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Liz vs. Mary: How Both Cheneys Mistake the “Gay Marriage” Issue

[This post takes it for granted that the reader is aware of my carefully reasoned opposition to so-called “gay marriage”. I point this out because the first portion of the essay, which deals with the relative weakness of Liz Cheney’s response to her sister Mary’s “equal rights” position, may at first glance, give a contrary impression. Best to follow my reasoning to the end.]

The headline reads: Dick Cheney ‘Pained’ by Public Flap, Sides with Daughter Liz. The story is about the family feud between US Senate candidate Elizabeth Cheney and her pro-“gay rights” sister Mary, over Liz Cheney’s reiterated statements of support for “the traditional definition of marriage.” Apparently, the Cheney family’s willingness to show, in very public ways, their personal support for Mary Cheney’s much flaunted sexual orientation, isn’t reciprocated in the political arena.

I certainly understand the anguish this issue can inflict upon a family. What must make it even more difficult for the Cheney family, however, is the somewhat contradictory character of the pro-marriage stance Liz Cheney is taking in her bid for office.

The American sense of justice is rooted in the notion of equal rights for all. “Gay rights” activists like Mary Cheney take the position that, as a legal institution, marriage is a matter of equal rights. She asserts that it is no more acceptable to deny homosexuals the right to marry on account of their “sexual orientation” than it is to deny blacks the right to vote on account of their skin color.

In the context of this equal rights argument, her sister Liz asserts her personal belief in “traditional” marriage. From Mary Cheney’s perspective, it’s as if someone were to oppose equal voting rights because of their “personal belief” in racial segregation. In America, a valid claim of fundamental right legally trumps personal beliefs, however longstanding the tradition that indulges them.

Mary Cheney’s position casts the issue in terms of justice and injustice. Liz Cheney’s position makes it a matter of personal moral sentiment. But, are personal moral sentiments any excuse for supporting laws that perpetuate unjust practices? At best this only makes sense when the force of public feeling makes it impossible to do otherwise.

So Mary Cheney’s Facebook response to her sister appears to make some sense: “Liz— this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree, you’re just wrong— and on the wrong side of history.” Now, where history is the judge, laws simply reflect the relative forces that support this or that practice. People may or may not realize it, but when its advocates use the phrase “traditional marriage” they too are referring to the resultant of historical forces. Such are the beliefs and practices that survive simply because they are handed down without question from one generation to the next. (This is literally the meaning of the Latin root of the word “tradition”).

Here’s where the shoe pinches. According to the American understanding of law and justice, tradition alone cannot be decisive when it comes to issues of right and wrong. Justice must take account of what the Declaration of Independence alludes to as “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Before that higher bar of justice, traditional practices must justify themselves with reasoning, reasoning that is consistent with its timeless and permanent standard of right. This is the fatal weakness of Liz Cheney’s response to Mary.

But it is also the fatal flaw in Mary Cheney’s assertion of “gay rights” with respect to marriage. For, when it comes to human society, the meaning of marriage, and the right connected with it, are among the first consequences of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God”. In light of natural right, Liz Cheney is wrong to make marriage a matter of tradition. But Mary Cheney is equally wrong when she makes it a matter of personal freedom. The very idea of the law of nature relates to the fact that there are certain things human beings, as such, are bound to do; certain obligations naturally connected with the existence and perpetuation of humanity, individually and as a whole.

Procreation is self-evidently one of those obligations. When individuals voluntarily choose to follow their natural inclination to fulfill this obligation, they do what is right, not just for themselves or their offspring, but for the species as a whole. Certain special qualities of human nature result in a capacity for self-conscious individual choice. Accordingly, for individuals who deliberately take responsibility for the consequences of procreation, what they do is not just an attribute of their species as a whole. It is their personal belonging, engendered in consequence of their personal decision to conform their way of living to the requirements of survival for the species as a whole.

But this decision is not just an invisible inner determination of their intangible will. It is expressed concretely, through the voluntarily use of their primordial natural possession: the individual physical body, insofar as it informs and is responsive to their will. The traceable connection between their will, their physical actions, and the new instance of human life that results, gives this belonging a concrete certainty that becomes the implicit paradigm for all the severable forms of human property that are grounded in natural right.

