and so on. Heterosexual bonding is always encouraged by a cultural norm, in other words, not merely allowed as one "lifestyle choice" among many. Some norms vary greatly from one society to another, to be sure, but others are universal. Marriage is one of these9 and thus prior to law, which is an important point for judges and legislators to consider.

This means that every society has always maintained the cultural mechanisms that provide public support for heterosexual bonding. These have always been associated with public legitimacy (represented by ancestors, deities, scripture, law, and so forth), public recognition (rituals, witnesses, registrations) and thus public accountability (see below for our definition of universal features). It has always been fostered by inducements, whether social (prestige, say, or political alliances), economic (transfer of property), religious (divine rewards, and so on), or a combination of them. So deeply embedded in consciousness are these that few people are consciously aware of them. The result, in any case, is a "privileged" status for heterosexual bonding. Postmodernists are not wrong in identifying it as such, but they are wrong in assuming that any society can do without it.10

To be more specific, the culture of marriage must encourage at least five things:11 (a) the bonding between men and women12 that ensures their cooperation for the common good,13 (b) the birth14 and rearing of children, at least to the extent necessary for preserving and fostering society, in culturally approved ways; (c) bonding between men and children so that men are likely to become active participants in family life;15 (d) some healthy form of masculine identity (which is based on the need for at least one distinctive, necessary, and publicly valued contribution to society and is especially important today, because the other two cross-cultural definitions of manhood, provider and protector, are no longer distinctive now that women have entered the public realm);16 and (e) the transformation of adolescents into sexually responsible adults — that is, young men and women who are ready for marriage and the beginning of a new cycle.

It should come as no surprise that comparative research on the worldviews of both small-scale societies and those of world religions,17 Western and Eastern, reveals a pattern: Marriage has universal, nearly universal, and variable features.18

Its universal features include the fact that marriage is (a) supported by authority and incentives; (b) recognizes the interdependence of men and women; (c) has a public, or communal, dimension; (d) defines eligible partners; (e) encourages procreation under specific conditions; and (f) provides mutual support not only between men and women but also between them and children.

Its nearly universal features are: (a) an emphasis on durable relationships between parents; (b) mutual affection and companionship; (c) family (or political) alliances; and (d) reciprocity between young and old. Most large-scale societies have encouraged durable relationships between biological parents and children at least until the latter reach maturity. That is because of the long time it takes infants to mature; cooperation is necessary to ensure their survival. Most societies have recognized that mutual affection and companionship, moreover, facilitate bonding between men and women. Some have recognized that these are fragile bonds have preferred arranged marriages (although they usually encourage affection and companionship as well).

These universal and nearly universal features assume the distinctive (but not necessarily innate) contributions of both sexes, transmit knowledge from one generation to another, and create not only "vertical" links between the generations but also "horizontal" ones between allied families or communities.

As for the many variable features of marriage, these include endogamy (marrying within a group) or exogamy (marrying outside it); marrying up in status or marrying down); arranged marriage or chosen; dowry (from the bride's family) or bride price (goods given or services performed by the groom); sexual equality or hierarchy; many children or few; extended family or nuclear; residence with the bride's family, with the groom's, or neither; divorce allowed or prohibited; and so on. Alternatives to marriage are celebrated in some societies (as in the case of celibate monks, for instance, or shamans) and tolerated in others (such as single people or gay couples) but only when the larger society is in no danger of failing to reproduce itself.

From one perspective, variables make any definition distinctive. From another perspective, however, they create a problem. Focusing on the definition of marriage in any one society makes it hard to know which aspects are distinctive or local and which are universal or nearly universal. Patterns emerge only when many societies are compared. When only one society is considered, in other words, the variables can mask the universals.19 We can detect universals only by using cross-cultural and historical methods.20 From these perspectives, as we say, patterns do emerge. This makes it easier to see the universal and nearly universal features of marriage.

It could be argued that focusing on these features would lead to the methodological problem of "essentialism." But that is a false problem for three reasons. First, there really is an empirical basis for the existence of these features. Second, using inductive reason to discern patterns is a fundamental characteristic of scholarship. And third, any phenomenon so common as to be universal or nearly universal surely reveals something basic in the human condition.

This is not to say, however, that every society does so effectively. Our ideal is hardly the current status quo, in which marriage has been reduced by irresponsible straight people to the proverbial "piece of paper" at worst and pure sentimentality at best. For evidence of the latter, just take a cursory glance at such massively popular shows as The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Joe Millionaire. Participants, who hope to marry as a result of appearing on the show, seldom talk about anything more serious than how they like to spend their free time, whether to reveal their feelings, or, occasionally, how many children they would like to have; they never ask prospective husbands or wives about political beliefs, say, or communal affiliations. For them, courtship and marriage, like the show itself, are forms of entertainment. Careful attention to sets — lavish hotel suites, exotic locales, and dozens of candles everywhere — creates the "romantic" ambience of a soap opera. Although ritualistic aspects remain — the most obvious being when a young man kneels as he proposes marriage — many of these are anachronistic, to say the least. This nonsense is manufactured and sold primarily by and for straight people, not gay people.

Given the prevalent but misleading assumptions, ones that underlie all of the claims made by advocates of gay marriage, it is clear to us, we repeat, that this public debate is really about heterosexual bonding. There is nothing wrong with the homosexual bonding. There is something wrong, something perverse, with the idea that any society can endure without offering public support or even preferential treatment to heterosexual bonding.

We turn now to the twenty most common claims, most of them closely interrelated, that are made by advocates of gay marriage.

Answering Advocates of Gay Marriage

Claim 1: Marriage is an institution designed to foster the love between two people. Gay people can love each other just as straight people can. Ergo, marriage should be open to gay people:

The second statement is true, and the third follows logically from it. Because the first statement is false, however, this line of reasoning makes no sense. Marriage is a complex institution. Fostering the emotional gratification of two adults is only one of its functions — and not the most important one from a cross-cultural or historical perspective. (It might not be accidental that this exclusive focus on emotional gratification coincides with a high divorce rate.) The question is not whether gay people should have relationships. The only question is whether this should be done in the specific context of marriage.

Claim 2: Not all straight couples have children, but no one argues that their marriages are unacceptable:

Actually, that is an oversimplification. Some religious traditions, for instance, have given childless couples the possibility of divorce or annulment. Besides, marriage can function in additional ways (one of them being companionship) and can express additional ideals (the most obvious one being love). Consequently, these traditions do not insist that childless couples separate. Instead, they maintain what they consider the one distinctive ideal of marriage without punishing those who fail to attain it. The latter are exceptions. This institution has always been intended primarily, however, to serve the needs of children. It provides an ideal scenario for parents and children. Not every individual or individual couple lives up to the ideal, of course, but the ideal remains effective nonetheless — except, of course, in societies that are breaking up.

Claim 3: Some gay couples do have children and therefore need marriage to provide the appropriate context:

This claim reverses the other one by accepting the premise that marriage is indeed the ideal context for children. The problem is that gay marriage would provide that context in name only. Our point here is not that gay couples are less able to love their children than other couples; they are neither more nor less able to do that. Our point here is not, moreover, that gay couples would teach their children to be gay; the mere fact of being gay, from our point of view, is not problematic in any case. The point is that children require more than love from their parents, whether gay or straight. One thing that they surely require is at least one parent of each sex. (We say "at least" one, because an extended family — with aunts, uncles, and grandparents — is much closer to the ideal than the isolated nuclear family.) That is because the sexes are not interchangeable.

