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Why the arguments against gay marriage are flawed
Gay marriage is an issue that brings out strong feelings in people, despite the fact that most voters don’t view it as that important. In addition, most Americans are opposed to gay marriage, although some recent polls indicate a bare majority now supporting it.
I support gay marriage, and I’ve found that the arguments against gay marriage are some of the weakest arguments I‘ve ever heard. I think gay marriage opponents will be found on the wrong side of history; it’s only a matter of time before it’s legalized, as surveys have found that a majority of those under age 30 support it. With this article, I will set up the most common arguments against gay marriage and argue against them.
1. The slippery slope argument
This is the argument that claims that legalizing gay marriage will lead to the legalization and even acceptance of man-on-dog relationships or marriages, man-on-children, or what have you. Yet people who make this argument seem to be distracting themselves from the issue at hand by bringing other controversial issues into the fray. Could gay marriage lead to the acceptance of man-on-boy marriages? It’s possible, but I think, extremely unlikely. And even if it did, what has that got to do with gay marriage? There is a very real difference from two committed gay couples marrying each other and a man marrying a little boy: a little boy cannot consent to a relationship with an older man. Two gay people obviously can. And even in those cases where it seems a little boy is consenting, he is obviously too immature to understand what he is doing, and it is likely damaging to him. The same can’t be said for committed gay couples who love each other. So it is a clear distraction to discuss these issues. Sometimes slippery slope arguments can seem reasonable; in fact, I sometimes use the slippery slope argument when opposing restrictions on freedom of speech. But these arguments are generally weak and suspicious at best, and in this case, very flawed.
2. Most Americans are opposed to gay marriage:
This is another argumentative fallacy that people learn about in college classes on rhetoric: the bandwagon appeal. It’s also an argument frequently used when justifying measures like prop 8 in California, which outlawed gay marriage by a majority vote. Shouldn’t the people be able to decide on an issue like this? Absolutely not. People’s rights should be not subjected to a majority vote, especially on such a personal issue like marriage. In addition, if we based our Supreme Court decisions on the granting of rights to people on what the majority expressed in public opinion polls, then interracial marriage, for example, would have not been legalized when it was, as polls at the time showed majority opposition to it. So I ask those who use the popular opinion argument: Should we have waited for popular opinion to come around before legalizing interracial marriage? If not, why should we subject gay rights to such a test?
3. Marriage is based on procreation; since gays can’t have kids, it’s wrong to call a gay union a marriage, much less accept it.
I think it’s rather insulting, frankly, to say to the millions of married couples around the world that marriage is about procreation, and not about love. What does that say those couples who don’t have children? Your marriage is not legitimate? Also, if marriage is about procreation, should we restrict the marriages of infertile couples, or even those who choose not to have kids? Of course not. Love, to me, is the most important factor in a marriage, not whether you want to or should have kids or not. If gay people love each other, they should be allowed to get married, just like I should be allowed to get married to someone I love and not have kids (which I don’t want, by the way). Yes, in the past having children was a common reason for getting married. But times change, just like definitions of marriage change. Which brings me to the next argument:
4. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman; by legalizing gay marriage, you are hurting the sanctity of marriage.
This makes nice rhetoric, but it doesn’t make much sense. First of all, yes, throughout history marriage has mostly been between a man and a woman; But marriage has had vastly different meanings in different societies. Some ancient societies had arranged marriages based on wealth or status, which is far removed from the voluntary, love-based marriages that we have now. Also, it used to be illegal for a white person to marry a black person, or vice versa. Times change, meanings change. Often for the better. As far as the sanctity of marriage, this has been damaged by a lot of things, including high divorce rates. I really don’t see how allowing committed gay couples to marry could damage it anymore than many straight marriages already have.
5. Gay marriage will lead to gay people adopting kids, and kids need a mother and father, rather than two mom’s or two dads. The results of gay couples adopting will damage the kids.
The vast majority of studies seem to indicate this is false. A review of studies indicates that children of gay and lesbian couples do just as well academically and have the same level of mental stability and well-being as the children of opposite sex marriages. Whether children of gay couples are more likely to turn out gay or bisexual than those of opposite sex couples is still an open question, and current research hasn’t been able to answer that question. Some studies suggest, however, that children of gay couples may be less influenced by traditional gender roles in society and more likely to experiment with homosexual relations. This may make sense if you believe that parenting has a big influence on children. But as far as mental well-being, the research shows that these children do just as well as others.
Here is a statement and brief overview of the evidence on gay adoption from the American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/about/policy/parenting.aspx
6. By legalizing gay marriage, you are forcing me to accept it.
Really? Abortion is legal also; is the law forcing you to accept that? Tobacco use is legal also; is the law forcing you to accept that? I could go on down the list. Gay marriage has absolutely no effect on your marriage. And some churches are choosing to recognize gay weddings and others are not. The law is not forcing churches to perform gay marriages as it stands now. (I realize this might change in the future, and I hope it doesn’t). Advocates of abortion rights often say, “if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one!” A similar slogan could be applied here: if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t attend a gay wedding!
7. Homosexuality is immoral, and condemned by the bible and many other religions.
The law isn’t supposed to sanctify certain religious beliefs, much less put them into law. We have a separation of church and state in this country. Besides, not all Christian denominations view homosexuality as a sin. Some accept it, or don’t take a literal interpretation of the verses in the bible that condemn it. It should be noted that Jesus Christ himself never explicitly condemned homosexuality. And just because the bible says something doesn’t mean we should put it into practice. Slavery is also advocated in the bible, as well as executing people for many offenses that we would view today as trivial, including homosexual sodomy.
As far as homosexuality being “immoral,” I don’t see how it could be considered as such. Who is harmed by homosexual activity? Certainly not anybody else. And the participants themselves aren’t harmed by it either, at least not emotionally. The reason the American Psychological Association took homosexuality off the list of mental disorders in the seventies is because it “doesn’t result in impaired functioning” (a quote I remember distinctly from my psych textbook in college). Homosexuals are not pathological simply because they prefer being in loving and sexual relationships with those of the same sex. And clearly, homosexual relations are consensual, not forced like pedophilia or relationships between a man and a dog. So how is it immoral?
Those are the most common arguments used against gay marriage. I might have missed some, but these are the ones I’ve most frequently heard in debates on the internet and elsewhere, and they are all flawed. Maybe that’s why a recent Washington Post and ABC poll found that the majority of Americans support gay marriage by 53 %! It’s only a matter of time before it’s legalized, since a majority of those under age 30 support it according to polls, 68% according to the Washington post/ABC poll. I also think its not just an age thing either. Unless opponents find some better arguments against gay marriage, then they will find themselves on the losing side of the culture war, regardless of age.