How does the marriage of a single, same-sex couple damage the traditional marriage of the couple next door?
That’s the question Chris Wallace put to Tony Perkins on the 12 October 2014 edition of Fox News Sunday.
While Perkins was correct in pointing out some of the bigger implications of normalizing gay marriage, the question itself was specifically designed to sidestep the bigger implications by focusing on a single instance. The exchange was like asking what’s wrong with eating pizza and ice cream and getting a lecture on obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Truth is a single instance of pizza and ice cream is no big deal — and the same is true with a single instance of gay marriage.1
Wallace’s question was actually a rhetorical dodge2 that casts concerns with traditional values as simply whining over petty things — and Perkins should have called time-out on that.
If all this seems too subtle, then consider the following illustrations to distinguish the dodge from the issue it tries to avoid.
First consider whether Wallace would treat the story of his next-door neighbor counterfeiting a single twenty-dollar bill as national news — I think the answer would no doubt be “no.”
But consider whether Wallace would treat as national news the story of 19 states deciding counterfeit money is as good as real money and the Supreme Court declining to intervene, with the outcome being the number of states equating real money with fake money going from 19 to 35 within weeks — I think the answer there would no doubt be “yes!”
Truth is the value of a twenty-dollar bill is not significantly devalued by a single instance of counterfeiting — but let the government declare fake money equals real money and the value of every twenty-dollar bill goes to zero — with the great irony being that all parties (counterfeiters and non-counterfeiters alike) are made poorer.
The same is also true for a single instance of gay marriage. The value of a traditional marriage is not damaged by a single instance of gay marriage — but let the government declare gay marriage equal to real marriage, and suddenly all marriages are put on the level of gay marriage — with the great irony being, that since gays achieve a redefinition of marriage that ends marriage in the traditional sense of the word, the end result prevents all parties (gay and non-gay alike) from ever being married according to the original sense of the word.
From there Perkins would have had an open field to pursue any point of his choosing. My choice would have been to point out that traditional marriage is not the furtherance of romance but its transcendence. Gay marriage, on the other hand, simply puts a legal stamp on a relationship that started out as romance and will never get beyond it.
In “forsaking all others,” couples who take on traditional marriage vows repudiate romance as the basis for making and breaking the marriage covenant. In joining together, they produce a complementary whole that is different from and greater than the sum of its parts.
Gay marriage can never do that. Instead, it can only be a caricature of the real thing.
Equating the two is like equating real money with fake money — everyone winds up poorer — even the ones “faking it.”
1The dodge is based on the “Fallacy of Composition;” i.e., the false notion that what is true of a part must be true of the whole. The typical illustration is to compare (1) a single spectator (a part) at a baseball game standing up to see better with (2) everyone standing up (the whole). It works for the single individual, but not for the entire crowd. In the same way, one gay couple (a part) getting married does no damage to the larger society (the whole), but it does huge damage if the gay couple’s marriage is normalized across all of society.”
If we stick with the baseball illustration, one person standing up would be an irritation; but if everyone were to stand up, no one would have the luxury of sitting without giving up on the ballgame altogether. That’s what happens with gay marriage — the whole is made worse off and the parts start losing interest in the “game.”
2The “dodge” was not on Wallace’s part, but on the part of gay activists who frame the issue the way Wallace presented it. Wallace tee’d up the question and Perkins could have hit it out of the park, but didn’t.”