Gay Marriage, Why Not?
Gay marriage has been popping up in the media lately and I am flabbergasted that there is still opposition to this. The main argument I keep hearing from The Opposition on this is to “protect the institution of marriage.”
Honestly, there is nothing left to protect. Marriage, as far as America is concerned, is a religious institution which the government (The Man) has regulated. So, for example, if you are a Catholic, you can do the whole church wedding with all the bells and whistles, but until you get all the paperwork done, the government will not recognize that union. (Yes, Catholics, I realize the Catholic god will recognize said union, but we are talking about governments recognition of it…keep on task here.) So, already there is some integrity lost.
Next, about half of all marriages will end in divorce. “Through sickness and health, good times and bad” apparently mean very little. Unless I am wrong, if you feel like you want to divorce your partner, that would qualify under the “bad times” clause and as such you most likely vowed to work through such times. Prenuptial agreements mock marriage with the very idea that “when we get divorced…” More integrity lost.
So, and again, correct me if I am wrong, legislators are trying desperately to protect marriage so that gays will not be able to flagrantly abuse the institution of marriage the way that heterosexuals have come to cherish as their American Right.
Not too long ago there were laws on the books that prohibited inter-race marriages. Hopefully, most of you are thinking, “NO WAY!” And let me tell you: way. My marriage may have been unlawful. (It’s hard to tell these days with so many people being racial potpourri). Many of my friends’ marriages would have been unlawful. So if current society holds it so unthinkable to ban inter-race marriages, how does it follow that it is perfectly reasonable to prohibit same-sex marriages?
What is President Bush so afraid of that he feels we must amend our 215 year old constitution to make it known to the US an the world that gay marriage is right out? How embarrassing it would be to have a ban on gay marriage as a constitutional amendment. It would be elevated to such noble heights as slavery banishment and the right to vote (eventually) to every citizen over 18. Seriously, even if one doesn’t approve of such marriages morally, what is the argument to legally ban gay marriages that I am missing? WHAT AM I MISSING?!
It would be interesting to see what the voting results would be if Congress voted separately on gay marriages for men and gay marriages for women. I am willing to wager that even the stanchest, old, white, Baptist Congressman digs lesbians.
Same Sex Marriage, Why and Why Now?
Disclaimer. The Prez has definitely grabbed hold of LordLeiter’s goat on this issue and I respond only to provide my humble responses to your questions presented. LL has provided a friendly forum for discussion of pop culture and coffee and I am loathe to be a catalyst for altering this forum’s ordinarily respectful, java driven tone.
First, I’ll explain why the issue is upon us. The reason same sex marriage has indeed been “popping up in the media lately” is because a one judge majority in Massachusetts and one locally elected official in California have forced the issue. To understand why this is so, I’ll provide a little background. (Warning, you might want to get some of Seattle’s Worst brewing because this gets boring.)
The “Full Faith and Credit” clause of the US Constitution (I warned you it would get boring) requires each state to respect and recognize the official actions of every other state. My marriage in California is therefore valid in every state and US territory. If the people of one state were to alter their state’s legal definition of marriage to include anything other than one man and one woman, then the other states would be required to recognize those marriages. Massachusetts’ highest court has ordered that state’s legislature to alter the marriage statute to recognize marriage as a legal union between two persons. The court’s ruling raises significant separation of powers issues, but I fear too many of LL’s loyal readers have already either abandoned this site or relented to a narcoleptic episode, so
I’ll sum “why now?” issue up on this point. The Massachusetts Supreme Court’s ruling implicates the laws of Massachusetts along with the laws of every other state and US territory. The tax laws, benefits, family law, etc. of every state are altered by the decision of one state’s court. The issue is therefore of a national, and not just a local, scale. On to California and mayor what’s his name.
Mayor what’s his name from San Francisco has decided that he knows what the state Constitution really means and is exercising his executive authority accordingly to enforce his own interpretation of the law. This is a bizarre development in a state where the people recently explicitly voted to define marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman. Nonetheless, the steady stream of persons “married” in San Francisco will then return to their home states and attempt to have their “marriage licenses” recognized. Those states will deny recognition of those documents because the state of
California itself will not recognize them. That brings the issue to the courts of California–as well as the home states of the recently “married”–with all the aforementioned implications flowing from the Massachusetts decision.
