Saturday, August 02, 2003

The Law and Gay Marriage

The backlash over the recent Supreme Court decision overturning a ban on gay sex is focusing on attempts to amend the Constitution to prohibit gay marriage. Just the other day President Bush put his support behind the idea of codifying a ban on gay marriage (which according to Daschle has already been done). The Weekly Standard published two articles which attempt to argue the case against gay marriage. The Vatican is calling for laws to ban gay marriage.

I see marriage as both a practice of religion and an element of a stable society. In America, while states recognize marriage and use people's marital status as legal status, that is not based on the religious component of marriage. Many people get married at the courthouse, not the church [I got married on a college campus]. There can be no basis for legal arguments based on what the Bible says or does not say about homosexuality in the debate over gay marriage. We don't recognize the religious aspect of marriage, only the idea that it is a legal union between two people. It is in the interest of society to support and encourage that union for the sake of the society, not religion.

The arguments in the two Weekly Standard articles in part contradict each other. They both make their arguments based on problems that are not caused by gay marriage, nor are they problems which will realistically be worsened by gay marriage. The first article, by Maggie Gallagher, starts off by declaring that "marriage is in crisis" and lists the high divorce rates, and the problems of fatherless children. These are very serious problems, particularly the problems single-mothers face, and need to be addressed. It is unfortunate that she uses this information on an attack on gay marriage. She cites research that states: "[r]esearch clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes. . . . There thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents." In a perfect world (in some people's eyes) there would only be happy husbands and wives with their three (or more) perfect kids. In this "perfect world" homosexuality would not exist. Of course homosexuality does exist, it is a naturally occurring thing, and it is not wrong. I think you have more problems with marriages where one of the two is repressing their homosexuality - I don't know if they tend to create "low-conflict, stable marriages." I think that an honest same-sex marriage would provide a more stable environment than a marriage where one of the two is repressing their most basic human desire. Gallagher's article, as the title asks, is about what marriage is for. Her answer is procreation, and for raising children. Will this lead to required child-bearing? (a stupid slippery slope I know, but that leads us to the article)

Gay marriage to legalized polygamy is the argument of the second article by Stanley Kurtz. His main argument is that legalizing gay marriage will lead to the legalization of polygamous marriages. But Gallaghar's article makes the point that marriage needs to be about love and bonding which creates strong ties and provides for the proper bring up of children. Kurtz explains that traditional polygamy "de-emphasized romantic love," and while modern polygamy does not, it does not work very well (not surprisingly - jealously is a strong natural emotion). So gay marriage is in line with the traditions of marriage (love, care and respect) where polygamy is not (I don't doubt that there is some love in a polygamous relationship, but I don't think it exists between all members of the relationship, which makes it unstable, as Kurtz acknowledges). In the eyes of the law, the basis for marriage can apply to gay couples, but it can not as easily apply to polygamy. A simple example of this would be if a man were in an accident, and put on life support - which of his wives would have the authority to pull or not pull the plug? Another argument that Kurtz tries to make is that if you allow same-sex marriage, than single friends will go through the process of marriage to get the legal benefits. This argument is so stupid - fake marriages already happen, and to try to argue that as a reason for denying people rights is absurd (“sorry, we can't let this innocent person out of jail - other prisoners might try to claim they are innocent”). Further, polygamy is a choice, homosexuality is not.

Same sex marriage in no way undermines the tradition of marriage. I don't see how a straight couple is threatened by a gay couple (and how that would prevent or end a marriage). The problems of divorce and unwed fathers are not in any way made worse by allowing gay people to have the same legal rights that straight people have. If a gay marriage provides for a loving, caring home for a child, then that is a positive thing. If we truly want to use the law to promote more stable families, than we should encourage legal unions between people who love, respect and care for each other. The one thing love and the law have in common is that they are both blind, as they say, and it should be that way for marriage.

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