Few conflicts are as bitter, and few subjects as contentious, as homosexual unions. Included in this debate are the familiar questions that our morally squeamish society avoids answering: what is marriage? What is the state’s role in it? And how far, as a society, should we allow this sacred institution to be compromised?

Marriage has existed from time immemorial as a religious entity recognized by the state, but now, the government has encroached upon the church and her rights. The reason the state cares – or at least should care – about the existence and health of the family is that civilization itself rests on this institution. It is through families, led by a married man and woman, that the next generation is brought into the world, raised and educated. Its architecture is divine and its purpose is sanctifying.

U.S. researchers Sarah McLanahan and Gary Sandfeur, in their 1994 book, Growing Up with a Single Parent, noted the terrible consequences suffered by children in disrupted families. They are at increased risk of dropping out of school, and those who remain in school score poorly on standardized tests. They get lower grades and are less likely to attend college. Sons are 50 per cent more likely to eschew work and-or education. Daughters are 250 per cent more likely to become teenage mothers.

Professors McLanahan and Sandfeur find that the source of disruption, whether resulting from out-of-wedlock births or divorce, is irrelevant. Children thrive when they have a mother and a father joined in the sight of God. Marriage binds parents together more profoundly and permanently than any other union, co-habitation or otherwise. The importance of marriage is implicitly recognized by the fact the government does not allow its dissolution recklessly. The state must give its imprimatur to a marriage’s dissolution through divorce, even if it does so too casually, too often.

The government (and society), however, have been increasingly seeing marriage as merely the formal recognition of a loving relationship. This has reduced marriage to a private rite. In fact, marriage confers upon couples special rights and responsibilities, both of which serve society. It also confers special rights and responsibilities upon each partner within the relationship. (Regarding issues of property, income and childrearing, neither the husband nor wife can act unilaterally. If they do, the spouse can make legal claims against the offending party.)

To extend marriage rights to same-sex couples is an explicit approval of the homosexual lifestyle. The question that must be answered is: what benefit is there for society? The answer: none. Such an accommodation diminishes marriage and the family by relegating them to the purely private functions of personal self-fulfillment. The institution of marriage would then be turned from something wonderful in which two people share their lives together and bring children into this world – a gift to the couple and society – to something that is entirely greed-based.

Some homosexuals, including otherwise-conservative writers such as Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Rauch, argue that society would benefit from allowing same-sex marriage. Rauch argued in a recent article in The Atlantic Monthly, which is largely a restatement of an argument he made in The New Republic six years ago, that marriage would do for homosexual men what it does for heterosexual men; namely, tame or domesticate them. Noting that the homosexual is notoriously promiscuous, Rauch said that marriage would tame the impulse to have multiple sexual partners because he will be in a relationship that binds him more closely to his partner.

Rauch’s cute but flawed plea for same-sex marriage ignores too many issues, including the fact that homosexuals cannot have their own children and that it is offspring that civilize men and bind couples the most (Sullivan, in his book Virtually Normal, espoused childlessness as a virtue, saying that “the lack of children gives gay couples greater freedom”); that there might be something inherently different in the nature of opposite-sex and same-sex relationships (Sullivan says that homosexuals might enhance marriage by providing “a greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets”); that once marriage is extended to same-sex partners, there is little reason to deny it to any other sexual arrangement, such as polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality.

The issue of the definition of marriage, if it is to be debated, must be debated by parliamentarians, and not by a handful of legal elites before an even smaller handful of unelected judges, and it must face the facts about what marriage is and is not. Marriage is the best way to bring into being the next generation. It is not the state-sanctioned approval of a personal relationship.

Over the course of the last half-century, society’s view of marriage has changed markedly. Marriage is clearly under assault. Since the 1960s, divorce, co-habitation and illegitimacy rates have all sky-rocketed. However, instability in the family is hardly a reason to encourage further damage to the institution. Indeed, such instability cries out for further protection of marriage and the upholding of it as the ideal.

Canada needs to strengthen the family. To do that, it must revitalize marriage. Marriage will be revitalized only when laws and customs favour marriage over all other ways of union. That means saying no to the radical gay agenda, with its ultimate goal of same-sex marriage.

But instead of supporting marriage, Canada has done everything to diminish it. Laws that equate co-habitating couples (whether they are same- or opposite-sex is beside the point) to marriage diminishes the latter institution. A common remark by people today is that marriage is merely a “licence to live together” – never mind the fact that many people who say this already live together without such a “licence.” Such comments recognize what the body of laws, regulations and court decisions of the past 50 years imply: that there is nothing in law acknowledging the uniqueness of marriage.

Normally, those advocating change must make a case for altering the existing order. Gay activists have been doing that before the courts with incredible success. It is time for pro-family Canadians to make the case for the traditional definition of marriage.

Some pro-family Canadians complain that same-sex marriage is inevitable. They see the country so corrupted that it is just a matter of time before same-sex marriages are recognized. So, they say to themselves, why bother with this fight? Such an attitude is a capitulation and makes us complicit in the breakdown of the family. As Christians, we must not allow this to happen. To let it occur without the most strenuous fight is an abdication of our duty to protect the fundamental institutions of marriage and family, and imperils our very society.