A recent paper in the winter edition of Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (you will have to download the PDF to read it) by Profs. Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan T. Anderson does a better job than any article to date in elucidating the importance of traditional marriage to our society, and why gay marriage has no part in it.
It begins by outlining the Conjugal view of marriage, a view I have touched on before:
Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.
They then contrast it with the currently considered Revisionist view of marriage:
Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear.
Additionally the authors make this important point about the Conjugal view:
It has sometimes been suggested that the conjugal understanding of marriage is based only on religious beliefs. This is false. Although the world’s major religious traditions have historically understood marriage as a union of man and woman that is by nature apt for procreation and childrearing,3 this suggests merely that no one religion invented marriage. Instead, the demands of our common human nature have shaped (however imperfectly) all of our religious traditions to recognize this natural institution. As such, marriage is the type of social practice whose basic contours can be discerned by our common human reason, whatever our religious background. We argue in this Article for legally enshrining the conjugal view of marriage, using arguments that require no appeal to religious authority.
They then go on to argue in the most comprehensive and thorough manner for enshrining the Conjugal view in law. By way of conclusion they offer this intriguing thought experiment:
A thought experiment might crystallize our central argument. Almost every culture in every time and place has had some institution that resembles what we know as marriage. But imagine that human beings reproduced asexually and that human offspring were self-sufficient. In that case, would any culture have developed an institution anything like what we know as marriage?
It seems clear that the answer is no.
Marriage exists for deep biological, psychological, and sociological reasons. It is not just a construct the state came up with to confer benefits. The Conjugal view is not only worth protecting, it is absolutely critical that we protect it.
As the authors conclude:
So the view laid out in this Article is not simply the most favorable or least damaging trade-off between the good of a few adults, and that of children and other adults. Nor are there “mere arguments” on the one hand squaring off against people’s”concrete needs” on the other. We reject both of these dichotomies.
Marriage understood as the conjugal union of husband and wife really serves the good of children, the good of spouses, and the common good of society. And when the arguments against this view fail, the arguments for it succeed, and the arguments against its alternative are decisive, we take this as evidence that it serves the common good. For reason is not just a debater’s tool for idly refracting arguments into premises, but a lens for bringing into focus the features of human flourishing.
I would have to conclude that eviscerates the any notions that gay marriage advocates have that their view of marriage is equal to this one.