Sam-Sex Marriage

Issues, Etc. Transcript
Transcript of June 6, 2004 Broadcast
Guest -Greg Koukl, President, Stand to Reason

with host
Todd Wilken

WILKEN:  Greetings, and welcome to Issues, Etc.  I'm Todd Wilken.  Thanks for tuning us in.

Tonight we're going talk about same-sex marriage.  We're going to line up the arguments in favor of same-sex marriage and have our guest, Greg Koukl, respond to those arguments one by one.

Some have suggested that the same-sex marriage issue is, and will be bigger in the culture war in some ways than even the issue of abortion, and that's saying something.  That may or may not be true.  Regardless of whether it's going to be the biggest issue in the culture war, it still is an issue.  It still is a line where the battle lines have been drawn, and the arguments are being made and responses are required.

What is this about?  Is it about tolerance?  Is it about justice?  Is it about love?  Is it about liberty?  We're gonna find out what the debate over same-sex marriage is really all about and respond to some of those arguments that are being made in the public square in favor of same-sex marriage this Sunday evening on Issues, Etc.

It's June 6th.  And Issues, Etc. is a live call-in program.  Now, if you have a question or a comment on same-sex marriage, give us a call in the next few hours.  Here's the number:  1-800-730-2727.  We also have our Issues, Etc. forum.  There's a lively bit of traffic on there already from earlier this week.  Go to our Web site to get on the forum:  Click on the "What's New" section; you'll find a link there right near the top of the page for the Issues, Etc. forum for your questions and your comments.

Greg Koukl is our guest.  He's a regular guest here on Issues, Etc.  He is president of Stand to Reason, based in Signal Hill, Calif., co-author of the book, Relativism:  Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.  Greg, welcome back to Issues, Etc.

KOUKL:  Well, it's nice to talk with you again, Todd.

WILKEN:  Okay, so same-sex marriage. 

KOUKL:  Right.

WILKEN:  You have said yourself that this is the most heated battle in the culture wars to date.

KOUKL:  That's right.

WILKEN:  What is the real point of controversy in this battle?

KOUKL:  Well, in a way that's a question that can be answered in a couple of different ways, but I'm going to give you my response to it.  Even though the issues that you pointed out—love and liberty and tolerance—are the ones that are touted, civil rights, equal treatment, equal protection under the law, these are things that are part of the vocabulary of the movement right now—I don't think that's really what's at stake here.  And I think all you have to do is make an observation to see that something else is going on besides justice appeal to equality.  And the observation is this:

Now, I was a child of the 50s and the 60s, so when I was a teenager and in college, Todd, I was part of the cultural revolution, particularly in the area of marriage.  And the challenge then with the free love generation with regards to marriage is, "Why do we need a piece of paper—that is, the marriage license—to legitimize our relationships?"  Now, of course, that was heterosexual response 30 years ago, and that has worked its way into kind of almost a cultural form here, where you have people who are heterosexual who are living together as a standard part of their life before they get married if they get married at all.  And, now, more and more you have people that are living together and even having children without getting married—that is, without going through the formality of getting a marriage license, that piece of paper.

Now my question is, why is that homosexuals demand what heterosexuals are increasingly distancing themselves from?  Certainly this can't be a deep issue of human rights because heterosexuals are just simply dismissing this piece of paper as inconsequential.  What this so-called piece of paper gives to homosexuals is not new liberty, is not new freedoms, but rather new legitimacy.  It is the way that the government, our culture, states that their relationships are on par with heterosexual relationships.  Once we give them the license, as it were, we are basically saying that their relationships are the same as heterosexual relationships.  There is no distinctive difference.  The sexes are interchangeable with regards to long-term relationships, and as a culture we are giving them that mark of approval.  And I think this is at the heart of it—what the battle is all about:  legitimacy and approval.

WILKEN:  Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but you have written on this subject several times.  At one point you have said that homosexuals can already "marry."  You put that term in quotations.

KOUKL:  That's right.

WILKEN:  You have written more recently, "Ironically, heterosexuals have been living together for years, enjoying every liberty of matrimony without the piece of paper," and you point out the irony there that—as you just did—that the homosexual, once this piece of paper for this entirely different reason—what is it, the social stigma is removed by the piece of paper?

