Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Society and Marriage: Quid pro Quo

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 02, 2009

The proposed law in the District of Columbia that would require institutions to provide the same treatment to same-sex couples as to married couples is just the latest in an apparently endless series of initiatives to enable same-sex individuals to claim the civil benefits of marriage. At the risk of restating the obvious, let me explain again the two simplest reasons why this makes no sense—though much more can be said about the interrelationship between marriage and society than I intend to convey here.

The first reason is not likely to gain traction in a society which understands neither the purpose of sex nor the nature of man, but it is the more important of the two, and we shouldn’t lose sight of it. The reason is simply that marriage is impossible between people of the same sex. Or, to put it another way, the concept of marriage is totally evacuated of its meaning whenever marital status is ascribed to two persons of the same sex. When reduced to its bare minimum in the order of nature, marriage is the permanent union of a man and a woman for the procreation and rearing of children. Since two men, or two women, are by their nature incapable of joining together to generate children, they cannot be the proper subjects of marriage.

Now from this essential natural fact there flows a second reason why it makes no sense to provide the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, a very simple and pragmatic reason: Society will gain no benefit from doing so. Heterosexual marriage generates families which constitute the fundamental unit of the social order. This is a great benefit to society as a whole. Indeed, it is the sine qua non of society, and it is a benefit provided at considerable sacrifice on the part of the married couple. In return for this benefit, all societies foster, encourage and protect marriage in various ways, including laws which make it financially easier for married couples to maintain their families. This arrangement is based on a quid pro quo which cannot be duplicated by same-sex couples.

One could argue that this or that same-sex couple might adopt children and so contribute something to the proper rearing of future members of society. We could argue, in response, that parenting by a same-sex couple is unlikely to produce stable, well-balanced adults. But in fact this is unnecessary, because the laws governing the social order are not framed for individual cases but for classes. Any two persons, of whatever ages and relationship, might provide a service for which, as a matter of business, a third party (including a government) would wish to pay. Social laws, however, are not concerned with individual contractual decisions but with the duties and benefits of social groups.

It so happens that the class of couples composed of men and women have both the potential and the common inclination to generate offspring, maintain enduring families, and thereby produce productive members of society. Historically, a substantial majority of such couples have in fact done so. This socially beneficial male-female familial relationship is called marriage. Because it is so socially beneficial, society gains a great deal when it provides for the stability and prosperity of marriage. Therefore, laws and benefits regarding marriage are applied properly to the relevant class of persons, even though some of these persons may prove to be less useful to society than others—less fertile, less stable, less enduring, less capable of training up well-balanced and productive adults. In contrast, same-sex couples, taken as a class, have no potential to generate children, and no statistical tendency to provide for children, to raise them, or to turn them into productive adults.

There is no reason whatsoever, then, for any government or social institution to consider providing the benefits of marriage to the class of same-sex couples. There is no reason that any citizen should want his tax monies wasted in such a fruitless exercise. There is no potential benefit for society. There is no quid pro quo.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Nov. 10, 2009 11:49 PM ET USA

    By de-criminalizing contraception, society proceeded down a slippery slope which leads to the call for "marriage equality." Heterosexual marriages can remain as sterile as homosexual marriages. If you think children are "a great benefit to society as a whole", look at their treatment in the tax code which is how "society" can put its money where its mouth is. No, I don't think we can turn back the clock to pre-Griswald, but we can't pretend this is a rational debate either.

  • Posted by: mrschips19308196 - Nov. 04, 2009 10:07 PM ET USA

    Again, tonight on the news, some one equated same sex marriage with equal rights for blacks, women and I can't remember who else. For people who can't understand the difference between the two, it's probably a hopeless case...but maybe with enough prayer....

  • Posted by: jpthegr82109 - Nov. 04, 2009 1:10 PM ET USA

    Very rational and clear, but as with how you started this essay, this society is not likely to understand even the second reason. For most this just boils down to, "I want what they have" and along the way, "it will justify this perverse behaviour I am involved in." Societies have dealt with this group since recorded history began. Our society is well along the path of approving and glorifying perversions like contraception, fornication, divorce, stealing childhood innocence. Jesus wept.