Why do governments involve themselves in the regulation and promotion of marriage? Are they interested in promoting romantic love? Are they interested in personal happiness and fulfillment? While romance, personal happiness, and fulfillment may be part of marriage, these are not the reasons government involves itself in the marriage business. They regulate and promote marriage because they have a vested interest in the production and socialization of children. Children are needed for the perpetuation of society, and those children need to be properly socialized so they can be productive members of society. Heterosexual couples, and heterosexual couples alone are capable of delivering on these government interests, and thus their relationship has been privileged, promoted, and regulated by the government.

Apart from children there is no reason for the government to sanction or regulate any private relationship in any official capacity, including same-sex relationships. Seeing that same-sex relationships have nothing to do with the purpose for which civil marriage is enacted; therefore, same-sex relationships are not entitled to the benefits of marriage. They may enjoy the same love and commitment heterosexual couples enjoy, but they are not equally situated to heterosexual couples because they cannot produce children. Their relationships do not serve the same function in, and for society, and thus there is no need to officially recognize their relationships anymore than there is a need for the government to officially recognize friendships. As important as we might deem these relationships to be, they do not need, nor do they deserve the same sort of social support as marriage.

How We Got Here, and What We Can Do About It

The reason our society has come to give official recognition to same-sex relationships in varying degrees is because we have redefined the purpose of marriage so that children stand at the periphery, rather than the center. Marriage is now being defined in terms of love, commitment, and personal fulfillment rather than children. Given this redefinition it is no wonder we have considered it “only fair” to extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples.

We will only succeed in saving marriage to the degree that we can restore a cultural understanding that marriage is fundamentally about children. Unfortunately, most Christians have bought into the cultural redefinition of marriage themselves, which is why many have been fooled into believing that so long as we retain the exclusive use of the word “marriage” to describe our legally recognized relationship, we have succeeded in preserving the historic definition of marriage. While this may preserve the form of marriage (one man, one woman), it does so only at the expense of abandoning its purpose (procreation and socialization). Given the fact that the historic form of marriage is logically tied to its historic purpose, if we cede that purpose we have no further basis on which to argue for its form. It does us little good to fight over who gets to use the “M” word to describe their legally recognized relationship unless we also fight to reclaim the historic purpose of marriage, and its exclusive right to legal recognition and social support.

For a fuller treatment, including answers to the most common objections, see my article “I Now Pronounce You Man and Man?”: An Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage