Tag Archives: gender

What Is The Difference Between Marriage and Domestic Partnership?

I do not disparage same-sex relationships. I know there are decent people out there who truly love and are fully committed to each other. Some have better model relationships than many heterosexual couples. And I am willing to affirm the good qualities of any relationship. Nevertheless, since we are comparing the qualities of these kinds of relationships, I cannot neglect to observe that heterosexual marriage is necessary to society; homosexual unions are not. That is not to in any way insinuate that the affective aspects of any relationship are inherently lesser than another. But it is to say that heterosexual relationships are the only ones inherently qualified to be considered a “marriage.”

California state law defines a domestic partnership as “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring” (Family Code 297). Marriage is that and more. In terms of society (the aspect of marriage with which the law is concerned), marriage is primarily about procreation and raising children. Its sexual fertility and relational fidelity make marriage a uniquely- and ideally-suited context for such a purpose. Without both, marriage becomes a useless societal institution. If we stop having babies our culture will weaken and die. Without intact families and consistent parenting, raising children will unnecessarily become a strain on society.

“Marriage” is the name we use for this ideal procreation situation. Only the sexual union of a man and a woman can naturally produce a child. Sure, we can artificially inseminate and use various means and methods of conception and child birth. Generally speaking, I am not against reproductive technology. But the fact that same-sex couples must resort to it means they are not inherently qualified to be what we call “married.”

“Marriage” is also the name we use for the ideal core of the family unit: a husband and wife who potentially can become a father and mother. I know that many single parents make due and do well on their own. But those who are kids of those parents will also admit to something missing in their lives in the absence of a parent. I also know that some gay and lesbian couples may do a good job of raising children successfully. I am not contesting their competence or the fact some same-sex couples may be better parents than some traditional couples. But such a comparison obfuscates the matter. There will always be examples of good and bad in both camps. If we are going to compare, then a good traditional family is a better environment for children. That is because what is missing in the home of a single parent family is not a second parent. What is missing is having both a father and a mother. As Greg Koukl points out, “there is no difference between a white or a black human being. But there’s a big difference between a man and a woman. There is no comparison here with regards to that issue.” Gender matters. Mothers and fathers make distinctive contributions to the nurture and rearing of a child. Without one or the other a void is left that is deeply felt and must be filled.

So, what if we were to call same-sex unions “marriages” instead of “domestic partnerships” or something else altogether? After all, assuming Prop 8 passes, the only difference under the law between the two will be the name, right? True. But the distinction is of paramount importance.

First, we have already established that only marriage between a man and a woman is inherently qualified to be what society needs marriage to be, that is, fertile and faithful. Homosexuals cannot be fertile without outside assistance. And though they can be faithful to each other and provide a stable home for children they lack the ideal balance that a father and mother can bring.

Second, not only are gay and lesbian unions not inherently qualified, they are also fundamentally unnecessary to society. If we were to do away with them altogether (the unions, not the people) it would not affect the posterity of our nation one bit. However, if we were to do away with traditional unions our people would have no future. Every society unequivocally needs traditional marriage.

What this means is that, if our society changes the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions, the distinction between “marriage” and “domestic partnership,” between traditional marriage and same-sex unions, will not only be erased in the eyes of the state but also in the minds of future generations. Many more will come to believe the two are equal. They will see the heterosexual/homosexual distinction as surface rather than fundamental. “Gay marriage” will achieve an equal civil and moral status in our culture as the rest of us are obliged to accept it in public policy and social intercourse. Those of us who continue to insist that the ideal family begins with a man and a woman committed for life will be dismissed for our outdated beliefs while gay and lesbian unions will erroneously be elevated to the status of “marriage” even though they do not meet the requirements that make marriage necessary to society.

For all these reasons, I am convinced that giving domestic partnership the legal status of being called, and considered on par with, “marriage” when it inherently is not, is unwise and would be detrimental to society in the long run. Even so, I strongly support the current provisions that give same-sex couples all the same rights and responsibilities of marriage, albeit without the accompanying title.

NOTE: All of this constitutes a non-religious argument for Proposition 8. As it turns out, I came to the same conclusion as my Christian brothers and sisters who simply took God at His Word, although I do not encourage blind faith whatsoever. It does say something about the trustworthiness of biblical principles and precepts. They are not arbitrary but coincide beautifully with reality when taken to task.