Another state has fallen to a court decision to legitimate homosexual unions as "marriages". This is not surprising. What is surprising is that the fourth state to officially endorse the terminology of "marriage" being applied to homosexual unions is my home state of Iowa. Iowa hardly has the liberal reputation of California, yet there it is. The decision is based upon a simple analysis by the state supreme court that there is no compelling reason to limit marriage licensing by the state to one man and one woman. They examined several arguments for the importance of heterosexual marriage and found them insufficient.
I find this development fascinating, as once again, a state statute is turned over for what amounts to little more than judicial fiat. As in the case of California, "marriage" is held to be a vacuous term with no intrinsic meaning. The Iowa ruling appears to be based less upon the "fundamental right to marry" that was cited in California and more upon a strictly utilitarian assessment of "gay marriage" that concluded that there's nothing harmful about it and no compelling benefit in restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.
The Iowa Supreme Court considered several arguments for guarding marriage to be only for heterosexual couples.
- Promotion of Optimal Environment to Raise Children The Court's counter-argument here is that many heterosexual couples do not provide an optimal environment to raise children. The Court also notes that not all homosexual couples would raise children, so it is overly exclusive to bar them from "marrying" on this ground.
- Promotion of Procreation The Court's counter-argument here is that letting homosexual couples "marry" does not have any detrimental effect on the procreation of homosexual married couples.
- Promoting Stability in Opposite-Sex Relationships The Court's counter-argument here is, like the previous one, that letting homosexual couples "marry" does not have any negative effect on heterosexual married couples.
There were a few other arguments considered, but I think that these were the three strongest. Where I think the Court first went wrong was in implicitly denying that marriage has any intrinsic definition or value. In my mind the issue isn't really about gay marriage, per se. Yes, homosexual behavior is an abomination to the Lord, unhealthy for society, etc., etc. I believe that, but I'm not going to fight for society to uphold that standard; I think we're past that now. The problem is that even the widely and deeply held belief that marriage means something is being forcibly deinstitutionalized through the courts. When marriage means nothing, then of course gay people can "marry". In fact, there's no reason why I couldn't marry two women—or even marry my canary (to borrow a line from Greg Koukl)!
Maybe gay marriage per se doesn't have a negative effect on the utilitarian benefits of marriage, but deinstitutionalizing marriage sure might. And the way the courts are moving, it looks like we are going to find out.