Denying marriage doesn't restrict anyone. It merely withholds social approval from a lifestyle and set of behaviors that homosexuals have complete freedom to pursue without it. A marriage license doesn’t give liberty; it gives respect.

And respect is precisely what homosexual activists long for, as one newly licensed lesbian spouse makes clear: "It was a moving experience after a truly lifelong commitment, to have a government entity say, ‘Your relationship is valid and important in the eyes of the law.’"8 Another admits, "This is about other people recognizing what we have already recognized with each other for a long time."9 And another: "I didn’t start out feeling this way, but that piece of paper, it’s just so important I can’t even put it into words. It’s so important to have society support you….It’s about society saying you’re recognized as a couple."10

Ironically, heterosexuals have been living together for years enjoying every liberty of matrimony without the "piece of paper." Suddenly that meaningless piece of paper means everything to homosexuals. Why? Not because it confers liberty, but because it confers legitimacy. Note this telling passage from Time magazine’s "Will Gay Marriage be Legal?"

Ultimately, of course, the battle for gay marriage has always been about more than winning the second-driver discount at the Avis counter. In fact, the individual who has done most to push same-sex marriage—a brilliant 43-year-old lawyer-activist named Evan Wolfson—doesn’t even have a boyfriend. He and the others who brought the marriage lawsuits of the past decade want nothing less than full social equality, total validation—not just the right to inherit a mother-in-law’s Cadillac. As Andrew Sullivan, the (also persistently single) intellectual force behind gay marriage, has written, "Including homosexuals within marriage would be a means of conferring the highest form social approval imaginable."11 [emphasis added]

Same-sex marriage is not about civil rights. It’s about validation and social respect. It is a radical attempt at civil engineering using government muscle to strong-arm the people into accommodating a lifestyle many find deeply offensive, contrary to nature, socially destructive, and morally repugnant. Columnist Jeff Jacoby summed it up this way in The Boston Globe:

The marriage radicals…have not been deprived of the right to marry—only of the right to insist that a single-sex union is a "marriage." They cloak their demands in the language of civil rights because it sounds so much better than the truth: They don't want to accept or reject marriage on the same terms that it is available to everyone else. They want it on entirely new terms. They want it to be given a meaning it has never before had, and they prefer that it be done undemocratically—by judicial fiat, for example, or by mayors flouting the law. Whatever else that may be, it isn't civil rights.12

Gregory Koukl is the founder and president of Stand to Reason, an award-winning writer, and a radio talk show host. Greg has spoken on more than 30 university campuses, has been featured on the Focus on the Family radio broadcast, and is the co-author of Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air. A central theme of his speaking and writing is that Christianity can compete in the marketplace of ideas when it's properly understood and articulated.

1 Government only privileges relationships that contribute to government interests. It has no interest in stable relationships in general, only in stabilizing particular kinds of relationships—generally, economic relations tied to commerce (e.g., corporations) and those where children may be involved.