Equality’s Altar

Here are some good thoughts from a locked article on The Times Online website. Go subscribe to read the whole article.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3632142.ece

Don’t sacrifice marriage on equality’s altar – Roger Scruton

At the core of every society is a union of man, wife and community. It’s no small thing to change that historic norm

If we ask ourselves how it is that the advocacy of gay marriage has become an orthodoxy to which all our political leaders subscribe, we must surely acknowledge that intimidation has some part to play in the matter. Express the slightest hesitation on this score and someone will accuse you of “homophobia”, while others will organise to ensure that, even if nothing else is known about your views, this at least will be notorious. Only someone with nothing to lose can venture to discuss the issue with the measure of circumspection that it invites, and politicians do not figure among the class of people with nothing to lose.

Yet it is unlikely that the ordinary conscience will find itself entirely at ease with a change that overthrows social norms on which people have depended throughout recorded history. In this, as in so many things, people of conservative temperament look around for the person who will speak for them and find only an embarrassed silence. Strident minorities, acting on the growing disposition to censor their opponents, ensure that the deeper the question, the more likely it is to be settled by shallow arguments.

. . .

Of course, we no longer live in tribes, and old adaptations must in turn adapt to new conditions. Even for us, however, marriage is the primary way in which social capital is transferred from one generation to the next. Even for us marriage defines a path of sacrifice and dedication. Even for us the bearing of children and the preparation for family life lie at the heart of the marital tie. And we experience this in the enhanced sense, during the marriage ceremony, of the otherness of the other sex and of marriage as a “threshold” into that sex’s territory.

This does not mean that only fertile people should marry or that there cannot be marriages that end in divorce. It means that marriage is built around a norm against which our many ways of falling short are measured. Take away that norm and the institution will surely begin to unravel. It will no longer be a bond across generations with the nurture of children as its goal, but a contract for cohabitation as temporary and defeasible as any other such deal.

. . .

And some of us are troubled by the shallow reasoning that has dominated the political discussions surrounding this move, as though the threadbare idea of equality were enough to settle every question concerning the long-term destiny of mankind and as though the writings of the anthropologists (not to mention the poets, the philosophers, the theologians, the novelists, the sociologists) counted for nothing beside the slogans of Stonewall. Are we entirely wrong in this?

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