Arguments That Give Me Pause: The Gay Marriage Debate

gay marriage, debate, arguments that give me pause
Image via Steve Depolo/Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.

This post is almost two years in the making. I have wanted to state my thoughts on gay marriage since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision on June 26, 2015 but I could never find the words. There was also a bit of research I needed to do in order to properly address the issue.

Now, I know what I have to say might not sit right with everyone who reads this. I might even lose some followers, but there’s no point in lying about my position on the matter.

My position is this:

I disagree wholeheartedly with every argument against gay marriage. This is an issue where my views have evolved over time and that evolution was aided by facts, my own observations, and empathy.

It is fitting that this post is being published on Valentine’s Day, since love is at the heart of the issue, as well as legal considerations and equal protection under the law.


Full Disclosure

When I think of how I have reacted to homosexuality over the course of my life, I think I was pretty tolerant and accepting as a young child. While I have known gay people (and some may have been teachers), I don’t recall ever thinking that much about it, good or bad. I was more curious than anything. That last part was still true for me as a teenager.

Personally, I wondered if there was a biological explanation for homosexuality, because when I thought about it, it was entirely logical that some people would have a sexual preference for those of the same gender. We don’t necessarily choose who we’re attracted to and sometimes there is a (greater) physical attraction to members of one gender.

I would like for people to be happy and if one is gay, I would rather they live their lives with that in the open than have them be forced to live a lie. And if someone knows they are gay, it’s their business. As long as they’re honest with themselves and their partners, that’s what matters the most.

Beyond that, I am disgusted at how gay men and women have been treated. Many have been persecuted, disowned, and fired due to their sexual preference.

I hate to see anyone hate gays wholesale and fail to see the humanity in them. Believe it or not, the debate on gay marriage is an extension of that dismissal.


The Most Common Arguments Against Gay Marriage

Over the years, I have heard countless arguments against gay marriage. And while many people have rationalized their views on the basis of “ideals” and “morals,” I believe they only conceal five main points that are made repeatedly.

Arguments against gay marriage include:

  1. “Gay marriage is a threat to marriage.”
  1. “We have civil unions and that should be enough.”
  1. “The issue of gay marriage should be voted on by the people in each respective state.”
  1. “Lower government bodies have no right to force these types of decisions on the electorate or to decide things that would make various voters uncomfortable.”
  1. And here’s my personal favorite is, “If we allow gay marriage, we might as well allow polygamy and bestiality.”

These were the common points I saw since 2004 and the last three were used most often between 2013 and 2015, two years that where important Supreme Court cases advanced the rights of gay couples to marry.

Rebuttals

Since the SCOTUS ruling, 3 of those arguments are now defunct, but I would like to address them all anyway. We will see how the first argument is “tested,” and the last argument quickly gained steam.

1. Is Allowing Gay Couples to Marry a Threat to Marriage?

The “threat to marriage/family” argument is basically part of the morals and ideals angle. I have always disagreed with this line of debate for a few reasons.

First, how can gay men and women marrying be a threat to people who are already “traditionally” married? Will a man who’s married to woman see how much fun two gay men are having and then decide to leave his wife? Or would a woman looking at a lesbian couple preclude her from getting married in the first place?

Second, there is the assertion that extending marriage rights to gay people would dilute the institution of marriage. It is coupled with the insistence marriage is or should only be tied to religion. More about that in a minute.

Third, this argument ignores the fact that marriages have long been performed by judges on non-denominational minsters (with many occurring in Las Vegas).

Fourth, this argument ignores how divorce is an option. If homosexuality “threatens families,” does divorce not do the same?

The History of Marriage

The truth is the institution of marriage has a sordid history in itself. It began as a contractual thing between families and it had little if anything to do with the men and women being married off, let alone love, which is a relatively new notion in regards to marriage. Equality in marriage is an even newer phenomenon.

As men and women began to shed the traditional roles of marriage, it makes sense that gay couples should be allowed to marry and form bonds based on equality.

Additionally, wouldn’t allowing gay people to be openly gay preclude some instances of sham marriages between men and women? Sure, there may now be instances where gay couples are only together because one partner wants the other’s money, but that has happened plenty of times with “straight” couples. There have been plenty of heterosexual marriages based on the access to money/property, and again, that was often what ancient marriages were based on.

2. Are Civil Unions a Legitimate Option?

There were many calls for civil unions during the 2004 Presidential Election and this was an area where Democrats failed.