For the past few decades, it has been conventional wisdom either that masculinity and femininity are nothing but "social constructions," which can be "deconstructed" to suit changing times and individual tastes, or that everyone is innately "androgynous." Both theories ignore the obvious fact of male and female bodies, which are subject to different experiences (the most obvious being that only women can gestate and lactate). Though much more similar than dissimilar, each sex is distinctive. Boys cannot learn how to become healthy men from even the most loving mother (or pair of mothers) alone. And girls cannot learn how to become healthy women from even the most loving father (or pair of fathers) alone. This learning takes place day by day and often by example in the larger context of intimate family life. The need for fathers is particularly acute for boys, moreover. Like girls, they must separate from their mothers. Unlike girls, however, they must also switch the focus of their identity from one sex to the other. There are psychological and sociological studies to support these claims.21

The problems under discussion here apply not only to gay parents but also and even primarily to straight single parents. Yes, there have always been single parents due to death, divorce, or desertion. But these were the exceptions. Now that divorce has become so common, the phenomenon has changed. Single parenting — usually by mothers and often by choice — has become a "lifestyle." The message to fathers and their children is that men have no distinctive, necessary, and publicly valued function in family life.22 And the results of fatherless children on a massive scale, as described by psychologists and sociologists, are not exactly encouraging.

Some advocates of both gay and single parents argue that the problems just mentioned can be fixed by bringing home friends or relatives to serve as "role models." But can these transient visitors adequately replace the enduring presence within a family of adults of both the same sex and the opposite sex? Advocates of gay and single parents can hardly demonstrate that. Others argue that the men seen on television or in the movies, even pop stars, can function as "role models." Indeed, they can. But are these role models healthy ones? Very, very few men in popular culture would ever be as helpful in this respect as the late Mr. Rogers. Are we really prepared to settle for the likes of Homer Simpson, say, or Michael Jackson — or anyone else who happens to represent or parody macho cool at the moment? The welfare of children is an afterthought for advocates of gay marriage and single parenting, not something that takes priority over their own interests.

Some gay people become parents while still involved in straight relationships. Others do so in the context of gay relationships. Lesbian couples, for instance, often resort to sperm banks and artificial insemination. New reproductive technologies can look very attractive to gay people who want children but not even token relationships with the opposite sex. Legalizing gay marriage would certainly increase interest in newer technologies and probably lead to demands for access to them in order to equalize their ability to have children. But these technologies present a variety of moral problems, most of which have remained unresolved (see claim 20).

At the heart of this claim, however, is that the children of gay couples suffer from prejudice on that account. Aha! Finally, a reference to children! But wait. If these children suffer from prejudice, it is almost certainly because their parents are gay and not because they are unmarried. We should eliminate prejudice against gay people, by all means, but legalizing gay marriage would hardly do the trick. Not at a time when the stain of "illegitimacy" has all but disappeared.

This claim for gay marriage can no longer be sustained. Over the past forty years, single parents, especially single mothers, have been glorified on talk shows and in countless made-for-television movies as victims who, according to the lingua franca of identity politics, nonetheless become "survivors." There is no longer anything unusual, much less illicit, about children who have only one parent. And now, given the fact that many gay people have children from previous straight relationships, there is nothing all that unusual about children who have two mothers or two fathers. Whatever other problems the children of gay parents might have — and they do have some significant ones — this is surely not one of them. Changing the definition of marriage to ease the pain of having unmarried parents, in short, would be like using an atomic bomb to kill a fly.

Claim 4: Marriage and the family are always changing anyway, so why not allow this change?

Well, yes, of course, institutions change. Whether they always change in beneficial ways is another matter entirely. Unless we adopt the mentality promoted by countless ads and commercials — according to these, every product is "new and improved" — we must at least imagine the possibility that some changes might be for the worse. There is no logical connection, in short, between either "new" and "improved" or "changed" and "better." Marriage has changed for the worse in some (though not all) ways, we suggest, over the past forty years. Not by gay people, of course, but by straight people.

And whether institutions change in all ways is yet another matter. Some features of marriage have not changed; these are universal and therefore, presumably, both necessary and beneficial. Marriage has always been a matter of communal importance, for instance, one that serves more than individual needs. These things are so pervasive and so enduring that they might as well be due to nature itself. We play with them at our peril.

Claim 5: Marriage and the family have already changed, so why not acknowledge the reality?

This cynical variation of claim 4 is used by those who find it inexpedient to argue about whether these changes are beneficial or harmful. What matters, they believe, is merely that these changes have already occurred. In that case, it would surely make political sense to adjust accordingly. Maybe so, but would it make any moral sense?

Is this the appropriate time, moreover, to redefine marriage? When marriage is not merely changing but disintegrating under the weight of sentimentality and irresponsibility among straight people? And children are most at risk. Their needs are hardly ever taken seriously in the debate over gay marriage; they have become bystanders in a debate over the rights of adults.

Claim 6: Children would be no worse off with happily married gay parents than they are with unhappily married straight ones:

This comparison is false, because it involves the best of one scenario with the worst of another. A legitimate comparison would compare either the best of both or the worst of both. Once again, we suggest that the best of marriage (providing at least one parent or other adult of each sex) is better for children than the best of gay marriage (which provides two parents of the same sex and none of the other).

Claim 7: Given global overpopulation, why would anyone worry about some alleged need to have more children in any case?

Even though some countries are indeed overpopulated, others are not. Like most Western countries, for instance, Canada has a rapidly aging population.23 Both the birth rate and the death rate are declining. This will have serious demographic and economic consequences for future generations. To argue that immigration will solve the problem — immigrants, presumably, will continue to have many children and require no encouragement from our government — is to imply that they should be exploited as breeders. Besides, how many immigrants would tolerate or even immigrate to a society that fails to uphold their ideal of marriage, which is always based on the long-term bonding of men and women to provide the ideal setting in which to bring up children?

And even though many people in populous countries are unaware of demographic warning signs, most of those who belong to minority communities are very aware of being demographically threatened.24

Claim 8: Marriage should change, whether it already has or not, because patriarchal institutions are evil:

This claim is both insidious and overtly ideological. That is because it uses the rhetoric of legal reform (allow gay people to enter mainstream institutions such as marriage) to mask the underlying goal of social revolution (create a radically new society by destroying institutions such as marriage). A good case can always be made for reforming any institution in this way or that. And our society has reformed marriage many times, most recently to improve the position of wives. But there is a big difference between reform and revolution. The claim under discussion here is that heterosexuality makes marriage patriarchal, which is an ideological code word for evil. (We are not being paranoid; that claim has been made by some very influential feminists.)25 To solve that problem, the heterosexual basis of marriage must be destroyed. Legalizing gay marriage could do the trick by changing the definition of marriage and its functions beyond recognition. The result would still be called marriage, but it would in fact be another institution.

Claim 9: Gay marriage has had historical and anthropological precedents: 26

Actually, it has had not even one precedent as the norm of any society. Some societies have allowed exceptions to the norm, yes. And some powerful chiefs or kings have defied all norms. But the marital norm for every society has always been heterosexual. It is worth noting at this point that any society could have used culture to mitigate the tendency toward heterosexuality. Any society could have encouraged gay marriage and still reproduced itself; women could always have found ways of procuring sperm, for instance, and men could always have abducted children. But this approach has never been adopted as a norm.

Research on the history and anthropology of gay marriage, so far, has been done mainly with advocacy in mind: supporting gay marriage by finding precedents for it. By academic standards, this material reveals several important substantive and methodological flaws. Some precedents are ambiguous, for instance, because they are merely analogies to marriage. Gay love is said to be like marital love, an initiation ritual into same-sex warrior bonding is said to be like marriage, and so on. Other precedents are taken out of context. It is true, for instance, that some Amerindian societies allowed men to marry other men. But, judging from the information that has been recorded, these societies made sure that only a few men were allowed to do so or that their husbands had already married women and produced children so that demographic survival was not endangered. As for Nero, the Roman emperor, he married a man but in a moral context — a degenerate aristocracy in which murder was rampant and even a horse could be made a senator — that few today would find edifying. Do we really need to take moral instruction from him? Many precedents are irrelevant, moreover, because they refer only to gay relationships, not to gay marriage; the former are not the same as the latter and are not now, in any case, being challenged. Sometimes, moreover, evidence is indirect. Sometimes arguments are made from silence. Sometimes, important information is even ignored (such as subsequent banning of gay marriage).

Even if there were anthropological and historical precedents, however, these would be utterly irrelevant from a moral perspective. Just because something has been done in some other society at some other time, after all, doesn't mean that it should be done in our society at this time. One obvious example should make this clear. Slavery has been practiced in many societies. Should we therefore consider reinstituting that institution? Doing so would be a moral non sequitur, to say the least.