Whatever opinion we have of same sex marriage, there is no denying that the debate has already started and all interested parties have no choice but to advocate for their preferred resolution.
Second, I think the more appropriate question is “why same sex marriage?” Ordinarily, the proponents of change bear the burden of persuading the rest of society why a change is in order. Randy Newman taught me that one when Jimmy Carter was still president. What is so unique about the concept of extending marriage to include same sex couples that the proponents of change should not bear the burden of persuasion? At a base level, this debate has started with one side saying the intellectual equivalent of “Change is needed and there is no defensible argument for not changing. In fact, the only reason to oppose change is bigotry.” I haven’t read the book, but this can’t be one of the recommended methods of effectively winning friends and persuading people. Arbitrarily changing the rules of social discourse understandably leads to confusion, animus and a feeling of being bullied.
The arguments for maintaining society’s understanding of marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman are complex and not easily captured in a pithy slogan or TV news sound bit. I think this explains the superficial hollowness of the “protect the institution of marriage” argument that has received the most play by the major media outlets. I’ll give a run down of the pro status quo arguments I find most compelling.
I am persuaded by the power of the “history and tradition” argument. Proponents of the status quo rely on the accumulated wisdom of the millennia for their position. Human experience is built on and continues to benefit from the family unit as currently defined. In fact, no higher civilization—and none of the primitive ones, either—recognized same sex marriage. This fact includes those societies where bisexuality and homosexuality were far more prevalent and accepted than todays. Likewise none of the major faiths through the ages has sanctified same sex marriage. Bigotry does not explain why the full spectrum of history testifies for marriage as a male-female union.
Our civilization is built on a foundation of family units comprising a mother, father and children. Proponents of the status quo believe that men and women through the ages, joined in monogamous unions have provided each other with distinctive benefits and that mothers and fathers offer distinctive benefits to children. These beliefs are supported by empirical evidence and not blind faith.
History, tradition, and societal stability make a powerful case for maintaining the status quo understanding of marriage. I will now respond to LL’s argument that there just isn’t enough integrity left in the institution of marriage worthy of society’s protection.
Government Regulation. Regulation of marriage by the states does not in and of itself diminish the integrity of the institution of marriage any more than the California Penal Code’s regulation of speech diminishes the integrity of our ability to petition the government for redress of grievances. State regulation of marriage functions as society’s surrogate for recognizing that two people have pledged themselves to each other. Whereas in the past a church administration or group of village elders concerned themselves with ensuring that each partner to a marriage enjoyed the rights and performed the obligations of marriage, now the state performs this vital function. The integrity of the marriage “contract” has always relied on society’s support in some form.
Divorce/abandonment. Divorce is one of life’s great tragedies and I think there would be far fewer divorces if we all spent a little more time listening and taking care of each other. However, the fifty percent divorce rate is a myth that appears to be with us for the long haul. Reliable, scientifically derived estimates put the divorce rate somewhere in the high thirties, still a really sad number. Most of these marriages don’t end right away. A significant number of the thirty-something percent of failed marriages end sometime after the children produced by the marriage have reached adulthood; after society has already reaped significant benefits from that union. Furthermore, many of these divorcees remarry…to each other, a not so puzzling but surprising fact. The divorce rate is a tragic reality, but one that supports the argument in favor of greater support for traditional marriage rather than less.
Bigotry. As a preliminary matter I submit that there are supporters of the status quo understanding of marriage who are bigoted against homosexuals and would oppose any measure to bring joy to their lives. I also submit that the percentage and real number of such persons is so small that excluding them from the population of supporters of the status quo understanding of marriage does not alter the fact that a majority of Americans support the status quo.
