Christian Book Previews Home
Christian Book Previews
Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
199 pages
Sep 2004
InterVarsity Press

Marriage On Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting

by Glenn T. Stanton & Dr. Bill Maier

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt




You’re at lunch with a coworker who is openly homosexual. You’ve worked together for a few years, and this person has become a genuine friend. You’ve never felt threatened. He’s a good coworker and a cherished friend, and he’s always been respectful to you. You have tried to respect him. Still, you’re a little surprised when he tells you that he and his partner are thinking of going to Provincetown, Massachusetts, to get married, because homosexual unions are legal there. You sense he is hoping you will be able to celebrate his wedding with him.

He hasn’t really asked you about it because he knows you are “way conservative” as he puts it, but he’s waiting for your response. What should you say? Is there a way to disagree with him while still affirming him as your friend? This creates a serious dilemma for you because of conflicting feelings. You care for your friend who lives a life that is different from yours. But you also hold some strong beliefs about marriage, and it seems as if he’s asking you—even if not directly—to choose between the two: the regard you have for him and the conviction you have about marriage.

This is a dilemma many of us face—or will face. How do we defend our beliefs about marriage in a thoughtful, caring way, while not feeling like we are attacking our friend? It is important to know that the dilemma is only apparent. You can defend marriage and still affirm a friend with whom you disagree. Let’s begin exploring how to handle this problem.

QUESTION 1. What’s wrong with same-sex marriage?

ANSWER. Affirming same-sex marriage would forever alter the meaning of marriage and family for everyone.

Marriage is and always has been about bringing men and women together in permanent, exclusive domestic and sexual relationships. No human society—not one—has ever embraced homosexual marriage. It is not a part of the tradition of any human culture.1 Only until the last few “nanoseconds” of history and experience have societies allowed it. 2

Homosexual unions, married or otherwise, have never been regarded as a normal, morally equal part of any society. Nonmarital same-sex unions have been tolerated in some places at some times to be sure but have never been taken to be morally equivalent to natural marriage. This is exactly what is being argued for today. Each of us is being asked to let go of our definition and understanding of marriage and family. We are all being asked to see same-sex marriage as morally and socially equal to natural marriage and this is impossible to do.

QUESTION 2. Does it really matter how we define marriage?

ANSWER. It matters in many deep ways. No society has ever allowed a “suit yourself” approach to family, where people choose to live in whatever relationships seem to work for them. All societies need people to live within specific parameters regarding marriage. This is why natural marriage is humanly universal. God has weaved marriage into human nature so that it serves two primary purposes throughout all societies:

    • Marriage always brings male and female adults together into committed sexual and domestic relationships in order to regulate sexuality and provide for the needs of daily life. Wives help men channel their sexual energy in socially productive and nonpredatory ways. Husbands help protect women from the exploitation of other males.

    • Marriage ensures that children have the benefits of both their mother and their father, each in their distinctive and unique ways. Together, these two aspects of marriage have been the means by which we build strong human communities, generation after generation. As anthropologists tell us, these primary needs shape the family and social norms for all known societies.3

Same-sex relationships cannot provide these benefits. These unions provide no essential social good; instead they primarily address the personal or emotional needs and desires of consenting adults. In addition a growing number of these couples want access to the legal and financial benefits granted to those whom society recognizes as married.

One of our nation’s most eminent political scientists and social thinkers, James Q. Wilson, brings clarity to what all societies need marriage to do:

    [T]he purpose of marriage . . . has always been to make the family secure, not to redefine what constitutes a family. The family is a more fundamental social reality than a marriage, and so pretending that anything we call a marriage can create a family is misleading. . . . By family, I mean a lasting, socially enforced obligation between a man and a woman that authorizes sexual congress and the supervision of children. . . . There is no society where women alone care for each other and their children; there is none where fathers are not obligated to support their children and the mothers to whom they were born. Not only do men need women, women need men. 4

That is how God designed us, each for the other: male complements female and female complements male. Marriage is not the only place where males and females do this, but it is the primary place. This whole question comes down to this universal human truth: males and females need each other. However, the same-sex advocates want us to pretend God’s design doesn’t matter. They want us to believe that males and females are optional and interchangeable. This is a poor view of humanity.