Claim 10: Banning gay marriage is like banning interracial marriage:

Actually, it is not. This argument is based on a reductive analogy between racism and heterosexism. Most people today would agree that the state should have no right to prevent interracial marriage, and some now argue for the same reason that it should have no right to prevent gay marriage. Both racism and heterosexism are forms of prejudice. Both are due to a combination of ignorance and malice. Both are evil. But the analogy is seriously flawed, because it assumes that all those who oppose gay marriage, like all those who oppose interracial marriage, are bigots. Some are, but others are not.

Marriage between people of different races was indeed banned because of racism. But that was only one example of a larger phenomenon. We refer to endogamy, marriage only with those from inside the community. And endogamy is not always caused by racism. Sometimes, for instance, it is caused by religion — that is, by the urge to perpetuate a religious culture. These societies ban interreligious marriage but usually accept marriage to converts, regardless of their racial or ethnic origins.

In any case, endogamy is a cultural variable. Many societies practice exogamy, after all, marriage only with those from outside the community. Endogamy cannot be considered a universal feature of marriage and should not, therefore, be required by law in a diverse society. Marriage between men and women really is a universal feature, on the other hand, both historically and anthropologically. And for a good reason: bringing men and women together for both practical and symbolic reasons. The prejudice of some people notwithstanding, in short, there can be a morally legitimate reason for maintaining the heterosexuality of marriage.

Besides, how many advocates of gay marriage would argue for polygamous marriage as well? Some would, no doubt, but not many. Although we do not advocate polygamy, we also do not see anything inherently wrong with it.27 Because a good case could be made for it, following precisely the same logic as that of the case made for gay marriage (see claim 17), it would be dishonest for advocates of the latter to trivialize it due to political expediency.

Claim 11: The case for gay marriage is more "poignant" than the case against it:

This argument was made on 5-9 November 2001 by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Halpern et al v. Canada (A.G.) et al. and Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto v. Canada (A.G.) et al. Judge Robert A. Blair supported gay marriage even after admitting that good arguments had been made against it. For him, emotion was more important for legal decisions than reason; how we feel is more important than what we think. "The evidence put forward by these participants," he wrote, "does not reflect the same personal poignancy as that of the applicants."28 This is hardly surprising in the age of Oprah Winfrey.

Claim 12: Gay marriage is necessary for the self-esteem of a minority:

Given that mentality, it is easy to understand the driving force behind this demand for gay marriage: the idea that people have some moral (and should therefore have some legal) right to state recognition for their personal identity. This is the heart of the matter because of its implications for democracy. Every democracy, by definition, consists of both a majority and one or more minorities. To argue that life is intolerable merely by virtue of being in the minority, in this case expressed by the exclusion of gay people from marriage, is to undermine the very foundation of democracy, especially in countries that supposedly celebrate their many minorities and promote cultural "diversity." One analogy should make this point clear.

Jews have lived as minority communities for a long time and managed to maintain their collective self-esteem, often despite prejudice or persecution far more severe and pervasive than anything that gay people must endure in Canada. How? The answer is that self-esteem originates within both the individual and the community. In other words, self-esteem, like human rights, can be neither conferred nor denied by the state. Jews expect the state to provide them with protection from anti-Semitic violence, yes, but not with psychological or even symbolic therapy as victims of minority status. It is true that not every individual Jew has managed to develop a healthy Jewish identity, a problem that Jewish communities have always faced by taking responsibility for promoting their own intellectual, moral, and spiritual resources. Besides, Jews who do have identity problems are usually those who have been most fully accepted by the larger society,29 not those who remain marginal. Canada is a secular state, moreover, but Jews live happily enough even in some officially Christian states such as Britain.

Besides, this argument merely foists the problem of inadequate self-esteem onto another group: single people. If marriage were so vital to self-esteem, after all, anyone who is either unable or unwilling to marry would be more isolated than ever and, to follow the argument in favor of gay marriage, more likely to experience self-loathing than ever before.

Claim 13: Anyone who opposes same-sex marriage is homophobic:

This argument amounts to verbal terrorism. By "homophobic" is meant prejudice and hostility, although this word actually connotes the neuroticism of a phobia. The implication is that only evil or sick people can possibly disagree with any claim made by gay people. (Never mind that not even all gay people are in favor of gay marriage.)

Moreover, this is an ad hominem argument. It is easy to trivialize arguments by attacking the personal integrity of those who make them. That way, you need not deal with the argument itself.

Claim 14: Exceptions could be made for religious communities that disapprove of gay marriage, or religious communities could simply add their rites to those of the state:

Both possibilities, actually, are of dubious value. Either way, after all, the argument for gay marriage is based on a notion of human rights; it rejects what advocates consider unwarranted discrimination. In that context, though, exemptions would make no moral sense at all, let alone legal sense. (Canada upholds the right to religious freedom but upholds, in addition, other human rights; conflict would be very likely.) Exemptions might be politically expedient for the time being, sure, but how long would religious communities be able to withstand the charge of violating human rights by refusing to solemnize gay marriages? And that charge would inevitably be made. If gay marriage were a human right, after all, how could any religious group be justified in denying it? Advocates of gay marriage point to the analogy of ordaining women. So far, the state has not forced any religious community to ordain women, so why expect it to force the performance of gay marriages? But there are signs that religious freedom is fragile in Canada when it competes with other, presumably more important, freedoms. At any rate, religious communities are likely to become even more marginalized than they already are in an increasingly secular society.30

But there would be a worse problem for religious communities: legal challenges to any promotion of heterosexual bonding in the public square, including the public schools. All textbooks, even those of religious schools, would have to include references to gay and other forms of marriage as equally legitimate alternatives. The courts are already moving in that direction.31

Claim 15: To sustain an "ethic of caring and responsibility," we must include gay people in every institution:

Every ethical system is by definition one of "caring and responsibility." No community has ever knowingly adopted an "ethic of non-caring and irresponsibility." The claim under discussion is that we do so precisely by refusing to marry gay couples. Which might be true if no other interests were involved. In that case, there could be no moral excuse for denying gay people something given to other people. But other interests are involved, including not only those of children and those of society at large but also those of many religious communities.

Forty years ago, divorce laws were changed to help the few who were trapped in seriously troubled marriages. Divorce, as we say, is now as common as marriage itself.32 Worse, we have replaced one problem with many others. We have not only severely weakened marriage but also, as a result, greatly increased the number of divorces, the number of single-parent families, and the number of children dependent on social-service agencies. This is "caring and responsibility"?

The fact is that we have no better understanding of what might happen as a result of legalizing gay marriage than we did about making divorce easier. To find out, we would have to conduct a massive experiment on the people of generations to come (see claim 20). That might involve "caring" in a purely sentimental sense, but it surely would not involve any sense of moral responsibility.

Claim 16: Norms of any kind at all are discriminatory:

This argument is somewhat more sophisticated than the others. Most people in democratic societies place a high value on equality, and rightly so. Discrimination can infringe on equality. Therefore, they assume, discrimination is inherently evil. The truth, however, is more complicated.

Consider the word "discrimination." It is almost always used in public life with the heavily negative connotation of malicious and prejudicial discrimination against this or that group. There are some telling exceptions, though, such as a reference to someone with "discriminating taste" in art. In that case, the word connotes discernment, refinement, or intelligence. And with good reason.

In any case, as we have already observed, there could be no such thing as culture without the ability to make distinctions. We could not exist as human beings, in other words, without establishing collective priorities, choices, preferences. We cannot have it all or do it all, either collectively or individually. We must select some possibilities because of their real or perceived value to society or at least to the majority, which means that we intentionally or unintentionally de-select other possibilities (although we can tolerate some as legitimate possibilities for minorities).

In one sense, discrimination of this kind is unfair. It intrudes on our commitment to perfect equality. But the human condition does not permit perfect equality, which is why so many religious traditions insist that the ideal of perfection can exist only in some realm beyond time and space — that is, in the Garden of Eden, the Messianic Age, the World to Come, the Kingdom of God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the Pure Land, Vaikuntha, or whatever else religious people have called paradise. Unfortunately, many of the political ideologies that emerged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have insisted that, on the contrary, perfection can be attained here and now. In trying to establish their ideological utopias by force or at least the force of law, lamentably, they often created hideous dystopias instead. What they lacked was not necessarily a noble vision but a basic understanding of human nature and the limitations imposed on us by human finitude (a problem compounded by their belief that ends can justify means).

