10 ‘Reasons’ To Outlaw Gay Marriage


Will gay marriage affect you?
(Copyright © 2009 by David Goehring.)

Over the past couple of years, as same-sex marriage has become legal in an growing number of U.S. states, I’ve followed the news on it with curiosity — not because I’m gay (I’m not), but because I can’t see what all the fuss is about. To clarify, I do understand why same-sex couples are pushing for marriage equality, but I don’t understand why people are pushing back so hard from the other side.

When I mentioned this to someone recently, they suggested that I should understand, since I was such a right-wing fundamentalist bigot for so long. Okay, they didn’t say “bigot”. But I was a conservative, and I was a fundamentalist. But I still don’t understand why any person would be vehemently against gay marriage.

When someone’s views differ from mine, I usually try to understand. So I wanted to examine each of the reasons people say they want to re-outlaw gay marriage (or keep outlawed, depending on jurisdiction). I want to do this without vitriol and rhetoric. A lot of people are on the “it should be outlawed” side of the question. So what are their reasons?

Following are the ones I found. I don’t think any of them are “straw men”; these are actually reasons cited by opponents of legalizing gay marriage.

1. The Bible is against homosexuality
2. Homosexuality is unnatural
3. Marriage is for conceiving/raising new citizens
4. Children need role models of both genders
5. Gay marriage will destroy America
6. Government shouldn’t be involved in marriage
7. Gay marriage isn’t marriage
8. Legalization would validate and promote homosexuality
9. Legalization would impose acceptance
10. It’s a slippery slope

Below, I’ve elaborated (as briefly as possible) on what I think about these reasons. It should come as no surprise to the reader that I found none of these reasons compelling. Many of them aren’t even relevant to the discussion.

1. The Bible is against homosexuality

This is the one with which I’m most familiar. There is no argument here. The Bible says repeatedly how bad it is to commit homosexual acts, calling it an “abomination” (“detestable”, depending on the translation), which is worse than an ordinary sin. (The same word is also used to describe “haughty eyes”, “a lying tongue”, and “a person who stirs up conflict in the community”, among other detestable acts that “the Lord hates”.)

So it is clear that someone who believes the Bible is the Word of God would not want to practice homosexual behavior. What is unclear is how this is a reason to outlaw gay marriage in the U.S. The Bible is silent on the subject of lobbying for laws that restrict what non-believers can do. The Bible, however, is not silent about whether adherents should judge non-adherents (they shouldn’t).

Conclusion: not relevant

2. “Homosexuality is unnatural.”
(Example.)

We could argue about whether it’s natural or unnatural. But that has no bearing on whether something is legal or illegal. There is no assumption that anything unnatural should be illegal. Outlaw iPads now; they don’t occur in nature — ignoring for the moment that homosexual behavior has been observed in nature. Marriage is a legal union between two people (more than two, in some countries), not a sexual act. The legal status has a bearing on things like who gets the house when you split up, who gets to visit you in the hospital when you’re dying, who is included in your insurance plan, etc.

Conclusion: not relevant

3. Marriage is about conceiving new citizens.
(Example.)

Childless man-woman marriages are excepted from the reasoning here, though I know of many. The argument runs thusly: of course, not all man-woman marriages will produce children, but they could, whereas a same-sex couple cannot. This is absurd. Some man-woman marriages cannot produce children. Many same-sex marriages can (and do) produce children (though clearly with the help of outsiders). Further — and this might surprise some folks — it’s possible for children to be produced without marriage at all — 40% of all children, as a matter of fact (according to a conservative website).

Of course, it’s not just about whether they can produce children, opponents will admit. It’s about having a stable home. Strongly implying that same-sex partners cannot have a stable marriage, while man-woman marriages are stable (they’re not, even if some trends are getting better). We don’t know what the “gay divorce rate” will be, because we haven’t allowed gay marriage until very recently.

Conclusion: absurd, not factual in any way

4. A child needs both male and female role models.

If you really believe it should be illegal for a child to be raised by just one gender, you should be outlawing single parent households. That’s where you’ll find a great majority of the children who only have a one-gender role model at home. Of course, this also is absurd. Also, hire more male elementary teachers and day care workers — two occupations that act as role models for so many of our young ones, both dominated by one gender.

Conclusion: an argument against single-parent households, or gay adoption, not against gay marriage

5. Gay marriage will destroy America.
(Not a straw man. People actually say this.)

I have not found a good explanation for this reason. The article I linked to above says “destroy America” in the headline, but the article does not describe this destruction. It does assert that “[I]f the Supreme Court rolls out ‘gay marriage’, then legalized polygamy, incestuous marriage and heaven-knows-what-else must inevitably follow.” Some of those sound pretty bad. Is it true? I don’t know. I cannot imagine legalized “incestuous marriage” in the U.S., but I realize that when my grandparents were born they could not imagine much of what goes on today. I haven’t heard of anyone pushing for it, nor do I think it would “destroy America” — though there are scientific and genetic reasons to oppose incestuous procreation, reasons that don’t apply to gay marriage.

Conclusion: unproven, unreasoned, scare tactic

6. Government shouldn’t be involved in marriage anyway.
(Example.)

I’ve used this one in the past. I argued that no marriage should be legal, in that the government shouldn’t be in the business of marriage at all, but that it could help settle disputes over property, children, alimony, etc.

This one is actually viable, but it would require an extreme restructuring of our society and legal framework, not to mention overriding centuries of common law practice. I still like the theory, but I recognize that it’s not practical. How much easier would it be to just change a couple of words in current law to make it more fair?

