Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gay Marriage Ban

George Bush has been preaching from the presidential pulpit for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He argues that without this amendment, “activist judges” will increasingly permit gay marriage which, in turn, will threaten the “institution” of marriage and ultimately America itself.

There has been much discussion in the popular media as well as in the blogosphere about the underlying motives for Bush’s and the Republican Party’s renewed push for this amendment at this particular time. Many argue that it stems more from political considerations than from religious or moral convictions. This may or may not be the case. I won’t speculate on motives because this strikes me as irrelevant to the central issue that I want to address today.

It seems to me that the central issue is the claim that gay marriage threatens the institution of marriage and America itself. If this claim is true, then it seems to me as though the Republican Party’s motives for pushing the amendment now don’t matter. What matters is that we make sure we prohibit gay marriage, and a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting it seems like the surest way to go. On the other hand, if gay marriage doesn’t pose any grave threat, we should reject the amendment.

What I have never understood is how gay marriage threatens the institution of marriage. Is Bush suggesting that if gay couples marry, heterosexual couples won’t marry or married heterosexual couples will split up because of gay marriage? If so, what compelling evidence or reason does he have for this? I’m married to a wonderful woman whom I love with all my heart. If gays could marry, would my wife and I rush out to file divorce papers? This strikes me as preposterous. It strikes me as equally preposterous that if I weren’t already married, I would be any less likely to get married if gays could marry. If I found the right woman and we loved each other deeply, I’m quite certain that we’d be just as inclined to formalize our commitment to love, honor, and serve one another till death do us part if gay couples were also allowed to do this as we would be if they were not. Can any heterosexual person honestly say otherwise? If they can, then it seems to me that they should seriously question their reasons for marrying in the first place.

Of course, the Republican Party seems to have another reason for opposing gay marriage, and one of its most prominent representatives, Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, has expressed it very clearly and concisely in his recent letter to all U.S. senators. Here is an excerpt from that letter:

Attaching the word marriage to the association of same-sex individuals mistakenly presumes that marriage is principally a matter of adult benefits and adult rights. In fact, marriage is principally about the nurturing and development of children. And the successful development of children is critical to the preservation and success of our nation.

I have two questions about this statement. First, is it true, in this age of rising population and overcrowding, that marriage is “principally about the nurturing and development of children?” Or is it about formalizing between two adults a loving commitment that may or may not include children? I don’t understand why two women or two men who have the same feelings for each other and who want to make the same commitment to each other that my wife and I have shouldn’t be able to have society formally recognize and reward that love and commitment the same way that it recognizes and rewards them between my wife and myself. My wife and I don’t have any children and probably never will. Our marriage is about “adult benefits and adult rights,” just as it is for millions of other HETEROSEXUAL couples. If we can enjoy those benefits and rights, why can’t homosexual couples do the same?

But what about homosexual couples who want to participate in the “nurturing and development of children”? Unless a Constitutional banning of gay marriage is to be followed by one of homosexual couples raising children, homosexual couples can still raise children even if they aren’t married. So, do supporters of the proposed ban on gay marriage plan to support a follow-up ban on homosexual couples raising children? If not, why ban gay marriage for the sake of children? If so, what compelling evidence do supporters of such a ban have that children raised by gay couples are any less happy or turn out any less well-adjusted than do children raised by heterosexual couples? Where is the compelling evidence that gay couples endanger, as Romney implies, “the successful development of children” which, in turn, endangers “the preservation and success of our nation"?

If no such evidence is forthcoming, it seems to me that there’s no good reason for a Constitutional banning of gay marriage. In fact, it seems to me as though this nation should encourage gay marriage. After all, if gay marriage won’t harm children or undermine heterosexual marriage, then by increasing the number of Americans who marry, it should actually strengthen the institution of marriage in this country. After all, the more members an institution has, the stronger it’s likely to be. It may also discourage the spreading of STD’s by encouraging commitment to formally recognized monogamous homosexual relationships in place of homosexual promiscuity.

Maybe I’m being too commonsensical in how I look at this. Maybe I’m being simplistic. Maybe I’m wrong to oppose the Constitutional banning of gay marriage and to actually support gay marriage. But if I am, will somebody please show me why I’m wrong? And don’t just quote the Bible. I’m not talking about religious marriages. Religions can enforce their bans on homosexual marriages among their members to their hearts’ content. I’m talking about CIVIL marriages. Why shouldn’t civil marriage be an option for homosexual couples?


Princedrake said...

I actually think that the problem most moderates have with gay marriage is simply semantics. The word "marriage" or "married" carries with it very powerful images and cultural implications.

I think if they merely came up with a different term to describe same sex marriages, it might make a difference to how many feel. Call it "partnering" or something like that rather than marriage. Give partnered people the same civil advantages (and disadvantages) that married people get. It's the same thing, only the word describing it is different.

Nagarjuna said...

PD, I speculate that most "moderates" don't support the proposed Constitutional amendment, even if they aren't keen on gay marriage. It's the amendment that I particularly oppose, and not necessarily the possibility of calling the formalization of commitment between a gay couple something other than "marriage," provided it carries with it precisely the same legal rights and responsibilities as marriage.

But, do you believe for one moment that those who support the gay marriage amendment would not also support a Constitutional ban on what amounts to gay marriage by some other name? Perhaps they would simply have somewhat less chance of succeeding at this than at banning gay "marriage" per se. Fortunately, it looks as though they're going to fail at Constitutionally banning gay marriage. This time around, at least.

But your implied point is well taken. Moderates might be willing to join liberals in voting in gay civil unions tantamount to marriage in many states that aren't likely to vote in gay marriage within the foreseeable future.

Yet, if gay civil unions are completely equivalent to civil marriage, it's too bad that more people who'd be willing to accept the former wouldn't also be willing to accept the latter. That is, it's too bad that so many people let religious or cultural conditioning overcome sound reasoning on the matter.