Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Gay Marriage

Y'all have probably heard that a judge in California ruled the same sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Particularly take a look at the last three of those eleven links, for a conservative perspective (from a "family organization," Concerned Women for America, and the Jawa Report). Personally, I know that everybody reading this probably knows what I think about this issue, but I'll lay it out anyway.

I've not heard any justification, absent religion or spite, as to why we should deny the right to marry to any two people who love one another. People like to talk about the "sanctity of marriage," which doesn't really seem to mean so much in this age of skyrocketing divorce rates, Jennifer Lopez, and Britney Spears.

The typical conservative arguments against gay marriage are usually one of the following:

  1. God doesn't sanction homosexuality.
  2. Homosexuals have the same rights of heterosexual marriage that heterosexuals have, so it's not an issue of equal rights.
  3. Marriage is not a fundamental right, but a fundamental restriction of rights; therefore it's stupid for gays to go looking to restrict their rights.

Let's look at these point by point. The first argument makes a good case for a second, until we come to the realization that religion has absolutely NO place in our laws. So the first argument is null and void straight out of the gates.

The second argument has going for it that it's factually correct, but its logical contradictions when paired with other assumptions make it fall apart about halfway down the track. When you're arguing for the sanctity of marriage at the same time as trying to argue that homosexuals should just stop whining and marry somebody of the opposite sex since they can, isn't that a contradiction? Where's the sanctity in a heterosexual union that at least one party doesn't want to be a part of?

A sub-argument that I didn't address above, since it's too absurd to really give consideration, is the procreation angle. Marriage is about procreation, they say, and gays can't procreate. Hence, no gay marriage. But we routinely give marriage certificates to heterosexual couples who are infertile. Fertility and the ability to procreate is not a prerequisite for marriage.

Another argument that I didn't put above, becuase of its absurdity, is the argument that this will lead to a rash of insincere "gay" marriages on the part of people who aren't actually "gay," just looking to get the legal protections afforded by marriage. Again, I can't help but laugh when this argument's made. If you've ever met any dudes, you'd pretty much know that getting married to another dude is something that they're not going to do unless they're gay, no matter how OK with homosexuals they may be. This is not to mention that there's no restriction on heterosexuals marrying for reasons other than love. You don't have to take a "love test" to get married, right?

That leads me to the third point above: Marriage is not a fundamental right, but rather a fundamental restriction of rights. This one gets the closest to the finish line, because it makes a baseless assertion that you would have to look up in order to confirm or deny. So if you want to believe that we shouldn't have gay marriage, then this argument is perfect for you. It lets you sound like you know what you're talking about without having to look up the facts that show you're wrong. In fact, there are myriad legal protections offered married couples, not least of all (and quite relevant in view of what else is going on these days) the increased Social Security benefits due them.

I'm convinced that this whole debate is predicated by the fact that the government and religious institutions have decided to use the same words for their unions: marriage. When religious people think of "marriage," they think of a union under the eyes of God, by the laws of Scripture. So regardless of the fact that government's idea of "marriage" should really have nothing to do with that, the word ties the two up together in the minds of a lot of people. So we need a different word for the government's definition of unions between two people. Civil unions? Sure, fine. Whatever. But we need to stop pretending like this isn't discriminatory.

Sorry, I don't mean to keep harping, but I need to talk for a second about the other argument against gay marriage: the omnipresent slippery-slope argument. Pardon my French, but what a piece of rhetorical bullshit that argument is. By its logic, I think I could probably effectively argue that we can't do anything because it might lead to something else that we don't want.