Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Dissecting the Arguments Against Gay Marriage

Going along with my previous post highlighting Jon Stewart’s performance against Mike Huckabee last week on The Daily Show, I decided to look for all the reasons why my fellow heteros oppose gay marriage. What I stumbled upon was an essay written by Scott Bidstrup, so Scott, if you don’t mind, I’m going to include your excellent words below:

(Thanks again, Scott)

Marriage is an institution between one man and one woman. Well, that’s the most often heard argument, one even codified in a recently passed U.S. federal law. Yet it is easily the weakest. Who says what marriage is and by whom it is to be defined? The married? The marriable? Isn’t that kind of like allowing a banker to decide who is going to own the money in stored in his vaults? It seems to me that justice demands that if the straight community cannot show a compelling reason to deny the institution of marriage to gay people, it shouldn’t be denied. And such simple, nebulous declarations, with no real moral argument behind them, are hardly compelling reasons. They’re really more like an expression of prejudice than any kind of a real argument. The concept of not denying people their rights unless you can show a compelling reason to deny them is the very basis of the American ideal of human rights.

Same-sex couples aren’t the optimum environment in which to raise children. That’s an interesting one, in light of who society does allow to get married and bring children into their marriage. Check it out: murderers, convicted felons of all sorts, even known child molesters are all allowed to freely marry and procreate, and do so every day, with hardly a second thought, much less a protest, by these same critics. So if children are truly the priority here, why is this allowed? The fact is that many gay couples raise children, adopted and occasionally their own from failed attempts at heterosexual marriages. Lots and lots of scientific studies have shown that the outcomes of the children raised in the homes of gay and lesbian couples are just as good as those of straight couples. The differences have been shown again and again to be insignificant. Psychologists tell us that what makes the difference is the love and commitment of the parents, not their gender. The studies are very clear about that. And gay people are as capable of loving children as fully as anyone else.

Gay relationships are immoral. Says who? The Bible? Somehow, I always thought that freedom of religion implied the right to freedom from religion as well. The Bible has absolutely no standing in American law, as was made clear by the intent of the First Amendment (and as was very explicitly stated by the founding fathers in their first treaty, the Treaty of Tripoli, in 1791) and because it doesn’t, no one has the right to impose rules anyone else simply because of something they percieve to be a moral injunction mandated by the Bible. Not all world religions have a problem with homosexuality; many sects of Buddhism, for example, celebrate gay relationships freely and would like to have the authority to make them legal marriages. In that sense, their religious freedom is being infringed. If one believes in religious freedom, the recognition that opposition to gay marriage is based on religious arguments is reason enough to discount this argument.

Marriages are for procreation and ensuring the continuation of the species. The proponents of this argument are really hard pressed to explain, if that’s the case, why infertile couples are allowed to marry. I, for one, would love to be there when the proponent of such an argument is to explain to his post-menopausal mother or impotent father that since they cannot procreate, they must now surrender their wedding rings and sleep in separate bedrooms. That would be fun to watch! Again, such an argument fails to persuade based on the kinds of marriages society does allow routinely, without even a second thought, and why it really allows them – marriage is about love, sharing and commitment; procreation is, when it comes right down to it, in reality a purely secondary function.

The proponents of the procreation and continuation-of-the-species argument are going to have a really hard time persuading me that the human species is in any real danger of dying out anytime soon through lack of reproductive success.

If ten percent of all the human race that is gay were to suddenly, totally refrain from procreation, I think it is safe to say that the world would probably be significantly better off. One of the world’s most serious problems is overpopulation and the increasing anarchy and human misery that is resulting from it. Seems to me that gays would be doing the world a really big favor by not bringing more hungry mouths into a world that is already critically overburdened ecologically by the sheer number of humans it must support. So what is the useful purpose to be served in mindlessly encouraging yet more human reproduction?

Same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage. Well, that one’s contradictory right on the face of it. Threaten marriage? By allowing people to marry? That doesn’t sound very logical to me. If you allow gay people to marry each other, you no longer encourage them to marry people to whom they feel little attraction, with whom they most often cannot relate adequately sexually, bringing innocent children into already critically stressed marriages. By allowing gay marriage, you would reduce the number of opposite-sex marriages that end up in the divorce courts. If it is the stability of the institution of heterosexual marriage that worries you, then consider that no one would require you or anyone else to participate in a gay marriage. You would still have freedom of choice, of choosing which kind of marriage to participate in — something more than what you have now. And speaking of divorce — to argue that the institution of marriage is worth preserving at the cost of requiring involuntary participants to remain in it is a better argument for reforming divorce laws than proscribing gay marriage.