KOUKL:  Yeah, the reason I point out about heterosexuals kind of as suing this piece of paper—this is their terminology; I think it's more than that—but what they're basically saying is, "We don't need social approval to legitimize our relationship.  We're secure in our relationship.  We don't need this kind of thing.  We can have a meaningful relationship without somebody else's approval."  And so it's part of the carry-over from the 60s and the early 70s where you question authority and kind of do your own thing and have your own legitimacy apart from the approval of the establishment.

Now, of course, the homosexuals have never had that, and they realize how utterly important it is.  And, frankly, it's not just me that's saying this; they have been saying this for a long time.  They have been saying that, you know, "We didn't want the piece of paper, either; and then we suddenly realize that this is about"—as one put it:  "This is about other people recognizing what we have already recognized with each other for a long time."  One homosexual said, "I didn't start out feeling this way, but that piece of paper"—there's the term again—"it's just so important!  I can't even put it into words.  It's so important"—his words now, "to have society support you.  It's about society saying, ‘you're recognized as a couple.'"

And I think that's the real currency here with same-sex marriage.  It isn't about—and we'll talk more about this—new liberties.  It isn't about getting benefits that naturally and appropriately should accrue to homosexual couples.  It isn't about those things.  It isn't about equal protection under the law.  Really what it comes down to is an additional step of getting society's approval for these relationships.

WILKEN:  So, very briefly, what do you mean that homosexuals can already "marry" (in quotations)?

KOUKL:  Well, they can already—they can walk down the aisle.  They can gather together as friends, family.  They can have a facility that will allow them to have a celebration. They can walk down the aisle and they can pledge their troth until death to them part.  They can go on a honeymoon.  In fact, there is an entire cottage industry that has been established that is meant to serve the liberty that any person has to make a commitment and celebrate that commitment publicly with anybody else.  So, in that sense—and I'm putting the quotes around "marriage" here—in that sense they can get "married."  They can go back home.  They can set up housekeeping.  They can sleep together.  They can live together.  They can share property together.  They can do just about every single thing—in fact, they can do—every single thing in terms of liberty that married couples can do.  And the reason I point this out is to show that this whole move towards homosexual marriage—that is, the licensing—the approval of society upon homosexuals does not confer upon them any new liberties.  They are not being prevented from loving each other.  They are not being prevented from living together, from celebrating their love publicly, from sharing their estates if they so choose.  They are not being prevented from doing anything whatsoever.  They have the full liberties that anyone has in terms of their behaviors towards each other.

You know, our culture is very much a live-and-let-live culture when it comes to homosexuality.  Nobody's demanding that they change their lifestyle and they not do what they have been doing for years.  They have that liberty.

WILKEN:  With only two minutes before our break here, Greg, one of the first and foremost arguments that is put forward in favor of gay marriage is this:  "Look, it's simply a matter of rights.  What we are seeing here when we are denied the piece of paper—the legal recognition of our marriage—is unconstitutional discrimination."  How do you respond?

KOUKL:  Yeah, well, this is a tricky one.  I think it might take more than two minutes.  It may carry over into the next segment on this.  But, look it, if there is unconstitutional discrimination, it can only be so if you're carrying apples to apples.

What if a man gets—rather, a woman gets something that a man doesn't get—is that discrimination?  Well, it depends.  Is it apples to apples?

How about the issue—what if the thing is a hysterectomy?  A woman gets a hysterectomy; a man's not allowed to have a hysterectomy.  Gee, that's unconstitutional discrimination.  Well, no it's not because you're not comparing apples to apples at the point that is relevant to the discrimination charge.  Women have uteruses; men don't, okay?  So, they have no uterus to remove.  It's not an illegitimate discrimination.  There are relevant differences with regard to this particular issue so that the charge does not apply in this case—the civil rights charge.

Now the question then can be—the same question can be applied to marriage.  Is there a relevant difference between heterosexual couples and homosexual couples that justify giving heterosexual couples a particular kind of privilege and protection in the culture without giving the same kind of privilege and protection to homosexual couples?  And the answer is yes, there's a very vital difference.  One only has to ask this question—and it's a very simple question, Todd:  Why is it that heterosexual couples who commit themselves for a durable period of time—generally for life—together in a relationship get special protections from cultures from the beginning of time in every culture in the history of the world until now?  Why is that?  It's not because those cultures have hated homosexuals.  It's not of animus against homosexuality and therefore discrimination; it's because heterosexual couples give the culture something that homosexuals cannot give the culture, and that is the next generation.  Since heterosexual couples in the natural state, in committed relationships, produce the next generation, governments all over the world have privileged them for that, something that homosexual couples cannot give us.

