“Given that you oppose gay marriage,” asked an internet questioner during Saturday night’s Republican Presidential Debate, “what do you want gay people to do who want to form loving, committed long-term relationships? What is your solution?”
Mr. Gingrich took the question as an example of media bias, because it essentially judged the question of same-sex relationships to be more significant than the attacks on Catholic agencies that refuse to place adoptive children in same-sex situations. Those agencies have been effectively shut out of the adoption business simply because of their commitment to natural marriage, a commitment that is as much a part of their faith as the dignity of the human person.
Some of the other candidates also had thoughtful replies yet in a sense the question doesn’t merit a response. Why not? Because it’s not the business of presidential candidates, as candidates, to take stances on things citizens do in their purely personal relationships.
What gay people decide to do in seeking to form loving, committed long-term relationships is simply not an issue of public policy. They are, of course, civilly free to do whatever they please, so long as they don’t violate the law. If they want to find a (non-Catholic) church that will bless their relationships as “marriage”, it’s their business as private individuals and their church’s business as a religious institution. But such an arrangement has nothing to do with the government.
The fact is, same-sex individuals ought not to expect the government to mandate acceptance or approval of their purely personal decisions, nor is there any good public reason such purely personal relationships should be legally recognized as marriage.
Marriage, as a public institution as opposed to a religious institution or a purely personal agreement, has to do with encouragement of men and women to enter into publically-sanctioned stable, enduring, exclusive relationships, in order to take common responsibility for raising any children they may have. Even when a man and a woman are childless by choice or circumstance, a public interest remains in fostering marriage as a legally-encouraged institution and as an example for those men and women who do want or have children. Children have a right to be raised by their fathers and mothers. When, as in adoptive situations, that isn’t possible, they still have a right to be raised by a father and a mother, if close family interest or obligation doesn’t take priority. Since government exists to protect people’s rights, including children’s rights, it ought to encourage fathers and mothers to raise their children together by encouraging fathers and mothers to marry, preferably before but at least after they conceive their children.
Proponents of same-sex marriage often confuse matters of personal interest with public policy. Asking what presidential candidates propose for gay people to do in order to form loving, committed long-term relationships is an excellent illustration of that confusion.