The Harm of Same-sex Marriage in a Nutshell

Same-sex marriage and related claims, such as adoption of children, are fast becoming flavor of the month among western politicians. Irish pollies are among the latest, so the family-oriented Iona Institute has prepared an excellent, short, briefing paper on the subject.

Iona’s director, David Quinn, introduces the brief, noting that “even people who are instinctively uneasy about the matter ask themselves, ‘what harm would it do?'” He continues:

This is to imply that unless a change to the institution of marriage directly harms yourmarriage, there is nothing to worry about. Of course, it could equally be asked what direct harm it would do your marriage if your Muslim neighbour (say) could have more than one wife?

But the harm it would do is to the institution of marriage itself and to its chief purpose which is to commit men and women to one another and to their children. Permitting same-sex marriage would say this is no longer the purpose of marriage at all.

The purpose would be transformed into something else, namely recognising adult sexual love first and foremost (of whatever kind). Sexual complementarity and the children only it can produce would no longer be seen as in any way connected to the core purpose of marriage.

In other words, we would no longer have any institution that aims to bind (insofar as this is possible) mothers and fathers to their children. Redefining marriage would be a declaration that this is no longer a goal of either  marriage or of society.

This is the harm same-sex marriage will do; it will utterly transform the most pro-child of all social institutions into something else.
The Iona Institute has prepared this very short, easily digestible briefing note on the subject. We urge you to read it and share it. Unless we take the attempt to redefine marriage seriously enough and know how to argue against it, the battle will be lost before it begins.

I recommend following this advice.

This article was originally published on under a Creative Commons Licence.



Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    We need to ask ourselves what precisely marriage, as a legal, rather than as a religious or social, institution now is and what legal function it serves.  To do this, we must examine the legal texts themselves.

    It is rare to find a definition of marriage in their Civil Codes, but jurists have long found a functional definition in the provision (common to all of them) that a child conceived or born during the marriage has the husband for its father.  This goes back to the Roman law ” is est pater quem nuptiae demonstrant “,  [Dig. 2, 4, 5; 1] – Marriage points out the father.  This led the great French jurist, Carbonnier to remark that “The heart of marriage is not the couple, but the presumption of paternity.”

    No-one will deny that the state has a clear interest in the filiation of children being clear, certain and incontestable.  It is central to its concern for the upbringing and welfare of the child, for protecting rights and enforcing obligations between family members and to the orderly succession to property.  To date, no better, simpler and less intrusive means have been found for ensuring, as far as possible, that the legal, biological and social realities of parenthood coincide.  And that is no small thing. 

    The conclusion is obvious.

    • Stanlambert

      How about same-sex couples are allowed to be married but only with the condition that they NEVER have any children whether born to one of them or adopted.  Would these same-sex couples be willing to give up parenthood in exchange for being allowed to be married?

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        But what conceivable public purpose would such a marriage serve?

        Remember, what we are talking about here is civil marriage.  To summarise (1) Mandatory civil marriage, makes the institution a pillar of the secular Republic, standing clear of the religious sacrament (2) The institution of republican marriage is inconceivable, absent the idea of filiation, enshrined, not in Church dogma, but in the Civil Code (3) The sex difference is central to filiation.

        • Stanlambert

          Michael, I’m thinking in terms of two people who want to be together for life and wish to share ownership of each other’s property.  Having children does not always enter into the equation.   Some couples never have children even though they want them and some couples simply do not wish to have children.  They are still considered “married”.  Same-sex couples may believe they fall into a similar category of co-habitation and have a “right” to be considered married as well.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            But how does what you propose differ from a civil union?

            In regard to marriage, couples of different sex, and couples of the same sex are not in the same situation because marriage includes the perspective of procreation.  With regard to procreation, either natural or imitated, in the case of adoption, the first may indeed procreate (or make as if they had procreated), while the latter cannot.  If some male-female couples do not breed, it is for reasons peculiar to them (advanced age, pathologic infertility, choice not to have children), whereas same-sex couples cannot procreate together due to objective incapacity.  The difference in situation justifies the difference in treatment, namely access to marriage

            I suspect that there is a profound difference of philosophy, between those who view civil marriage as a “pillar of the Republic,” to be valued for the public purposes it serves, rather than for the incidental benefits it confers on individuals and those who regard it as a means of access to certain personal advantages

            • Stanlambert

              I personally believe that marriage is between a man and a woman period.  I also believe the trend toward making same-sex marriage legal is further proof of the degrading of the institution of marriage in today’s world.  Civil Unions would be my recommendation for same-sec couples not marriage not traditional marriage.  My earlier comments are merely suggestions to take into consideration…

      • That is inequality!  As persons, they are entitled to the same rights as all!  You would make them second class citizens!  They are tired of BEING second class citizens!

