Gay marriage would destroy basic structure of society, Mohler says in debate

Communications Staff — January 20, 2004

Marriage between a man and a woman is the basic structure that holds society together and the governmental sanctioning of same-sex unions would eventually destroy society, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in a Jan. 14 debate.

Mohler and University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson presented opposing viewpoints on the legalization of gay marriage in a debate sponsored by Louisville Forum, a non-partisan public affairs group. Mohler and Marcosson each presented opening arguments then answered questions submitted by the audience.

Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued that marriage cannot be redefined without imperiling the culture.

“In a very real sense, marriage becomes the civilizational DNA of our social genetic structure,” Mohler said. “Beyond this, marriage serves as the basic molecular structure for human social organization.

“Though the family is extended through children and other bonds of kinship, the basic ‘molecule’ of human society is marriage. This molecular reality implies that the structure cannot be changed without destroying the molecule and the organism itself.”

Marcosson, an advocate for gay civil rights, called government’s sanction of heterosexual and not homosexual marriage “enormously unequal treatment” for gay and lesbian couples, whom he equated with racial minorities. He said equality demands that governmental benefits available to heterosexual couples be available for homosexual couples as well.

“Those of us in the majority at any given time owe it to ourselves not to impose burdens or disadvantages on those in the minority that we would not accept ourselves,” Marcosson said.

“Yet when it comes to marriage, we, those who are in the majority, those who have defined marriage through the legislature and legal process, have accrued to themselves the privileged status of marriage and have not treated the minority equal.”

Mohler argued that the equal treatment argument is invalid because governments for centuries have forbidden polygamy and other abnormal marital arrangements for the good of the society.

“Civilization requires the regulation of human sexuality and relationships,” Mohler said. “No society—ancient or modern—has survived by advocating a laissez faire approach to sex and sexual relationships. Every society, no matter how liberal, sanctions some sexual behaviors and proscribes others. Every society establishes some form of sexual norm.”

Marcosson contended that same-sex couples could raise children in a healthy and stable environment if allowed to marry because marriage would foster stability among gay couples.

But procreation outside traditional marriage often leads to a breakdown in security and self-identity in children and causes a number of other ills within families, Mohler said.

“Marriage is indispensable for the successful nurture and raising of children,” Mohler said. “Both boys and girls define themselves and establish their own identity and expectations based upon their observation of both father and mother, husband and wife, male and female.

“The extension of the family through other kinship relations links one marriage to another, with the entire family finding its identity and security in the integrity of those marital bonds.

“The breaking of these bonds leads to social dissolution as well as massive economic, legal, and psychological ills. The integrity of marriage is essential for children to know the security necessary for their own self-identity and sense of belonging.”

Mohler said heterosexual marriage has been upheld for centuries in law and customs as well through practices deeply embedded in the structures of civil societies. Married couples have been recognized through tax incentives as well as legal support and have also been expected to meet certain cultural expectations throughout human history, he said.

“Society invests both rights and responsibilities in the institution of marriage and by its various incentives and disincentives, points towards a cultural expectation,” Mohler said. “When that expectation is something other than marriage, problems immediately arise. Government does discriminate on the basis of marriage as the government discriminates on many others foundational bases in terms of its own interest.”

When asked if the official sanctioning of gay marriage would lead to further abnormal definitions of marriage and sanction such things as polygamy, Marcosson called the issue a “spectacularly tasteful red herring,” because discriminating on the basis of gender is not the same as regulating the number of persons one may marry.

But Mohler predicted that, by logical extension, many other unions would be normalized should gay marriage receive government sanction.

“If same-sex marriage is normalized, many other things will consequently be normalized,” Mohler said. “

Mohler said his hope is for everyone to find happiness, including homosexuals, but ultimate happiness cannot be defined by each individual, but by a standard of transcendent truth.

When it comes to human relatedness, I want very much for professor Marcosson to have happiness and I want that for homosexuals,” Mohler said.

“But I am in a position where I have to say what I believe to be true, not just because I believe it to be true but because I am standing on a platform of divine revelation and also ancient human wisdom. I believe the only way for enduring happiness, not just for individual happiness, but for happiness together, is that which is heterosexual must be normal.”

Marcosson said the issue is not a question of morality because same-sex relationships are not immoral.

“There is no moral superiority of the relationship of an opposite-sex couple over the relationship I have with the partner to whom I have been pledged in the last 13 years in a monogamous, loving, devoted relationship,” he said

But Mohler pointed out that Scripture in clearest terms categorizes all sexual relationships outside marriage as being sinful. The ultimate answer lies not in government, but in the grace of God that comes to sinners through the Gospel.

“Based upon the holy Scriptures, I am absolutely bound to declare the inherent sinfulness of all sexual activity outside of the marital bond,” Mohler said.

“Procreation, reproduction, child-rearing, and other essential rights and functions are divinely invested in the institution of marriage. Thus, to tamper with this divinely-established institution is to risk not only social peril but the divine judgment that will most surely come.”

The complete audio of the debate is available at: http://www.sbts.edu/mohler/messages.php

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