30 May 2012

The Case for Gay Marriage (1 of 3)

by Frank Turk

Yes: fine. We will beat you to death with this topic.

I enjoyed the last two weeks' discussion so well that I wanted to do it again on a related topic -- a very closely related topic.  What I wanted to do was to compare and contrast the generic, secular view of monogamy and marriage to the Christian view of monogamy and marriage -- starting today with the secular view of marriage as exemplified by one video or essay by a secular person making the case for secular marriage.

Except -- get this -- I couldn't find one.  I can't find any examples of people from the secular side of the map making the case for marriage in a way that, frankly, didn't seem like a parody.

So here's the deal: in the comments today, I am taking suggestions -- and only suggestions -- for the best in class for essays by secular writers which make the case of secular marriage.  Post your link like this:
<a href="http://url.com">Essay or Book Title Here</a> by Author Name.
Type that in the comments with your link suggestion, and it will become a live link.  All negative comments will be deleted.  All caterwauling will be deleted. All spam, of course, will be deleted.  TUAD's comments will be deleted preemptively because I just don't have that kind of patience this week.  Mind your manners.

If we can find any secular cases for marriage, we'll talk about that.  If we can't, we'll talk about that.  This week: ball's in your court.

UPDATED: After 5 comments, I realized that my request is not clear enough.  The title of this post is "The Case for Gay Marriage."  Let me put it bluntly: there is no credible religious case for gay marriage.  That means that somehow, the secular definition of "marriage" excludes (at least) the necessity that the people involved in any specific marriage need to be in male/female alignment.

I'm looking for the secular argument that makes marriage into the arrangement which the advocates for gay marriage are advocating for -- that is, what it is so that anyone would actually want to do that.  

The resources listed so far (8:00 AM central time) are stellar.  Please think about the topic and add your suggestions.


Alex Jordan said...

Hi Frank,

Here's a secular essay on the case for traditional marriage:

The Case for Marriage by the Editors of National Review Online.

As you said, doesn't seem like there are many essays out there.

R.C. said...


Richard said...

Here is Michael Bird's comments on the European model of civil unions and marriage:


This arguement parallels that recently put forth by DA Carson.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I second RC. The best secular case for marriage is George Gilder's book.

Scott Shaffer said...

Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles by The Witherspoon Institute

Kevin said...

Why Weddings Matter More than Ever

Frank Turk said...

That essay at patheos makes me crazy (as does most of the content at patheos). Why? Because it makes the assumption that the government has no stake in the sexual morals of its people. If that is true, infidelity as a grounds for divorce (excuse me: dissolution of union) needs to be stricken from the law as too invasive.

Frank Turk said...


Where my example says "url.com", you put in the link for your source. So if your link is:


put that in where I typed "url.com" and you will make a live link.

Kevin said...

Why Weddings Matter More than Ever

Unknown said...

For Better or Worse? The Case for Gay (and Straight) Marriage by Jonathan Rauch

Bill said...

Frank, you’ll likely be bombarded but here are two docs, the first covers both arguments and the second exclusively the revisionist view.
First is: Girgis, Sherif, George, Robert and Anderson, Ryan T., What is Marriage?. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 245-287, Winter 2010. Available at SSRN http://ssrn.com/abstract=1722155
Second is: William N. Eskridge, Jr., A History of Same‐Sex Marriage, 79 VA. L. REV.
1419, 1424 (1993)

CCinTn said...

Thanks Frank, it’s hard to type with my Members Only jacket on.
I’ll try one last time,

Marriage and the Limits of Contract by Jennifer Roback Morse (A Libertarian Case)

And from Gay Marriage crowd,

Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good For Gays, Good For Straights, and Good For America by Jonathan Rauch

Richard said...

FranK: I suspect most governments do not now view marriage from a moral ground (or God-initiated covenant) but as a licensed contract, regulated by laws concerning those "unions." Government and morals? What were you thinking?

Frank Turk said...

Bill -- that's a stellar link. Thanks much.

Frank Turk said...


I'll be interested to see if there is anyone on the other side of the discussion who will be honest enough to make that case. I think they would never consider that as an argument because it diminishes they case that this is morally equivalent to the civil rights struggle.

Glen Davis said...

The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage by Adam Kolasinski (published in MIT's student newspaper The Tech). The author now seems to be a professor of finance at the University of Washington.

donsands said...

secular: science is the available Providence of man?

