There is probably no debate in the public realm that gets me riled up more than the one over gay marriage. And with the recent headlines surrounding California’s Proposition 8, and the ensuing discussion on the blogs and discussion forums, I’ve damn near had to go on blood pressure medicine.
What riles me up so much is that the arguments against granting same-sex couples the same civil rights as heterosexual ones are just so damned flimsy. Many of them are recycled from a lifetime ago when the debate involved interracial marriages. None of them hold any water legally (which is why those against the idea rush to put the matter to public vote, in my opinion.)
Let’s take a look, if I’ve forgotten one, please feel free to add it.
1. “It’s against God, the Bible, or whatever deity or holy text I hold dear.” I’ve read some convincing positions that argue that the Bible’s oft-quoted “no gay” scriptures are not so clearcut as many would have us believe, but I am no theologian. I can no more stay awake through a book of the Bible than I can through a few pages of Shakespeare–so I leave that argument to those more well versed than myself. But at any rate, the blessing of a religious institution is not required for a marriage to be legal now. The institution can be entered into at a drive through, presided over by an Elvis impersonator, with nary a priest, preacher, or vicar in site.
2. “If a woman can marry a woman, what’s next her Saint Bernard? ” This “argument” is so ridiculous it hardly merits discussion, but since it gets used so often, I must. The idea that if same-sex marriages were recognized we would suddenly have to place our seal of approval on marriages between species, between adults and children, or between people and their dining room sets ignores one thing–that marriage is a contract that must be entered into by two people who can legally enter into such a contract. To compare the perfectly legal actions of two consenting adults to criminal actions that victimize children, animals, or household goods is beyond absurd.
3. “It’s just disgusting!” The anti-gay marriage folks just can’t seem to get beyond the sex. Marriage has long been known to put the brakes on the ole sex life, so there ya go. If the “ick” factor is the measure by which our society will sanction a marriage, then it will become a very rare institution indeed. Seriously. Think of every married couple you know. Now picture them having sex. If it makes you cringe, their marriage is invalid. Stupid, huh?
4. “The purpose of a marriage is for having children, and, well, the gays can’t do that!” Or any variant of the same–“they don’t make good parents, their kids would get picked on, a kid needs a mom and a dad, etc.” Last I checked, the government did not grant marriage licenses based on desire to start a family. Nor did they come back years later to dissolve marriages that hadn’t produced offspring. So from a legal standpoint, that hound won’t hunt. As to whether gay and lesbian couples make good parents…I imagine they are just as good or bad as their heterosexual counterparts. But since a gay or lesbian couple can’t very well have an “oops baby” it stands to reason that any children they do add are more likely to be wanted and cherished. And kids need both a mom and a dad? Dare to dream. I don’t know the statistics, but kids who only have one parent in the house are probably more the norm than the exception.
5. “Marriage is sacred! It must be protected!” From what? Are there millions of men and women out there, faking their way through a “traditional marriage” just waiting for gay unions to be legalized so they can leave their wives or husbands for a partner of the same sex? I doubt it. There’s nothing sacred about a union that can be entered into on a whim, and exited from almost as easily. Half of marriages end in divorce, half of married people will cheat on their spouses, and I can almost guarantee that everyone reading this knows someone who has entered into a “sacred” union with three or four different people. If you really feel marriage is something sacred that must be protected, there are a lot better places to start than by telling an entire group they can’t do it.
It’s because there are no sound arguments that the foes of gay marriage have gone to the polls to ban them. Placing civil rights on the ballot box is, to my knowledge, unprecedented. Can you imagine if desegregation had been left to the popular vote? Or women’s rights? We would be years behind where we are now on those issues.