Charles Allen’s letter of May 15 concerning the definition of marriage was right on target despite the objections of James Traynham (May 17) and Laura Acosta (May 18).
Marriage always has been defined as a social institution for a social end: the nurturing and raising of children. The underlying principle of this definition is that only two people of different genders can produce offspring in the ordinary manner of sexual intercourse. Any other means, whether it is by adoption or any other means, is extraordinary. Therefore these extraordinary means of having children or not having children at all do not affect the definition of marriage.
The primary focus of marriage is and always has been the child. This focus in no way mitigates against the character or the intrinsic worth of those marriages that for whatever reason do not produce children or lead to the adoption of children, as Traynham and Acosta suggest, because they do not affect the definition of marriage.
The underlying assumption of the definition of marriage remains that only two people of different genders can produce children in the ordinary manner of childbearing. Therefore the primary focus of marriage remains on the child.
But homosexual marriages do change the definition of marriage. Instead of being a social institution for a social end (the nurturing and raising of children), it becomes a personal institution for a personal end: self-gratification of the individual. The focus of marriage is no longer the child because two individuals of the same gender cannot produce offspring. Now the focus of marriage becomes the adult.
By changing the definition of marriage in this way, the institution of marriage is endangered because the primary reason for having marriage — the nurturing and raising of children — is eliminated.
However, this is not to say, as Acosta suggests, that an individual marriage is threatened. Gay marriage does not affect her marriage or any specific marriage; what it affects is the institution itself by changing it from a social institution to a personal institution and by changing its focus from the child to the adult.
Fifty years ago more than 70 percent of adults in the United States got married. Then came the 1960s of the “me generation,” with its rejection of marriage and its mantra of “it’s only a piece of paper,” and living together without the benefit of marriage became commonplace and remains so. The end result is that today barely 50 percent of American adults are married. Homosexual marriage could be the final nail in the coffin of a social institution that has been the cornerstone of human civilization for thousands of years.
retired state employee