If this is the case, then any argument for pure secular marriage will not hold water, IMHO.

I shall read a couple of the articles nonetheless that have been put forth.

Good topic to make me think and use my God given mind and heart.

rockstarkp said...

Are you looking for an argument like this?
The top six arguments against gay marriage (and why they all fail)

Frank Turk said...


I'm actually looking for a definition of marriage by a secular writer which is does the following:

1. distinguishes itself from the religious definition

2. has any kind of credibility

3. includes the rationale which tells us why a same-sex union has the same secular value as a hetero union -- that is, why this union is a right for those who say they want to enter it.

These articles sniping at traditional marriage are a dime a dozen -- but none of them give us a compelling reason for marriage to be anything at all. Why is marriage different than dating? Why is it different than a labor contract or a banking contract? is it at all?

Mary said...

Hello, How do I get in touch with you? There is no email or contact info listed .. please advise .. thanks .. Mary. Please contact me maryregency at gmail dot com

Frank Turk said...

Mary - it would be best to contact me in the comments here, but my e-mail is in my blogger profile.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Turk,

How is it possible for anyone to assert something as "good" (i.e., making a "case" for it) without an immutable standard? Writing to you in amicus fashion, I do not think that there can ever be a "secular" (ultimately atheistic and based upon either consensus or raw power) case made for any title of good made for anything. Secular is ultimately based upon randomness; how can anyone's random assertion be anymore authoritative than anyone else's? So, isn't this really just a wild goose chase?

Anonymous said...

Gay marriage is the only strand of the gay rights movement that wasn't originally advocated by self-appointed LGBT spokespersons or commentators. It's more of a grass roots concern that the "gay lobby" felt obliged to defend when it became clear how out-of-touch they were with ordinary gay people. Gay 'public intellectuals' have traditionally despised marriage and blocked any effort to encourage gay people to live 'hetero-normative' lives. So you won't find many of the "cases for gay marriage" that you are looking for.

John N said...

Oh what a bummer, because I have a link from a secular AND gay person making a case AGAINST gay marriage!

If you'd be interested in the opposite argument in your follow up posts, let me know.

John N said...

Ok as an afterthought here’s the link and you can park it for another day.

Against Gay Marriage by Richard Waghorne (as published in the Irish Daily Mail)

Again, the author is both secular and gay, which is what makes it the more interesting.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of gay commentators making a case against gay marriage. I googled "why do gay people want gay marriage" and Gays Against Gay Marriage was the 2nd link in the list of search results.

The secular case FOR gay marriage hasn't been made by many people. What has happened is that a new generation of gay people has started to ask family and friends to PUBLICLY support them when it comes to valuing their relationships. Everyone forgets that gay people go to straight weddings all the time. Gay people want to know why this support is never reciprocated.

I'm not writing this as a defence of gay marriage. I just don't think Christians make any effort to get to know real gay people or figure out want they want or why they want it.

Frank Turk said...


Very sorry that it has taken me a year to discover your comment and to respond to it.

First things first: I think that Romans 1&2 has to inform our presuppositional approach -- that is, ALL of Romans 1&2. Not only do we have to say that people are ignoring the God they know is there, we also have to say that, at the end of it, they know the difference between "good" and "not good." I think the rebuttal "but how do you know it's good" has run its course and needs at least some refurbishment.

Here's what I think the refurb has to look like: I think we can say, without any biblical equivocating or watering-down, that people have a conscience that can show them right and wrong. We can agree that the non-Christian has a moral compass of some kind, and at the end of it he wants to be a good person. I think it's rather untrue to say that there is anyone who wants to be a vile person.

Here's the problem that they face, though: the portability of their value judgments. That is: if they are personally convinced that "X" has no negative moral implications, what do they have that forces me, logically or politically, to change my mind and agree with them so that we should modify the societal norms?

I am entirely in favor of asking keen questions about what society does and doesn't allow -- because keen questions defeated slavery, replaced feudalism with capitalism, established common law as we know it, and causes us to have grounds to actually put forward the logic of the world as seen through the Gospel. What I am not in favor of is allowing someone with a keen question to co-opt the discussion and somehow establish himself as the new north star on an issue just because he seems to have a question no one has considered before.

I have an example of what I am advocating for right here.