If discrimination in the case of marriage is evil, we suggest, then it is surely the lesser of two evils. In the long run, gay people have as much to gain as straight people from the strengthening of marriage as currently defined. If society is in trouble, after all, it is in trouble for everyone — both straight and gay.

Claim 17: Almost everyone believes in equality. How can we have that if gay citizens are denied the same rights as other citizens?

This is the most sophisticated argument of all, because no one can dispute either the value of equality or the fact that gay people are denied it in connection with marriage.

For equality to be more than a pious pipedream or a utopian ideal, at least some allowance must be made for the fact that nature itself knows nothing of equality. Equality is a laudable human ideal, to be sure, but no ideal can ever be completely or perfectly attained. Every moral and legal code, in fact, must be based partly on the universal need to live with ambiguity and paradox. Or, putting it another way, these codes must balance the conflicting needs of individuals and communities with those of society as a whole.

As we have said, all cultures have had to acknowledge biological inequality, or asymmetry between the sexes. Equality, therefore, must be created by culture. If culture defines equality as sameness, then the most obvious way to create it would be, in effect, to eliminate biological asymmetry. With new reproductive technologies, both existing and coming, this could actually be done. Not only can egg cells already be used to create additional egg cells in mice, but even sperm cells can be used to create egg cells. Used in humans, this technology would "blur the biological line between fathers and mothers."33 Parthenogenesis (fertilizing an egg without sperm) would eliminate men altogether, thus obviating the need for equality in the first place. The advent of ex utero techniques or even artificial wombs, on the other hand, could eliminate the need for female gestation. Stated in these terms, the prospect looks less appealing than many people would have imagined; either eliminate one sex to create equality or eliminate the distinctive feature of one sex to correct for the other's biological inequality. For decades, the Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering has been agitating against developing an artificial womb and the legalization of surrogacy (which would give men some control over reproduction) but to maintain artificial insemination (which gives women control over reproduction).

If we were to argue that equality permits no exceptions, moreover, then we would be both morally and legally obliged to oppose current laws against polygamy. But consider the analogy more closely, which is not nearly as outlandish as it might seem at first. Polygamy — this usually takes the form of polygyny (many wives) but sometimes the form of polyandry (many husbands) — has been common both historically and cross culturally. Most polygamous societies have found ways to mitigate obvious problems. They have restricted the number of spouses, restricted the institution to those who can afford more than one household, specified the amount of attention that must be paid to each spouse, and so on. It is by no means outlandish, therefore, to suggest that the demand for polygamous marriage would follow directly from the demand for gay marriage, especially in view of the fact that some Muslims and Mormons would approve. But would our society be able to provide as many protective structures as other societies to polygamous families? Given its predilection for individual freedom and chafing at even the restraints involved in marriage as we know it now, that seems very unlikely.

Claim 18: Winning the struggle for gay marriage is important for the cause of gay liberation:

It might be, or it might not be. Any victory heightens group morale, it is true, but this victory could be very problematic in at least two ways.

For one thing, not all gay people want to marry, even though most would want the opportunity to choose. But some gay people, like some feminists, see marriage as an inherently oppressive patriarchal institution and want no part of it. At best, they say, it would confine gay people by encouraging their outward conformity to alien standards. At worst, it would discourage gay people from exploring and expressing their own distinctive sexual models and from living together unencumbered by legal obligations.

Claim 19: What about majority rule in democratic countries?

Most Canadians approve of gay marriage, according to polls, or will in the near future. It's just a matter of time, so why not save money on court cases and get the job done? Democracies are always about majorities and minorities, true. And if most people agree to legalize gay marriage, then that fact must be taken seriously. But counting heads has nothing whatsoever to do with right and wrong, wisdom and folly. (And remember that there is a reason why we have representative democracies rather than direct ones; unlike the ancient Greeks, we elect leaders who are charged with the task and presumably equipped with the skill to think more carefully than most people about the complex problems affecting public policy.) After all, as history clearly shows, majorities can make stupid or even sinister choices (which would be worth considering whether most people approve or disapprove of gay marriage). But so can minorities, especially in this age of identity politics. Democracy is based on the assumption that minorities will organize politically in their own self-interest, to be sure, but not the assumption that they will disregard the needs of society as a whole.

Usually, cultural norms are associated with majorities. We have just argued that the majority might or might not be morally justified. In this case, we suggest, it is justified. It is not merely the majority's passing whim. It is based on countless centuries of human experience all over the world. Sometimes, marriage legislation should be reformed. But in connection with its variable features, not its universal ones.

Claim 20: But gay people are a small minority. Allowing them to marry would mean nothing more than a slight alteration to the existing system and would even add support for the institution. What's all the fuss about?

This argument is disingenuous, to say the least. If the alteration were so slight, after all, why would (some) gay couples insist on access to marriage? The question is worth asking, because gay couples in Canada34 already have most of the benefits conferred by marriage and more can be added. Ostensibly, only the word "marriage" is at stake.

Neither we nor our opponents can predict now precisely what these consequences would be or when they would appear. And that is our point. Why rush into this? Given more time, we might be able at least to make an informed decision. With this in mind, consider what might indeed change as a result of redefining marriage to include gay couples.

People would not riot in the streets, to be sure, if gay marriage were legalized. In the immediate future, not everyone would even notice the results. Religious communities would be the first big losers, because religious freedom would become increasingly hard to defend. Even if exceptions were initially made so that religious communities would not be forced to marry gay couples, these exceptions would eventually be challenged in the courts. The latter would have to choose, after all, between two competing rights: freedom of religion versus equality. Guess which one is most likely to trump the other (see claim 14).

But the most egregious consequences would not be obvious immediately. Most of these, too, would amount at first to nothing more than continuations of tendencies already present. But in the long run, after several generations, these would bring about a radically different kind of society. Many gay and feminist revolutionaries in our own time would applaud, no doubt, but many liberals — those who have nothing more than traditional egalitarianism in mind — would not. They would do well, therefore, to consider several current tendencies in particular. Unimpeded and acting together, we suggest, these would eventually contribute directly to the gradual fragmentation of society by weakening: (a) the bonds between the individual and the community; (b) the bonds between parents and children; (c) the bonds between nature and culture; (d) the bonds between men and women; (e) any healthy masculine identity; and (f) any healthy democracy.

First, consider the individual and the community. At the heart of this campaign for gay marriage is radical individualism (coupled with, ironically, a form of radical collectivism).35 We are not referring to the kind of individualism that emerged in the eighteenth century and was expressed most effectively by those who wrote the American Constitution. For them, individual liberty was embedded firmly in a context of communal responsibility. Personal liberty was not synonymous, in short, with personal license. Today, individualism has come to mean something quite different, something that approaches the adage that "anything goes" (as long, presumably, as no one is personally injured). The larger interests of society, in short, no longer function as constraints. And this indifference to society as a whole is made clear by those who defend gay marriage. Allowing gay people to marry, they say, would be beneficial to gay individuals (or to the gay community). How could that, they ask, harm straight individuals (or the straight community)? But advocates of gay marriage have made no serious attempt to consider the possible harms and object to those who want more time to assess the evidence from other periods or other cultures.

Whatever might be said about the immediate consequences of radical individualism, the longterm consequences could be dire. One scenario would be the dissolution of society as such — that is, as a unified whole. It would devolve into a collection of adult individuals focused exclusively on their own rights as individuals and tolerating governance only as way of protecting these from other individuals).36 More specifically, in connection with redefining marriage, individuals would come together for copulation and companionship, but enduring bonds would be seen as unnecessary restrictions on personal freedom. Their children would be either shunted from one home to another, depending on arrangements made primarily to suit the changing desires of adults, or reared in institutions run by the state. Marriage has never before been so heavily associated with the wants and needs of adults as individuals. On the contrary, it has always been heavily associated with the needs of both children (expressed as the ideal of interdependence between men and women for the sake of children) and with those of the community (expressed as the ideal of interdependence between men and women for the sake of society as a whole).

