The debate about homosexual marriage is really a debate about religion. The question is: should religious ideals guide our society at all?
The arguments in favor of homosexual marriage tend to center around discrimination. That is, those who support homosexual marriage tend to believe that either marriage is worth nothing at all (and thus we are free to redefine it at will), or marriage is worth something, but it is discriminatory and so should be modified.
To argue with the first point, I believe I can convince even a libertarian that marriage is critical to our society, and that government should play a role in it. My reasoning is as follows.
- Society with government-endorsed traditional marriage does not harm anyone.
- Society without government-endorsed traditional marriage does harm people.
- Therefore, if we desire not to harm others, we will endorse government-endorsed marriage.
All I have to do is show harm, or lack thereof, and my point will be made. This is done by showing how, when government chooses to issue marriage licenses, it doesn’t hurt anyone who chooses not to get one. It doesn’t hurt anyone who chooses to get one either. It is an option that people are free to either participate in or not. It is up to them. There is no government force involved in issuing licenses.
What about the religious discrimination, that is, the endorsement of government for a particular religious point of view? Doesn’t this harm those who do not hold that religious point of view? There are two ways to attack this. One is by showing that it is not religious, per se, and the other is to find a religion that does not believe in marriage and see if such endorsement harms them. I think you don’t have to look very hard to find people who marry without religion at all. And I can’t imagine a religion that teaches against marriage that is offended by the practice. The closest are perhaps those churches which believe celibacy is the superior way of life. However, here, offering marriage licenses in no way discriminates against those who choose to remain celibate.
The same argument that homosexual marriage advocates use here works against them: If it is true that homosexual marriage does not affect traditional marriage, then it is also true that traditional marriage does not hurt homosexual marriage. You cannot use this argument and remain intellectually honest.
If there was government sanction against people who choose not to get married, then we can discuss that because that is obviously wrong. But that is not the case, and if it were, it is a different topic.
I think I have satisfied most people with my arguments, and my point holds: government endorsed religion hurts no one.
But just because it hurts no one is not good enough reason to do something. There must be a compelling argument to be made that by NOT doing something, injury is had. For instance, some libertarians argue that by not providing a military, or courts, or whatever government program they agree with, harm is done, and so it is in everyone’s mutual best interests to have government provide these things.
So I need to demonstrate that by not providing government-endorsed traditional marriage, we all would be injured.
Let’s start with the repercussions of marriage, and imagine what our life would be like without it. In discussing this, we cannot argue about sexual practices inside or out of marriage. Although I believe great harm is done to society and individuals when sexual relations are had outside of marriage, this is not the topic we are discussing. Instead, I focus on the issues of families and the law.
Government recognizing and endorsing traditional marriage has provided a common idea that is spread throughout our entire land. Despite the facts that different sects of religions teach different things about marriage, there is one unifying norm that is common. Without this, there would be great confusion and inconsistencies.
One of the ideas of marriage is that when you marry someone, you become their unique and only spouse. If government did not provide a registry of who married whom, it would be impossible to tell who is already married and who is not. This is a convenience, no different than requiring people to declare what legal structures they have setup. If you did not believe that government should require people to declare their legal structures, then you might not buy into this argument; if you do, then you must agree.
Marriage provides a default legal structure that is almost identical to what people’s assumptions are about marriage. Some states have slight differences, but largely it is consistent. If you marry someone, you intend to share your property with them, for instance. If you marry someone, you intend to leave your wealth to them if you die; you intend to give them joint-custody of the children that you conceive, etc, and etc…
Because of this legal framework, ignoramuses can get married and not require the expense to higher a lawyer to make sure all of their expectations are met. Surely the harm of requiring everyone who wants to get married to draw up a legal contract that outlines all of their expectations is enough that this requires government endorse marriage.
There is a lot of debate about what the ideal family structure is for our children. I think the majority of Americans admit that the best bet is a family of a loving father and mother, who have devoted themselves entirely to each other and the raising of the kids. Although not every family lives up to this ideal, many come close. By government providing the structure by which families are formed, and by government endorsing the highest ideal (and providing a legal framework to handle the worst cases), are we not better served as a society?
Consider the costs, then, of removing marriage as an institution from our society. Young people would be more reluctant to pay the cost to draw up a legal contract between their spouse, and would thus probably avoid the institution altogether, or rely on a set of pre-made documents that do not reflect the general sentiment of all people. If you wanted to see if someone was already married, you wouldn’t have a central database to check. The influence of government would not be used to create any sort of family, and also, we would lose the protections that we have for when people do not behave appropriately in a marriage and family.
I think you can imagine ways around all of the above problems, but it is evident that the costs of these workarounds is far greater than the efficiency and benefit of having government administer in the affair of marriage.
Now that I have defined traditional marriage as valuable, and shown that government should have a role in it, I will move on to the next argument I encounter. That is, that marriage is discriminatory and we should modify it to include homosexual relationships.
I cannot imagine why people think marriage is discriminatory. The common argument that, “Marriage discriminates because I love someone who I can’t marry” has never entirely made sense to me. Sure, there is an emotional appeal (who wants to stand between two people who love each other?) but it is based on the fiction that marriage is about love.