WILKEN:  We'll talk more about that with Greg Koukl when we come back.


WILKEN:  Our guest, Greg Koukl, has written an article titled, "Same-Sex Marriage Challenges and Responses" for the Solid Ground newsletter.  Now, if you'd like to know how to receive Stand to Reason's Solid Ground newsletter, call our resource line.  The number:  1-800-737-0172.  And we'll give you the phone number and the mailing address for Stand to Reason.  Or you can read Greg's article on Stand to Reason's Web site.  Just go first to our Web site:  Under that "Links with Regular Guests" link, you'll find a direct link to Greg Koukl and Stand to Reason.

Greg, does it come down to this, then, when someone says, "Look, it's unconstitutional discrimination," does it come down to basically making the case that societies and governments have always recognized the distinction between individuals who are legitimate recipients of marital status and individuals that are not?

KOUKL:  Yeah, I guess that's one way of putting it.  What might be helpful here, Todd, is to distinguish between two different aspects of this.  That is, the legal liberties heterosexuals have and the legal benefits that heterosexual married couples have.

The point that I made first is that there is no liberty that is being denied a homosexual that is being given to a heterosexual.  In fact, the law is unconcerned about one's sexual preference.  And this is why the term ‘gay marriage' is a bit of a misnomer.  The law isn't against gays—homosexuals marrying—it is against same-sex couples marrying:  point being that homosexuals can get married—and this is in the difference sense that we were talking about before.  They have the same right that I have to marry.  I have the right to marry the eligible member of the opposite sex of my choice.  They have the same right to marry the eligible member of the opposite sex of their choice.  Now, they don't prefer to do that for personal reasons, and that's fine.  But as far as the law is concerned—and this first objection that there is unequal protection under the law—is a legal argument.  It just simply is not the case that they don't have the same liberties.  They have the same—exactly the same—liberty under the law that I do.  The law applies to me the same way it does to them.

Now, they don't want to practice or exercise their legal liberties that the law gives to me and to them equally.  They want to do something different.  Let me offer an illustration here.

Say Smith and Jones both qualify to vote in America where they're citizens, all right?  But neither, by the way, is allowed to vote in France.  Jones, though, has no interest in U.S. politics; he's partial to European concerns, and so he wants to vote in France.  Now, would Jones have a complaint—a legitimate complaint—if he says, "Well, Smith gets to vote and I don't"?  Meaning, Smith gets to vote in California—the U.S.—"but I don't get to vote, that is, in France.  That's unequal protection under the law.  He can vote, I can't."  Well, no, they both can vote in the same place, and neither can vote in the other place.  They have exactly the same rights.  There's no legal inequality, there's only an inequality of desire, but that is not the state's concern here.

So, on a strictly legal point—constitutional point of equal protection under the law—homosexuals have exactly the same legal liberties as anyone else.

Then in terms of actual liberties of practice, so to speak, the point I was making a few moments ago is, they can also go through the motions, as it were, of getting married if they want and have all of those things that I identified.  They can walk down the aisle and pledge their troth and go on a honeymoon and set up housekeeping.  Nobody's stopping them!  They get all of those things, too.  The only thing they don't get is they don't get legally sanctioned benefits that heterosexuals get.  But the point I was making just a few moments ago is that the reason that the state in our culture and every culture from the beginning of time gave legally sanctioned benefits to one type of relationship—a long-term committed heterosexual relationship—is because characteristically in the natural order that is the kind of relationship that produces children that is the next generation.  And, therefore, the culture has a vested interest in privileging that relationship.  Homosexual relationships don't have that, nor does any non-marital relationship as I just described it.  There's no reason to give homosexuals these kinds of special benefits that properly applied to the committed relationship of heterosexuals, nor any other couple that happens to love each other or live together or hang out together or want to have those special relationships.

Are homosexuals discriminated against in this regard?  The answer is yes, of course, they are.  But it's an appropriate discrimination.  Just the same way that two fraternity brothers are discriminated against and two spinsters who are hanging out together are discriminated against or, Todd, you and I are discriminated against.  The government doesn't treat yours and my relationship like it does a marriage relationship.  It doesn't treat the spinsters or the fraternity brothers like that or homosexual couples because our relationships are similar to each other and dissimilar for marriage relationships in a way that matters to the rights that are under question.