Since marriage is always heterosexual, everywhere, at all times in history, we must ask what has driven this universal constancy of heterosexuality in marriage. The Catholic Church? Jerry Falwell? Dr. Dobson? The Republicans? Western civilization? Dr. Laura? Of course not! Marriage has not been “imposed” on culture by any religious institution, government, or any other authoritarian power structure from which it must be “set free.” God, the architect and builder of nature, established marriage, enforces it by nature—and we tamper with it at our own peril.

QUESTION 3. Shouldn’t two people who love each other be allowed to commit themselves to one another?

ANSWER. Yes, but we don’t always call it marriage. Parents commit themselves to their children, but they aren’t married. Friends love and commit themselves to each other, but they aren’t married. Coworkers, athletes and soldiers can even love each other and enjoy great commitment, but we don’t call it marriage.

Marriage is about a whole lot more than love and commitment. It is not less than these things, to be sure, but it is certainly much more. Marriage is built on a paradox of humanity—that we exist as male and female. The strong benefit of marriage is that males and females are designed with profound differences, and these differences are coordinated in marriage so that each contributes what the other lacks.5

Together they create something larger than themselves. The polarity of the two genders is inextricably locked into the meaning and practice of marriage. We can illustrate this gender complementarity with some simple examples. Think of an electrical plug and a socket or the two electrical poles on a battery. Two positive battery poles produce no electricity. Two sockets by themselves do nothing to serve the electrical needs of your house. A socket must be joined with a plug to make anything meaningful happen.

By themselves, a violin and a bow can’t do much. Two bows together can’t create any music but rather mirror each other because they are the same. They don’t complement one another. But together, in their differences, they create something far greater than they can alone. It’s much the same with the two parts of humanity: male and female. Marriage is the coming together of the two different parts to make a whole. Same-sex nions do not make a human whole; they are missing a necessary human ingredient: either male or female.

The benefit of male and female in marriage is not confined to reproduction. The complement and exchange between the sexes provides huge and irreplaceable benefits for both males and females because these differences are rooted in every part of our being. Male and female are not interchangeable human parts. Love and commitment are necessary, but they are not suf- ficient to form a marriage. Marriage requires persons of different sexes to love and commit themselves to each other.

Besides, couldn’t the “people should be able to marry who they love” argument be made for nearly any kind of union? If this is the new criteria for allowing people to marry, how can we say no to a woman who loves a polygamist and wants to become his third wife? How do we say no to Jonathan Yarbrough and Cody Rogahn, the first couple to get a same-sex marriage license in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on May 17, 2004? Yarbrough, a bisexual, said to the press just before his wedding, “I think it’s possible to love more than one person and have more than one partner. . . . In our case, we have an open marriage.”6

So what if this couple wanted to expand their open marriage to include some of these other people they plan to love? How would we—how could we—say no? On what basis could we rule out incest, condoning sexual relations and marriage between, say, a loving mother and her adoring son who are both consenting adults?

QUESTION 4. Why restrict marriage to two persons of different gender, as long as it’s restricted to two adults who love each other and are not closely related biologically?

ANSWER. While you’re rejecting one standard of marriage—male and female—you’re holding on to another: that it’s only about two people. If love and commitment were the only criteria for marriage, then not only would concern for gender be eliminated but so would the concern over the number of people in a marriage and their biological relationship. We agree that these kinds of limits to marriage are legitimate and that in maintaining them no one’s rights are being violated. Marriage naturally brings with it its own demands. These are what make it marriage.

Actually there is more of a human-experience case for the gender limit than the number limit. Marriage has always been between men and women in all cultures, but it has not always been between two people. Many societies throughout history and the world have practiced polygamy. However, most developed nations enforce a system of male-female monogamy.

