Why I support same-sex marriage: Three reasons

27 Jun 2013

Only bigots could have cynically used the name Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) for a law that needlessly prevents people from getting married. Today those bigots are unhappy bigots, as the US Supreme Court (or at least the non-bigoted 5 of the 9 Justices) has finally ruled a key section of the 1996 law unconstitutional.

I'm all in favor of full marriage rights for same-sex couples. Why? I can name three specific reasons: a good reason, a selfish reason, and a secret favorite reason.

Why I support same-sex marriage, Reason 1 (the good reason)

The right to marry is a basic human right. Full stop. Can you think of a more ridiculous and wrong reason for denying people two people a human right, than because a government does not approve of the pairing of their genitals? Or because some bigot claims to have heard the voice of a magic sky man who wants the right denied because of the wrong genitals?

Removing this bizarre anti-marriage roadblock will extend a human right to those currently denied it. It will increase social and financial security for those people, and will let them be happy. Why object to that?

Why I support same-sex marriage, Reason 2 (the selfish reason)

Putting aside the benefits to those who can now get married, what does same-sex marriage do for me personally? Nothing that I can see – good or bad. I've genuinely thought hard about this, and I can't think of any downside for me. Letting gays get married won't upend my sexual orientation ("Sorry, honey. New law. Gonna gay it up now."). It won't turn people around me gay. It won't harm me, my wife, my marriage, my kids, or anyone in my family. It won't harm people who are complete strangers to me, in any way that I can think of.

Of course, just because I can't imagine the harm doesn't mean there isn't any. But by all appearances, the staunchest foes of same-sex marriage can't think of any harm either. They've had years to do so – thousands of years, really – yet I haven't heard one reasonable suggestion for a means by which same-sex marriage might carry a shadow of a possibility of a risk of a threat of maybe hypothetically inconveniencing one human being. Nothing.

Well, it does seem likely that striking down DOMA will make wedding planners, photographers, and cake bakers more busy. But they swear that they want that, so we're back to no demonstrated harm. Anyone got something?

Why I support same-sex marriage, Reason 3 (the secret favorite reason)

Okay, Reason 1 is the real favorite, but Reason 3 is a major guilty pleasure all the same: Same-sex marriage drives the fundamentalist bigots insane(r). The thought of Pat Robertson and Rick Santorum sputtering and spewing in anger on Fox News, and Jerry Falwell pounding at his coffin lid in a seething rage, just makes me smile. (Oh, you say Jesus and Mohammed are weeping too? Boo-hoo.)

The cries of impending national doom because now married couples are teh gay is just awesome entertainment. Best yet, we'll get to see it play out over and over as individual states crawl out of the Dark Ages to join the pro-marriage bandwagon.

These are good times for good people. Congratulations to all the soon-to-be newlyweds!

Comments

Love reading post, very interesting.

Thanks for the opportunity to present a dissenting opinion. It's a great thing to have open forums where people listen respectfully to each other's ideas and hopefully respond with respect. To respond to your Reason #1: In my opinion, just because something is a basic human right doesn’t make it a good idea. I have a basic human right to hire a tuba player to play the opening clarinet solo of Rhapsody in Blue, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. I have a basic human right to watch pornography all day long but that doesn’t make it a good idea. That character in Seinfeld who insists on being called ‘Maestro” has a basic human right to do so, but everybody knows he’s not a “real” maestro. Marriage has always involved a husband and a wife and a man simply cannot be a “real” wife, any more than a transvestite, however convincing, can be a real woman. I’m not against two gay guys getting married because they’re gay; I’m against it only because they’re both men. 

Beyond that, here are a few thoughts on the what I see as disingenuous ways that the same sex marriage discussion is being framed. Doesn't mean that same sex marriage shouldn't be allowed, just that the primary arguments being put forward are based on faulty premises.

1)    Marriage "benefits" as dispensed by the government are not civil rights. They are financial incentives like farm subsidies and the mortgage deduction that are deemed by our elected to leaders to be good for the society as a whole. The mortgage deduction is highly discriminatory against all the people who rent because they can't afford to buy, but it's not a civil right. 

2)    You're not born gay the way a black person or a person with blue eyes are born with those physical attributes. Most gay people I’ve known have said that they “knew there were gay” when they were kids. But since you and I didn’t “know” we were heterosexual when we were pre-pubescent, I think what they mean is that they knew they were different. The preponderance of scientific evidence is that you’re not “just” born gay, there are other factors that come into play. Obviously from an evolutionary point of view it’s more desirable for the members of a species to be heterosexual, but in my opinion, homosexuality – whatever its roots - shouldn't need to be branded as innate in order for me to feel justified in indulging in it. It's my body, I should pretty much be able to do whatever I want with it as long as I’m not hurting anyone else.

