This phrase is the oft-used argument of the opponents of gay marriage. Many people see gay marriage as a black-and-white kind of issue; they see the liberals being for it, conservatives being against it, and no middle ground available. Unfortunately it’s not nearly that simple. There are plenty of liberals out there who are against gay marriage, most notably among them Bill and Hillary Clinton (Bill gave us the Defense of Marriage Act, remember?). And there are conservatives out there who are for gay marriage despite otherwise being politically conservative. So what’s all the fuss about?
When I was a teenager, I understood it perfectly. In my pious mind, gay people were tearing down American society. They didn’t need special rights. Then I became a part of “them,” and I started to think. I’ve been thinking non-stop for six years. One can come up with a lot of ideas in six years.
The big argument from ALL of the people who oppose gay marriage, both conservative and liberal, is that it would undermine the sanctity of marriage. How, exactly? How has American society not already undermined the sanctity of marriage? Take a good look at Britney Spears and tell me that marriage is still a sacred institution. Yes, there are plenty of people out there who do see it that way. It’s not the norm anymore, though. I know precious few people who have never been divorced, especially among those I know who have been married more than ten years. Marriage vows such as “for better or for worse” and “til death do us part” don’t mean anything anymore. People go into marriage these days with a flippant “oh well, I can always get divorced” kind of attitude, essentially nullifying the power of those vows. When those vows carry no weight, the “sanctity” no longer holds.
I don’t see how allowing gay and lesbian people marriage rights is going to do any more damage than has already been done. 24 hour wedding chapels in Las Vegas? Please. I don’t mean to undermine the seriousness with which some of the people in my life take their marriages, but when you look at the reality, how can so many people argue for the sanctity of marriage? Case in point: I used to go to church with a little family in Houston whose entire life was disrupted when dad was in a horrible accident at work. He was badly injured. The church rallied around them and gave all they could to help make sure that the loss of income didn’t disrupt their lives. The happily married couple and their daughter, who went to school with me as well, seemed to recover quite well. Then, unexpectedly, dad announced they were getting divorced. He’d met someone else and felt he’d be happier with her. That man today still has the patent nerve to argue that gay marriage would be the downfall of society as we know it.
On the other hand, if we allow gay marriage, where does it really stop? There are moral implications that we can’t ignore. If we allow same-sex marriage, how can we stop incestual marriage? Some would say, “incest? That’s just wrong!” Well, we’ve been saying that about gay marriage for decades, and look what we’re discussing now. I don’t believe it opens the door to bestiality or marrying children–those are things that cannot possibly be reconciled with the law. But if we’re arguing that marriage is merely a contract between two consenting adults, then what’s to stop brothers and sisters from arguing the same?
Another argument brought up is that if gay marriage were to be allowed, there would suddenly be lawsuits against churches that refused to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples. This is a very valid fear. The lawsuit against eHarmony.com proves that would be the next step, regardless of the fact that any church reserves the right to refuse to marry a couple even now. Given the right to marry, would we be willing to accept protections in the law for churches and ministers who exercise their freedoms of religious expression and speech in refusing to marry same-sex couples? To some it may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty who would scream bloody murder at such a concession.
Some who are against gay marriage say they’d support civil unions. Okay…if we allow civil unions that grant the same basic rights and breaks as marriage does, in effect granting marriage rights under a different name, again, how can we stop that from applying to incestual relationships? 95% of our society agrees that incest is disgusting and wrong, but there are those out there who see it differently. The only answer to that seems to be to allow marriage to remain as it always has, but the fact remains that I cannot love the opposite sex and someday want to settle down and share my life with a nice girl whom I’d like to be able to exchange vows with.
I admit I don’t really know what the answer is to this quagmire. Marriage is not a Constitutional right, nor is it a “human” right. Our emotions may tell us otherwise, though logic demands otherwise. For now, marriage is out of reach. Civil unions seem to be the best answer (or at least the most diplomatic one). I do know that we’re going to have to spend more time working out exactly how we intend to really make this work. Until then, it will be an impossible sell.