One of the chief tactics in the advocacy of same-sex
marriage legalization is to point out the supposed parallel with interracial
marriage bans. I recently had two
separate exchanges on the topic and this argument was the centerpiece of the
discussion. The argument is basically
that discriminating based upon racial preference is really no different than discriminating
based upon gender preference, and since we all now agree that interracial
marriage is morally acceptable and should be legal, then there is really no
moral or legal precedent for denying same-sex marriage.
Perhaps the argument has merit, but it depends upon the premise that race and gender are categorically the same – that two people of the same sex are socially and functionally the same as a man and woman of different races. I’d like to show now that this is a false premise, and that the parallel between race and gender is only superficial and ignores the profound categorical difference between the two.
For my purposes I’ll take the liberty of distilling the featural
differences between the races down to color, which seems uncontroversial since
it is a common way of characterizing race.
This should be satisfactory unless one holds to the notion that the
races are fundamentally different in some way other than superficial variations
in appearance. To disagree would seem to
put one on the road of racism.
Let me begin with an analogy. If I have a
variety of black & white bolts and nuts, which is more meaningful to the
nature of nuts and bolts: pairing two of the same color or pairing a nut and a
bolt, no matter what the color? In other
words, is it really comparable to say that mixing colors in my nut/bolt sets is
equivalent to mixing what two objects I make a set out of, e.g., two bolts? We may certainly choose to make sets based
upon color, but this is only done at the expense of the basic design purpose and
the functional difference between nuts and bolts.
This analogy seeks to
illustrate the categorical difference between appearance (color) and physical
design. Yes, gender is more complicated
than nuts and bolts, and marriage is more than just fitting them together, but
the argument being made by same-sex advocates is specifically making a parallel
between color and gender, so any meaningful physical differences between the
genders would seem to erode the argument.
There is indeed a fundamental
difference between the sexes that transcends the superficiality of color
differences – a difference upon which the very human species depends. If your
parents were black and white (or any other color combination) they could still
have had you, but if they did not have nuts and bolts (so to speak), and had
not employed them as designed, then that would have been the end of it (and of you). Of course, there is always adoption or artificial
insemination for those who insist on pairing “bolt” with “bolts” or “nut” with “nuts,”
but these ultimately depend upon the intervention and services of the other
gender. By contrast, interracial couples
lacked for nothing but acceptance.
Color is a functionally meaningless attributes,
whereas there is no more fundamental differentiator among humans than
gender. In fact, you cannot even claim
to represent humanity without offering an example of each as was done with the Pioneer
Plaque. If race were indeed
equivalent to gender, then they could just as well have chosen to depict two
men of different colors; or if gender were as inconsequential as race, then
they could simply have presented a man on the plaque and left it at that.
To disagree with my
categorical distinction is to suggest that color is just as important to sexual
desire as gender. But who has heard a
heterosexual man say that he would rather have another man of the same race
than a woman of a different race? And
the criterion for homosexuality seems to be a preference for the same gender no matter the color. Gays themselves affirm that gender is the main
thing – it is what defines
homosexuality. I have never heard of
such a thing, but perhaps there is the odd fetishist out there who prefers some
particular race above all gender considerations, but I think it is safe to say
that gender is in a categorically different place from color. Scientists seem to agree with me, since they rank
color considerations as the least important factor in defining species, genus,
family, etc. Just image how absurd it
would be to claim that grouping cardinals, tomatoes, and rubies because of
color is just as meaningful as grouping them by categories of animal, vegetable, and mineral.
The upshot is that race and
gender are categorically different things, where the categories are of
different consequence and relevance to the institution of marriage. Color is a mere cosmetic property, whereas
gender relates to a physical distinction that has always been the prerequisite of
marital unions and is necessary for the families that result. Interracial marriage bans were primarily
about maintaining racial purity, which presupposes the success of a traditional
marriage that is based upon the foundation of gender distinctions. Traditional marriage is about bringing the
two distinct genders into a committed, loving relationship resulting in an
unparalleled union that is truly and fully human.
“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM
MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND
MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?” (Jesus,
quoting Genesis 2:24, from Matthew 19:4-5)