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Homosexuality: The Threat to the Family and the Attack on Marriage



Peter S. Sprigg


Remarks to The World Congress of Families III Mexico City, Mexico March 29, 2004

After individual human life itself, nothing is more precious or more essential to the survival and the success of human society than the family. The family is more important than the United Nations; more important than our individual countries; more important than our cities, towns, or villages. The family is more important than our schools, corporations, or our civic organizations.

The family is more important than all of these things, because human civilization is built from the bottom up, not the top down. The first brick of the foundation is individual human life, and the second brick is the family. This raises a crucial question—“What is a family? What makes a family?” Some people answer that question by saying, “Love makes a family.” That sounds nice, but while love is, as the saying goes, “a many-splendored thing,” love alone is not enough to make a family. In truth, what makes a family is one man and one woman united in marriage for a lifetime, and bearing children from that union.

Not every family lives up to that ideal. Some people become single parents through no fault of their own, because of death or abandonment. Some loving couples adopt children, in order to create a new family structure that reproduces as closely as possible the circumstances of a natural family. But it is important for society to continue to hold up the traditional family structure as the ideal family. It is important to hold up that ideal because it is the family structure most consistent with what the American Declaration of Independence refers to as “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”

However, even if someone doesn’t believe in natural law, or even in God, there is still a good reason to uphold the ideal of the traditional family. The reason the married, one-man, one-woman natural family is the ideal family is that we know that both the spouses and the children in such families have a better chance in life. Such children, for instance, do better academically, financially, emotionally, and behaviorally. They also have better health, and they delay sexual activity longer. The evidence for this in the social science literature is overwhelming.

It is because of this—because the family is so crucial to society—that we call ourselves “pro-family.” We want to do everything we can to support, encourage, assist, maintain, and promote traditional families and do everything we can to maintain that ideal of the married, one-man, one-woman natural family.

However, in order to defend what we are for—the family—we often must define what we are against. We are against anything that threatens the traditional family or undermines that ideal. That means that we are against parents snuffing out the lives of their own unborn children through abortion. It means that we are against drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse. It means that we are against illegitimacy, abandonment, and divorce. And it means that we are against any sexual behavior that would undermine the uniqueness of the faithful, lifelong marriage bond between a husband and wife. We are against premarital sex, pornography, adultery, and prostitution. And yes, we are also against the practice of homosexuality.

Now, you may ask, if we are for something so simple and profound as family, and against so many things that threaten it, why is it that one of these threats—homosexuality—gets so much attention? It’s not because homosexuality is a greater sin than any other. It’s not because we want to deprive homosexuals of their fundamental human rights. It’s not because we are afraid to be near homosexuals, and it’s not because we hate homosexuals. On the contrary, I desire the very best for them. And desiring the best for someone, and acting to bring that about, is the essence of love. However, I do not believe that engaging in behavior that is unnatural, immoral, and dangerous both to public health and to their own health is the best thing for people with same-sex attractions.

And so, as one part of our broad-based efforts to support the traditional family, we oppose what is sometimes called “the gay agenda.” It is an agenda that demands the full acceptance of the practice of homosexuality—morally, socially, legally, religiously, politically, and financially. Indeed, it calls for not only acceptance, but affirmation and celebration of this behavior as normal, and even desirable for those who desire it. This is “the gay agenda”—and we are against it.

This agenda has already made remarkable progress. Homosexual activists knew that their behavior would never be accepted as “normal” if doctors considered it a form of mental illness. Therefore, in 1973 they forced a resolution through the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is important for everyone to realize that the 1973 decision was not the result of new clinical research or scientific evidence. It was, rather, a political decision made in response to a vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation by homosexual activists.

Indeed, studies actually continue to show that homosexuals experience high rates of mental illness. For example, the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study, reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2001, found that “people with same-sex sexual behavior are at greater risk for psychiatric disorders.”[1] The fact that this is true even in one of the most “gay-friendly” nations on earth—indeed, the first nation to grant same-sex civil marriage—undermines any argument that such mental illnesses are merely a reaction to society’s alleged “discrimination.”

A second element in the agenda is to persuade people that those who engage in homosexual behavior are “born that way.” If people are “born gay,” it makes it more difficult to argue that a homosexual “orientation” is abnormal, or that homosexual behavior is immoral. It is astonishing how pervasive this concept has become—especially in light of the fact that there is no convincing scientific evidence that homosexuality is determined by either genetics or biology. Only a tiny handful of studies have ever been put forward to make such a claim. Unfortunately, the scientific critiques that discredited those studies have never quite caught up to the media hype that originally accompanied them.