3)    Not one of my numerous gay friends when I lived in Greenwich Village in the 70's had the slightest notion that marriage was a necessity for their self esteem.

4)    The language of the wedding ceremony is the language of a covenant, not a legal contract. "Til death do us part." No government entity could ever enforce such a clause. Unless of course slavery were legalized again.

5)    Government intrusion in the religious ceremony of marriage has always been an egregious violation of the separation of church and state. As your header above indicates, we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's (if of course one believes in God). The government should get out of the marriage business entirely and stick to civil unions, for gay and straight alike. 

6)    This is a minor, humorous aside. If same sex marriage becomes the law of the land in France (as opposed to a perfectly acceptable private practice), then the French are going to have re-define at least one other thing: the word for husband in French is "mari." But the word for wife is "femme."

Except for the phrases identified as my opinions, these are all facts. For more in the opinion category, I feel that if two men or two women want to have a ceremony pledging their commitment to each other and call it a marriage, God bless 'em! My problem is with the Orwellian implications (2 + 2 = 5) of government decreeing that something patently untrue is true. Until maybe 20 years ago, everybody (including 100% of my gay friends) knew that while anyone can have a committed partner, only a man can have a wife and only a woman can have a husband.

This is not just about semantics. Words shape our collective unconscious view of the world and this is just one more word advancing the pernicious notion that there are no meaningful psychological or mission-critical differences between men and women. Women make great doctors and astronauts and engineers and CEO’s of multibillion dollar corporations. But if you’ve ever lived in a close relationship with a member of the opposite sex you know that men ARE from Mars and women ARE from Venus.

Just so you know where my heart is on this, any Christian who thinks he’s better than even a promiscuous homosexual should read Chapter 1, verse 15 of Paul’s first letter to Timothy: “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"--and I am the worst of them all.’”

 

defaithed's picture

My apologies; I never saw this comment until now. (That's the worst thing about spam: not so much dealing with the non-stop deluge, but missing legitimate voices because of it!)

Some belated thoughts in reply: 

To respond to your Reason #1: In my opinion, just because something is a basic human right doesn’t make it a good idea. I have a basic human right to hire a tuba player to play the opening clarinet solo of Rhapsody in Blue, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

Sure. Things that are allowable can still be annoying or otherwise bad ideas. (Good example there, too.)

I have a basic human right to watch pornography all day long but that doesn’t make it a good idea. That character in Seinfeld who insists on being called ‘Maestro” has a basic human right to do so, but everybody knows he’s not a “real” maestro.

All fine examples. But:

We don't outllaw any of those particular bad ideas. Nor should we. They may seem bad ideas for this reason or that, but they all fall under the heading of "freedom to do as you like if it doesn't hurt others." Much like the main topic on display (or so I argue...)

Marriage has always involved a husband and a wife and a man simply cannot be a “real” wife, any more than a transvestite, however convincing, can be a real woman. I’m not against two gay guys getting married because they’re gay; I’m against it only because they’re both men. 

That's true for many others, too, who think the same. I'm just waiting to hear the "why" of it! Why not two men??

Beyond that, here are a few thoughts on the what I see as disingenuous ways that the same sex marriage discussion is being framed. Doesn't mean that same sex marriage shouldn't be allowed, just that the primary arguments being put forward are based on faulty premises.

Without yet reading ahead, I'll note that that's a fair enough approach. Arguments can be addressed on their merits as arguments, separate from whether or not one agrees with their end goal. 

1)    Marriage "benefits" as dispensed by the government are not civil rights. They are financial incentives like farm subsidies and the mortgage deduction that are deemed by our elected to leaders to be good for the society as a whole.

I don't know the level to which people overall would agree with that, but taking it as correct for the moment:

It is of course natural that the government would define such financial, legal. or administrative structures, including definition of the circumstances in which the structures do and don't apply. The problem is this: When is it acceptable for the government to base such arrangements on gender? For example, if the government creates the financial and administrative structure of a two-person business partnership, would it be acceptable for the government to specify one gender, or one combination of genders, as a required criterion for entering the business partnership?

I believe almost all Americans would say "no, we don't want that". Increasingly, they're saying the same about the idea of gender-based criteria for access to the legal structure of marriage. 

2)    You're not born gay the way a black person or a person with blue eyes are born with those physical attributes. Most gay people I’ve known have said that they “knew there were gay” when they were kids. But since you and I didn’t “know” we were heterosexual when we were pre-pubescent, I think what they mean is that they knew they were different. The preponderance of scientific evidence is that you’re not “just” born gay, there are other factors that come into play. Obviously from an evolutionary point of view it’s more desirable for the members of a species to be heterosexual, but in my opinion, homosexuality – whatever its roots - shouldn't need to be branded as innate in order for me to feel justified in indulging in it. It's my body, I should pretty much be able to do whatever I want with it as long as I’m not hurting anyone else.