But this brings us back to the original question: If marriage is simply about people who love each other and gender doesn’t matter for marriage and the family, why does the number of spouses? What criteria will we have for limiting couples like Misters Yarbrough and Rogahn who wish to expand the size of their open marriage to include any of the other people they could fall in love with? What about the gay or lesbian couples who want to “marry” their opposite sex sperm donors in order to make a “complete” family? The question is much more than a rhetorical countermove. In fact, Stanley Kurtz,  research fellow at the Hoover Institution, argues that the “slippery slope” from gay to group marriage is very real and well-greased. He warns: The bottom of the slope is visible from where we stand. Advocacy of legalized polygamy is growing. A network of grass-roots organizations seeking legal recognition for group marriage already exists. . . . Actually, there are now many such organizations. And their strategy—even their existence—owes much to the movement for gay marriage. 7

Kurtz warns that revolutionaries who call themselves “polyamorists” are also capitalizing on the gains won by the same-sex marriage advocates and are ready to make the “love and commitment/justice and equality” case for their idea of marriage.  

QUESTION 5. What is polyamory?

ANSWER. Polyamory refers to group marriage. This is different from polygamy, where a man takes many wives. Polyamory has been around for a while; its roots are found in the utopian Oneida Community of New York, founded in the mid 1800s. This large but short-lived community of men and women lived as a married group, openly sharing work, homes, children and their beds. 8

Polyamory was continued in some of the hippie communes of the 1960s and early 1970s. Any skeptics of the current vibrancy of the polyamory movement should Google the word polyamory and see how much serious support there is for this phenomenon. Kurtz explains that “polyamorists are enthusiastic proponents of same-sex marriage.” If the same-sex advocates are successful in abolishing the idea that marriage is only between one man and one woman, then the hard part of making the group marriage case is done.9

As same-sex advocates make a way for the never-before tolerated definition of homosexual marriage, then it will be easy to usher in multiple-spouse marriages because all that is required in this definition of marriage is the verbal declaration of love and some kind of commitment to someone, anyone. We wager the speed by which this will happen will be swift.

QUESTION 6. What’s the real problem with group or polygamous marriage?

ANSWER. It would raise a whole new group of issues. If marriage were to break free and overflow its natural boundaries, conforming only to the personal preferences of individuals, then it would lose any definite shape and would flood out of control. Marriage would mean what any individual or group wants it to mean, and there would be little social agreement. For all the other problems, expanding marriage beyond a man and woman to all those who want legal acknowledgment of their public declaration of love would force government and industry to provide health and legal benefits for any grouping of people who “marry” under these new laws. Could your business afford health-care benefits for five or nine people in a group marriage?

In fact, what would keep two—or four or five—heterosexual, single moms from “marrying” for a time simply so they could receive family health, tax and social security benefits? The increased cost to business and government would be crippling. If any persons who made a public declaration of love were to be given the right to be legally married, then marriage would cease to have any widely shared meaning within that society. We would be left with socially meaningless, legal ties that bind very little of social value.

Defining marriage on the basis of legally recognized declarations of love may seem harmless, but such subjective expansions of marriage have serious consequences. For example, in nonmonogamous and polygamous societies women typically become commodities to be collected. Only 0.5 percent of all polygamous cultures are polyandrous (one woman, many husbands). 10

Polygamous cultures tend not to produce strong, confident women who make important public contributions to the culture. The opposite is true in monogamous cultures. Anthropologically, socially enforced monogamy tends to socialize male sexual energy and masculinity and protect women from becoming sexual and domestic-service objects to be collected and used by men. 11

The benefits of this counterbalancing arrangement is fully acknowledged in Christianity. God gave Adam a mate to stand by his side to be his helper. He didn’t give Adam another guy to hang out with. He gave him a woman, Eve. And not a whole bunch of women. Just one. And Genesis 1:27 tells us she bore God’s image along with Adam. This truth is the most powerful statement of gender equality in all of human thought.

It is impossible to justify treating anyone—man or woman—who bears God’s image merely as an object or second-class citizen. And while Christian cultures have not always obeyed this truth, it is a fundamental teaching of Christianity. Marriage is how this equal cooperation between two different and complementary humans (God’s unique image bearers) is most fully expressed. However, multipartner and same-sex marriage denies this glorious God-given truth about humanity. Multipartner relationships not only displace monogamy but tilt the table of gender equality in men’s favor, while same-sex marriages make either gender irrelevant.

