Five Myths About Gay Marriage
by Noah Glyn | Rutgers University
Before I start this column let me just stipulate that this is not an attack on gay marriage. It’s an attack on the shoddy arguments made by the proponents of gay marriage.
1. Marriage is a personal/religious matter. The government–federal, state, or local–should not regulate who can and cannot get married.
Oh really? Should the government condone religions that accept polygamous marriages? Should the government accept marriages between fathers and daughters? Obviously, the government should have a say in who can and cannot get married.
The gay marriage debate is about public policy. Marriage, in this context, is not what a rabbi, a priest, or an imam says. The government grants certain privileges to married couples that it does not to unmarried people, even if they cohabit. Some argue that the government should allow gay couples the opportunity to accrue the same privileges as a married heterosexual couples. Others disagree. That’s fine, but the argument is fundamentally about public policy, not personal tastes.
2. By not allowing gays to marry, the government is violating their civil rights.
This argument misrepresents what marriage is. Marriage is a public policy tool to encourage certain behaviors. Since the American people view these behaviors as favorable to society, the government encourages them by providing benefits to married couples.
Hypothetically, the good people of North Carolina would be entirely within their rights to decide that they no longer wanted their government to provide those benefits to married couples. I would argue that doing so would be detrimental to society, but that is a utilitarian argument. It’s not about rights.
The same is true of gay couples. Some argue that refusing these privileges to gay people is detrimental to society. Others disagree. But the ability of two people to file their tax returns together is not a right.
3. Opponents of gay marriage are homophobes.
More often than not, intellectual laziness, rather than incontrovertible proof of bigotry, precipitates this line of attack.
The truth is that bigotry does play a role in some people’s opposition, but that does not account for President Obama’s previous opposition to gay marriage. Does anyone really believe that President Obama is (or was) a bigot? And if he was, is he no longer a bigot just because he changed his tune?
It’s impossible to prove what truly motivates opponents of gay marriage, because opposition to gay marriage can stem from numerous thought processes. Those who blindly accuse others of homophobia are simply trying to close these thought processes, shut down the debate, and bully their opponents.
4. Marriage has been redefined before. After all, some U.S. states used to forbid interracial marriage.
It is true that marriage has been “redefined,” but it’s a non sequitur to then bring up America’s ugly racial past. Sexual orientation and race are two different aspects of our identities.
The current definition of marriage is a union between a man and a woman. The definition of marriage was never a union between white men and white women, or black men and black women. Laws forbidding interracial marriage were discriminatory, because they tried to stop two specific kinds of people from fulfilling the ultimate purpose of marriage: creating offspring.
Marriage was, let’s face it, created to regulate the act of procreation. The fact that sterile men and barren women may marry does not take away from this fundamental truth. Interracial couples are, of course, fully capable of creating progeny.
This does not mean that marriage cannot again be redefined. It just makes little sense to compare interracial couples and gay couples.
5. If you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t have one.
Proponents of gay marriage are always quick to add that they have no interest in forcing religious groups to perform gay marriages.
It’s not so simple.
First, the Obama administration has already displayed a willingness to intervene in religious affairs by compelling religious employers to provide insurance plans that cover contraception and abortifacients.
Second, regardless of what today’s proponents of gay marriage claim, there is no way to prevent future administrations from punishing religious groups for refusing to marry gay people.
Third, some state governments have already begun to fight the Catholic Church on its adoption agencies’ unwillingness to consider gay couples as potential adoptive parents.
There are compelling arguments in favor of gay marriage. Namely, proponents could argue that it’s in the best interest of our society to include gay people in the most stabilizing institution ever established. A successful marriage has the potential to benefit all of society. Extending the privileges of marriage to people who are completely capable of having a healthy marriage will, therefore, likely benefit society on the whole.
If supporters of gay marriage truly want to convince the undecided, they should drop the five arguments listed above.Noah Glyn is an Agostinelli Fellow at the National Review, and a candidate for a master's degree in public policy from Rutgers University. He writes from a conservative perspective on economic, cultural, political, educational and foreign policy issues.