Read the introduction to this series, first.
5) The destruction of marriage. Granting civil union status or, worse, marriage to homosexual unions will ultimately weaken marriage for everyone. The introduction of same-sex registered partnerships in Scandinavia has coincided with a sharp rise in out-of-wedlock births. Granting gay marriage or its functional equivalent has not helped marriage in these countries; it has made marriage increasingly superfluous. When eroticism is perceived as merely “more intimacy” rather than as a means to a “one-flesh” reintegration with a sexual other into a sexual whole, when the only requisite for sexual unions is commitment and fidelity (and a truncated definition of commitment and fidelity at that), when “lifelong” becomes “long-term” and “long-term” is thought of as a 5-10 year-union, when even the concept of “serial monogamy” is called into question by the high incidence of “open relationships” among male homosexual unions, when sexual unions are once and for all severed in society’s perception from a commitment to have and raise children, and when society rejects as bigotry the notion that a mother and father are both needed for the optimal development of children–when all these elements are in place, consistent with the pro-homosex agenda, the general public will cease to value marriage as a special and even sacred institution. “The profanation of marriage” will have gone full circle–both its secularization and debasement. Imagine society granting marriage licenses to any union that met the conditions of a committed friendship and ask yourself how long marriage can survive as an institution. See the links to point 2 above.
Though it has been present in his other arguments, this argument really reveals one of Gagnon’s biggest errors in trying to construct secular arguments against cultural endorsement of homosexuality: he views society and the Church as more or less equivalent. This whole argument revolves around society in general accepting principles that he derives from scripture and believes the Church should hold. He talks about the “profanation of marriage” and “one-flesh” without any acknowledgement that these are not secular concepts or values. To the extent that we accept the state’s role in legitimating marriages at all we are secularizing marriage so that it need not be (indeed is not) considered sacred. Gagnon may find this lamentable, but his position would be more consistent if he simply rejected the state’s role in marriage altogether, rather than attempting to argue that the state has a responsibility to uphold his particular religious definition of marriage.
Beyond the flaw of equating society with the Church this argument is based on a series of assumptions that cannot be sustained. First of all it views marriage as an institution that can be attacked as a whole. This isn’t how people treat it however. No one gets married thinking they want to participate in some great social institution. Individual couples are married for many different reasons, which largely have nothing to do with the rest of society. Equally, they are divorced for reasons that have little or nothing to do with society. The divorce rate in this country among heterosexual couples is sufficiently high that it seems we need no help from homosexuals to destroy our marriages. The top two causes of divorce are money and sex. No one, absolutely NO ONE, gets divorced because of the homosexual couple down the street. Likewise, if your marriage isn’t devalued by the persistence of patriarchy or the disgustingly high incidence of spousal abuse, then it is in no danger from committed, loving homosexual marriages.
Behind the view of marriage as an institution is the very modernist understanding of “civilization” as a complex structure supported by a series of cultural institutions. If one of these institutions fails or changes too much, it is feared, the whole of civilization collapses. Really, this idea is so silly it’s almost not worth responding to. I will simply point out however, that there have been countless varieties of these “institutions” within our own civilization and many different civilizations with completely different institutions altogether. There is really no credible reason to think that changing definitions of marriage will do any damage to our society whatsoever. Will society change? Yes. That’s the point.