The "philosophy" that underlies radical individualism, of course, is hedonism. By that, we refer not to the affirmation of personal pleasure but to the glorification of personal pleasure as an end in itself. Drug addiction, to take only one example, is no longer a result of poverty and ignorance. It is a fashion. Hollywood stars move in and out of rehab as often as they move in and out of marriage. And they are applauded for talking about it to Oprah Winfrey.

Gay people invented neither hedonism nor radical individualism. Although the gay movement has been associated with hedonism,37 for instance, this mentality had never been unknown to straight people and is now at least as pervasive among them as it is among gay people. Nor did gay people invent radical individualism. Although they have adopted it successfully, this political strategy had already become pervasive in the straight world. The campaign for gay marriage was inconceivable, in fact, until both hedonism and radical individualism had already prevailed in the larger society. The chickens have come home to roost, as it were, and straight people have only themselves to thank for any dire consequences.

Second, consider parents and children. At first glance, it would seem that gay marriage and gay parenting would symbolically strengthen the bonds between all parents and children. On closer examination, though, this is unlikely to occur. It should be clear to everyone by now, for instance, that advocates of gay marriage are interested primarily or even only in the interests of gay adults. This is inadequately disguised by disclaimers. Yes, some gay people want children enough to make use of surrogacy or other reproductive technologies. And yes, some gay people have children anyway from straight relationships. But the primary beneficiaries are still adults, not children. Which is why advocates of gay marriage try to argue that children would at least be no worse off with gay parents than with straight ones (or better off with good gay parents than with bad straight ones). The social-science evidence is sometimes ambiguous, but we do know by now that two parents are better for children than one and that families with both mothers and fathers are better for children than those with only mothers or only fathers. That these facts are either ignored or trivialized by advocates of gay marriage — and single parents, whether gay or straight — says something about concern for children in our time.

Consider also the effects of radical individualism and hedonism on children. At the moment, most parents would be ashamed to neglect their children (or at least afraid of the legal consequences). Even now, though, they are relying more openly and more heavily on the state than ever before to protect the interests of children. Not every parent appealing to the court for custody, after all, is motivated entirely or even primarily by "the best interest of the child." And for whatever reason, more and more parents demand access to day-care facilities for infants. These phenomena have many causes, some of them economic conditions beyond the control of any parent. It is a fact, nonetheless, that the state (along with or in direct connection with cadres of professional psychologists and social workers) has taken over many functions formerly assumed by parents.

Once again, this problem must not be blamed on gay people. Long before gay men were being lauded by journalists for resorting to surrogacy, straight women were doing the same thing by way of artificial insemination. At the moment, surrogacy is still under a legal cloud in Canada. But that could change just as easily and quickly as the definition of marriage.

Third, consider nature and culture. If gay people are going to have children of their own (as distinct from adopted ones), some of them are surely going to make use of reproductive technologies. These technologies will become more accepted than they are now as demand for them rises. The gay demand for marital inclusiveness, after all, would almost inevitably include their demands for reproductive inclusiveness. For instance, it would become very easy on political grounds for gay couples to argue that they are "differently situated" when it comes to reproduction and therefore demand that the state provide them with reproductive services. such as government-sponsored sperm banks for gay women and either surrogacy38 or ex-utero technologies for gay men. Failure to provide these could lead to charges of systemic discrimination against gay people. And gay people would be by no means the only ones to make reproductive demands. The door would be open to everyone seeking reproductive autonomy through technology. Even now, more and more straight single women are choosing to have children but not husbands. All they have to do is go to sperm banks.

Women, whether gay or straight, now have greater access to reproduction than men, thanks to their natural ability to gestate and to the prevalence of sperm banks. For the past several decades, feminists have campaigned for reproductive autonomy and power — for women, of course, not for men. Already under pressure from feminist lobby groups, for instance, Canadians are moving in the direction of banning surrogacy39 and any other technology on the drawing boards — such as an artificial wombΎthat might give men the same reproductive autonomy that women demand for themselves. And many American feminists would like to move in the same direction.

Surely, men would largely lose out on reproduction unless they were guaranteed access to children through surrogacy at little or no cost. When gay men find themselves with fewer reproductive possibilities than gay women, they might well file charges of systemic discrimination against gay men. But straight men could well come up with demands of their own. Many already believe that marriage, even common-law marriage, is becoming too risky in view of current laws governing divorce, custody, and child support. Why not redefine the family with their own interests in mind? Why not demand access by single men, for instance, to surrogacy?

Fourth, consider men and women. Inherent in the arguments put forward by advocates of gay marriage are two assumptions of interest here. One is that gender can be explained adequately as nothing more than a "social construction," which has been popular among feminists for decades and is now supported by postmodernists. The other is that reproductive technologies should be used to compensate for sexual differentiation. With both assumptions in mind, it is possible to argue that men and women are interchangeable. (Early feminists argued that men and women were all but interchangeable, for instance, and thus that women should be allowed to do everything that men were allowed to do.) With the same assumptions in mind, however, it is possible to argue that men and women are autonomous — in other words, that neither sex needs the other. Taking that to its logical (and possible though not yet recognized universally as desirable) conclusion would mean creating sexually segregated communities, or separate communities for men and women (thus reversing the massive cultural effort of every human society at all times and in all places). Gay people did not invent these assumptions; straight people did.

Even now, we are losing the ability to provide public cultural support for heterosexual bonding. This would become official with the legalization of gay marriage. At best, marriage (between men and women) would be nothing more than one "lifestyle choice" among many supposedly equal ones. Any attempt to promote it for the good of society as a wholeΎthat is, at least partly, reproducing it demographically — as a whole would be denounced as "discrimination" against gay people. It would be not merely politically incorrect, therefore, but illegal as well.

Fifth, consider masculine identity. This has already become a major social problem. Consider the soaring rate at which young men, unlike young women, not only drop out of school but also commit suicide.40 We need no fortune-teller to see that massive social problems, more widespread than the ones we already have, are likely to emerge whenever and wherever boys or young men are unable to feel deeply involved in either the family or society as a whole — or, to put it another way, in the future of society. Over the past few decades, we have seen a resurgence of machismo in its most toxic form. To many boys and men now, it seems clear that even a negative identity is better than no identity at all. This alone should give us pause in contemplating the future. Because fatherhood is the one remaining source of a healthy masculine identity — and we define the latter, once again, in connection with at least one distinctive, necessary, and publicly valued contribution to society — legalizing gay marriage could leave men with a major problem. We are referring to the marriages of gay women, in this case, which would legitimate the notion that fathers are unnecessary.

Finally, consider democracy. In one way, the campaign for gay marriage seems to support democracy. Its rallying cry, after all, is that gay citizens should have the same rights as other citizens. In another way, though, it undermines democracy — which, by definition, involves both a majority and one or more minorities. Gay advocates are confused. They want paradoxically both to be a minority and not be a minority. They want to be different from the majority, in other words, but not to pay a price for being different. But if minority status itself becomes intolerable, if the very fact of difference is said to be inherently degrading and destabilizing, then how can we sustain a democracy (let alone a "pluralistic" one)?

Inherent in the idea of citizenship, moreover, is the idea of adult responsibility. Minors are not full citizens, after all; only adults are — presumably mature adults. But the advocates of gay marriage tell us that the state must confer identity, self-esteem, even mental health on gay people. This is an unwitting insult to gay people. Worse, it is an insult to all citizens (especially in view of the fact that those who believe in marriage as the ultimate source of self-esteem do not care what would happen to the self-esteem of those who would not marry).


We will almost certainly be accused, at any rate, of alarmist rhetoric. And, given historical precedents of societies in the midst of major change, we could refer to even more alarming possibilities. But remember that every morally responsible analysis of social policy must include consideration of the risks. Naivetι is no more a virtue than cynicism is.