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          No, it is not.  It is different legal treatment, because their situation is not analogous.

          “The heart of marriage is not the couple, it is the presumption of paternity” said the jurist Carbonnier, pointing out that civil marriage was first introduced in a country (France) that had just turned 10 million landless peasants into heritable proprietors.  That is not a coincidence.

          Filiation is relevant to all potentially fertile marriages and, in the case of opposite-sex couples, it is very difficult to determine in advance, i.e. at the time of celebration, whether there will be children or not. To establish a screening process would be burdensome, expensive, intrusive and litigious, especially given possible advances in reproductive medicine and assisted reproduction.

           Laws are enacted for the general case and anomalies are the price that legislators pay for simplicity and certainty.  The presumption that opposite-sex couples are potentially fertile and same-sex couples are not is a reasonable working compromise and well within the legislators’ margin of appreciation.

        • Michael

          Is it a question of equality or just fact?  For instance, a man and a woman can get an annulment (i.e., declaration of “no marriage”) even after taking vows if they do not or cannot consummate their marriage.  I don’t become “married” just by french kissing or sucking on another’s earlobe or toes.  Neither do I become “married” via mutual masturbation or oral or anal sex. The man’s and the woman’s sex organs are each incomplete and make no sense without the other.  This is different from every other organ system of the body.  The others all make sense in themselves (bones, skin, muscles, circulatory,  nerves, etc.)  But the male and female sexual systems and organs really make a meaningful whole only together.  That’s why becoming one flesh and truly married requires the traditionally understood sex act.

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  • Bob

    These reasons against same sex marriage make sense.  What doesn’t make any sense at all is ignoring the effect that it will have on many young people who may be thinking about trying gay sex.  It’s a very bad idea and the legitimatizing of gay sex by same sex marriage is a disaster.  I’ve been there and I know.  Gay sex is like crack.  It’s very addictive and destructive of lives.  The gay culture has already so permeated the sexual lives of strait folks, included the married, that a great many men now expect abnormal sex acts from their female partners.  And why not?  If it’s legit for gay men and women to have impure orgasms, why shouldn’t everybody else.  This is already damaging many marriages.  I hesitate to say this about all the people who talk against same sex marriage.  They are surely my allies, but they don’t seem to show any concern for the terrible effect that gay marriage will have on young people who may be some what unsure of their sexual orientation.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      But is that really specific to SSM?  In Europe, we see many opposite-sex couples opting for civil unions, rather than marriage and these are open to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples?

      Surely the question is, what is it that distinguishes marriage from unregulated cohabitation and civil unions?  I can find none that does not logically derive from the presumption of paternity and no-one, to my knowledge, has been able to suggest an alternative reading of the legal texts themselves.

    • You are a Sick Man-full of DELUSIONS!

      • Angel

        You are the sick freak! Perhaps you enjoy rump roasting with feces marinara.  Cook it for 1 Minute and enjoy the STD!

        • Angel, careful, your bigotry is showing.

          • Bob, I am a Christian minister in the United Church of Christ. We have welcomed same-sex people for 40 years. And the result is that many of them take part in the life of the church the same as any other Christians. They marry, live monogamously and lovingly, and enjoy the same support we give to any married couples. I have officiated at same-sex weddings and the description you give is false and cruel. Promiscuity is what you object to, so support marriage equality.

            • Guest

              Sir, does the Bible not condemn homosexual relations as mentioned in Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, Romans 1:26, Jude 7, etc?

              If we are to ignore what is written in Leviticus 20:13, are we to ignore all other abominations that are mentioned in that same chapter (incest, bestiality, etc)? I have read that some gay pastors say that Leviticus refers to homosexual relations when worshiping a certain god(s), but would that mean that incest and bestiality are okay with God as long as there is no “god worshipping”?

              There is no mention of “loving, monogamous” homosexual relationships being okay in the Bible, but there is a clear mention that the sexual acts by homosexuals are abominations, regardless of whether the people love each other or not.

