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Marriage: From Sacred Bond to Status Update

Come August 1st, gay couples within Minnesota will be legally bound in civil matrimony. The state became the twelfth in the nation to legalize gay marriage after being among the first to reject a ballot question which would have affirmed the traditionally understood definition, a union between one man and one woman.

The debate which culminated in this dramatic shift in social policy has been enormously divisive, provoking conflict between friends, among family, and within organizations. Standing up for the traditional definition earned allegations of bigotry. Reasoned discourse proved elusive. Talking points erupted from emotion. Slogans distorted the truth. As the dust now settles in the North Star State, gay marriage manifests from concept to reality.

As a resident and politically active Christian, I have taken some time since the law has changed to deconstruct the battle for marriage in our state. I stand convinced that it was lost long before anyone suggested the notion of same-sex unions.

Advocates of tradition have framed the debate over marriage as an attempt to redefine a sacred institution. What we weren’t prepared to admit is that such redefinition had already occurred. While the extent to which marriage has ever been broadly held sacred remains an open question, it was at least treated as such in times past. There were natural incentives to encourage it. The greatest of those was children. Beneath higher concepts of honor lay the simple facts that sex may result in children and children present responsibility. The proverbial shotgun wedding was a pragmatic affair, because a father properly ought to provide for his offspring and their mother.

Such incentive abated with the advent of birth control, the rejection of gender roles, and the legalization of abortion. In a matter of decades, the pragmatic reasons for entering into matrimony no longer applied. Sure, sex could still lead to children, but not necessarily. Conception could be prevented. Pregnancy could be terminated. And the state stood ready to provide when fathers would not.