There are a number of issues with defining marriage in today’s society. For instance, the definition of what constitutes a marriage has changed significantly over the years, and today, marriage is primarily a legal definition, rather than a religious one. This is not to say that there are not religious marriages; however, for the purposes of society and government, religious is taken out of the marriage equation for the most part. Rick Santorum in his article, “The Meaning of Family” makes a number of points in his argument against gay marriage and gay rights. He stated that same-sex marriage is a self-centered garbled behaviour that go against the traditional marriage, which he determined as natural and basic point to constitute a family. In addition, he claims that amend the Constitution of marriage protection is fully necessary to protect society’s future because, for example, high divorce rates and fertility rates. “If we apply the logic of a civil right to same-sex marriage, people who believe children need mothers and fathers will be treated in the public square like racists, and churches that persist in teaching traditional norm will risk the loss of their tax-exempt (Santorum 132)”, and it leads the society to a more embarrassed circumstance that people can’t bring children into right family and society. As far as I am concerned, I don’t agree with Santorum’s idea.
Santorum writes extensively about fertility in American society, but he does not explain how fertility is linked to the issue of gay marriage or the meaning of family. He states that marriage is defined by the issue of fertility; that marriage exists to make more babies in American society. However, this is flatly not the case; infertile and old people can easily get married without any kind of interference from the government, and people who never want to have children are not banned from marriage merely because they choose not to have children. The nature of fertility is, to put it simply, a choice. Santorum suggests that marriage is for babies; and for some people, marriage is for babies. However, for many people, marriage is about a celebration of love and togetherness. Re-defining marriage to include other types of love does not negate the fact that straight people can get married and have babies, it just means that more people can have their own form of happiness. Santorum also makes the argument that redefining “marriage” is without precedent; this is simply a falsehood. Prior to the decision in Loving v. Virginia in 1967, most of the United States still had in place anti-miscegenation statutes that prevented people classified as “colored” from marrying people who were classified as “white.” When this case came before the Supreme Court, the Court broke from tradition and precedent and, in a unanimous decision, declared that anti-miscegenation legislation was unconstitutional and could no longer be enforced by the States. This was a redefinition of marriage, to be sure; and it was a necessary redefinition of marriage.
Birth rates have nothing to do with same-sex marriage or the inclusion of same-sex marriage in the law. Homosexual people will be homosexual whether the law forbids them from marrying their partners or not; there is no way of barring people from being homosexual in today’s society. For instance, if a gay couple were to be forbidden from getting married, they will not break up and suddenly become straight and have babies-- these people will stay together, suffering under a law that is both discriminatory and unfair to those who do not believe exactly the same thing as Santorum does.
Santorum also tries to wage a war on liberalism that fails to ring true. He writes, “Liberals believe that the traditional family is neither natural nor vital, that it's an antiquated social convention which has not only outlived its usefulness, but is now inherently discriminatory and repressive toward legitimate alternative ‘families’” (Santorum). This is a false dichotomy, and one that many conservative pundits attempt to utilize when talking about gay marriage, gay rights, and the changing face of America. There is no war on traditional families. There is no attempt by liberals to “destroy” the traditional family, or prevent those who want to live a traditional family life from doing so. This is a scare tactic, and an insidious one: of course it will scare people, because the traditional family life is still very appealing to very many people. Liberals do not, as a whole, want to destroy marriage between men and women; they want to expand opportunities for happiness and family life to those who do not experience life in the same way as those who are more traditional. It is intellectually dishonest and completely ridiculous for Santorum to create this dichotomy, but unfortunately, it is one that is commonly used by many conservatives. Including more people in the American dream does not cheapen the American dream; perhaps Santorum is merely afraid of sharing his piece of the pie, worried that there will be less for him and his ilk if he shares.
The final, and perhaps most damning statement that Santorum makes is one on the definition of marriage in the world as a whole. In Santorum’s view, marriage is about children; it’s about having children, and protecting those children that are created. He writes, “Every known society has some form of marriage. And it's always about bringing together a male and a female into the kind of sexual union where the interests of children under the care of their own mother and father are protected” (Santorum). However, there are many marriages that are childless; some people are barren naturally, and others by choice. Are these marriages less legitimate than those which are unhappy, but blessed with children? Santorum has managed to mix up his personal views on marriage with the legal definition of marriage, something that commonly happens in the conservative political sphere. Legally, children are not necessary for marriage, and thus, Santorum’s whole argument is null from a legal and political perspective. If the law were to require children for a marriage to be legal, there would be many marriages in the United States that would not be legal.
The biggest problem with Santorum’s arguments regarding gay marriage and the meaning of family is that they present a false dichotomy insofar as family life is concerned. When Santorum looks at the meaning of family, he sees two options: the traditional option, and the option in which traditional family is no longer acceptable in society. What he does not seem to understand is that there are nuances and shades of truth to policy issues like the issue of gay marriage. If gay people are allowed to marry, this does not negate the right of straight people to get married, nor does it disallow straight people from having babies. When gay people are allowed to marry, the only thing that changes in society is that gay people are allowed to marry. Santorum and his ilk will not be forced to marry a gay individual if gay people are allowed to marry; nor will his marriage suddenly become null and void under the law if gay people were allowed to marry.
In it, his personal views-- which, to be clear, he is free to have-- become enmeshed with his political views, and he seems incapable of unwrapping and untangling the two from each other. Being socially conservative is acceptable; however, making poor, illegitimate, and unethical policy decisions based on personal beliefs is not acceptable. Santorum offers no real argument that would persuade the legal mind to consider gay marriage a threat to society; indeed, instead of striking any real points with any real poignancy, Santorum appears to achieve only a vaguely smug attitude and an outdated view of society. Marriage should have a very clear definition, and religious individuals should be free to practice their religion as they see fit. However, they should not be allowed to restrict the freedoms of other people based on their own personal religious beliefs. Research does not support Santorum’s argument that if gay marriage is allowed, people who believe that children should have a mother and a father will be ostracized from society. Instead, research suggests that a more welcoming and open society benefits everyone, even the socially conservative among members of that society.
Morin, Rich. "Study: Opposition to same-sex marriage may be understated in public opinion polls." Pew Research Center, 2013. Web. 1 Mar 2014. <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/30/opposition-to-same-sex-marriage-may-be-understated-in-public-opinion-polls/>.
Santorum, Rick. It takes a family. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2005. Print.
Unknown. "Rick Santorum Biography." Biography, 2014. Web. 1 Mar 2014. <http://www.biography.com/people/rick-santorum-20688005>.