              I have read that another Christian excuse to allow same-sex “marriages” is because Jesus never mentions homosexuality… well, He never mentions plenty of things, including things like bestiality and incest. But He does clearly mention what a marriage is: the union between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:5), which also references Genesis 2:24 and other verses. When these Bible references clearly define what a marriage is, it means that no other relationship, no matter how loving and committed it is, that does not fit this description is not a marriage.

              Even incest relationships could turn into a marriage (brother and sister) and those would have been okay, except God did command for it to stop in Leviticus (however, no other forms, including homosexuality, changed from being abominations to being okay, which is backed up in the Old and New Testament).

              Regardless of homosexual relationship being a sin, in God’s eyes it is no worse than incest, bestiality, disobedience, stealing, lusting, murder, etcetera. God sent His Son Jesus to die and rise again for all sins so that we might live eternally. As long this is believed, myself, homosexuals and even rapists can be saved. However, when God mentions that the “adulterer, fornicator, etc” will not enter heaven, that is because when God looks at a sinner who believes, He sees Jesus and that is who enters. Otherwise, my sinful self would have no hope on entering heaven. I am no better than the most gruesome serial killer or child rapist in God’s eyes, despite that I have not murdered, try my best to obey my parents, etcetera. Which means I am no better than a homosexual, but this does not mean that we should condone people’s actions or desires when God does deem it a sin, but of course we should not force them to change or harm them either, but we are to love them.

              Now my question is, if you find that homosexuality is not a sin, what qualifies as sins for you? Sure you could say that murder, adultery, and stealing are sinful, but if you are picking homosexuality out of the “sin list”, why cannot we take other sins out as well? Some denominations allow for polygamous marriages or are fine with non-marital sexual relations, if you disagree with these things, how could you back it up whilst being okay with homosexuality?

              Homosexuals have always had equality with marriage, they have the freedom to marry someone of the opposite sex, whom is not closely related and also of the legal age. That is what marriage is, which is why I cannot marry my brother or sister, my dog, 2+ people, italian dressing, a child, a dead body, a building, a you-name-it. Homosexuals were given extra rights when we allowed for marriage to be redefined, which means that there is now inequality for pedophiles and animal “lovers” who might wish to marry what they desire (they might be illegal now, but so was homosexuality).
              Take a look Seattle woman “married” a building, an Indian man “married” a dog, a Taiwanese woman “married” herself, a South Korean man “marries” his pillow, and non-matured children are getting “married” to adults in various countries. If it is all about equality, these marriages should be perfectly fine, even if some might be harmful (which many might assume, but it is not 100% certain).

            • musicacre

              What LIFE is in your church if you imitate and condone Sodom and Gomorrah? Read in the Bible what God thought of that behavior. As a minister, you can love the sinner but you don’t you have to get into the good books with the sinner by celebrating their sin! You have a moral obligation for the sake of their souls that you are responsible for, to inform them of the truth. Even is your revenue takes a beating. You are working for the Lord or you aren’t . Don’t pretend to be, in order to look good to man! He (God) will ask for an accounting when he comes back, so that should give pause for re-inventing theology!

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  • Sibyl

    While I agree wholeheartedly with the argument that same-sex “marriage” would devalue the term further, it seems only too obvious that we are already at “adult love, first and foremost” and we have been for a very long time. Same sex “marriage” is only the logical consequence.

    It’s like stating a cliche, but we lost the true meaning of marriage with the normalization of contraception and no-fault divorce. These struck at the root of marriage and are the fundamental props of same-sex “marriage”. After all, most U.S. heterosexual marriage — even Catholic marriage —  is EXACTLY about adult love first and foremost. Children come when the adults “decide they are ready,” rather than as the natural, expected eventual consequence of married love. Children can be instantly deprived of stability and both parents in the home exactly because marriage is now viewed under this warped perspective. And we, as Catholics, have bought into this mindset completely, if the statistics are even close to accurate.