Marriage is not about love. It is about an agreement between two people, male and female, that they will work together to build a family. We know from history that many marriages were not about love at all. In fact, many lovers could not be married to each other, due to one reason or another, even though they were of the opposite sex. In this day and age, where the people with whom government allows you to have sexual relations with has nothing to do with marriage, why do you need marriage to proclaim your love anyway, in any form?
I think we live in an age where people have the false assumption that marriage and love are one and the same. This is simply not true, not today, not ever, and not in the future. Whom you love is completely independent of whom you choose to marry. If you only use love as your criteria for marriage, I beg you, reconsider! You are making a lifetime commitment to that person. If you base that off of fleeting passions, then you are doomed from the beginning! I guarantee you, one day you will wake up and be faced with the dilemma of you not loving your spouse that day. Is that grounds for divorce? Unfortunately, in some states, it is, which only reinforces this woefully sad understanding of marriage.
Now, let me try to help you understand why the limits of whom you can marry do not discriminate against the homosexual at all, let us consider a completely separate scenario. Let’s say you have a friend whom you trust and want to start a business with. The property of the business will only be owned by you and him, and you don’t plan on bringing in any other partners nor do you want to sell parts of your company in exchange for investment money. This sounds like the perfect example of a limited liability partnership, and indeed, your lawyers advise you to go with this legal structure. However, you protest! You want to form a sole proprietorship!
“But,” your lawyer responds, “a sole proprietorship is a structure designed when only one person owns the company. Since you want two owners, you want to form a partnership.”
“Well,” you shout back, “That’s discrimination! I won’t stand for it!”
“It doesn’t matter; that’s the law. You can’t have two owners in a sole proprietorship.” The lawyer coolly replies, attempting to soothe the mood.
Do you see how absurd this sounds?
The institution we call marriage is and has always been an institution between husband and wife. Asking for marriage to legally unite two males or two females is like partners trying to form a sole proprietorship. It is simply not the right institution for that relationship.
Now, many states have created the “civil union”, which is a legal institution that matches more closely what people want when they intend to “marry” a man and a man, or a woman and a woman.
Of course, many, if not all, of the benefits we extend to marriages extend to the civil union, so the argument cannot be made that there is any discrimination going on here. Nowhere in marriage or in civil unions is the sexual preferences of the people involved relevant.
Now, for those who want to change the institution of marriage to include homosexual relationships, let’s discuss the harm that will be done to others by doing so.
First, if you say that there is no harm to traditional marriage to offer the same institution to same-sex couples, then the converse is also true: There is no harm to you. Obviously, you don’t believe this, so this argument is absurd.
Now, let me demonstrate the actual harm that occurs.
One, religions cannot discriminate based on the sexual orientation of the people involved, but they can discriminate based on the institution involved. For instance, in adoptions, we cannot say, “Oh, we will not allow you to adopt this baby because your husband and wife are both men.” But we can say, “We will not adopt this baby to you because you are not married.” Religions that have a sincere belief that man-woman couples, united in legal marriage,are the ideal institution to raise children in, cannot act on that belief without crossing discrimination laws. So, by extending marriage to include homosexual relationships, you have prevented us from practicing our religion (which you are free to disagree with), or have forced us to break the discrimination laws.
Two, government schools can no longer teach that marriage between man and woman is different and desirable. Instead, they are forced to teach us that homosexual relationships are just as good as heterosexual ones. Since we believe that this teaching damages us, we believe that that damages our society in real and lasting ways.
Three, consider our church, which believes that marriage between man and woman is ordained of God. If we were to teach that doctrine, then we would, rightly so, be considered as discriminating against the other people who enjoy marriage, if such a definition were to include homosexual relationships. I don’t think you understand what grave harm this is. Think of all the legal hurdles a church that would want to teach and advertise that blacks are subhuman would face, and then consider what we would face if we continued to teach and advertise that essential doctrine. If you believe that teaching that man and woman should be married is just as bad as teaching blacks are not fully human, then you are free to believe such. But injuring others for their beliefs? That is not what I hope you intend to do, because it shows gross religious discrimination.
I have not perfected all of these arguments, so they are subject to change. However, I do want to emphasize that it is entirely reasonable to oppose redefining marriage, and that it is a sentiment that is shared by a very large number of people.
I think when I engage in discussion on this topic, people who support homosexual marriage show a complete lack of civility. To them, arguments rely on passion, not reason. They also feel that others who disagree with them are stupid, or bigots, or full of hate. I can’t expect to change the mind of people who are so passionate and who lack reason in their thought process, but I will point it out to show how unreasonable their position is. If you are one of those who rely solely on passion to drive your political opinion, know that you too are unreasonable. We know what happens when we don’t temper our passions with reason, or at least, I hope we do.
So, in addressing my points, try to use the same dispassionate reasoning to make your case I tried to use to make my points.
Once again, I remind the reader that logical fallacies or polemics (combative tone) are grounds for me to not approve a comment. They are worthless and a waste of everyone’s time. If you have a particularly notorious example, I may show the public just so they can understand what people on your side are: In other words, I don’t think it will reflect favorable on your positions to try it.