The institution of marriage is thus rooted in the natural belonging that arises in connection with accepting the obligation to perpetuate the species. The claims of natural right connected with marriage are logically connected with voluntarily fulfilling this obligation. To be sure, a variety of customs, traditions and religious disciplines have overlaid this natural right with all kinds of conventional and legal trappings.

But the notion of equal rights involved, for instance, in America’s civil rights movement; the notion that Mary Cheney and other “gay rights” advocates rely upon, is not about the laws and trappings that result exclusively from human will and agreement. If it were, justice would be conclusively decided by whatever happened to be the relative disposition of forces at a given moment in history. But the civil rights movement succeeded because people like Martin Luther King changed America’s historical disposition, by appealing to a standard of justice beyond merely human will, power and convention.

This took years of effort aimed at rousing the nation’s conscience. One example of that effort is Martin Luther King’s famously stirring cry for justice in the Letter from Birmingham City Jail. His argument in that essay makes no sense apart from the appeal it contains to “eternal law and natural law.” But the very idea of natural law involves respect for boundaries and relationships laid out in view of what  “the moral law or the law of God” ordains. (Quotation marks denote phrases from King’s essay.)

But what natural obligation is involved in homosexual relations? Even if, for argument’s sake, one accepts the absurd view that the human individual’s natural desire for sensual pleasure constitutes a law of nature, humanly speaking , by what reasoning could we reach the conclusion that this imperative of individual pleasure, is equal or superior to the natural obligation of procreation? The latter serves and preserves helpless individual humans in their infancy. It also cultivates a capacity for self-sacrifice that contributes to the preservation of the species in innumerable ways like providing the emotional touchstone of respect for the requirements of human social life. All of this tends to preserve humanity, in the moral as well as physical sense, from extinction.

To be sure, individual human beings who identify themselves as homosexuals may wish to take advantage of opportunities like adoption, available in today’s society, to indulge the experience of “parenting.” But to harness the force of law, so that this indulgence is poised to usurp the name and rights of the natural family; to abuse the respect for law in order to denigrate the choice that accepts, as a natural obligation, the God ordained vocation of procreation; and withal to pervert the enforcement of law in order to persecute those who oppose this capital injustice— all this is worse than folly and sly selfishness. It is the deployment of a social weapon of mass destruction aimed at dissolving the existential foundation of human society, while bringing down the ideas of higher law and natural right that are the hallmarks, in particular, of the American way of life.

Too bad Liz Cheney and other such GOP candidates, who seem so determined to exploit conservative voters for political gain, only do so as a matter of personal sentiment and self-justification. Their pose would be more credible if they took the time to digest and articulate the powerful arguments that reasonably justify the decent, thoroughly American common sense of the people they are offering to represent. After all, isn’t this one of the services a truly capable representative is supposed to provide?

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • MadamDarkness November 21, 2013, 8:45 am

    QUESTION: How do you apply this argument to heterosexual couples that can’t fulfill their natural obligation to procreate due to infertility issues? Should they not be allowed to get married either?

    • sambo November 21, 2013, 9:08 am

      Good question…the answer to that lies in this video….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrD8zvCUtWc.

      • MadamDarkness November 21, 2013, 9:21 am

        Thank you for posting Sambo! Much appreciated

    • Peter November 21, 2013, 9:16 am

      That’s ridiculous, since NO same-sex couples can ever procreate. God ordained marriage for one man and one woman. They will always have the potential to procreate; Homosexual couples NEVER do. It would also violate the religious right of conscience, God didn’t say get pregnant then marry. Christians who follow doctrine marry, then have children. Gov’t cannot prevent heterosexuals from marrying because they would violate the 1st amendment’s mandate for “congress shall make no law” preventing free exercise of religion. Remember, free exercise of religion, freedom of speech and right of conscience can never be separated.

      Framer George Mason, suggested the wording of the First Amendment be: “All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.”