No one can predict the future of this experiment. People are not like rats in a lab. Mistakes are much more costly. And unforeseen things are just as likely to happen because of social engineering as they are because of any other kind. We try to fix every problem, but we usually end up replacing one with another. Forty years ago, it seemed like common sense that changing the divorce laws would be an act of compassion for the few but one that would make little or no difference to the many. That was naive, to say the least. Now, we know better. It changed us in ways that no one could have imagined. For better or worse — better for some, worse for others — we now live in a "divorce culture."42

Most people like to consider their society a tolerant one, and this is certainly laudable. But no society could endure if tolerance were taken to its ultimate conclusion: the belief that "anything goes." In addition to tolerance — otherwise known as "love," "caring," or "compassion" — every society must be guided by wisdom. And that requires citizens to be as reasonable as they are tolerant. Canadians should think twice, therefore, before redefining marriage.


  1. Katherine K. Young, affidavit for Halpern et al. v. Canada (A.G.) et al. and MCCT v. Canada (A.G.) et al. , Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Divisional Court), 12 July 2002, court files 684/00 and 39/2001; Hendricks and LeBoeuf v. Canada (A.G.) , Quebec Superior Court, 18 September 2002; and Egale v. Canada (A.G.) , British Columbia Supreme Court, 3 October 2001.

  2. Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, "Questioning Some of the Claims for Gay Marriage," presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Ottawa, 20 February 2003.

  3. Sexual orientation, moreover, is not entirely a "cultural construction" and therefore subject to continual deconstruction and reconstruction. Heterosexuality has a partially biological foundation in most people but nonetheless functions effectively only when supported by religious or other cultural institutions. In other words, important aspects of it must be taught within a larger cultural context. But homosexuality, too, has a partially biological foundation. Gay people should be harmed by cultural guidance provided for the majority. Therefore, we argue that cultural institutions, including religious ones, should avoid negativity toward the gay minority even as they support the straight majority. Many have already taken steps to do so.

  4. Marriage cannot be defined adequately except by contrasting it with mating. Like all other animal species that reproduce sexually, humans mate. That is a biological function. Unlike other species, however, humans are encouraged to mate within the cultural context of marriage. Our greatest evolutionary advantage has been to rely on culture rather than instinct, which has made possible adaptations to suit every ecological niche. Culture is imposed on nature, in other words, to create order out of what would otherwise be chaos.

  5. David C. Geary and Mark V. Flinn, "Evolution of Human Parental Behavior and the Human Family," Parenting: Science and Practice, 1:1-2 (January-June 2002): 5-61.

  6. This usage is supported by dictionaries such as Webster, in which the word can refer to "an authoritative standard," a "model," or "a principle of right action binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide, control, or regulate proper and acceptable behavior" ("Norm," [dated] 2003, Merriam Webster Dictionary, [visited] 3 May 2003, The word has been used in this sense by lawyers. In Legal Traditions of the World (Oxford University Press, 2000), H. Patrick Glenn argues that norms are the basis of comparative law because they are found in all cultures. He examines the ways in which norms are defined, given authority, and encouraged or enforced. And he shows how "normativity" and religion are intertwined, especially in the "webs of belief" in small-scale cultures (what he calls "chthonic" ones), world religions (such as Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, or Confucianism), and civil or common-law systems (which have had close links with Christianity). The same word is used in a very different ways, however, by social scientists and mathematicians. They use it in a statistical sense, for example, which is defined by Webster as "a set standard of development or achievement usually derived from the average or median achievement of a large group" and so on.

  7. Suzanne G. Frayser, Varieties of Sexual Experience: An Anthropological Perspective on Human Sexuality (New Haven: HRAF Press, 1985). According to Frayser, "rules are part of the definition of marriage in the sense that marriage is an intrinsically human social relationship. Humans partially organize their lives in conformity with the rules they have created" (248).

  8. Scholars in comparative religion study the worldviews of both small-scale societies (such as those of North American Indians) and large-scale societies (such as those of China and India). In the former, religion is fully integrated into what we would consider the secular aspects of culture; everything is religiousΎnot only beliefs about this or that deity but also about food production, kinship, political structures, and so on. Religion is fully integrated in traditional large-scale societies, too, but it is more specialized; everything has a religious component, but distinctions are made among (religious) law, (religious) art, (religious) economic structures, (religious) political institutions, and so on. As a result, the study of comparative religion includes many topics that those outside the field might not identify immediately as religious. For instance, religions are very concerned with biological matters such as sex, reproduction, contraception, birth, and childrearing. "Religions thus act as culturally phrased biological messages. They arise from the survival strategies of past group members and continue to advise at the present time. As such, a religion is a primary set of 'reproductive rules,' a kind of 'parental investment handbook.'" (Vernon Reynolds and Ralph Tanner, The Biology of Religion [London: Longman House, 1983] 294).

  9. "Every culture of the world recognizes some form of the institution of marriage...." (Edith Turner and Pamela R. Frese, "Marriage," in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade, vol. 9 [New York: Macmillan, 1987] 218).

  10. Some people might call this "social engineering." And it is to the extent that culture itself always involves the promotion of some possibilities over others. But remember two things. First, those who would redefine marriage to promote the interests of gay people could be charged with the very same thing. Second, neither we nor our opponents are advocating either the kind of behavior modification associated with B. F. Skinner.

  11. According to anthropologist Frayser, "the definition [of marriage] should be broad enough to facilitate the identification of a 'marriage' in each society, but not so broad that it does not sufficiently differentiate marriage from other relationships.... [M]y own definition of marriage derives from a review of the careful attempts to define it made by other social scientists, e.g. Gough and Goodenough, as well as from my analysis of ethnographic reports of marriage in a variety of societies. I have found that I can most consistently and usefully identify marriage in cross-cultural contexts by using the following definition. Marriage is a relationship within which a group socially approves and encourages sexual intercourse and the birth of children.... When we are talking about marriage, we are considering the dimensions of a relationship, regardless of its consequences. In a marriage, people can be reproductive. In purely sexual relationships, they should not be reproductive (Frayser 248).Our own definition includes all this but also some implicit features.

  12. For Orthodox Jews, men (though not women) are divinely commanded to marry. A primary motif in Jewish theology is that of the "marriage" between God and Israel; this becomes a primary liturgical motif during shabbat (the sabbath). Among Orthodox Jews, moreover, only married men are allowed to wear the tallit (prayer shawl). Something similar is true of Hinduism. According to one ancient source, "a man, after securing a wife, regards himself as more complete" (Aitareya Aranyaka I.2.4). Most Hindu men have had to marry, although a few exceptions have been allowed. We could give dozens of other examples. Using culture in this way could be construed as "privileging" heterosexuality and attacked as "politically incorrect." On the other hand, it could be construed as common sense.

  13. World religions have recognized that maleness and femaleness lie at the heart of human existence and that each has a cosmic dimension (an image of the deity, say, or a fundamental aspect of creation). Jewish scripture says that men and women were created in the divine image. God blessed them with the following commandment: "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:27-28). According to a Confucian scholar of the Han period, "in all things there must be correlates.... The yin is the correlate of the yang, the wife of the husband...." (Tung Chung shu; cited in Terry Woo, "Confucianism and Feminism," in Feminism and World Religions, ed. Arvind Sharma and Katherine K. Young [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999] 122). Islamic scripture says that "God created the original man and woman from whose union all others descended" (Qur'an 4:1 and 30:20-21). For Christians, the distinction between male and female originated in God's creation. Jesus said that "from the beginning of creation he made them male and female. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and the two become one flesh. They are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. So then, what God has united, human beings must not divide" (Mark 10: 5-6).

  14. All world religions link marriage with progeny. The Islamic view, for instance, is that "[t]o bring forth a child is a four-faceted intimacy which is the original reason for encouraging it even after being safe-guarded against excessive desire, [because] no one wants to meet God as a celibate. The first is to conform to the love of God by seeking to produce the child in order to perpetuate mankind" (Madelain Farah, Marriage and Sexuality in Islam: A Translation of al-Ghazali's Book on the Etiquette of Marriage from the Ihya' (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1984) 11). According to an ancient Indian source, "the wife is indeed half of oneself; therefore as long as a man does not secure a wife so long he does not beget a son and so he is till then not complete [or whole]" (Satapatha Brahmana V.2.1.10; cited in Pandurang Vaman Kane, History of Dharmasastra: Ancient and Mediaeval Religious and Civil Law, Vol. II. [Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1974] note 35, 429).

