Sherry Shealy Martschink, in an April 4 column in The Post and Courier, rightly argues that government should stay out of people’s private lives as much as possible. But her examples from Germany’s and Denmark’s regulation of children’s names are not helpful when compared to the larger question of gay marriage.

The real question behind the current debate is whether the government has an interest in regulating marriage.

It has passed laws against incest and polygamy, so presumably the answer to that question is yes.

The only appropriate question for government in the current debate is whether gay marriage serves a social good, or promotes social ills.

To answer that question I find myself asking these 10 questions. My answers trouble me and should trouble you.

1) Is being against gay marriage really a matter of bigotry? Too many rational people, including the president in the past, have rejected gay marriage for me to believe that they are all bigots. I dismiss that question quickly.

2) Do gay couples not already have many of the same civil rights as straight couples?

In many states they do, and I have no problem with states, through democratic referenda, attempting to extend these rights to homosexual civil unions. The push for gay marriage, however, seems to be more about social acceptance than civil rights.

3) If marriage is simply a legal contract between two people, why should it not be extended to two people of the same gender? But government’s primary interest in marriage arises from a desire to encourage the raising of emotionally and physically healthy children. A marriage contract is a lot more than a license for two people to share a life, though it includes that.

4) Will children of same-sex parents suffer any discernible deprivation? I’ve checked the studies and none has been done on the long-term impact on children raised by same-sex parents.

Many studies have been done on problems children raised by single parents face. But studies of children raised by same-sex parents have been based on very limited data, cover a short period of time and appear biased. Common sense would indicate that children do best with parents of both genders in the home.

5) Will acceptance of gay marriage encourage impressionable young people to experiment with alternate sexual lifestyles? Parents of young teens have reason to fear an environment in which gay relationships are not only permitted but celebrated. Until studies show the existence of a gay gene (which they haven’t), we must conclude that sexual orientation is shaped by a variety of factors that include environment.

6) Do gay couples demonstrate the same kind of loving commitment as heterosexual couples? It’s not love in the short term that matters for a healthy society, but love over the long term.

The duration of legally committed same-sex relationships is much less than that of heterosexuals.

7) Isn’t gay sex, when protected, just as healthy as heterosexual sex? Unfortunately not. Quite separate from the prevalence of STDs like HIV, gay sex exposes the (male) body to many illnesses.

8) Will gay marriage open the door to plural marriage and polygamy? Advocates are now using the same arguments for gay marriage to promote polygamy and plural marriage. If gay marriage is based on individual rights, what reasons will government have for limiting marriage to just two people?

9) Will divergent views about sexual behavior be respected if gay marriage is legalized? I’m skeptical. In countries where gay marriage is legal one finds that open dissent is increasingly considered hate speech and liable to prosecution.

10) Will churches and clergy be exempt from performing gay marriages? Until homosexuality is conclusively shown to be as innate, unchangeable and immutable as the color of one’s skin, I suspect that legalized gay marriage will create an atmosphere where freedom of religion will be severely restricted.

A fuller account of these points, with footnotes, is available on my website: www.astepfurtherdiscipleship.com.

Peter C. Moore, D.D.

Associate Priest

St. Michael’s Church

Broad Street

Charleston