Anti-gay marriage arguments are illogical and dehumanizing.
Of men, beasts, and logic.
The Supreme Court will be ruling on cases involving gay marriage this year, and this has resulted in some of the long standing arguments against the legalization of gay marriage coming to the forefront of news and journalism, though none more so than the slippery slope argument. The slippery slope argument, in which one action inevitably leads to a consequence that is reprehensible or otherwise problematic, is frequently used but is actually a logical fallacy. In addition to being logically and factually demonstrable as non applicable to gay marriage, it is also a subtle dehumanization of the LGBT community. Whether you’re gay or not, it’s worth remembering that accepting any type of dehumanization damages the humanity in us all.
The argument that gay marriage will lead to unacceptable consequences on the slope of marriage has gained more attention since Justice Scalia addressed a group of Yale law students where previous statements he had made in reference to homosexuality were brought into question. According to an article published on The New Yorker’s website on December 12th, 2012, entitled The Animus of Antonin Scalia, the Justice addressed the question by saying said he felt he was correct in his argument that moral approval of homosexuality in general, much less in the case of gay marriage, was on that dangerous slope of moral depravity that could lead to the approval of other immoral acts such as bestiality. In the same article he says, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we not have it against murder?” To his credit, he did later explain he was not comparing homosexuality to murder. Even so, his insistence that homosexuality is one stop on the path to bestiality combined with his insistence that he has a right to use these moral feelings in judgment raises three serious problems: First, he shows his disregard for homosexuals as human beings by putting them on the same level as animals. Second, he demonstrates his inability to rule on the law with dispassionate reason. Third, he makes a tremendous logical error that is inexcusable for a Supreme Court Justice.
Putting homosexuality on the same slope as bestiality lessens the humanity of those it addresses in two ways: The first is obvious; it’s dehumanizing gays by comparing them to animals. In bestiality, at least one participating member cannot be human. To say bestiality is comparable to homosexuality is a clear and undeniable statement that sex between two human homosexuals is comparable to that of sex between a human and an animal. If we want to talk about human sexuality and what is moral or legal for human sexuality, we need to restrict that conversation to humans. To claim that gay marriage gives legal precedence for bestial marriage is to claim that we’re not talking about human sexuality when we talk about homosexuality. Homosexuality is not a human sexuality. The idea is not a new one. Resistance against the civil rights movement for African Americans also attempted to explain why they didn’t quite fit the definition of human. The other issues that set bestiality apart from homosexuality, such as consent, sex and species, etc., don’t even need to be addressed because even if they aren’t evident – and they should be – that’s not the real sinister implication. No, that is the inhumane comparison of sex between people to sex involving animals.
Beyond its dehumanizing effect, the slippery slope – which Scalia defends as a reduction to the absurd - is problematic as an argument. The attempt to defend his statement as a reduction to the absurd is, in itself, absurd. By definition, a reduction to the absurd shows that if we accept one thing as true, then we must accept an absurd or highly undesirable consequence as also true because of the underlying principle shared by the premise and its consequence. A good example is that if there are no laws, society is chaotic. This shows a conditional statement that leads to a highly undesirable result. Thus, when Scalia says that approving of homosexuality means we also approve of bestiality, this is an attempt – and a poor one – of a reduction to the absurd argument. Scalia’s idea might be the premise that accepting one morally reprehensible sexuality means we must accept them all. The flaw is that he defines homosexuality as morally reprehensible. Perhaps it is to Scalia, but that definition is not a fact. We can understand what makes something a law; it is clearly defined and there is no argument to its definition. Whether a law is good or bad – and this judgment will always be subjective as opposed to empirically objective – is not part of the definition of what law is. The morality of homosexuality cannot be proven empirically, it cannot be represented mathematically, and whatever morality one may wish to attach to it, the morality of homosexuality is not part of its own definition. Including a moral aspect in the definition of homosexuality is incorrect, and attempting to do so turns Scalia’s reduction to the absurd into a flawed argument with no logical basis. On the other hand, if his argument is simply that bestiality and homosexuality both involve sex, it puts heterosexuality in the same category as bestiality as well while once again expanding our concerns with sex beyond that of sex between human beings.
With all that in mind, there’s yet another serious problem: Scalia’s moral feelings shouldn’t matter. The Supreme Court’s job is to uphold the Constitution, and they do so by reviewing cases involving laws which may violate it. The Constitution bases our law on reason, and laws are to be upheld or overturned based on the Constitution and the use of reason in interpreting it. Law is not to be based on our moral feelings. Murder is against law because it deprives a person of his right to life and liberty; it tramples the rights of the victim and everyone who cares about them. This is what the American Justice System is supposed to do; its job is to protect the rights of its people by making sure all laws follow the framework laid out by our constitution. Reason and the Constitution are all that is needed to do this. When Scalia makes judgments based on his “moral feelings,” he insults the Constitution, the Judicial Branch, the rights of the people, and the notion of American justice. If he can’t argue against homosexuality with pure reason, he has no business arguing against it at all. No one should be subject to laws because the Legislative and Judicial Branches just feel like it.
These mainstream arguments of slopes and absurdity don’t work when applied to the question of gay marriage. What they do instead is create a subtle form of dehumanization that paves the road for civil atrocity. That’s what dehumanization does; we see it over and over again in human history. As for the pending cases themselves, let us hope for the triumph of human rights through reason and dispassionate interpretation of law. Let us root for those whom the Constitution is meant to protect; let us root for the people.