To judge by media coverage, the legalization of same-sex marriage is an unalloyed good. Pictures of happy couples kissing and otherwise celebrating leave the impression that the only people who are unhappy about all of this are bigots and grumps.
Well, Janna Darnelle would beg to differ.
Seven years ago, Darnelle's husband of ten years told her that he was gay and that he wanted a divorce. As she wrote in The Public Discourse, "In an instant, the world that I had known and loved—the life we had built together—was shattered."
She tried to persuade him to stay, and work through their problems and fight for their marriage. But, as she writes, "my voice, my desires, my needs—and those of our two young children—no longer mattered to him. We had become disposable, because he had embraced one tiny word that had become his entire identity. Being gay trumped commitment, vows, responsibility, faith, fatherhood, marriage, friendships, and community."
And adding insult to injury, her soon-to-be ex-husband sought primary custody of the children. While he had to "settle" for shared custody, this still meant that their children, regardless of their desires, had to become props in the campaign for same-sex marriage.
For instance, USA Today, in its cheerleading for same-sex marriage, ran a photo section on her ex-husband, his partner, and her children without her consent or even notice to her. Darnelle wrote, "Commenters exclaimed at how beautiful this gay family was and congratulated my ex-husband and his new partner on the family that they 'created' . . .," even though, she continued, "there is a significant person missing from those pictures: the mother and abandoned wife. That 'gay family' could not exist without me."
As Dan Weiss of the Brushfires Foundation said at the Breakpoint Blog, Darnelle's story is "heart-crushing." It's a much-needed reminder that behind all the celebrations we see in the media, there's often real suffering and heartache that goes unreported and even unnoticed.
It's also a reminder of the destructiveness of the idea that we have a "right to be happy." People seeking to leave their marriages for whatever reason nearly always justify their actions on the ground that they have a right to be happy.
C.S. Lewis begged to differ. In an essay entitled "We Have No Right to Happiness," he told the story of two neighbors each of whom had divorced their spouses and then married each other. Another neighbor, with whom he was discussing the situation, replied "they have a right to happiness."
Lewis noted that this neighbor would not say the same thing of a ruthless businessman who was happy when he made money by means fair or foul. Nor would she say the same thing about an alcoholic who was happy when he drank.
The happiness his neighbor was referring to was a right to "sexual happiness," which, according to Lewis, meant the freedom to act on our sexual impulses without restraint. And it doesn't matter if such restraint is good for us or for the society as a whole.
As he put it, "if we establish a right to sexual happiness which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it."
He wrote this more than fifty years ago! And Janna Darnelle's "heart-crushing" story is yet another reminder of how prophetic C. S. Lewis could be.
As Sean McDowell and I make clear in our new book called "Same Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage," so-called gay-marriage isn't the sole source of this kind of pain and brokenness; it's the fruit of the sexual revolution—a revolution that has completely shifted not only the way we understand human sexuality, but also the human person. And no number of happy couples kissing outside a courthouse can disguise the wreckage that has been left in its wake.