  15. Every society has used symbols and rituals to foster the bonding between men and children. One reward for Jewish fathers, for instance, is being able to participate in rituals with their sons. Examples include brit milah (circumcision on a son's eighth day), pidyon ha-ben ("redeeming" a first-born son, on his thirtieth day, by replacing the boy with a monetary donation to the "temple"), and bar mitzvah (the first time a son is called to read the Torah in synagogue). The great classical and medieval rabbis were aware of the need to make sure that human fathers, unlike those of other species, know who their children are. Sa'adiah Gaon, for instance, observed that "divine Wisdom forbade fornication in order that men might not become like the beasts with the result that no one would know his father so as to show him reverence in return for having raised him" (cited in Gerald Blidstein, Honor Thy Father and Mother: Filial Responsibility in Jewish Law and Ethics (New York: Ktav, 1975) 4). One Hindu strategy to involve men in reproduction and family life was to link men's identity directly to having a son in his own image. "A wife was called `jaya,' because the husband was born in the wife as a son" (Aitareya Brahmana 33.1 cited by Kane Vol. II, note 35, 429.) Indebted to the ancestors, Hindu men are obliged to have a son who will perform their funeral rituals later in life. Confucianism also linked male identity to sons: "[s]ons were so indispensable in carrying on the family line and in maintaining the honors to ancestors that failure to have them was regarded as a serious offense against filial piety. With sons the rites to parents could not be continued, and not only would the living be disgraced, but the spirits of the dead, deprived of such service, would be in misery" (Kenneth Scott Latourette, The Chinese: Their History and Culture (New York: Macmillan, 1962) 569.

  16. See Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young, Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture (Albany: State University of new York Press, 2001).

  17. For comparative studies on sex and marriage, see the following: Clellan S. Ford and Frank A. Beach, Patterns of Sexual Behavior (New York: Harper Colophon, 1972); Bron B. Ingoldsby and Suzanna Smith, Families in Multicultural Perspective (New York: Guilford Press, 1995); G. Robina Quale, A History of Marriage Systems (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988); Ruth C. Busch, Family Systems: Comparative Study of the Family (New York: Peter Lang, 1990); Robin Fox, Kinship and Marriage in Anthropological Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967). For studies on sex and marriage in specific cultures, see the following; Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, Sexuality in Islam (London: Routledge, 1985); J. Schacht, "Nikah," and W. Heffening, "'Urs," in Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. P. J. Bearman and others, both in vol. 10 (Leiden: Brill, 2000); Arlene Anderson Swidler, ed, Marriage among the Religions of the World (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990); Waldemar Molinski, "Marriage: Institution and Sacrament" and "Parents," in Sacramentum Mundi: An Encyclopedia of Theology, ed. Karl Rahner and others., vol. 3 (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969); Ben-Zion Schereschewsky, "Marriage: Legal Aspects," in Encyclopedia Judaica, ed. Cecil Roth and others, vol. 11 (New York: Macmillan, 1972); Raymond Apple, "Marriage: The Concept," in Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 11; Jeremy Cohen, "Be Fertile and Increase: "Fill the Earth and Master It"; The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989);

  18. Data for this category are drawn from both large-scale and small-scale societies; the latter are different in some ways from the former.

  19. When discussion is limited to historically Christian societies, which is often the case in current debates over the nature of marriage, its distinctive aspects are deceptive. Often hidden is the fact that Christian marriage shares many features with Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and other forms of marriage. Christian marriage, like many other Christian institutions, did not emerge immediately. The early community was an eschatological one, expecting the end of history and beginning of the Kingdom at any moment. Once it became clear that the end and new beginning would not occur in the immediate future, Christians had to start planning a new social order to replace the existing one within history. And that meant establishing rules for, among other things, marriage. Advocates of gay marriage like to play on this variable within the history of Christianity as a way of deconstructing any unity within the tradition. See, they argue expediently, Christian institutions have changed in the past. Why not now?

  20. "The cross-cultural method contests the hypothesis suggested by a single case and can check the validity of common assumptions derived from the study of a few cases. The results can help anthropologists to rethink their assumptions (Frayser 425-426, note 13). Frayser bases her analysis on a sample of sixty-two societies from Africa, the Mediterranean region, Eurasia, the Pacific islands, North America, and South America. These represent eight types of economy and five types of lineage, or descent. For further details on her method in connection with sample size, for instance, or control for bias, see her Varieties of Sexual Expeience.

  21. See, for instance, David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Must Urgent Social Problem (New York: Basic Books, 1995) and David Popenoe, Life without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage Are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society (New York: Martin Kessler Books, 1996).
    Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher write that the children of two-parent families are better off in many ways than those of single parents (The Case for Marriage [New York: Doubleday, 2000]). There is evidence that the children of biological parents, moreover, are generally even better off than those of social parents. Browning notes that "[b]y the mid-1990s, reports by demographers ... showed that children in the U.S. not living with both biological parents were on average two to three times more likely to have difficulties in school, in finding employment, and in successfully forming families themselves. Income lessens these consequences, but only by 50 percent" (Browning 17-18). For the importance of biological parents, including fathers, see Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing up with a Single Parent (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994). Their work suggests that the formation of identity, not only economics and family stability, is a key factor in socialization.
    This brings up something that has not yet been explored adequately by social scientists, something that is associated specifically with fathers (or mothers). At some level, identity always involves bodies. Being male (or female), in other words, parental bodies are important rather than peripheral in the development of children. We say this for two reasons. First, the formation of personal identity involves learning how to deal with the different physiological experiences of boys and girls. Second, the formation of healthy heterosexuality involves not only the transmission of culture from one generation to another but also the experiential lessons learned by watching parental bonding in spite of sexual differences.

  22. According to Don Browning, " [T]he most interesting base reality of these trends is the increasing distance, if not separation, of fathers from their children. Divorce, non-marital birth, and teen pregnancies not only correlate with and accentuate poverty, they correlate with a weaker if not completely absent relation with fathers. This means a loss of the financial contributions of the father. It also means a loss of other unique qualities such as conscience formation, the loss of mediation to offspring of the father's 'social capital' (the resources of his extended family, his friends, his other social contacts), a decline of trust in the reliability of the world, and even a loss of faith in the dependability of the mother herself" (Marriage and Modernization: How Globalization Threatens Marriage and What to Do about It [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003]: 18; his emphasis).

  23. To reproduce itself, a population must have a total fertility rate of 2.1. No developed Western country except the United States is currently reproducing itself; these countries have both declining birth rates and declining death rates. The Canadian rate is 1.7; the American rate is 2.1, but that is due mainly to massive immigration and not to the general pattern of educated couples having fewer children ("Total Fertility Rates by Country — North America," [dated] 4 May 2003, [visited] 4 May 2003, The rate for developed countries in general is 1.6 — down from 1.9 in 1990 ("Total Fertility Rates," [dated] 4 May 2003,

  24. The most obvious example of this would be Quebec, which is one reason Premier Bernard Landry has offered extra financial benefits to those who have children (thus infuriating feminists, who believe for some reason that this degrades women).

  25. For a brilliant expose of this underlying premise of what we call "ideological feminism," see Daphne Patai, Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998). We discuss her theory in "Legalizing Misandry: A Quiet Revolution Based on Contempt for Men" (forthcoming from McGill-Queen's University Press). Among those who exemplify this mentality is Catharine A. MacKinnon, the chief architect in both the United States and Canada of changes to the laws governing pornography and sexual harassment. According to MacKinnon and her pal Andrea Dworkin, all sexual relations between men and women, including those initiated by and enjoyed by women, amount to rape. Why? Because, MacKinnon points out, women in patriarchal societies are incapable of giving their assent to sexual relations with men.

