Saturday, January 28, 2006

Legitimate Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage

I always fall right to sleep when trying to consider both sides of the gay marriage argument. However, these comments from "Locke", at Skippy Stalins' place, set me into action:

"It's completely principled and possible to oppose gay marriage and not give a hoot about gay people's private lives."
Give me a f______ break. [...] That's the worst "we're not REALLY asshats" argument I've ever heard...and I lived in Texas for two f______ years.

The following are legitimate and reasonable arguments against same sex marriage. You may disagree with them, but it is unfair to equate holding any of these opinions with disliking homosexuals, or with wishing to limit gay rights in any unfair fashion:

1) stare decisis

2) slippery slope

On what principled grounds could the advocates of same-sex marriage oppose the marriage of two consenting brothers? - William Bennett

3) "Marriage" is intentionally exclusionary - and properly so. "Gay marriage" is an oxymoron.

Marriage is not an arbitrary construct; it is an “honorable estate” based on the different, complementary nature of men and women — and how they refine, support, encourage and complete one another. To insist that we maintain this traditional understanding of marriage is not an attempt to put others down. It is simply an acknowledgment and celebration of our most precious and important social act. [...]To say that same-sex unions are not comparable to heterosexual marriages ... is an argument for making distinctions in law about relationships that are themselves distinct. - William Bennett

4) "Wisdom of millenia"

Nor is this view arbitrary or idiosyncratic. It mirrors the accumulated wisdom of millennia and the teaching of every major religion. Among worldwide cultures, where there are so few common threads, it is not a coincidence that marriage is almost universally recognized as an act meant to unite a man and a woman. - William Bennett

If I hire a liberal to build my house, they might decide to attach everything with straw instead of nails. I would ask:
"Do you know of any science, or any hands on experiences, which indicate straw works better than nails?"
And they would reply:
"No. We just feel very strongly that straw will work better than nails."
And thats the best way I know to explain liberals. - Connie DuToit

5) The signals SSM would send to children whose sexuality is still formulating. Many parents believe that a substantial number of people carry within them the potential to live either gay or straight lives, and they want to encourage their children to be hetero. As no definitive science exists to settle this issue, and one's beliefs can only be based on anecdotal evidence, it is unfair to condemn this as a homophobic belief. It is possible to believe this, yet still wish for gay people to lead happy and legally protected lives.

6) I happen to believe children do better with one male and one female parent. I fear SSM would put SSM couples on equal adoptive standing with hetero couples. I would prefer, when potential adoptive parents are considered, for SSM to be counted as a detractor - which can be overcome by other plus factors on the part of the SSM couple.

7) Civil partnership agreements are already in existence in many states, and therefore must be honored by all states. These confer the same legal rights onto the partnered couples as married couples enjoy. Connie DuToit asks:
In light of this - why the big push for "Marriage"? I smell a rat.

I do, too. I suspect the SSM movement is more about a political agenda than it is about legal, religious, moral, or emotional considerations. Therefore, though I've always supported gay marriage - based on the happiness and love I've seen in the eyes of gay couples - my support is now retracted. As of now, I'm no longer sure what I stand for. I do not support either side.

Part 2

Maggie Gallagher makes a deeply reasoned argument in favor of marriage, and against SSM:

(How) Will Gay Marriage Weaken Marriage as a Social Institution:
A Reply to Andrew Koppleman

Ms. Gallagher has convinced me. I've moved 180 degrees from two days ago, and 90 degrees from yesterday: I now oppose SSM. Ms. Gallagher's main thrust is, first, marriage confers no "benefits" in any legally consistent or important fashion. Some married people benefit sometimes, others don't. Rather, marriage laws are designed to be normative:

"In reality, such legal consequences are not benefits or incentives, but rather reflect the law's perception of spouses as each other's closest kin. The law is doing justice to the relation that actually exists between spouses."
The purpose of marriage law is inherently normative, to create and force others to recognize a certain kind of union....

Second, the importance of marriage cannot be reduced to a bloodless legal definition. For one thing, there's an elephant in the room:

Society has a stake in encouraging
A) babies being born, and
B) children having their own mothers and fathers.

[L]anguage -- or more precisely, normative vocabulary -- is one of the key cultural resources supporting and regulating any institution. Nothing is more essential to the integrity and strength of an institution than a common set of understandings, a shared body of opinion, about the meaning and purpose of the institution. And, conversely, nothing is more damaging than an attack on this common set of understanding with the consequent fracturing of meaning. - Barbara Dafor Whitehead

Change the public meaning of a social institution, and you change the institution itself. As a matter of definition, if you widen the class of objects to which a category applies, you necessarily make the fit between the category and the object less tight.

"Cat" example: What if we redefined "cat" to mean "animal with four legs and a tail"? There might be some benefits, yet we would no longer have a word to precisely describe a cat:

If we want to speak to each other about cats, we will either have to invent a new term, and hope it will communicate the full valence of the old word (rich with historic associations and symbolic overtones), or we will have to do without a word for cat at all. One might reasonably forsee, without charting all the specific mechanisms, that it might become harder to communicate an idea for which we no longer have any word.
Instinct doesn't take human beings very far. Social institutions like marriage are created, sustained, and transmitted by words, and the images, symbols, and feelings, that surround words. Change the meaning of the word, and you change the thing itself.

[F]rom a societal standpoint, the class of people to be benefitted [by SSM] is small, and alternative mechanisms for meeting their social needs have hardly been seriously tried, much less exhausted.

Others who see a political agenda:
...since marriage is one of the institutions that support heterosexuality and heterosexual identities, heterosexuality and heterosexuals will change as well. - Ladell McWhorter

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