Marriage is traditionally a heterosexual institution. This is morally the weakest argument. Slavery was also a traditional institution, based on traditions that went back to the very beginnings of human history – further back, even, than marriage as we know it. But by the 19th century, humanity had generally recognized the evils of that institution, and has since made a serious effort to abolish it. Why not recognize the truth — that there is no moral ground on which to support the tradition of marriage as a strictly heterosexual institution, and remove the restriction?

Same-sex marriage is an untried social experiment. The American critics of same-sex marriage betray their provincialism with this argument. The fact is that a form of gay marriage has been legal in Denmark since 1989 (full marriage rights except for adoption rights and church weddings, and a proposal now exists in the Danish parliament to allow both of those rights as well), and most of the rest of Scandinavia from not long after. Full marriage rights have existed in many Dutch cities for several years, and it was recently made legal nationwide, including the word “marriage” to describe it. In other words, we have a long-running “experiment” to examine for its results — which have uniformly been positive. Opposition to the Danish law was led by the clergy (much the same as in the States). A survey conducted at the time revealed that 72 percent of Danish clergy were opposed to the law. It was passed anyway, and the change in the attitude of the clergy there has been dramatic — a survey conducted in 1995 indicated that 89 percent of the Danish clergy now admit that the law is a good one and has had many beneficial effects, including a reduction in suicide, a reduction in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and in promiscuity and infidelity among gays. Far from leading to the “destruction of Western civilization” as some critics (including the Southern Baptist, Mormon and Catholic churches among others) have warned, the result of the “experiment” has actually been civilizing and strengthening, not just to the institution of marriage, but to society as a whole. So perhaps we should accept the fact that someone else has already done the “experiment” and accept the results as positive. The fact that many churches are not willing to accept this evidence says more about the churches than it does about gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage would start us down a “slippery slope” towards legalized incest, bestial marriage, polygamy and all kinds of other horrible consequences. A classic example of the reductio ad absurdum fallacy, it is calculated to create fear in the mind of anyone hearing the argument. It is, of course, absolutely without any merit based on experience. If the argument were true, wouldn’t that have already happened in countries where forms of legalized gay marriage already exist? Wouldn’t they have ‘slid’ towards legalized incest and bestial marriage? The reality is that a form of gay marriage has been legal in Scandinavian countries for over many years, and no such legalization has happened, nor has there been a clamor for it. It’s a classic scare tactic – making the end scenario so scary and so horrible that the first step should never be taken. Such are the tactics of the fear and hatemongers.

If concern over the “slippery slope” were the real motive behind this argument, the advocate of this line of reasoning would be equally vocal about the fact that today, even as you read this, convicted murderers, child molesters, known pedophiles, drug pushers, pimps, black market arms dealers, etc., are quite free to marry, and are doing so. Where’s the outrage? Of course there isn’t any, and that lack of outrage betrays their real motives. This is an anti-gay issue and not a pro marriage issue.

Granting gays the right to marry is a “special” right. Since ninety percent of the population already have the right to marry the informed, consenting adult of their choice, and would even consider that right a fundamental, constitutionally protected right, since when does extending it to the remaining ten percent constitute a “special” right to that remaining ten percent? As Justice Kennedy observed in his opinion overturning Colorado’s infamous Amendment 2 (Roemer vs. Evans), many gay and lesbian Americans are, under current law, denied civil rights protections that others either don’t need or assume that everyone else along with themselves, already have. The problem with all that special rights talk is that it proceeds from that very assumption, that because of all the civil rights laws in this country that everyone is already equal, so therefore any rights gay people are being granted must therefore be special. That is most assuredly not the case, especially regarding marriage and all the legal protections that go along with it.

Sodomy should be illegal and was until very recently. Ah, the ol’ sodomy law argument! Why was sodomy illegal in so many states for so long? Because conservative religionists (at whose behest those laws were enacted in the first place) historically blocked or vigorously resisted attempts to repeal them in every state, and were horrified when the U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the ones that remained.