Admittedly, this was an area where I faltered, as well. As my views on homosexuals evolved, I deliberated on the merits of allowing gays to marry.

Here’s a Scenario to Consider

Suppose a couple of gay women create a clothing company. They build it from scratch and after 20 years, it becomes a Fortune 500 company.

The two women were not allowed to marry, at least in their state, and they stay together for 40 or more years. One of the women was once married to a man and they had a daughter.

One day, the partner with the daughter dies without a will. That means the woman’s daughter is entitled to half the company and all the shares her mother held. If others have shares in the company, she could buy then and initiate a hostile takeover or pool enough votes to diminish the surviving partner’s influence in the company that partner helped to build.

How fair is that? Is that right? It isn’t in my eyes and if the partners were allowed to marry, the shares could have reverted to the surviving partner.

How My Views on Civil Unions Evolved

At one point, I was for civil unions, provided they gave gay couples the full legal benefits of married couples. Then I thought, “Why not get rid of marriage in the legal sense and allow gay and straight couples join in civil unions?” Since people could get married outside a church and any religious ceremony, that only made sense.

But marriage has roots that predate many religions. The first marriages weren’t tied to religion anyway. For instance, the Catholic Church largely stayed out of marriage until the 1500’s.

In that sense, why should I care if a gay union is called a marriage? It’s a legal contract that is recognized by the government.

The bottom line is thus: Civil Unions are really marriages, but by a different name and with fewer rights, if only limited to gay couples. In that sense, I said no to civil unions and yes to marriage for gay couples who want it.

3. Should We Let the Electorate Vote on the Issue?

In a word: no. That didn’t stop 29 states from putting the issue on the ballot since 1998, though.

Basically, a right like marriage should not be subject to voter opinion. It is an issue of due process and equal protection under the law, so it should not be determined by popular vote.

It’s like interracial marriage. There was a time when interracial marriage was illegal in parts of the United States.

4. What About the Constitutional Role of Governmental Bodies?

If voters shouldn’t have a say in taking away a person’s constitutional rights, neither should a legislature. That is where I would agree with my opponents on the greater issue, if they were making this argument.

However, many who are arguing against “lower government” bodies deciding in favor of plaintiffs fighting discriminatory laws are alluding to mayors and courts that make decisions they disagree with. If the mayors (and governors) took unilateral actions to ban gay marriage, I would hear no complaint from the opposite side.

The truth is courts have the constitutional duty to weigh in on this issue. They are there to interpret the laws and determine whether or not policies, the actions of firms, or the laws themselves are constitutional and thus valid.

When a law or policy only exists to exempt or deprive a protected class of people or anyone based on prejudice, those laws and policies should be challenged and abolished.

5. Is Gay Marriage the Gateway to Polygamy, Bestiality, and Other Things?

The final argument kind of makes me bristle because of the amount of trolling and the defensiveness by people who are actually serious.

I have one general response for all the above arguments: Gay marriage should not be compared to bestiality, polygamy, pedophilia, hebephilia, or sex with objects because, with gay marriage, we are dealing with relations between two consenting adults.

Specifically:

People shouldn’t be allowed to marry or have sex with animals, because the animals could not feasibly give consent. There are animal cruelty laws, and they should always include bestiality.

There are some people who truly believe that all teenagers are physically and mentally mature for sex with adults. While some teenagers are far more mentally mature than others, statutory laws exist because of the vast majority of teenagers are immature.

It is one thing if a 15-year-old dates with an 18-year-old or a 19-year-old dates with a 16-year-old. There’s a three-year gap there, but not so big that I want someone to be prosecuted. But a 30-something will more than likely take advantage of an underage teen if they were together.

If you’re 18, you’re legal, period.

Marrying people to objects is completely redundant, particularly if those objects have owners.

Polyamory deserves its own post, because there are legal ramifications involved, and I will get to those soon enough.


Conclusion

Overall, I must say that the above counterarguments to gay marriage have mainly been used to undermine the argument for gay marriage and homosexuals as a whole. Gay marriage should be allowed because there are important legal and contractual benefits couples need to be granted. Anything less is discrimination.


Source

Ghose, Tia. “History of Marriage: 13 Surprising Facts.” Live Science. 26 June 2013. Web. <http://www.livescience.com/37777-history-of-marriage.html>.

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