The opposition to same-sex marriage is composed of almost exclusively misdirection. In the end, there are no rational reasons for the opposition, only emotional ones, and thus the arguments put forward are typically intended not to counter same-sex marriage but to derail the discussion, driving it off course and getting it stuck in a swamp.
First is the partial misnomer, “gay marriage.”
The proper term is “same-sex marriage.” To call it exclusively “gay” is a convenient shorthand, but it also allows (even encourages) the discussion to focus exclusively on the male-male side of the question, and thus male-male sex, which is a subject which squicks a lot of straight America (certainly more than are squicked by girl-on-girl sex). In focusing on the male component, it also thus renders half or more of the marriage seekers somewhat invisible — and its those “invisible” ones who are often in the most stable relationships and thus more likely to be raising children within their relationships. And speaking of “invisible”, let’s not forget the bisexual men and women who might be in a longterm same-sex relationship: just because you can’t visually tell whether they are exclusively homosexual doesn’t mean that they are.
(Even more proper a term is “same-sex civil marriage”, which takes the religion component out of the picture. So long as the government certifies marriages for opposite sex couples without requiring a religious component, religion doesn’t deserve any say into whether government can do the same for same-sex couples.)
Second is the “slippery slope” argument.
If same-sex marriage is approved, won’t that lead to triad (or more-ad) marriages, to intra-family (mother/son or sister/brother) marriages, to adult/child marriages, or to human/animal marriages? The answer to this is that those questions are different from (but parallel to) the same-sex marriage question. One type of marriage will not automatically lead to another type, just as mixed-race marriages didn’t lead to other changes when they became fully legal, nearly 40 years ago. The laws which specifically prohibit same-sex marriages (DOMA, et al) don’t address these other types of relationships, and there are already separate laws relating to those which don’t touch on the same-sex issue.
The opposition likes to put this strawman up as a question to same-sex marriage proponents: “Well, if gay marriage is accepted, what will you say to the man who wants to marry his sheep?” The best answer is “I don’t care. That’s a different type of marriage. Let him fight his own battle.” Keep the discussion properly and narrowly focused.
On the other hand, maybe same-sex marriage would lead to other marriage shifts, but in a completely different way. (And by extension, the mixed-race marriage issue may be a lead-in to same-sex marriage after all.) Without passing judgment on any given type of relationship where those involved might like it to be a full-fledged marriage, we see in both the mixed-race and same-sex cases that some of the laws governing them were (are) regressive, hateful, and downright wrong. Once we take the time to examine those laws closely and see them for being the bogus laws they are, we may also find that other laws governing other sorts of relationships are equally as regressive, hateful, and wrong, and thus also need to be changed. (Or we may not. I don’t foresee marriage being approved for those who cannot give informed consent, such a children and animals. But that’s merely one example, and there are many other laws relating to such relationships.)
Third is the “marriage is for procreation” argument.
There is absolutely nothing about procreation itself which is improved by the presence of a formalized bonding of exactly two opposite sex, unrelated people; the wife is not more fertile as a result, nor is the man’s sperm more aggressive. And there is nothing about marriage which requires that progeny result from the union. This is actually a confusion of procreation with heredity. Procreation is deemed to be best when it occurs within marriage because then the spouses have better control over one another (more specifically: the husband knows who the wife is having sex with), and thus the line of descent (and of inheritance) is made clear. In the end, ensuring proper inheritance is a goal of both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages.
(Note that this does not make any statement about the raising of children by anyone. I’ll discuss my thoughts on that at some point. The stated opposition here is only about procreation, so that’s all I am addressing in my counter-argument.)
Fourth is the “thousands of years of tradition” argument.
These traditions never actually applied to exclusively “one woman and one man,” because two of a single gender just wasn’t a social option. When society is unable to conceive of the existence of homosexual people, much less of ongoing relationships between such people, society doesn’t have rituals which apply to such people and situations. Let’s face it: society changes over time, and when it does, so do its traditions. Holding to “thousands of years of tradition” would have our sailing vessels never leaving sight of land. It would have us using human and animal power for all our transportation needs. It would have our systems of government be non-democratic monarchies. It would have us treating women and children as property. It would feature multiple wives for each man. It would have us worshipping a multitude of different gods. It would have us huddled in caves, painting on walls.
Updated on November 11, 2003
Updated on October 14, 2010
Added bit about “same-sex civil marriage’.