  26. William N. Eskridge, The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment (New York: Free Press, 1996); see also his affidavit for Halpern et al. v. Canada (A.G.) et al. sworn on 14 November 2000, court file 684/00. For the opposing argument, see our affidavit for the same case along with Peter Lubin and Dwight Duncan, "Follow the Footnote; or, The Advocate as Historian of Same-Sex Marriage," Catholic University Law Review 47 (1998): 1271-1325.

  27. We do not advocate polygamy. Who knows what would happen, after all, if elite people take more than their "fair share" of potential spouses? But if we reject the argument that there is something inherently wrong with gay marriage, why accept the same argument against polygamy? It would be hard to argue that there is anything inherently wrong with polygamy, even though it is more complex than monogamy. Remember that polygamy refers to many marriages, not many wives. Both polygyny (many wives) and polyandry (many husbands) would clearly support inequality and thus be unacceptable in Canada; polygamy, however, would offer the same opportunity to both husbands and wives. Given the required regulations, moreoverΎand every institution must be regulatedΎwe have no reason to assume that many people would be able to afford more than one spouse in any case. But the point here is not about popularity or even social desirability; it is about moral and legal consistency. If members of the gay minority should be allowed to marry, regardless of potential harm to society, why not members of this other minority?

  28. Halpern et al. v. Canada (A.G.) et al., Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Divisional Court), 12 July 2002, Blair, paragraph 5.

  29. It is true that some Jews have become "self-haters." The most disturbing examples come from Germany in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (See Amos Elon, The Pity of It All: A History of Jews in Germany, 1743-1933 [New York: Metropolitan Books, 2002]). It is worth noting that these Jews were almost invariably the most assimilated ones, however, not the most marginalized or isolated ones. The latter, with access to the richness of Jewish tradition and the solidarity of strong Jewish communities, seldom internalized anti-Semitic stereotypes.

  30. Canada, unlike the United States, is very secular. Not quite as secular as the countries of western Europe, but secular enough to prevent or ridicule any reference to religion in the public square.

  31. In Hall v. Powers (2002), the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the Durham Catholic School Board could not forbid Marc Hall to attend the prom with his gay partner, even though church authorities argued that this would contradict religious doctrine on sexuality and even though it was a denominational school with special protection under the Constitution Act 1867. The judge ignored the church's own definition of authority, pointing out that Roman Catholics were divided on this matter, and that the criterion for judgment should be a "fully informed ordinary citizen" (who could be secular and even unsympathetic to the Church). If a constitutionally protected church cannot uphold its teachings on sexuality (including its guidance of adolescent sexuality), then so much the worse for the Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and so on. In Chamberlain v. Surrey School District No. 36 (2002) SCC 86, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that a school board in British Columbia would have to approve for supplementary reading three books that featured gay parents. It argued that no single conception of morality should be allowed to deny or exclude opposed points of view. The majority opinion rejected the idea that parents have a "privileged" role" in forming their children's values, one that can be expressed through school-board participation, because that would contravene the broad principles of tolerance and non-sectarianism.

  32. According to one online source, the Canadian divorce rate was 45% in 1996; the American rate that year was 49% ("World Divorce Statistics," [undated], Divorce Magazine, [visited] 3 May 2003,

  33. "Males Could Create 'Designer Eggs,'" Montreal Gazette, 2 May 2003: A-17.

  34. In the United States, things are different. Access to medical plans, for instance, is not given automatically to all citizens as individuals. Some gay people could get on the plans of their spouses, if they were married.

  35. We refer not to nationalism, which is about society as a whole, but to what could be called "group nationalism" but is usually called "identity politics." Underlying the demand for individual rights, after all, is a qualification that usually remains hidden by political or ideological rhetoric: this is about rights for the individuals of specific groups. The debate over gay marriage, for instance, is ultimately about gay rights, not individual rights.

  36. Closely related to that scenario is a more extreme (but by no means impossible) one: anomie. Anomie refers literally to the absence of law. In a larger sense, it refers to the absence of social cohesion and sense of collective purpose. It could be argued - and we doΎthat our society is becoming more and more fragmented along sexual (though also racial, ethnic, religious, and ideological) lines. The signs of social decay, at least the early warnings, are everywhere in Western countries. Consider only the high rates of divorce, the millions of abandoned wives and fatherless children, and the prevalence of addictions. Not one of these problems, alone, would destroy a society. Nor would the immediate results of legalizing gay marriage. But so many problems, most of them closely linked, should give us pause. So far, every society has disintegrated for one reason or another. Some are overtaken by more vigorous ones (almost always more brutal). Others collapse due to internal paralysis (usually marked by, among other things, the dissolution of family life). Still others mutate under pressure (which is what transformed ancient Roman society into medieval Christian society and then the latter into modern society). We have no reason to assume, in any case, that our society will endure forever.

  37. Not because all gay people are hedonistic but because the most visible gay people are those most closely associated with the bar scene, the drugs, and so on.

  38. The demand for surrogate mothers by gay men is already a fact in both Canada and the United States. Even before any decision had been made on the legalization of gay marriage in Canada, for instance, a massive spread in Canada's major daily newspaper featured this very phenomenon. "Men, who years ago ruled out children, in the brave moments when they came out to family and friends, are plunging into parenthood as never before in a sweeping social movement some have dubbed the 'gayby boom.'" (Margaret Philp, "Gayby Boom," Globe and Mail, 3 May 2003: F-4).

  39. This problem, too, has already surfaced. Feminists, notably members of the Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering, have long argued that surrogacy is inherently demeaning to women, turning female bodies into "wombs for hire," and also that it presents insuperable psychological problems due to an innate desire of women to keep the children they gestate (and thus break their contracts with the social mothers). These feminists have agitated for an outright ban on surrogacy (although they have identified no ideological problem with artificial insemination, which allows single women to have children of their own). "While more gay men are exploring the brave new world of reproductive technologies," writes Margaret Philp, "it is a route to parenthood that could abruptly close under a proposed new federal law being debated in the House of Commons. Bill C-13, An Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction, would license fertility clinics, but also outlaw financial compensation to sperm and egg donors and to surrogates, aside from expenses. 'My belief is that surrogacy will be forced underground,' Ms. [Sherry] Levitan grumbles. 'People who can afford to will go to California." ("Gaybe Boom" F-5).

  40. For the suicide rates of men and women, see 2001 Annual Report (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2002) 46; see also Elizabeth Thompson, "Quebec Leads Provinces in Suicides: Rate among Our Men Is More Than Triple That of Quebec's Women, Study Finds," Montreal Gazette, 18 September 2002: A-14. For the school dropout rates of men and women, see "Labour Force Statistics" [undated], B.C. Stats [visited] 3 October 2002, http://

  41. For more on this, see Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001), the first volume of our trilogy on men; we are now at work on the second volume, Legalizing Misandry: A Quiet Revolution Based on Contempt for Men.

  42. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, The Divorce Culture (New York: Knopf; Random House, 1997). Some social and political experiments, of course, are successful. Representative democracy is surely the most obvious example. There were those who warned that the American experiment would never work, for instance, or felt vindicated when the Civil War seemed to be ending it. Though flawed, nonetheless, American democracy has endured. So it will not do for us to make glib pronouncements about this new experiment. But the analogy is somewhat superficial. Even though representative democracy was a novum in the eighteenth century, democracy itself was not. It had been tried, albeit on a limited basis, in ancient Greece. Many small-scale societies, moreover, have tried informal versions of it. But gay marriage and its implications for both family and society, as we have observed, really would be unprecedented. In theory, it could work. In theory, after all, almost anything could work.


Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson. "Marriage-a-la-mode: Answering Advocates of Gay Marriage." Paper presented at Emory University, Atlanta, GA (May 14, 2003).

This article reprinted with permission from the authors. This paper will be published shortly by Emory University.


Katherine K. Young is professor of the history of religions in the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University where she teaches in the areas of comparative religion, gender, ethics, and Hinduism.

Paul Nathanson, a researcher in the same faculty, is a freelance editor and author of Over the Rainbow: The Wizard of Oz as a Secular Myth of America.

The authors have jointly written Spreading Misandry The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture. Katherine Young can be reached at Paul Nathanson can be reached at

Copyright © 2003 Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved