Rod Dreher has been posting a veritable cornucopia of resigned commentaries, tinged perhaps with a measure of despair, on the apparently inexorable societal death march towards the dissolution of marriage since the California Supreme Court's issuance of its egalitarian diktat. In the most recent of these commentaries, each of which has broached numerous substantive issues meriting further comment, and relied upon the MacIntyrean judgment that moral disagreements in late modernity are incommensurable (late modern 'ethics' being essentially emotivist, its valorized ideals of selfhood, autonomy, and desire regarded by classical and Christian ethics as the collective fons et origo of those problems moral theory is supposed to solve), Dreher references Margaret Liu McConnell's recent essay on marriage in the American Conservative, en route to a citation of Scalia's typically prescient dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, averring that he found her argument wanting:
But we must recognize that insisting that traditional marriage is best for raising children is not effective. A better approach is to emphasize that traditional marriage promotes the ideal that no parent should abandon his child. Who would argue against that? It’s consistent with other governmental policies in the area of child welfare. It’s in accord with human nature. But making the argument requires the courage, honesty, and humility to say that some ways of procreating are not as good for the general welfare as others, whether the parents are of the same sex or are married heterosexuals.
Adoptive parents do God’s work when they provide homes to children, and those homes can be as loving and stable as the home of any natural mother and father. But adoption is a humane response to what is already a tragedy in a child’s life, the loss of a parent. Those adorable adoptees from China, for example, are the byproduct of a cruel policy of child restriction that has lead to the deaths of thousands of children.
Reproductive technology, like adoption, without doubt can produce children who are loved by their new parents in homes as stable as those of any biological parents. But the various techniques, when employed by same-sex couples, always require that at least one of the child’s natural parents give up the child. This tempting world of sperm banks and egg brokers is the domain of the affluent and easily verges toward eugenics.
Adoption and reproductive technology as methods of forming our next generation are no foundation for a stable society. Social order doesn’t depend on parents being forced to give up their children for adoption because of poverty, illness, supposed unfitness, or the brutal policies of a foreign country—nor on parents giving up their children in advance of birth in sterile, scientific transactions. Those historical Supreme Court cases declaring marriage a fundamental right lauded the stability-promoting aspects of marriage, emphasizing the good that radiates throughout the broader society from the promise the man and woman make on their wedding day: “Marriage … creat[es] the most important relation in life … having more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution.” “Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties.” The promise of the married couple to keep and care for one another and for their children engenders a respect for unconditional responsibility that serves us all.
Extending marriage to same-sex couples would leave no other institution to promote the ideal that every parent promises to care for his child. It’s easier for fathers to walk away from their responsibilities when society no longer promotes the simple norm that a child belongs to both parents equally, and each has a duty to care for the child—the norm encompassed in traditional marriage. As the NAACP, La Raza Centro Legal, and the National Association of Social Workers know, the pain and deprivation caused by the erosion of this norm fall hardest on the poor.
Now, I suppose that one ought to distinguish between two senses of persuasion: will such an argument be, in actuality, persuasive to our juristocracy, steeped as it is in the doctrine that each individual is entitled to define for himself the meaning of life and the universe? and should such an argument carry persuasive rational force for those concerned for the ontological integrity of the involved states, categories, and classes? As regards the former question, it cannot be gainsaid that our legal caste will not find the argument persuasive, not in the least measure. A series of legal precedents have bestowed upon the sovereign individual the right to conjure from the nothingness of his passions some fictive meaning of the universe, and, pursuant thereto, decreed that discrimination between such fictions is invidious, motivated solely by animus. The Court has already adjudged that there obtains no rational basis for such discrimination, and any argument concerning the status of children will be regarded as an attempt to clothe in the garb of rationality more of the same old irrational prejudices.
Nonetheless, aside from the hackneyed conceits of late modernity and its increasingly strident nominalism, such an argument ought to be persuasive, though the matter is considerably more grave than McConnell expresses. It is not merely that emotivist-nominalist marriage, extended to homosexuals, will enshrine in law the principle that some parents must abandon their children for the sake of the rights-regime, but that such a marital regime entails the commodification of children. Children, in Christian thought, are a supervenient grace; upon the intrinsic good of the conjugal, self-giving love of husband and wife, the gift of new life supervenes, both ratifying and expanding the good of marital love. More than this, a marriage open to children instantiates the great cosmo-theological principle that through self-giving, self-sacrifice, and abnegation (marriage is regarded as both loving and martyric), the world is reborn; by dying to ourselves, we instead receive life more abundantly. Such an order also renders our origins concrete and particular; we are rooted in particular histories and places and lineages. The deformation of marriage to accommodate homosexuals* will definitively ratify and cement in place a contrary principle, once children are factored into the 'marital' equation: children, desired by many such couples, will become objects of felt entitlement, and claim-rights upon their 'inclusion' in such marital units will be asserted; but because such unions are intrinsically infecund, the claim will thus be that adoption and reproductive technologies be enshrined as rights, so that all can claim their 'rights' to produce or possess a child. The child will no longer be a gift, a living symbol of a love which precedes him and envelopes him, but something something acquired or created, to the end that someone might 'fulfill himself' or realize his private conception of the meaning of the universe; this will entail the apotheosis of the consumerist mentality of us moderns: as we consume - according to the logic of advertising & etc. - in order to create our very selves, the things we acquire being instrumentalized towards the satisfaction of transient desire, so even children, sundered from natural biological origins, will be instruments of lifestyle preference-satisfaction. This is the gateway to the final frontier of commodification. When once we admit into law and culture the idea that some persons exist, or may be brought under the discipline of existing, so as to complete the world-images of others, conjured from the nothingness of their desires, a fathomless abyss of evils will lie before us.
* If any are inclined to argue that, with the emergence of the contraceptive/divorce culture, those horses bolted the barn, I won't argue. The only distinction I am at pains to draw is that, while heterosexuals long ago nailed the theses of ontological rebellion to the door of civilization, gay marriage and the aftermath will be the cuius regio, eius religio phase of our decadence; passion is our king, and all reality its slave, and now dissenters, and society itself, will be coerced into making the confession of faith. And the nothingness will negate us.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript: If anyone should dispute my plural form of the singular simulacrum, which I have also seen as simulacra and the inelegant simulacrums, I'll be delighted to entertain correction.