The arguments for maintaining the status quo definition of marriage I cite above could have been and WERE used as arguments in favor of overturning the despicable laws outlawing so called inter-racial marriages. History, tradition and societal stability form a powerful argument against bans on inter-racial marriage. I won’t go into detail because that debate has already been won and you can consult histories of that struggle as well as testimony contained in the Congressional Record for confirmation of my position. Charges of bigotry are inaccurate, inflammatory, and unfair.
Genuine love. I cannot imagine a person of conscience witnessing the love expressed between two homosexuals and declaring that love illegitimate. It is powerful and real, as powerful and real as the love I feel and express for my wife. My heart goes out to these couples who love and want society to recognize their love through the institution of marriage. But it cannot be so because marriage is not an evolving concept. Marriage is the legal union between one man and one woman. Marriage implies a certain set of rights, privileges and obligations designed solely for one man and one woman to benefit from and fulfill.
I’ll add two more thoughts to end this lengthy reply. If we are to have an honest debate about the definition of marriage, then we also need to explain why we should stop at changing it to any two persons to the exclusion of any other definition? Utah had to outlaw polygamy before it was allowed to count itself among the United States. If “one man and one woman” is an arbitrary and indefensible definition of marriage, why is “any two persons” any less so? Is the love three, four or five persons feel for each other any less genuine than two? We haven’t even considered siblings who engage in consensual incest, who can deny that their love is any less genuine than “any two persons?” Why should they be excluded from the marriage bonanza? These questions need to be answered if we are to have this debate, which brings me to my last point. Changing the nature of something so central to civilization that its definition has been static for millennia deserves a real debate. Then there’s that whole democracy thing that we’re supposed to be in support of. It would be fundamentally unjust for five individuals to force this change on society.
LL, I had no idea that my post would become so long. I hope it helps you understand the other side of the issue. I need a martini.
Rad! Now that I know this is the way you feel, I have something to tell you… I would like a divorce on the grounds that I want to marry someone else. I openly proclaim my love for Portia Derossi (even if I can’t spell her name) and I’m pretty sure she finds me mildly attractive. Vive l’amour!!!
Well put, Mr. Lackey. First off, thank you for the great response, it is well thought out, well written and well supported. And I commend you for taking up the debate (as well as the martini) because Jack Lord knows I loves me a good debate. And not to worry, I had plenty of coffee and settled in real good to savor your every word. (It was indeed Seattle’s Blech, but it works in a pinch.)
As far as the arguments for and against, I think we can boil it all down to history and precedence (feel free to correct me if I am wrong; and I certainly could be as you are well educated in history and legal matters and I subscribe to the Seinfeld-like “What’s the deal with gay marriage?” view of politics and sociology). Regardless, “between a man and woman” is certainly as arbitrary as any other union one might conceive, supported only by historical precedence.
Indeed, at the inception of our country, family was defined with family units being headed by a mother and a father. However, lately an abundance of single parents have chosen to or have been forced into single parenthood. In this matter, I agree with Chris Rock, you can do it, but what is the advantage? So on a mass scale the status quo is being challenged with an influx of single parents. I have grown up with friends raised on the single parent systems and the majority tend to have social issues and/or other serious personal issues. I am not suggesting that parents who are forced into single parenthood should immediately seek partnership, gay or heterosexual, at all costs. But I can’t imagine that raising a child in a loving singe parent environment is superior or equal to a loving coupled parent environment, gay or otherwise.
When American was founded voting rights were only given to white men who owned land. America has come a long way in interpreting what constitutes a voter. Though the issue of gay marriage has been forced into the face of American, perhaps it is time to evaluate public opinion on this topic. All the issues raised about the union between more than two people are certainly valid, but until the issue of gay marriage between two people is solved, the rest are irrelevant since if gay marriage is quelled, it follows that all other unions are invalid.
So, is America ready as a whole to the experiment of gay marriage? I say certainly. However, I am not ignorant to the idea the I could be in the minority; I often am. And I respect the wishes of majority America even if they conflict with my personal views.
Wow, Lackey – impressive. You’ve probably seen it, but dang if I don’t think The Onion can be funny sometimes.