On Same-sex Marriage

by Justin

Today’s personal revelation, hot on the overturn of Proposition 8 in California (the Cali kids should have known better from the beginning), emerged when I realized that I don’t understand the arguments against same-sex marriage. My belief in equal rights and my opposition to archaic judeo-christian ideals were always enough to bolster my support of gay marriage. Really, it seemed like common sense and a belief in the Golden Rule would be enough to silence the debate.

But I thought to myself, with no expectation of being swayed but in hopes of better understanding what I deemed to be an enemy of freedom, maybe I should read the secular or ‘liberal’ cases for the preservation of marriage as a strictly heterosexual institution. For all I knew, I was mirroring the ignorance I condemned by refusing to understand the opposing view. So I spent an hour reading through the popular arguments against same-sex marriage. I’ll save you the suspense of reading through the whole post to discover my conclusion: they’re more ignorant than I imagined. It’s willful ignorance in the extreme and ultimately falls under one of two headings: zealous adherence to religious dogma or paralyzing fear of change. (Quick note – those are really sides of the same coin, and paralyzing isn’t the right word as the fearful are remarkably well mobilized against the threat to their beliefs.)

As near as I can tell, and please fill in any gaps left in some hasty online research, the opposition logic relies upon a definition of marriage as an agent of procreation. That even as the nuclear family becomes a less reliable model, the core of a heterosexual married couple remains essential to the welfare of future generations. There are, of course, immediate and common sense counterpoints to such an argument. What about opposite sex couples that marry without intending to have children? The counter to that, a blind embrace of fundamentalism if ever there was one, is that a marriage without the potential for offspring damages the procreative symbolism of the entire institution. What?

The idea is that marriage serves a social and biological function, a mechanism that evolved to encourage reproduction and to do so under nurturing circumstances. The symbol, therefore, is some sort of beacon or ideal that promotes the best in familial potential. And that’s not an entirely despicable notion. The counter-arguments are again obvious. First: biological function? Is the species secretly hurtling toward extinction since traditional marriage models are threatened? And what about children born out of wedlock? Or divorces that damage children? What about single-parent households that produce wonderful, contributing members of society? Dang, what about unmarried parents that love each other and raise their children brilliantly? The ideal is all well and good but it just isn’t accurate to reality. In the end, its desperate clutching to a symbol that needs to evolve.

And on the note of its evolution, why not let marriage remain (or for the first time for many) a bolstering promise of some kind? Look, let it still be a beautiful ideal. Invite homosexual couples into that institution and allow for it to strengthen their love. And hey, why not stretch the family definition (it’s happening whether or not the heel-diggers want it to) and let it encourage the adoption of children into same-sex marriage households? There are kids out there that need homes and there are sterile unions out there that want them. Look, I don’t need to flesh this argument out. Marriage is a potentially beautiful symbol. Let it be that. Let it evolve.

Now it gets hilarious. Terrifying, pig-headed, and nonsensically hilarious. There’s a movement I ran into in Catholic circles that wields a fear of ‘technoscience’ to smite those dangerous equality-seeking lovebirds. Technoscience. I didn’t see it coming, though I might have guessed if I’d slipped more completely into the enemy camp’s shoes. Stem cells, biotech, genetic decoding… those are all serious threats to a narrow conception of the role of man and the limits on his ability to make choices. You know, the whole playing God thing. Which, as I’ve said before, is an insult to their own omnipotent, omniscient, omniomni deity. Basically, though, if an inherently reproductive symbol is adopted by a union incapable of conceiving, then society has both endorsed and encouraged the laboratory production of babies. Or something like that. This would be both clutching at dogma and fearing change exemplified in a glittering spittoon of ignorance.

Moving on, I read a case that the tax breaks and legal bonuses of marriage are designed to encourage the rearing of a healthy child. Kind of interesting, actually. Why else should the taxes lessen, the insurance spread further and all that if not to promote the traditional family model? This is the case for the Health of Society. Ugh. I can’t keep doing this because it’s so narrow in its so mindbogglingly narrow in its conception. Look, tax breaks and health care and legal recognition create a sense of security and comfort. Remove stress factors and people are happier and more productive. Also, generally easier to be around and beneficial to friendlier communities.

And that’s what it comes down to. You don’t need to fight for the propagation of humanity because it will rage on recklessly no matter what anyone does (well, I like to think education might curb the growth a bit, but that’s neither here nor there). If you want marriage to be a beautiful symbol don’t drag it through the mud and attach these foolish, condemning strings to it. If people are happy, everyone is better for it. If their happiness doesn’t actively assault your own, in a palpable and not imaginary or hypothetical way, then what’s the big deal?

A threat to your symbol, to your tradition. Is it that weak? Is your faith and conviction that flimsy as to be shaken by the private practice of another? Let your fear, your willful ignorance inspire condemnation and you’ve become an active threat to the best in America and the best in your religions (face it, the arguments start there).

This is, incidentally, a lead-up to the real rager about the inexcusable behavior of politicians and demagogues that creates an abyss between truth and policy. And then they claw at every last man and woman to drag them into that lightless abyss. When common sense and some lazy challenges unravel your logic, what leg can you stand on?