I know many people view the growing acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage as yet another sign of the decline of the moral character of our country.
There is an old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. This doesn’t suggest that the parents aren’t the primary caretakers and moral educators, but rather is a recognition that the social norms of the village, of society, play a critical role in supporting the parents in their efforts to rear their children. Social norms make it easier for parents to impart the moral character that children will need to grow to be happy, successful adults.
At one point our social norms were critical of promiscuity, of men and women having multiple sexual partners. Social norms were also harshly critical of women having children outside of marriage. Both had the effect of controlling or channeling human sexuality and child rearing into marriage. This basic approach – that men and women should marry to rear their children, made sense at many levels. If two people rely on each other, they are less likely to have to rely on society. And two people working together to rear their children have a better chance of creating happy, healthy adults with strong moral character than a single mother on her own.
I know many people argue that these social norms were repressive and even cruel and were used as tools to subjugate women, and undoubtedly there is some truth to this. But it is also true that they helped define and strengthen the moral character of our country and gave a great many children the best chance to grow to be happy successful adults. Our country is approaching a time when more than half of the children will be born to single parents. I know the women that have made the choice to have a child on their own are glad for the greater societal acceptance, and many will do a great job rearing their kids. But its hard not to feel sorry for the children that will be denied the very real advantages that come from being reared by a mother and father. And it’s hard not to be concerned about the impact this trend will have on the future of our country.
The social norms against homosexuality served the same purposes as those against promiscuity and having children out of wedlock. To get by, gay men and women were forced to pretend to be straight and often to get married. But at a fundamental level, there is a difference. Straight men and women weren’t forced to deny their sexuality, just to channel it into marriage. Homosexuals, on the other hand, did have to deny their sexuality, did have to deny part of who they were. It’s hard to argue that it makes sense in our modern world, or that its fair to homosexuals – social norms are supposed to help us be better humans, not to keep us from being the humans that we are.
It’s also hard to argue that forcing homosexuals to live a lie improves their moral character or the moral character of our country. And gay marriage brings the same societal advantages as straight marriage – two gay men or women in a committed relationship are more likely to rely on each other and less likely to rely on society. Allowing and even supporting gay marriage is undeniably a change in our social norms. However it is a change that will strengthen our country, not weaken it.