Homosexuals and the Home

Today the citizens of San Francisco are going to the polls to vote whether to repeal a domestic partnership ordinance--an ordinance that allows homosexual couples to register with the city. But the issues at stake go far beyond whether City Hall should keep a registry of homosexuals. They go to the heart of what kind of society America will become.   Domestic partnership laws extend to homosexuals various benefits--health benefits, joint tax returns, property and life insurance, inheritance and pension rights--all of which were previously limited to married couples.   And domestic partnership laws are not limited to homosexuals. Any two people who wish to may register as domestic partners and gain the rights and privileges once reserved for those willing to make a marriage commitment.   San Francisco's ordinance passed last year partly because it was translated into Chinese as "family partnership," which slipped it past the highly traditional Chinese immigrants who make up a third of the city's population.   But domestic partners are not families. And to equate them with families has the effect of stripping real families of their proper recognition, denying that they have a place of special importance in society.   Christians know marriage and family are part of God's structure for creation. But that spiritual truth must be expressed in culture, in economics, and in the law.   Traditionally, of course, marriage qualifies a couple for the rights and responsi­bilities of an ongoing sexual relationship. It is the route to having and raising children. It confers membership in a kinship network that provides financial and emotional support.   But what happens when the law no longer respects these traditional privileges of marriage? When the law grants them to unmarried people--domestic partners?   To answer that question, all we have to do is look at Scandinavia. In Scandina­via, sexual relations are no longer restricted to marriage--any combination of people may live together without incurring social disapproval. Neither is child-rearing restricted to marriage--cheap, state-run nurseries enable anyone to raise a child regardless of marital status. And the wider kinship network has been replaced by an extensive welfare system that kicks in when there is a health crisis or personal crisis--things that used to bind people to their extended families.   The result of all this is that people in Scandinavia simply aren't getting married anymore. Why bother--if you can get all the same benefits without the hard work and commitment? The majority of children in Scandinavia today are born to unmarried women, something happening in America only in the inner city.   And I've seen what that leads to. I was in Scandinavia last year--and it's not the happy place it brags about being. Scandinavia struck me as cold, spiritually dry, morally bankrupt. It has the highest suicide rate in the world.   This illustrates how law can affect society as a whole. For make no mistake: The law is a moral teacher, influencing people's attitudes and choices. Will American law continue to recognize marriage and family as deserving special status and respect? Or will it make these benefits available to anyone for the taking?   No, the voters in San Francisco are not just the broad question of what sort of families America will have--and thus what sort of society it will be.


Chuck Colson



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