WILKEN:  What do you make of—this is another popular one that's being used—trying to hitch the wagon of the gay marriage movement to the civil rights star.  And they say, "Look, this is the same arguments that were made against interracial marriage that are forbidding now same-sex marriage.

KOUKL:  Well, it's challenged, Todd, as a great rhetorical force.  It seems to persuade a lot of people.  They think this is relevant, but it's really a silly objection; and it's unfortunate.  And you're going to find this with a lot of these issues, and so are your listeners here.  There are a lot of aspects of this particular issue of same-sex marriage where you have slogans that are tossed out—rhetoric—statements that sound great but when you examine them carefully you realize that they don't carry the weight that they appear to at first at all.  This is one of those.  Let me give you another example.

Consider two men.  One guy's rich, one guy's poor, and they want to withdraw money from their bank account.  Okay, the rich man goes in, and he's standing in front of the poor man, and the clerk at the counter says, "I'm sorry" to the rich man, "You can't have your $10,000 because your bank account is empty."  Then on a closer inspection the clerk discovers an error.  He realizes that he has made a mistake.  He corrects the error and he releases the cash to the rich man.  The poor man is next in line.  He asks for $10,000, and he is denied for the same reason:  "You don't have the money in your account."  And he responds, and he said, "But that's the same thing you said about the last guy!"  And the clerk replies, "We made a mistake in his account, but not with yours; you're broke."

And the point I'm making here, Todd, is that it simply is not relevant that the same objection has been used to deny both interracial and homosexual marriage.  It's only relevant if the circumstances are the same regardless of the objection.  So the rich man and the poor man are both initially denied because of insufficient funds.  It turns out that it was a mistake in the rich man's case and it wasn't a mistake in the poor man's case. 

Because people in the past said that it was wrong for interracial couples to be married and did so mistakenly, doesn't mean now that it's okay for homosexual couples to be married.  Listen, same-sex marriage and interracial marriage have nothing in common!  There's no difference between a black and white human being.  Skin color is morally trivial, Todd, but there is an enormous difference—and I hope people see this; it's quite obvious—between a man and woman!  Ethnicity has no bearing on marriage, but sex is fundamental to marriage.

And just to kind of sharpen the point here just a little bit, this approach won't work to justify polygamists or incestuous unions.  I mean, think if I said, "Well, I want to marry my sister."  Somebody said, "Well, that's wrong!"  Then I could say, "Well, that's the same thing they said about, you know, interracial marriage."  See, it isn't going to work there; it doesn't work here for the same reason.

WILKEN:  Greg Koukl is our guest.  We're responding to same-sex marriage arguments during this hour of Issues, Etc.  It is Sunday night, June 6, and we're coming to you live.  Feel free to join this conversation:  1-800-730-2727.  We're coming up on a break.  Call during this break or feel free to visit our Issues, Etc. forum: is the Web site.  Click on the "What's New" section and you'll find the forum there waiting there for your questions or your comments for Greg Koukl, our guest, on same-sex marriage.  He's president of Stand to Reason based in Signal Hill, Calif., co-author of the book, Relativism:  Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.  When we come back, we'll ask him to respond to this objection.  This argument put forward in favor of gay marriage, "Look, all we're asking for is the freedom to love those whom we want to love."  Greg will respond to that when we come back.


WILKEN:  Next week on Issues, Etc., we're going to be talking about the Book of Leviticus with Dr. Andrew Steinmann of Concordia University in River Forest, Ill.  In the Old Testament, what's the difference between ceremonial, civil and moral law?  It actually bears upon our conversation here where we will find things like homosexuality forbidden in the Old Testament, in particular in the Book of Leviticus.  And people will say, "Well, looky there, there are lots of things in the Old Testament and the Book of Leviticus that no longer apply—maybe even that prohibition against homosexuality."  How do you respond to that?  Do all of these laws in the Old Testament, do they apply to Christians today?  Where do we find Jesus Christ in the Book of Leviticus?  We'll talk about it next week on Issues, Etc., with Dr. Andrew Steinmann.

Now, if you'd like to know what we'll be discussing for the rest of June, check out our Web site:  While you're there, be sure to find out more about our new Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for June:  the Concordia Commentary on Leviticus.

