The following piece was co-authored by Melissa Pocek
Yesterday, Rhode Island became the 10th state to approve gay marriage in a growing nation-wide tide of support for Marriage Equality. In fact, the latest polls indicate that a majority, 51% of Americans, support gay marriage. However, this is only the slimmest of majorities, and still a disturbingly low number for these enlightened times. We should expect that the percentage of support will increase as more and more people confront the question objectively and find the arguments against marriage equality lacking in any pragmatic rationale.
Since the signing of the constitution, the United States has been based on secular values, a separation of Church and State which demands our legal arguments be separated from religious dogma, and our superstitions be removed from public policy. While gay marriage isn’t discussed by its authors, the fundamental interpretation of the U.S. Constitution is one of equality in the eyes of the law. To be sure, the bias against marriage equality is derived from a religious position, and those who oppose gay marriages have struggled to develop secular utilitarian justifications. To demonstrate, we’ve plotted four of the arguments against marriage equality as they shift from the openly religious to the attempted secular.
1. Cultural/traditional argument The position that marriage has, by Judeo-Christian tradition, been heterosexual, and thus should it remain as such forevermore. Of course, as has been pointed out by advocates of equality, arguments based upon biblical interpretation have been used to justify african-american slavery, assert the second-class status of women, celebrate genocide, and various other less-than-civilized behaviors.
2. Burden of insurance/benefits This is an attempt to justify an anti-gay marriage position with the appearance of a pragmatic rationale. In 2009 GOP Chairman Michael Steele suggested, at a state convention in Georgia, that conservatives could reach a broader base by refashioning their argument in this way. By this rationale any marriage is a burden. Further, the converse of this argument is that in not extending benefits to homosexuals there will be an incentive to hire homosexuals in favor of heterosexuals further expanding the problem of inequality.
3. Gay marriages harm heterosexual marriage
No heterosexual is going to turn homosexual due to the latitude of the law. Homosexuality has existed, and will exist, with or without legal recognition. The suggestion that gay marriages encroach upon or otherwise devalue heterosexual relationships is but a less bombastic variation of the slippery slope argument, popular in earlier same-sex equality debates, that with gay marriage also soon comes bizarre unions of any imaginable nature, from the beastial to the polygamous -- an argument that has been mocked for its irrationality into near-obscurity. While there is no evidence that gay marriage would affect heterosexual marriages, we do see the reverse, the idea of heterosexual marriage primacy is doing great harm to gay marriage.
4. We need more children argument
This is another tie in with point number three, suggesting that if we allow gay marriages then we would be preventing heterosexual marriages and inevitably preventing procreation. It is true that gay people cannot procreate, but they never could and this doesn’t mean that a viable alternative would be for them to be in a heteosexual marriage (nor, for that matter, is heterosexual marriage a contract demanding procreation). In fact, if we allow gay marriages, there’s a great chance that adoption rate would go up and that there would be more loving adopters to the 400,540 children living in the United States without permanent families.
There are many other arguments that have come up during the debate, and surely there will be many more as opponents of gay marriage continue to struggle for plausible reasoning on secular grounds, but we should be aware that all such arguments are likely based on after-the-fact reasoning attempting to attach the appearance of rational position.
In order to increase the rate of acceptance, we need to take the time to address the arguments against marriage equality, but we should also try to strip those arguments of their secular veneer and confront the fundamental roots of the anti-gay bias.
Please check out more writings from Melissa Pocek here.