A third element of the homosexual agenda is to get “sexual orientation” added to the categories of protection under anti-discrimination codes in private organizations and under civil rights laws in the public sector. In fact, homosexuals should and already do have all of the same rights under the law as any other citizen, such as the right to vote, the right of free speech, and the right to trial by jury. Those rights are truly “civil” or political in nature, and the exercise of them does nothing to infringe on anyone else’s freedom.

However, adding “sexual orientation” to “civil rights” laws governing private employment and housing does infringe on the rights of others—namely, the normal right of employers and landlords to make economic decisions based on their own best judgment. Governments normally interfere with such economic freedom only when the alleged “discrimination” is based on characteristics that are inborn, involuntary, immutable, and innocuous, such as race.  None of those criteria apply to homosexual behavior. Nevertheless, one small business in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island—a family-owned bed-and-breakfast—went out of business because they refused to compromise their principles by allowing a homosexual couple to share a bed in the family’s own home. In another case in Hungary, a Christian seminary was forced to reinstate a seminary student who had been expelled as a homosexual. When “homosexual rights” are imposed, other rights of longer standing, such as religious liberty, are trampled upon.

A fourth element of the agenda is to win the enactment of “hate crime” laws that provide severe punishment of crimes motivated by “bias” against homosexuals. All of us in the pro-family movement are opposed to violent crimes, against homosexuals or anyone else. Hate crime laws, though, set a dangerous precedent of punishing people specifically for their opinions. In addition, under some such laws a person can be punished simply for intimidation—which could include just verbally expressing disapproval of homosexuality. One example came in England, where 69-year-old Harry Hammond demonstrated holding a sign that said, “Stop immorality. Stop homosexuality. Stop lesbianism.” Hecklers threw mud and water at him and knocked him to the ground—yet police arrested this old man, rather than his assailants, for a breach of “public order.”  

A fifth element of the homosexual agenda is the effort to get homosexual propaganda included in the curriculum of public schools. The intent of these efforts is obvious—to ensure that the next generation will grow up with an unquestioning acceptance of all the myths that the homosexual activists want young people to believe.

And a final element in this agenda is to redefine marriage and family altogether. They hope to achieve this by opening the doors for homosexuals to adopt children, and by legalizing same-sex marriage. If denied marriage in name, they hope to win virtually all the benefits and privileges of marriage through so-called civil unions or domestic partnerships.

The trend of giving all the legal rights and benefits of marriage to homosexual couples began in Denmark in 1989. Some form of these laws has since spread to Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, France, and Portugal (and possibly others). In 2000, the state of Vermont became the first place in the U.S. to offer such “civil unions,” as a result of a decision of that state’s highest court. California’s legislature voted last year to expand that state’s existing “domestic partnership” scheme into what are virtually civil unions, beginning in 2005.

The first country to open the institution of full civil marriage to same-sex couples was the Netherlands, beginning in 2001. In 2003, Belgium followed, as did two provinces of Canada in response to court decisions there. And on November 18, 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court of the American state of Massachusetts ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to enter civil marriages, and that a parallel institution of “civil unions” would not be sufficient.

The highly-publicized issuance of marriage licenses by a few local officials in California and other states since that time has been clearly illegal. However, the Massachusetts court’s ruling will result in that state recognizing the first legal homosexual civil marriages in America on May 17, 2004, unless further legal action is taken to prevent it. On February 24, 2004, President Bush endorsed an amendment to the U. S. Constitution that would limit marriage to unions of one man and one woman. These developments have set off a furious debate about the meaning of marriage in the United States, which I am sure is mirrored elsewhere in the world.

The debate over whether homosexual couples should be allowed to legally “marry” is not about rights, equality, or discrimination, despite the often heated rhetoric to that effect. Still less is it about the allocation of an entitlement package of legal rights and financial benefits. Instead, this is a question of definition—how do we define the social institution we call marriage? To answer that we must ask, “What is the public purpose of marriage?”

Please note that I said the public purpose of marriage. The private purposes for which people enter into marriage may be as diverse as the people themselves. Homosexual activists sometimes argue that they want to marry for the same reasons heterosexuals do—out of a desire for love and companionship.

But I ask you—are interpersonal love and companionship really the business of government? Would we even tolerate the government issuing licenses and regulating entry and exit into relationships whose only or even principal purpose is emotional attachment? I submit to you that the answer is no.

So what is the public interest in marriage? Why is marriage a public, civil institution, rather than a purely private one? The answer, I would argue, is that marriage is a public institution because it brings together men and women for the purpose of reproducing the human race and keeping a mother and father together to cooperate in raising to maturity the children they produce. The public interest in such behavior is great, because thousands of years of human experience and a vast body of contemporary social science research both demonstrate that married husbands and wives, and the children they conceive and raise, are happier, healthier, and more prosperous than people in any other living situation.