Now, a solid commentary is indispensable.  One opens their Bible—especially to books that seem rather obscure and distant from us culturally, historically, like the Book of Leviticus.  You wonder what in the world is this doing here.  A solid commentary like our Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for June—the Concordia Commentary on the Book of Leviticus is indispensable for your reading the whole counsel of God and all of God's Word, including Leviticus.

You can browse before you buy the book at Web site.  Go to the "What's New" section.  Or, you can call Concordia Publishing House weekdays during regular business hours:  1-800-325-3040.  When you call, be sure to mention Issues, Etc. and our book of the month for June, the Concordia Commentary on Leviticus.

We're responding to same-sex marriage arguments with Greg Koukl during this hour of Issues, Etc.

Greg, another argument made in favor of gay marriage—and your response—"All we're asking for is the freedom to love those whom we love!"  How do you respond?

KOUKL:  Well, I think it's easy to dispatch that with a simple question you can ask the homosexual, "Are you in a relationship with someone right now that you love?"  "Yes."  "Well, are you being allowed to love that person?  Do you love that person?"  "Yes."  "Does he love you?"  "Yes."  "Then you're being allowed to love the person you want to love.  Where is the restriction there?"

See, this is just another one of those kind of empty, vacuous red herrings that's tossed out to distract you from the main issue.  Homosexuals are not being disallowed from loving anyone.  In fact, the question here is not love at all.  Indeed, it's not even sex.  It's not even homosexual sex.  That's not even what's being challenged in this particular issue.  The issue is whether society should be giving its mark of approval to homosexual relationships as if they were the same as heterosexuals.  This has nothing to do with them loving one another.  As I pointed out earlier, they can do all the things that heterosexuals do.  They can go through all of the motions.  They can express their feelings.  They can live together, set up housekeeping and all the rest.  No one's stopping them.  And I think that simple question points that out.

WILKEN:  Now, this leads to another argument that's put—and this is not always made explicitly, but it seems to be the kernel that is at the bottom of that previous argument—

KOUKL:  Right.

WILKEN:  —"All we want to do is just love those whom we want to love."

KOUKL:  Yeah.

WILKEN:  And that is that marriage is essentially about love.  Is that true?

KOUKL:  Well, I was on a national TV broadcast a couple of weeks ago, and I made the comment that if marriage is really about love, there are billions of people in the history of the world who thought they were married and actually aren't [laughter].  I mean, the idea that marriage is about love, let's face it, though love is a motivation for marriage in Western culture, and at other times—other times economics was the motivation for love—if marriage were about love—in other words, that marriage and love go together—then any marriage relationship that didn't have love as its foundation wouldn't be a real marriage.  The fact is, in the history of the world most marriages were arranged.  These weren't loving marriages at least initially.  Now, sometimes grew out of those relationships.  But I sometimes joke with audiences, though I'm quite serious about this, and I don't mean to be jaundiced at all.  Today, by the way, Todd, is my sixth wedding anniversary!  So I'm speaking now from experience [laughter].  Anybody's who's been married for a couple of years knows real quickly that marriage is not about love.  And, in fact, if marriage were about love, you know, we'd be in big trouble!

Why is it that six years ago today I promised certain things to my wife—certain things that naturally flow from a loving relationship?  It's because we knew—and we know as culture in general—that marriage is about something else than love and, therefore, needs a vow to protect it, to secure it, when love may wane.  The feelings of love go up and down.  We all know this.  Anybody's who's married knows this.  And they also know if their marriage was based on their feelings of love in those circumstances, boy, their marriage wouldn't last long.  We realize that marriage is about something else.  It's a long-term committed relationship that is meant to be the cornerstone of society and produce children for the next generation.  That is the reason.  That is the one reason that cultures have benefited or privileged marriage relationships in the past, not because people are in love.  Frankly, the government doesn't care whether you love each other when you get married.  There's no question on the license application that says, "By the way, before we give you this marriage license, are you really in love?"  Actually, the only thing they want to know is are you opposite sexes!  That's the real requirement!  The point is, is that love, though it may be the motivation for marriage, is not the thing that drives marriage.  It isn't the sine qua non, the foundational cornerstone of marriage; it is about something else.  And this is why we have vows in marriage, and C.S. Lewis has pointed this out, "to sustain that which is an important institution when love leaves us."

WILKEN:  Let's go to the phones here as we continue our conversation with Greg Koukl, responding to same-sex marriage arguments.  We do have other arguments.  But let's talk with Stephanie, who's calling at 1-800-730-2727 from Oklahoma City.  She listens on KQCV.  Stephanie, welcome to Issues, Etc.  Hi, Stephanie!