Seems to me the evidence is strongly on the side of inborn sexual preferences – but you seem to be saying that it doesn't matter for the argument at hand, to which I agree. Whether preference is innate or not – whether I freely chose to be hereosexual or whether I was "set" that way from birth – is irrelevant to whether the government should deny access to financial/administrative structures based on that preference. So we can set that aside.     

3)    Not one of my numerous gay friends when I lived in Greenwich Village in the 70's had the slightest notion that marriage was a necessity for their self esteem.

All very well. But that's fully irrelevant to the matter of people who do make a connection between marriage and self esteem. Or the people who have no esteem issues one way or the other, but simply want to get married.

Same for heterosexual couples: whether or not their self-esteem is involved in the wish to marry has no bearing on whether we should allow or deny them access to the legal structure of marriage. So we can toss that aside.

4)    The language of the wedding ceremony is the language of a covenant, not a legal contract. "Til death do us part." No government entity could ever enforce such a clause. Unless of course slavery were legalized again.

True enough. Though language of a ceremony is irrelevant to the question at hand: Why can't two men or two women enter into a legal contract?

5)    Government intrusion in the religious ceremony of marriage has always been an egregious violation of the separation of church and state. As your header above indicates, we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's (if of course one believes in God). The government should get out of the marriage business entirely and stick to civil unions, for gay and straight alike. 

There's a good case to be made for that. A society could view marriage as purely a social bond with no legal ramifications calling for government involvement, and that might be a good thing.

Those calling for marriage reform, however, have a wonderfully reasonable request: Whether or not there should be a legal/financial institution called marriage, if there is going to be such an institution, the government should not make gender a criteria for access to it.

Sounds good to me!

Except for the phrases identified as my opinions, these are all facts.

All righty, but among both fact and opinion above, where's the reason for accepting gender-based restrictions on access to a legal institution? Maybe that's coming below:

For more in the opinion category, I feel that if two men or two women want to have a ceremony pledging their commitment to each other and call it a marriage, God bless 'em!

Well, that's precisely what God won't do, according to many believers, but I prefer your version. : )

My problem is with the Orwellian implications (2 + 2 = 5) of government decreeing that something patently untrue is true.

What, here, is patently untrue?

Until maybe 20 years ago, everybody (including 100% of my gay friends) knew that while anyone can have a committed partner, only a man can have a wife and only a woman can have a husband.

So let's change it. If the old-fashioned definition of marriage contains unfair discrimination that hurts some while aiding none, let's dump it! Fast! Just like we changed slavery, and "3/5 of a person", and gender-based voting rights, and on and on.

But wait, I need to check myself for a second here – is there some reason to not make this change? Is this particular form of discrimination good for some reason? If so, what's the reason? Or is it denying two people access to a legal structure, based on their gender, actually not discrimination? If so, how does that work?

This is not just about semantics. Words shape our collective unconscious view of the world and this is just one more word advancing the pernicious notion that there are no meaningful psychological or mission-critical differences between men and women. Women make great doctors and astronauts and engineers and CEO’s of multibillion dollar corporations. But if you’ve ever lived in a close relationship with a member of the opposite sex you know that men ARE from Mars and women ARE from Venus.

And what is the relevance of this to access to a legal institution? You lost me there!

Just so you know where my heart is on this, any Christian who thinks he’s better than even a promiscuous homosexual should read Chapter 1, verse 15 of Paul’s first letter to Timothy: “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"--and I am the worst of them all.’”

I appreciate the humility. But again, we need to stick to the point: Access to a legal institution.

Should we make gender a criteria for adults wanting to enter into the legal arrangement called business partnership? Why or why not? How about the legal arrangement called power of attorney? Why or why not? How about the legal arrangement called marriage? Why or why not? How about any other legal arrangement? Why or why not?  

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I gotta say, that sounds about right to me.

I never really thought about it in terms of Reason 3, but I can see the appeal. : D

Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step backward in civil rights, but I think things will keep moving forward. At least I hope so!

Hi Defaithed, thank you for such a respectful, non-confrontational response to my thoughts. First of all (and, really, last as well), I couldn't agree with you more that the state has complete sovereignty when it comes legal contracts. The problem is that for as long as we've been a nation we have (understandably but incorrectly) lumping the legal contract part and the sacred covenant part of "marriage" together. They should be unlinked in order to preserve the state's right to make laws and strip it of its right to redefine the instinctive universally agreed upon meanings of cultural/religious symbolic language. Do you see what I mean? 

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