Now, I know exactly what some people say. They argue that reproduction cannot be the purpose of marriage, because opposite-sex couples that are elderly, infertile, or simply don’t plan to have children are still permitted to marry. In fact, I would suggest that the actual, tangible public interest in childless marriages is not as great as the public interest in marriages that produce children.

However, to exclude non-reproducing heterosexual couples from marriage would require an invasion of privacy or the drawing of arbitrary and inexact lines. Instead, we simply define the structure of marriage as being open to the entire class of couples that are even theoretically capable of natural reproduction—namely, opposite-sex ones—and we exclude an entire class of couples that are intrinsically infertile—namely, same-sex ones.

Of course some homosexuals do reproduce (with help, of course), and some homosexual couples do raise children. But let me suggest, as an analogy, another area in which the law places limits on the exercise of a fundamental right—voting. We have a minimum voting age because we presume that adults are wiser and better informed than children. The mere fact that some adults are actually foolish and ill-informed, while some children may be wiser and better informed, does not make the existence of a minimum voting age arbitrary or discriminatory. Distinguishing between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples with regard to marriage on the basis of general differences is equally logical.

In fact, I would suggest that the argument in favor of same-sex marriage can only be logically sustained if one argues that there is no difference between men and women—that is, if one argues not merely that men and women are equal in value and dignity, a proposition I’m sure we all agree with, but that males are females are identical, and thus can serve as entirely interchangeable parts in the structure of marriage. This contention is biologically absurd, and “same-sex marriage” is thus an oxymoron.

Nevertheless, some observers ask, “What harm could same-sex civil marriage possibly do to anyone else’s heterosexual marriage?” One answer is, it could destroy it. Forty percent of the couples entering “civil unions” in Vermont include at least one partner who was previously in a heterosexual marriage—just like Gene Robinson, the new bishop of the Episcopal church in the American state of New Hampshire, who left his wife and children for a homosexual lover. I once made this point in a public forum, and a listener argued that it would be “dishonest” for someone experiencing same-sex attractions to remain in an opposite-sex marriage. My response was simple. I would never call it “dishonest” for any person to fulfill their marriage vows.

An indirect effect is more likely, however. As the transient, promiscuous, and unfaithful relationships that are characteristic of homosexuals become part of society’s image of marriage, fewer marriages will be permanent, exclusive, and faithful—even among heterosexuals. So-called “conservative” advocates of same-sex civil marriage are optimistic that legal unions would change homosexuals for the better; it seems far more probable that homosexuals would change marriage for the worse.

Some advocates of homosexual unions even suggest that if another class of couples who want to marry are allowed to do so, it would actually strengthen marriage. This argument has been effectively refuted by American anthropologist Stanley Kurtz, using the trailblazing experience of Scandinavia. In an article in The Weekly Standard in February, Kurtz pointed out,

Marriage in Scandinavia is in deep decline, with children shouldering the burden of rising rates of family dissolution. And the mainspring of the decline--an increasingly sharp separation between marriage and parenthood--can be linked to gay marriage.[2]

Kurtz also cites Danish social theorist Henning Bech and Norwegian sociologist Rune Halvorsen as having admitted that:

The goal of the gay marriage movement in both Norway and Denmark . . . was not marriage but social approval of homosexuality. Halvorsen suggests that the low numbers of registered gay couples may be understood as a collective protest against the expectations (presumably, monogamy) embodied in marriage.

The final harm done by same-sex marriage would undoubtedly be a slide down the proverbial “slippery slope.” Advocates of same-sex marriage seek to remove the potential for procreation from the definition of marriage, making gender irrelevant in the choice of a spouse, and re-defining marriage only in terms of a loving and committed relationship. If that happens, then it is hard to see how other restrictions upon one’s choice of marriage partner can be sustained. These include the traditional restrictions against marrying a child, a close blood relative, or a person who is already married.

While pedophile or incestuous marriages may be further off, polygamous marriages have much stronger precedents in history and culture than do even homosexual ones. Lawsuits have already been filed in American courts—with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union—demanding recognition of plural marriages. And—I am not making this up—news reports in recent weeks have carried stories of an Indian girl being married to a dog, and a French woman who was legally permitted (with the approval of the President of France) to marry her boyfriend—who is already dead.

Lesbian activist Paula Ettelbrick, now Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, has said that homosexuality “means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality, and family, and in the process transforming the very fabric of society.” In fact, homosexuality and homosexual civil marriage would rip the fabric of society in ways that may be difficult, if not impossible, to mend.


1 Theo G. M. Sandfort, Ron de Graaf, Rob V. Bijl, Paul Schnabel, “Same-sex Sexual Behavior and Psychiatric Disorders: Findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS),” Archives of General Psychiatry 58 (2001): 85-91.

2 Stanley Kurtz, “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia: The ‘conservative case’ for same-sex marriage collapses,” The Weekly Standard (February 2, 2004), p. 27.






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