STEPHANIE:  Hi!  I just wanted to say that I am a Christian.  I'm a teacher, and I'm 49-years-old.  And I've never heard such clear speaking about homosexual marriage.  And I'd like to tell Mr. Koukl thank you for cutting straight the words of truth, and I'd like to hear this word spoken much more across America.

KOUKL:  Well, thank you, Stephanie.  I appreciate that.  I hope you go to our Web site and download the piece.  And you are welcome to copy that and distribute it among your friends.

I think this is a very—a critical issue at this time in our culture.  It's something that we have to have a deep understanding of.  The problem is I think to a great degree, most—in order to understand the significance of this issue—same-sex marriage—you have to know the importance of ideas and the long-term consequences of ideas.  People think, "Well, listen, it's not gonna hurt me tomorrow if some homosexual gets married today, so what's the problem?"  But we are really talking about taking the axe at the foundation of culture, and that's why careful thinking needs to be done about this.  I appreciate your comments, Stephanie.  Thank you.

WILKEN:  1-800-730-2727.  Let's talk also with James who listens in St. Louis on KSIV.  Hi, James.

JAMES:  Hi, nice to hear the conversation.  One of the questions that I have—it's something I've heard frequently from homosexuals as a—I guess as a case they're making that they should be allowed to be married—I've heard them say, "Well, look, if my partner is in the hospital—you know, having some real difficult situation—I have been turned away at the hospital where I can't go in and visit my partner.  I need to get married just for that sole reason so I can be with my, you know, life partner."  What sort of—I guess response do you have to that?

KOUKL:  Well, James, this is something that can be arranged with individual hospitals, first of all.  If people are in committed relationships, they can arrange with the hospital to give access to those people that are closest to them.  It's a private issue with the hospital.  It's not a federal issue.  And even though this may be a troublesome thing for some homosexuals, the point is, is what you don't want to do is transform the foundation stones of society just so somebody can visit somebody else in the hospital!  Certainly that would be the case if they got "married" (quote/unquote) that they would have this liberty, but that isn't a reason to change the institution just to make life easier on them.  I'm fully sympathetic with the idea that people who care about each other want to go to hospitals and have access to sick patients, sick friends or loved ones.  But by the same token, this doesn't mean that we have to overhaul society to allow that thing.  That can be done individually with hospitals, and it doesn't require a marriage license to be able to get that liberty.

WILKEN:  Greg, we've got two and a half minutes before this break.  Here's another one:  "Look, if you look back in history and you talked about this a little bit earlier—marriage—the shape of marriage has changed throughout human history.  There were arranged marriages as you mentioned or, for that matter, polygamy.  Marriage has constantly been redefined.  This is just another redefinition we're asking for."

KOUKL:  Well, there's two ways to respond to that.  Let me give you each very quickly.  The first thing is, this is basically the argument that marriage is a social convention.  Marriage is simply something that is constructed by the cultures, reflected in the laws of the government, and therefore we can change it any time we want.

The first observation there is, if it is in fact the case that marriage is a social construction and we can make it anything we want, then we can make it anything we want.  We can make it two men and one woman; two women and one man; homosexual; heterosexual; rub-a-dub-dub-three-men-in-a-tub-and-a-potted-plant if we want!  I mean, it's wide open, okay?  So that's the first question.  And, by the way, whenever you bring that up to a homosexual, they almost always say something like this, "Well, that's ridiculous!"  My response is, "Well, you're absolutely right, it is ridiculous; but it follows from your view.  If it follows from your view and it's ridiculous, then there's something wrong with the view that you're offering."  So this idea that marriage is just a matter of definition, what happens is you can define it anything that you want.

Here's the second problem with that, and that is it just isn't the case that marriage is a matter of cultural definition.  And here's why I say that.  The foundation of culture—well, let me back up and put it this way:  marriage starts a family and families are the foundation stones of cultures.  They are the stones that built cultures.  Cultures are aggregates of individual families.  It is not possible for marriage to be a construction of culture because rather it is just the opposite.  It is families that construct cultures, not cultures that construct families.

WILKEN:  Now, Greg, I want to come back to that when we come back from this break, and then talk about children in this entire issue as well.

KOUKL:  Sure.

