Friday, January 23, 2015

Can You Name these Legitimate Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage?

Legitimate matching rings.
Over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan has a post titled “There Are Legitimate Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage,” although the (very short) post is just reference to a Damon Linker piece on the homophobic views of the late political philosopher Leo Strauss. And so I ask: Where are these legitimate arguments?

[A digression (you could skip this part): I’d get a lot more blogging done if I did it in the manner of Andrew Sullivan. Write a couple sentences, quote a couple meaty paragraphs from someone else’s blog. There you go. Quick content. However, when I started this blog, I made a promise to myself that my words would always outnumber anyone else’s.[1] Happily, since I’m only quoting eight words from Sullivan, this is an easy standard today.]

I will concede that there are some non-bigoted arguments, but the problem with the non-bigoted arguments is that they always go astray. For example, there are those who believe that marriage is intimately connected to procreation. Marriage is for procreation and that marriage without procreation is as illegitimate as procreation without marriage. Of course, in this day and age, we don’t subject those who were born out of wedlock to penalties. The days when bastardy was a bar to certain professions are long over.

The argument that a marriage that hasn’t produced children is deeply insulting to people who elected not to or cannot have children. There was an era (also, happily over) in which sterility was grounds for divorce.[2] It would work as a legitimate, non-bigoted argument against same-sex marriage, but the people who advance it (Maggie Gallagher, for example) claim that it would be intrusive to expect opposite-sex couples to prove that they are fertile and demeaning to insist that they produce children. Presumably Gallagher has no objection to opposite-sex couples over the age of 60 marrying, even though there’s absolutely no chance of their having children.

You can start with a non-bigoted idea, but then add so many qualifications and exceptions that you end up with something insincere. No one who makes the claim that marriage is only for procreation is willing to take the assertion to its conclusion. Once they start making exceptions for opposite-sex couples but not for same-sex couples, their hypocrisy (and bigotry) become apparent.

I’ve been following the fight for marriage equality for more than twenty years. In that time, I’ve seen many claims that there are legitimate, non-bigoted arguments against same-sex marriage.

I’m still waiting to hear them.

  1. I broke that standard when I quoted a newspaper short story that referenced Esperanto. No refunds.  ↩
  2. Some states (according to my minimal research) still recognize at-fault divorce. FindLaw includes “A spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse,” but not sterility.  ↩

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