Marriage is also about giving every child a loving and (ideally) biologically connected and committed mother and father. Marriage is how societies promote this complementary nurturing environment for children. It’s that simple.

QUESTION 7. But what about couples who are childless? We let them marry.

ANSWER. Sterility is the exception and not the rule for heterosexual couples. We do not disqualify couples from marrying based on exceptions that are (for the most part) unanticipated. Many of these couples adopt, lovingly giving a mother and father to a child who needs them. Same-sex couples cannot provide this.

However, sterility is a fully known and inherent part of homosexuality, and therefore children can never come from a homosexual union. Homosexual couples must always go knocking at the door of heterosexuality in order to acquire kids via adoption, artificial insemination or surrogacy. No one who considers him- or herself homosexual was given life as a result of a homosexual relationship. Everyone enters humanity through the gate of heterosexuality, with the union of male sperm and female egg being the mandatory portal. Homosexuality can never produce people, and it obscures the truth of what is required for human reproduction and development. That is why no society has ever recognized it as a legitimate form of family. It also denies every child it touches what the adults in the relationship had: a mother and father.

QUESTION 8. But don’t we allow older people who are past childbearing years to marry?

ANSWER. Yes, of course we allow older folks to marry. Having babies is not a requirement of marriage. But it is the expected norm. Older couples marrying is another exception and not a norm. Same-sex marriage advocates are not arguing for their marriage as occasional exceptions but as normal as natural marriage. As leading same-sex activist Evan Wolfson explains, “What we want is not separate and unequal ‘gay marriage’ but marriage itself, the full range of choices and protections available to our nongay sisters and brothers.” 12

Remember also, the key societal benefit of marriage is not only about bringing forth and raising children but that it brings the genders together into a humanly complete and cooperative relationship. Marriage helps older people complete each other also, and this is good for the individuals and for society.

QUESTION 9. Why do you have to be so narrow in your definition of marriage?

ANSWER. Because nature is narrow in its definition of marriage, and for very good reason.

Research over the last one hundred years consistently shows us that marriage provides a treasure chest of good things for adults, children and society (see chapters 8-9). That is why it serves as the foundation of family in all civilizations. As stable marriage has decreased over the past thirty years with dramatic increases in divorce, cohabitation and fatherlessness, the benefits marriage provides have declined as well. Adults and children have been deeply hurt by the decline of marriage. This has been remarkably well-documented, and the evidence is too large and too conclusive to ignore.13

Nature does not tolerate very much diversity in the form of family, and any attempt to redefine marriage will be to our detriment. No society has ever prospered under a smorgasbord mentality of family life where people pick and choose forms that suit their individual tastes. To protect the common good, societies must enforce the narrow parameters nature has given humans. Same-sex marriage will simply be the next chapter in a long line of failed social experiments with marriage and the family that have hurt people. The truth is that anything which deviates from the permanence and health of natural marriage—whether initiated by heterosexuals or homosexuals—is bad for families, children and our whole society, and love of neighbor says we must resist that which is bad for people.


Same-sex marriage does not allow more people into marriage but actually redefines marriage and the family for everyone. It says the complementarity of husband and wife, mother and father are merely optional. Male and female are meaningless, interchangeable parts. Same-sex marriage turns marriage into something it has never been in any other human civilization at any time in history. Natural marriage comprises much more than love between people and access to legal and health benefits. The same-sex proposition robs marriage of its unique virtue in bringing men and women into a cooperative relationship where they complete one another in their differences.

Every natural, monogamous marriage is a declaration to all in society that male and female matter. Marriage is also the best way to ensure that children grow up with a mother and father. But same-sex marriage advocates say none of that matters, and they want to forever change everyone’s understanding of marriage and family. What is more, the argument the same-sex advocates use is the same argument that will make way for any type of “marriage.” The impact this will have on children, women, business and the government will be staggering. All societies at all times have limited marriage to be between men and women. What makes us think we don’t need it? What makes us so sure we have the ability or the right to alter a fundamental structure and part of the basic meaning of human existence?