    This battle is, humanly speaking, already lost. However, with God’s grace we can overcome the threat, and so it seems to me that the very best thing we can do right now is storm heaven; the next best thing we can do is to absolutely refuse to participate in contraception and divorce, no matter our circumstances. And may God grant me strength to do just that. Let’s pray for one another.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      You are absolutely right.  People tend to stress what may be called the horizontal dimension of marriage (the couple) far more than the vertical dimension (ascendants and descendants)

      Back in 2005, the French Senate recorded an eloquent protest against this:-
      “Preserving the presumption ” is est pater quem nuptiae demonstrant “,  [Dig. 2, 4, 5; 1] adopted in all European legislation as Ms. Frédérique Granet-Lambrechts, professor at the Robert Schuman University of Strasbourg, told your reporter, Article 312 of Civil Code provides that a child conceived or born during the marriage has the husband for its father.

      The presumption of paternity of the husband rests on the obligation of fidelity between spouses and reflects the commitment made by the husband during the celebration of marriage, to raise the couple’s children.  The report presenting the order to the President of the Republic rightly points out that ” it is, in the words of Dean Carbonnier, the ‘heart of marriage,’ and cannot be questioned without losing for this institution its meaning and value.””

      This was echoed in the Pécresse Commission of 2006, when it noted that “in this country, the model has long been the peasant family, structured around a patriarch and expanding from hearth to hearth.  Children were raised within an expanded group and not by two parents.”

  • joseph martin

    This is very wrong-headed. The chief problem with SSM would, quite simply be calling something good which is evil.  Why is this so hard for Catholics to get? Instead, we get long and windly explanations of how it will erode marriage. Actually, it will erode basic morality, if anyone cares to even bring that one up. We will never win the argument on utilitarian bases. Marriage means different things to different people, and no-fault divorce already screws children. But for the society at large to effectively condone homosexuality, this is  a moral evil, not a pragmatic one. If society cannot make moral judgements, it will fail.

    • Bob

      Amen to what Joseph Martin has said.  SSM endorses evil sex acts.  So many good hearted supporters of SSM absolutely refuse to even look at the sex acts involved in SSM.  I speak from long and sinful experience as a gay man and as a psychotherapist dealing with many of the dreadful consequences gay sex.  Our Church has not been without deficiencies in addressing these problems, but it’s long standing teachings hold.  Now if it will only have the courage to fight for these teachings in the public square!  More support for Courage, the Catholic Apostlelate for same sex attracted men and women who want to live chastely would be a good start.

      • There is nothing evil about two mature and responsible people who love each other getting married and living happily ever after. That is as true for same-sex couples as it is for heterosexual couples.

        • Joseph, the Catholic church continues to condemn homosexuality (a modern medical term) via ancient dogmas, but even the Catholic church admits homosexuals do not choose their orientation and cannot choose to change themselves into heterosexuals. That is why the majority of Catholic lay people now support civil marriage equality laws for same-sex couples. They see the difference between dogma and civil rights for a misunderstood minority.

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  • Only 10% of children today grow all the way to adulthood in the same home as both biological parents, and some of those homes are filled with abuse, addiction, etc. 98% of brides and grooms today have had premarital sex, nearly half of the marriages end in divorce and remarriage is very, very common. 3/4th of marriages have experienced adultery at least once and record numbers of people are opting out of marriage altogether while those who do wed do so later and later in life. The average age of a groom (first time) is 29 and a bride 27. All of these things are pretty much ignored while the 1 or 2% of marriages with same-sex spouses are made the scapegoat for all that ails marriage today. Let’s help marriage for all instead of attacking it for a few.

  • The headline is perfect. These arguments definitely do belong in a “nut”shell.

  • PBKRanger

    The propagation of the “gay marriage” trope amounts to a kind of fused propaganda munition that penetrates before it detonates.
    There is no gay marriage, only gay pseudo-marriage. This truth is obscured by those with guilty consciences who look to propagate evil with the false hope that, when all men are evil, there will be no one left to judge them. The Pope has spoken as he has in part to dispel this lie: it is not we who judge but Christ.

    The Church’s teaching implies that homosexuality is not something one is so much as something one does. Conversely, if it is something one is, one cannot “be gay” all alone; one must share. That means being gay requires propaganda. All propaganda seeks to recruit and incorporate new believers. Hence, “being gay” requires sharing and thus we get the gay movement’s demand for government to propagate compliance on the greater share of the people.

    This propaganda is why such a tiny minority of homosexuals (<10% in the United States) has such a disproportionate voice in our society.

    The family is the last rampart that protects the individual from the isolation and alienation the propagandist a requires to totally control his audience.