(Monday’s post on Tuesday.)
Yup. I’m going straight to a hot topic.
I do not expect to convince anyone that disagrees with me that I’m right. All I want is to explain why I stand where I stand on this issue, and if I can get anyone who disagrees with me to at least re-evaluate where they stand, that’s an added bonus.
I ask that if you choose to leave comments, please be respectful. Not just to me, because I have the power to ignore you if I want to, and to boot you if you’re just plain obscene. Be respectful to each other. No matter how much you disagree with someone else, there’s no need to descend to the useless bickering that makes up approximately infinity percent of the internet.
I think marriage is really three separate things that we tend to blur together. In no particular order, I think it is a legal contract; a social standing; and a religious issue.
With regards to the legal contract, marriage is very simply a union formed between two people who agree to form such a union. This union often provides certain legal benefits, such as tax breaks, inheritance rights, even the right to hospital visitation.
I’m going to put this as simply as I can. Without relying on social or religious arguments, I cannot come up with a valid reason for a government (that is supposed to be religiously neutral) to deny rights to one group of (competent adult) citizens that it does not deny to others.
The only exception I can think of involves denying certain rights to prisoners, but homosexuality is not a crime. Gay people are not convicts. (At least not automatically. I have to assume some of them are in prison.)
Some people have argued that states can institute “civil unions” that function just like marriage in every legal way, except for being called marriage. There is no legal rationale for keeping that distinction for gay marriage. The only rationale for calling them “civil unions” instead of “marriages” would be social or religious.
Moving on to religious reasons (I’ll come back to social), I believe that the government has no place in dictating to religious groups what constitutes a marriage. I truly do believe that if your church tells you that homosexuality is evil and condemned and to sponsor a gay marriage would cause the wrath of God to fall upon you, then by all means your church should be under no obligation to perform such a ceremony. By the same token, I believe that churches should be under no obligation to perform any wedding they deem unacceptable. Catholic churches will sometimes refuse to marry a Catholic and a non-Catholic. I’m okay with that. The couple has the right to find another church to marry them, or a justice of the peace, or whatever, and the government should have no right to tell the Catholic church otherwise. I’m even okay with a church refusing to perform interracial marriages. I think that church is completely wrong in its views and I secretly hope it will lose all its members to a sudden pandemic of reasonableness, but a church should be protected from government intrusions into its ceremonies. (I have not yet decided if I want to make exceptions to allow government intrusion to churches that are literally dangerous. I think I do, but I’m not sure how to define it yet. Snake-handlers? Maybe. Drug use? Maybe. Child exploitation as part of a ceremony? Get ’em, Feds.)
So if your church won’t call gay marriage “marriage,” fine. That’s your church’s right. I personally won’t agree with your church and I’ll stay away from it. I will, however, fight your church if as an organization it tries to affect the legal definition or rights therein, because part of the point of keeping the government out of religion is that religion isn’t supposed to get to influence the government.
Social pressure, however, is an acceptable way to move the government.
For many people, it’s not just religion that puts them at odds with homosexuality. It’s the belief that it’s genuinely bad for society. Many of these people believe that homosexuality is a choice (I disagree about 99.5% of the time; people choose to do enough things that I could totally believe some people choosing to “go gay”), and that “studies” have shown correlation between gay marriage and the inevitable downfall of society. Children get hurt and families suffer and disease spreads and Firefly gets canceled.
Many use the “slippery slope” argument. If gay marriage is first, what’s next? Marrying kids? Animals? Appliances? Abstract nouns? (Frankly, if someone wanted to marry “suspense,” I’d be on my seat’s edge wondering how.)
Well, go back to the legal thing for a moment. It’s a contract. Contracts, by law, must be between those competent to enter into the contract. Kids, animals, appliances, objects… none of these are included. The only “slippery slope” argument I’d even entertain is the idea of polygamy, since multi-party contracts are legal. (If you want to hear my thoughts on polygamy, we’ll have to talk privately, but I’ll sum it up as: probably should be both legal and never ever done, like eating broccoli chocolate tuna smoothies.)
So the slippery slope argument doesn’t hold water for me. It comes down to: some people think gay is icky. That’s fine. You can think it’s icky.
But there are many other things that are icky. Heroin use. Prostitution. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Psychological abuse. Some of these things are even illegal. And yet if we have a man and a woman who want to marry and one or both of them are involved in this icky stuff, we don’t stop them. They pay for their license and they get married.
As a society, we seem to single out homosexuality as the ickiness that we don’t want to see. The only thing I can think is that most people who feel this way don’t have any gay friends. I know several gay couples that have relationships so much better and healthier than many of my straight friends.
So, okay, if legally we can’t come up with a reason, and religiously we have no grounds to stop the government from declaring gay marriage to be marriage, and the slippery slope argument is useless, and ickiness is not really a determining factor in what we allow, the only thing left is those who feel that the homosexual “lifestyle” is dangerous to others, especially to our children.
I can understand why those people would want to oppose gay marriage. But I think they’re completely missing the point.
When gay marriage is illegal, it doesn’t stop gays from falling in love and living together and sharing responsibilities and paying the mortgage and taking vacations and so on. It certainly doesn’t stop gay sex. It does nothing to the actual fabric of our society in general, other than to deprive them of legal rights. The only argument I have ever heard from a social perspective that I can at least understand was from a person who believed that children are sexually abused more frequently by gay caretakers, and that person believed that if we kept gay marriage illegal it would prevent adoptions by predators. Mind you, I didn’t say I agreed with this, just that at least I could follow the logic that stemmed from their misinformed “given.”
Socially speaking, barring the whole radically inaccurate and ridiculous abuse allegation above, telling gay people that their relationships are either “just” civil unions or not even that? It’s basically telling gays, “I don’t like the idea of you having the same rights as me, because I think I’m a better person than you are.”
“Allowing gay marriage would fundamentally change our society!” …No. No, it wouldn’t. I hate to break it to you, but gay folks are already doing everything that married folks do — just without the little legally signed piece of paper that we straight married couples enjoy.
A gay friend of mine just went to New York this past weekend to get legally married. Indiana won’t recognize it, of course. But we do. If you don’t, all that I ask is that you be honest with yourself about why you don’t want gays to marry. Maybe at the end of all your thinking you’ll still disagree with me. I kind of expect that. You and I may have different ‘givens,’ in that maybe you don’t think that religion and government should be separate. We can discuss that, too, if you like. But if it really comes down to, “I just think it’s icky”… just ask yourself if that’s really sufficient grounds to have laws that don’t prevent the behavior you don’t like, but instead punish it through denial of rights.