January 31, 2013
In his second inaugural address, before a crowd half the size of those at his first inauguration, President Obama rose briefly to the heights of rhetoric. He affirmed the enduring strength of our Constitution and the promise of democracy. As he continued his 18-minute speech, he reiterated the themes of his campaign. Some may be inclined to agree with him that “an economic recovery has begun.” Others may wonder at his sweeping announcement that “a decade of war is now ending.” However, the constant clashes in the Middle East, the presence of Al-Qaeda and the reports on unemployment make his words a hope for which we strive as nation, not a reality we enjoy.
After speaking about women’s rights and African-American civil rights, the President used his most noble platform to speak in favor of equality for homosexuals. He said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” In other words, the president was proposing that “gay marriage” is necessary for equality.
The president could not have been unaware of the historic significance of this topic. He is the first president to mention this issue in an inaugural address. He has now placed the highest office of the land in public and active support of one of the most significant changes, not simply in American politics, but in human civilization.
Many applaud the president’s courage in voicing his support -- and that of his administration -- for an agenda advanced by some of his biggest campaign supporters. There is hardly a family today that does not face the reality of a brother, a sister, a friend, a spouse, a parent or relative who is homosexual. Everyone wants those whom they love to be treated with respect and dignity. And so the president’s words find a ready welcome in many.
President Obama’s proposing gay marriage in terms of equal rights raises a number of interesting questions. Is the president saying that gay and lesbian people are not currently treated equally under the law? Do they not have the same civil rights as anyone else? Is there any law that prohibits them from living as they wish and with whom they choose to love? Do not homosexuals in civil unions have all the same legal rights in their relationships as married couples? Or does equality under the law mean that a minority of individuals should have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of society?
The president announces under the law that …“surely the love we commit to one another must be equal …” Do his words apply only to same-sex unions? What are the implications of this principle beyond gay marriage? Why must this sweeping principle of equality based on the commitment to love be limited to two people? What is the basis not to extend this to other relationships?
It is truly imperative to ask why the campaign to no longer accept marriage as a union of one man and one woman has risen to the level of presidential approval. Even though the president is just one man, on this issue he is representative of a societal change in attitude. Watching the polls perhaps and listening to his major supporters, President Obama has changed his position. He now unequivocally aligns himself with what appeals to many. But why? Why does the idea of redefining marriage seem right to many?
The answer lies clearly in an understanding of human sexuality. For those who accept human sexuality as a mere social construct, then the role of male and female means little, if anything. If someone denies the self-evident truth of nature that male and female bodies are designed for and complement each other, then, for them, sexual identity becomes merely a matter of preference and choice. If someone does not accept the fact that opposite-sex marriage is the way nature and nature’s God has designed us so that the human race can reproduce, then marriage becomes a mere label.
But marriage is so much more. Marriage has a specific content. It expresses a deep, profound, lifelong union of a man and a woman who, in mutual love, cooperate with the Creator in bringing children into the world.
To redefine marriage means ultimately to say that body and gender do not matter. It is to say that we create our own meaning and that the design of the Creator is of no account. It means that the complimentary roles of husband and wife, of father and mother, are of no consequence. Ultimately, the agenda to redefine marriage simply on the basis of the equality of loving will deny children their rights of being loved by a father and a mother.
Marriage is a much wider reality than two people loving each other. Treating individuals as equals and with respect is one thing. Redefining marriage is quite another.