Conclusion: isn’t actually against gay marriage, impractical to implement

7. Gay marriage is not marriage.
(Example)

Many say that same-sex marriage isn’t marriage at all. This is a semantic argument — a disagreement over the definition, but isn’t a reason to outlaw one kind or another. My understanding of the push for “marriage equality” is that advocates want equal treatment, not equal word usage. I suppose they would accept “luvvenhapp” (or any other made-up word) as the name for their unions, if it legally ensured their rights. We can argue about definitions until we’re blue in the face, but it’s just a distraction.

Conclusion: semantic argument, distraction

8. Legalization would validate and promote homosexuality
(Ibid)

Validation and promotion are two different things. Something being legal — even protected by law — isn’t the same as promotion, as we all know. The law protects and governs all kinds of things that aren’t promoted.

Validation, on the other hand, means “recognize its legitimacy”. This is the crux of the entire issue. Advocates for same-sex marriage want its legitimacy recognized; opponents do not. So, this is not an argument for/against, but rather a description of the debate.

Conclusion: half-untrue and half-definition, not an argument against legalizing gay marriage

9. Legalization would impose acceptance on all society
(Ibid)

From the cited example: “In every situation where marriage affects society, the State will expect Christians and all people of good will to betray their consciences by condoning, through silence or act, an attack on the natural order and Christian morality.”

This is an erroneous assertion, based on faulty understanding of the law and on the faulty premise that “all people of good will” agree with one’s stance on gay marriage. The First Amendment will continue to protect anyone’s right to believe what they want to, to say what they want to, etc. If you’re engaged in a commercial business, you will continue to be prohibited from discrimination.

I assume this refers to a few wedding-related lawsuits where small business owners claimed a religious right to discriminate. I’ve discussed that elsewhere.

Conclusion: baseless rhetoric

10. It’s a slippery slope.
(Ibid)

From the cited example: “If homosexual ‘marriage’ is universally accepted as the present step in sexual ‘freedom’, what logical arguments can be used to stop the next steps of incest, pedophilia, bestiality, and other forms of unnatural behavior?”

If I understand this argument, it’s saying that once we accept same-sex marriage, society will gradually move toward acceptance of “even worse” behaviors. This is similar to the “destroy America” reason (#5 above).

This of course relies on the assumption that homosexuality is immoral or unnatural behavior. It’s okay to hold such assumptions (First Amendment, remember?) but not okay to impose one’s assumptions on the rest of society, unless the behavior can be shown to be harmful.

Some of the scary suggested behaviors can indeed be shown to be harmful. Adults marrying minors was once accepted practice in this very country, but was increasingly outlawed and stigmatized as our morality improved and we discovered its harm. We also agreed as a society that minors can’t legally consent. Incest, clearly, has genetic implications. And “bestiality” was only included in the list to make gay marriage seem more icky to people who already think it’s icky. If you think something is icky or wrong, just don’t do it.

Conclusion: confusing at best, dishonest at worst

◊ Wrapup

I found these same reasons reworded into different reasons, and I found a bunch of straw men, but I couldn’t find any more. If I’ve missed some, please let me know.

So far — and I’ve searched for a couple of weeks — I can’t find a single good reason to outlaw gay marriage or keep it outlawed in the few states where it still is prohibited (Texas, for example).

Does it really boil down to simple hatred and close-mindedness?

6 Comments
  1. I’ve used this argument before, and I’m certain you more than some can relate: replace “homosexual” or “gay” with “interracial” in these arguments and see how stupid they suddenly sound.

    This is another brilliant analysis, by the way.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Thanks again, Richard.

      Yes, in many cases, that substitution works. My wife pointed me to a few historical references where “desegregation will destroy America” was a big talking point. And “just think of the children” was an argument against “mixed” marriages.

  2. In my mind, marriage is just a contract with the government. Think “the powers vested in me by the state of x”. If we believe that all persons should be treated equally, then we have to live with the consequences. Again, in my mind, Weddings are a celebration and a contract with your church. No law is saying that any church has to perform a wedding for any anyone. With the separation of church and state, there can never be such a law. The question then gets reframed, are you against gay ‘marriage’ or against gay ‘weddings’? Can you make an argument that two people shouldn’t be allowed to form a contract for exclusive and mutual cooperation in the joint formation of a household? (Isn’t that all that ‘marriage’ is?) If that argument is , based on gender (or skin color or religion or ethnicity), then you, sir, are discriminating against another person. Get over it.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Well said, Michael. I suppose it would have been fair of me to define terms at the beginning. I know better than to assume we’re all talking about the same definitions. :-)

      I am firmly confident that the government will not require churches to perform gay weddings. That’s one of the awesome things about the “wall of separation”.

      However, as you alluded to (“powers vested in me by the state of…”), there might be issues in states where religious persons have been granted powers to act on behalf of the state. Clearly, I am not a lawyer, so I’m not sure what the ramifications would be in these cases. Will it mean they can no longer act on behalf of the state? Or will there be a special exemption granted, so they can act on behalf of the state but only within the confines of their religion? I don’t know. I suppose there will be court cases to hammer out these questions.

      Personally, I don’t think a rabbi, priest, preacher, or shaman should be required to perform a marriage that violates their beliefs, even if they are authorized by the state to do so. On the other hand, I don’t think any of them should have any powers vested in them by the state, period. I think the way you described it should be ideal: (1) legal document handled by state officials, (2) religious ceremony handled by religious persons.

  3. Regarding your point, the cake shops that I know have gotten into trouble are advertising that they make wedding cakes, taking money from customers to make them, and have a business license which includes certain clauses describing acceptable practices. They are discriminating based on their business contract with the state/county. I think (opinion) that all any religious entity would have to do to be free from such accusations would be to a)not advertise that they marry people and b)not take legal tender for performing. I believe that this follows established legal precedent in distinguishing whether you are a business or not.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      That sounds right and fair to me, or close enough. I still assume there will be legal battles over it, because some people cannot hide their hate. :-/

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