      Very telling don’t you think…

      • MadamDarkness November 21, 2013, 10:43 am

        I appreciate the response. I initially thought Keyes was making procreation MANDATORY in order for two people to get married but he isn’t. It’s my understanding that Mr. Keyes is saying that in principle, the POSSIBILITY of procreation exists ONLY in a male/female marriage (regardless of outside circumstances) therefore same sex marriages violate the law of nature.

  • Peter November 20, 2013, 11:15 am

    It is despicable the way homosexuals compare homosexuality to being Black. Being Black is genetic, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that homosexuals are born homosexual. Blacks are most certainly born Black. Blackness is certainly not a behavior.

    To be more clear, Blacks are a race of people, homosexuals are NOT a race of people. We know this why? Because when a Black couple has a child, that child will always be Black. The laws of genetics are immutable. When a male & female homosexual have a child, the chances that child will be a homosexual is quite low. As a study of 50 homosexual couples has concluded. If homosexuals are truly born homosexual as they claim, then their children would be homosexual 100% of the time.

    Since all behavior is a choice (unless mental illness is involved) being homosexual should most certainly be a changeable behavior. I have never known a Black person to stop being Black. Homosexual leave the homosexual life everyday…. the MSM never writes about them, but there are many “former” homosexuals. Ever met a “former” Black man? For homosexuals to try and piggy-back onto Blacks civil rights fight is reprehensible.

    • alkeyes November 21, 2013, 12:19 am

      You point out the main reason to question those who equate the demand for”gay rights” with the demand for equal civil rights for black Americans. I have often used some version of it myself.

      But there is one species of
      unalienable right protected by the U.S. Constitution that involves preference,
      rather than natural condition. It’s the one that involves piety, man’s natural sense of subjection to the authority of
      God; and the freedom of each person to express it in a way determined by their own conscientious choice (the free exercise of religion.) This is in fact the first matter addressed in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

      Like sexual preference, one’s preference with respect to religion is not comparable
      to skin color. No religious denomination is programmed into our genes. Yet the free exercise of religion (i.e., the freedom to work out one’s natural piety in one’s own way) is explicitly acknowledged and protected in the Constitution. The logic
      that requires this is simple.

      Human beings have a natural inclination to piety, i.e., to acknowledge and revere the Being whose being accounts for the existence of all things. But, as with all other such God-endowed natural inclinations, human beings may choose to be bound by it or not. Those who accept to follow it do what is right. They follow the bent or inclination God has ordained. They exercise the right.

      Here again, however, its essential to ask the pertinent question- How do homosexual
      relations serve the God-ordained inclination that is the root of the right implemented
      by way of the free exercise of religion? Homosexual relations are intrinsically severed from the procreative function, i.e., the purpose ordained by God for the sexual organs. And, as I observed in the blog article, the pleasure imperative does not involve any such natural obligation.

      “Gay rights” advocates might reply that orgiastic rites were often part of pagan worship. Why therefore can’t homosexual activities be protected from government infringement like other forms of worship? This argument would leave homosexuals free, to do what they do, under the guise of worship. But it would not put them in a position to
      abuse the government’s authority to force others to approve of what homosexuals do, or teach their children to do so, and so forth. There would be no excuse to make
      respect for homosexuality a government mandate, any more than Catholics or
      Muslims or any other religious association can demand that government forces others to respect them.

      As a Roman
      Catholic I have certainly encountered people with other religious views who take a
      dim view of my faith, (though far less frequently in recent years than before.) These days, however, I frequently encounter anti-Christian
      disdain, contempt and ill-concealed hatred.
      The excuse of enforcing tolerance and respect for homosexuality is being
      used to arm this bigotry with the coercive force of law.

      I have concluded that
      this is the main reason the promoters of “gay rights” put their case in terms
      of racial equality rather than religious freedom. Their aim is coercion. Or more precisely, coercion is the aim of the elitist faction forces who are exploiting their cause. The
      elitist faction forces mean to eliminate the constraint that the doctrine of rights imposes on the abuse of government power. They mean in particular to persecute
      and silence the people whose faith is grounded in the mind and spirit of the one whose ministry revealed the essence of equal right; which is the good news that God’s benevolent will encompasses equally and without exception all those who are willing to accept it.

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