Indeed, those laws were very rarely enforced (though it did happen), yet there was very stiff and angry opposition to their repeal. Why? Because they were a great tool for a homophobe to use as a basis for legalized discrimination. “Why should I rent an apartment to you, an unconvicted felon?” “I can’t have an admitted criminal on my staff.” “You’re an unconvicted felon. I want you out of my restarurant and off my property.” “I don’t want you around my children. You’re a sex offender!” These were very real, actual arguments that were used frequently as a basis for legalized discrimination, using largely unenforced sodomy laws. So even though this particular moral crusade of the religionists using the power of the police has ended, at least for now, the sodomy laws that made them possible are still being pushed, and pushed hard. Crass politicians, including even president George W. Bush, see votes in homophobia, and continue to push for sodomy law reinstatement as a means of securing those votes. And such laws, which have thoroughly discriminatory effects by intention, will likely will be advocated for as long as politicians see votes in allowing conservative religionists to impose their morality on others, regardless of the violence this does to the intent of the Bill of Rights.

Heterosexuals would never stand for such intrusion into their private sex lives, of course, but the homophobes among them seem to see nothing wrong in using the power of the state to enforce their prejudices. State court systems, however, long ago began to see the violation of the Fourth Amendment in such laws, and nearly as many state sodomy laws were overturned as unconstitutional by state supreme courts as were repealed by state legislatures, before the recent U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence vs. Texas decision which very pointedly overturned all that remained.

Gay marriage would mean forcing businesses to provide benefits to same-sex couples on the same basis as opposite-sex couples. While this may or may not be true (based primarily on state labor laws), the reality is that many businesses already do offer these benefits to gay couples, and for sound business reasons. And experience has shown that when they do, the effect on their costs for offering these benefits is minimal – very rarely does the cost of benefits offered to gay couples cause the business’ benefits costs to rise by more than 1.5%. This trivial cost is usually far more than offset by the fact that the company is seen as being progressive for having offered these benefits – making its stock much more attractive to socially progressive mutual funds and rights-conscious pension funds and individual investors, and thus increasing upwards pressure on its price. This is why so many corporations, including most of the Fortune 500, already offer these benefits without being required to do so – it’s just good business sense.

Gay marriage would force churches to marry gay couples when they have a moral objection to doing so. This argument, usually advanced by churches that oppose gay marriage, is simply not true. There is nothing in any marriage law, existing or proposed, anywhere in the United States, that does or would have the effect of requiring any church to marry any couple they do not wish to marry. Churches already can refuse any couple they wish, and for any reason that suits them, which many often do, and that would not change. Some churches continue to refuse to marry interracial couples, others interreligious couples, and a few refuse couples with large age disparities and for numerous other reasons. Gay marriage would not change any church’s right to refuse to sanctify any marriage entirely as they wish – it would simply offer churches the opportunity to legally marry gay couples if they wish, as some have expressed the desire to do – the freedom of religion would actually be expanded, not contracted.

My favorite argument? Take it away, Reverend: “68% of the American people don’t agree that gays should have the right to marry.” Yeah…Mike…about that…

Does no one else remember “TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY?” Gee, Mike, if we used that line of reason, black people would still be slaves and Al Gore would be President. In this country, when it comes to rights, majority opinions aren’t the end-all-be-all.

Come on. Mike, you’re my favorite Republican–easily–because you’re compassionate, reasonable, and thoughtful. But you’ll never get my vote if you insist on this BS line of reasoning. Simply saying “oh we’ll never agree” just won’t cut it. Use your head and your heart to make this decision, don’t blindly accept the religious right’s mantra. Trust me, we don’t need the hateful aspects of their platforms in this country.

Can anybody give me one good reason why gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry?

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  1. Breaking down the issue instead of only getting pissed off about it (however understandable that is).  Only by being analytical about volatile issues do we stand a reliable chance of putting our efforts on the right pressure points.

    We had a little working thread on the topic not long ago.  We need to keep pulling at the roots of this thing until we get them all.

  2. …and it’s actually an argument against all marriage.

    Love and marriage

    Love and marriage

    Go together

    Like a horse and carriage…

    i.e. marriage reins in love, and enslaves it to a bourgeois convention that destroys all romance.

    Not saying I completely agree with this argument, but it has some merits.


  3. rfahey22

    The only basis for opposition is some inarguable idea that it is somehow morally wrong.  Every purely logical argument falls flat because the “institution” of heterosexual marriage cannot be held to whatever standard is set for defining marriage – there are just too many exceptions to the rule.  When Britney Spears can have a two-day, trashy ass (though perfectly legitimate) marriage in Vegas, it really defeats the idea that marriage is “too sacred” to be permitted to “teh gays”.  I think we’ll see real progress over the next few decades, though I suspect that it will be slow going for a while.  

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