WILKEN:  Folks, if you'd like a free tape of this hour and the next hour's Internet only broadcast with Greg Koukl on same-sex marriage, all you have to do is contact a local Lutheran church that sponsors Issues, Etc. for you, and they'll send you a free cassette recording of both hours.  Get a pen and a piece of paper ready, because you ought to hear an announcement with a phone number and a mailing address for that sponsor right after the Issues, Etc. closed theme.

When we come back we're gonna talk about not only being an attempt to redefine marriage, but really an attempt to redefine the family and the issue of children with Greg Koukl.  We'll be right back.


WILKEN:  If you'd like to receive a complimentary copy of our Issues, Etc. Journal (the next journal will be mailed some time this month), or if you'd like to know how to contact our guest this hour, Greg Koukl and Stand to Reason, or if you'd like to help us Contend for Truth in an Age of Anti-truth by making a tax-deductible gift to Issues, Etc., call our resource line:  1-800-737-0172; or write us at Issues, Etc., P.O. Box 9360, St. Louis, MO 63117. 

Greg, we've got a full board of callers here.  I'd like to get a few in—

KOUKL:  Okay.

WILKEN:  —before our time runs out, but there is one more objection so let's answer briefly.  This whole notion that, "Look, if it really is about the family, not all marriages—not all heterosexual marriages—have or are capable of having children."  How do we respond to this one in favor of gay marriage?

KOUKL:  Well, this one's a little trickier because it seems—in a sense, it seems—at least initially—that not all families have children.  Some marriages are barren by choice or by design, and so this seems to go against my view.  But this actually proves nothing.

Books are written by authors to be read, even if sometimes, like my own—we've talked about relativism on this show a number of times, and some people and then they use it as a doorstop.  It doesn't mean that it isn't for—that the book itself wasn't meant for a purpose just because the people who buy the book don't use it for that particular purpose.

And in the same way the natural tie of marriage to procreation is not nullified because in some individual cases children are not intended or even possible.  Marriage still is what it is even if its essential purpose is not actualized.  Now keep in mind, too, what we're discussing is why cultures give preferential treatment to a certain relationship.  I'm telling you why they do that as a matter of description.  Here's why cultures since the beginning of time have married heterosexuals, have given special privileges to heterosexual long-term unions, it's because the culture knows that this in the natural state produces the next generation.  Now, if some individuals choose not to use the relationship for that purpose, it doesn't change the fact that this is why the culture is giving special benefits.

WILKEN:  Greg Koukl is our guest.  Our call-in number:  1-800-730-2727.  Listening on WPIT in Pittsburgh, Morticia, is on the line.  Morticia, welcome to Issues, Etc.

MORTICIA:  Hello!  I wanted to say, you know, that there really is no such thing as homosexual marriage per say because marriage was not something that was created by man; it was created by God.  And He made male and female not just in the, you know, human realm but also in the animal kingdom, you know; and also even some male-female kind of like the plants—you know, that there's like a part that's supposed to be receptive part—

KOUKL:  The stamen and the pistil and stuff like that, yeah.

MORTICIA:  Yes, exactly!  So, you know, and that's—and both parts are necessary for reproduction—

KOUKL:  Right.

MORTICIA:  —which is the essential function of marriage.  And homosexual unions by definition are sterile.

WILKEN:  Thank you very much.  Morticia, thank you.  Greg, your response.

KOUKL:  Yeah, well, I think she's on to something really important.  I mentioned in the article a quote from my friend, Frank Beckwith, who essentially says that even if people—even if homosexuals walk down the aisle and say, "I do," it's not really a marriage.  And the way he puts it so well is, "Just because you can eat an ashtray doesn't make it food."  And by the same token, just because two men say "I do" and some government gives them a license, doesn't mean that this is a marriage.  A marriage is something in particular—it's something that has a specific definition.  It isn't up to culture to redefine it in any way they want.  And Morticia is on to it!  You know, marriage is that relationship that produces the next generation, and this is the natural order that God established initially, and it's the order that has sustained.  Now, I don't think it's an accident that every culture since the beginning of time has recognized it as such—not because they had revelation or because they knew about the Book of Genesis, but because the natural order is so obvious to everybody.

