I have no horse in this race. I’m a 40-year-old straight, white woman. I’m married to my husband, and we have a son. I have acquaintances who are gay and some who are transgendered -- no one that I spend significant time socializing with (and I have plenty of non-gay and non-transgendered acquaintances I also don’t spend significant time socializing with), but people that I keep in touch with because I’ve crossed paths with them either in my professional life or via my hobbies, and I enjoy having them in my life. But I’m tired of seeing people put up walls between two people who love each other and want to make the same legally-binding commitment that my husband and I made to each other. And Washington state, where I live, has a referendum on the upcoming ballot (R-74) regarding same-sex marriage.
These are all of the arguments I’ve heard against making same-sex marriage legal, and these are all of the reasons why they don’t hold any water.
“Marriage is defined as one man and one woman; homosexuals are trying to redefine marriage.”
Marriage has been getting regularly redefined since the concept of marriage has existed. And who’s been doing the redefining? Heterosexuals. In the past, marriage has been many different things. It has been used as a tool to cement the bond between two countries and help stave off war. At other times, it’s been a transaction that exchanges the child of one family for a rise in money and stature with another family. Many other times in Western culture, it was simply a way of ensuring the continuity of property, heritage, and lineage. And at other times, it’s been defined as one man and many wives.
It’s only been somewhat recently, and in Western culture specifically, that marriage has come to be understood as one man and one woman marrying because they love each other. And that last part -- the part about loving each other -- isn’t even part of the legal definition. People have been getting married for ages for reasons that only they care about -- for love, for money, out of obligation to the family, and others (which is something else we’ll tackle further down when we address the concept of marriage becoming weaker).
The legal definition and the culturally established norm are not the same thing. We heterosexuals are the ones who’ve been “redefining” marriage throughout history, and heterosexuals are the ones seeking to redefine it again by putting a limit on it that was never there in the first place.
“Marriage is a sacred bond that mirrors the covenant with God.”
We have no laws in this country that forbid atheists, non-religious people, or non-Christians from getting married. So if you’re cool with atheists and Hindus getting married, you can’t use this reason to bar same-sex marriage. If you’re not cool with that, then you’re on another page entirely than pretty much the rest of the country.
“Marriage is for the creation and support of children and a family, and since gays can’t biologically have children, marriage doesn’t apply to them.”
The same argument applies: we have no laws in this country that prevent couples who don’t intend to have children from getting married. And we have no laws that prevent infertile couples from getting married. So unless you intend to add this restriction to any laws regarding who can and cannot get married, this argument has absolutely no validity.
And if you want to bring up the adoption of children at this juncture, that’s really just a separate debate; just as there are straight couples who are allowed to marry but don’t intend to have children, there are gay couples who’d like to marry who don’t intend to raise children.
“The concept of marriage will become weaker if we just let anyone do it.”
Some of this goes back to the argument that marriage is getting redefined. Again, we’ve been redefining marriage since marriage existed. And yet...marriage still exists. Sure, society seems to be crumbling down around us, but
(a) Every generation thinks that society as we know it is coming to an end;
(b) people have always blamed this destruction on the changing mores of society, which includes the state of marriage in our culture.
Oddly enough, people seem to like blaming all of society’s ills these days on the fact that not enough people are getting or staying married these days, and yet we’re legislating against people getting married who actively want to. Statistics show that divorce is at an all-time high, and that’s among people who are actually marrying -- more and more couples these days are foregoing marriage entirely and choosing to raise families without marrying at all.
And, of course, there’s the fact that people always have to blame the crumbling of society on something, whether that’s the changing face of marriage, or television, or comic books, or video games, or...you get the picture.
But here’s really why this argument is weak: the real purpose of marriage, no matter what its culturally accepted parameters, has been stability. Marriage is the affirmation and cementing of a bond. It’s a concept that so-called “pro-family” groups really ought to be behind: the notion that two people have formed the ultimate human bond of love and companionship so strongly that they want to commit themselves to each other for eternity. It brings two people and their entire extended families into one communal group. Taking this step is a step in maturity, adulthood, and stability.
That doesn’t make marriage weaker, it makes it stronger. And it makes our society stronger when we allow two people willing and ready to take this step to take it.
“Same sex couples already have exactly the same rights regarding marriage that everyone else does; there’s no inequality.”
This is the one argument that really sticks in my craw, because it’s an intellectually dishonest statement adhering to rigid legal semantics, and that’s only if you don’t believe that being gay or transgendered is a choice. If you do believe it’s a choice, then you’re being willfully ignorant of all evidence to the contrary (scientific data, the fact that homosexuality occurs in non-human species, that no person would choose to be ostracized so much from society, that straight people can’t conceive of choosing to be gay, etc.).
But if you don’t believe it’s a choice, then you’re being dishonest. Those who use this argument say that same-sex couples have exactly the same right to marry that we heterosexual couples do...as long as that person is the opposite sex. What’s the problem?
The problem is that a straight person can no more conceive of falling in love or having sex with a person of the same sex than a gay person can conceive of falling in love or having sex with someone who is the opposite sex. We don’t choose who we fall in love with. But if you’re heterosexual, the law says you get to marry the person you love.
It’s the closest argument there is in this debate to being mean-spirited and bigoted, because it denies the humanity of those being legislated against. One of the greatest things we value in this society is the bond of love we can form with another person, one that’s so strong that we’re willing to state in front of everyone we know that we’ll spend the rest of our lives with this person, even if that might ostracize us from family and friends who don't approve (something that I'm sure some straight couples can empathize with). And we all know, including the people using this argument, that marriage in our society is largely the celebration of that bond, even if some people marry for purely practical reasons. Telling someone who wants to marry the person they deeply love, who happens to be the same gender (because, again, they didn’t have a choice about who they fell in love with), to “just marry someone of the opposite sex,” is to tell them that you don’t care about them or empathize with them as a human.
“Washington already has a domestic partnership law.”
I propose the same argument here as I do above: it’s skirting the issue. There’s absolutely no reason to accept a side-by-side law that confers virtually everything that marriage does but without the legal document to say so if you’re not willing to allow that final legal document.
If it’s the same thing that you say it is, then why not just allow the marriage? If you can come up with another reason not to, then this argument is obviously not the one you’re actually resting your position on.
Let’s pass R-74.
As I said at the start, I have no horse in this race. I’m a straight woman, married to the man I love and chose to raise a family with. My life will not be negatively affected one bit if R-74, the same-sex marriage bill, doesn’t pass in Washington.
But it will be positively affected if it does pass, because I know that the wonderful qualities of marriage -- the joy, the love, the foundation and stability, and the trials and tests that come with all of that -- will be able to be enjoyed by everyone. We would be a society in which every member can fully take part in a defining ritual of humanity that adds strength, love and stability not just to the couple getting married, but to everyone around them. And who could possibly be against bringing more love and stability into this world?