Just one point of information here, tactically, Todd, and that is I don't actually argue this point with non-believers from the book of Genesis—at least that's not where I start.  It's part of my repertoire in a sense.  It's part of my arsenal of responses, but it isn't a place I start because principally a lot of people don't care what the book of Genesis says.  And so that's why I use some of the techniques—or make some of the points that I've made so far—to keep it away from the religious question.  In fact, so far up until this point I haven't argued religiously.  I haven't even argued morally.  I haven't said that homosexuality is wrong, though I think it is.  I've been trying to use different means at my disposal—things that might be more persuasive to the non-Christian to argue that the culture does not have any obligation whatsoever to acknowledge that homosexual unions are the same as heterosexual unions.

WILKEN:  A quick call before we wrap up this hour's conservation with Greg Koukl on gay marriage.  Bill, listening in St. Louis on KSIV.  Hi, Bill.

BILL:  Hi.  As far as providing privileges and protection for the people producing the next generation, I just wondered how that would hold up in light of homosexual adoption and some of the medical technology we have—you know, artificial insemination and things like that.

KOUKL:  Okay, remember my argument is this—my argument is, why is it that cultures give preferential treatment to this particular kind of relationship—heterosexual relationships?  And the answer is because they in the natural state produce the next generation.  That is the rule not the exception.  And this is why we have this pattern in cultures with heterosexual relationships.

However, when it comes to homosexual relationships, it is the exception rather than the rule that children are part of the relationship because homosexuals can't even produce children.  They have to, in a sense, artificially become parents by taking children produced by other parents.  Now, I personally think that that's a wrong move.  I don't think homosexuals should be allowed to adopt.  I also don't think single heterosexuals ought to be allowed to adopt, either.  And here's the reason why:  children need a mother and a father—not two moms, not two dads, not two warm adult bodies who love them—but the unique contribution of each sex in a relationship.  And when we allow for homosexual adoption, or single adoption, we are essentially saying that children do not deserve to have that kind of relationship.  And I just think that's backwards.  But it's all part of the same movement that says that gender or sex is irrelevant, that the male and female are completely interchangeable and this then—we can about this next hour, Todd—really, I think, begins to take an axe at the foundation stones of society.

WILKEN:  Greg, with only a minute.  In this postmodern culture of relativism, why is it important for Christians to think and think critically on issues like same-sex marriage?

KOUKL:  Well, because they have consequences.  Ideas have consequences.  Look it, if the homosexual arguments are correct, if they are right that marriage is a construction—that is, we can define it any way we want—then marriage starts a family, it turns out that families are merely a construction that can be defined any way we want to define that.  And families consist of parents and children characteristically.  That means parenthood can be defined any way we want.  And, by the way, that's exactly what we see happening in this whole situation, Todd.  Family, marriage, parenthood are all under radical attempts to redefine them.  And as Melinda PENDER who works for Stand to Reason said, "You cannot—it's naive to expect that you can try to redefine the foundation stones of society—marriage, family, parenthood—the very cornerstone of civilization—and not suffer ill-effects."

WILKEN:  Folks, we're coming to you live this Sunday evening; it's June 6th.  We'll be continuing to take your phone calls in the next hour on the issue of same-sex marriage:  1-800-730-2727.  The best callers with a question or a comment for Greg Koukl, our guest, will receive his book, Relativism:  Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air—useful for much more than merely a doorstop.  Or you can post your question or your comment on the Issues, Etc. forum:  Look under the "What's New" section, you'll find the forum there.  You can also tune in live in the next hour on the Internet.  Go to that Web site:  issuesetc.  Click on the worldwide KFUO logo—now you won't be able to hear this next hour on the radio; it's only on the Internet, listen there.

Well, it's true.  If we can define marriage as something other than a man and a woman, then we can define marriage as anything other than a man and a woman.  In fact, not only can we, we must.  That is really the slippery slope of this whole issue.  The problem with the arguments made in favor of gay marriage is that in each and every case they prove too much.  They advocate for too much.

The fact is, we can't redefine or define marriage.  This is really symptomatic of our sinfulness, isn't it?  The sinner always wants to redefine everything to suit him—himself!  Sin, good, evil—whatever it is—the sinner, each one of us, you and I, we all want to redefine our lives to our pleasing.  Now if we look at it this way, then this definition of the battle includes you and me, too, as sinners.

This is why the church speaks a message here.  The church is a sinners—only club—a place for sinners only—a message spoken to all sinners—heterosexual, homosexual, repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ.  I'm Todd Wilken.  Thanks for listening to Issues, Etc.

The Rev. Todd Wilken is the host of Issues, Etc.

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