Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Gay marriage: Understanding conservative arguments

I posted the following on The Charging Elephantin response to a general post on conservatism. It's a very interesting topic to me and I thought I'd put it out on my blog to get some responses:

Here's a conservative argument I sincerely don't understand, with regard to gay marriage. I completely understand why people don't want gays marrying in their church. That is totally up to them. But legal marriage, as it is today, is a governmental institution, not a religious one. My marriage ceremony took place inside a courthouse in the office of the judge who performed the ceremony. Why would it make marriage "something it is not" to allow two people of the same gender to take part in that same exercise?

I am even more preplexed by the people who say that "real" marriages will be degraded if gays are allowed to marry. I strongly believe that, if people *really* want to "defend" marriage, they should be going after people who marry, say, five times, or people who, ala Brittney Spears, get married sort of as a joke and get an anullment or divorce right away. Why is gay marriage more threatening to straight marriage than that?

Looking forward to your comments...


Jack Mercer said...

Hi Kathy! Interesting post. I have to differ with you though. I don't think that marriage should be government's jurisdiction at all. I don't believe in affording special rights to people based on the getting together in one conjugal way or the other. The whole gay marriage issue IS an issue because government has intruded where it doesn't belong. Marriage should strictly be a belief-based institution based on common thought. The government should stay out of marriage, religion, sexuality and anything else that it doesn't belong in. This renders the whole argument moot.

(p.s. The historical justification for government's involvement in marriage is based on the English contract law. I don't think that contract law should apply to anyone unless they honestly want to contract to another person. The travesty of what the state forces upon people in a divorce proceeding is --i feel -- unconstitutional.)

Jack Mercer said...

Oh, and another thing, I think the whole opposition to the gay marriage thing is hyped up by the media moreso than reality. But, any reaction there is to it is simply that...reaction. It wouldn't be an issue if it wasn't being shoved down everyone's throat by activists and activists judges.

Peter Schrenk said...

The whole issue of gay marriage and its status before the law is clarified if one looks at the justification for giving marriage a special status. Why is it the government's business to begin with? It has nothing to do with love or happiness. The only non-religious justification for a special legal status for marriage has to do with procreating and raising children. In other words, the government is trying to bolster families.

The government and the people it represents have a strong interest in ensuring that the next generation is born and grows up into healthy, productive citizens. I don't think that anyone will disagree with me at this point. You can use these interests in the next generation to justify special legal benefits and privileges to couples in order to promote strong families.

I don't want to go on too long, but it is obvious that the only relationship that can both produce and raise children is that between a man and a woman. Do all such relationships produce children? Of course not. Additionally, not all such relationships are legally privileged.

I submit that, on average, married couples that produce and raise children provide more value to society than the average homosexual couple would provide. Desire has nothing to do with it, even though desire may be significant to the individual.

Are some dysfunctional families actually harmful to society? Of course! That's not the issue here. The issue is the overall benefit.

I have other reasons for what I believe, but as they are morally and religiously based, I didn't mention them.

Kathy Schrenk said...

Now, this makes sense! Good post, Pete!

So the object of marriage as a legal contract is to keep families intact so that children won't grow up in broken homes. Well, that's pretty much out the window, isn't it? It ain't workin'. We, the heteros, broke it. Which was my point to begin with. So why do the gays want it so bad?

Anyone want to tackle the question of why gay marriage is a bigger target for the conservative right than the hetero divorce rate?

Peter Schrenk said...

You are correct, marriage is in a pitiful state at this point. Many conservatives would point to the liberalization of laws surrounding marriage, such as no-fault divorce. I tend to agree, although I haven't explored this issue all that much. Gay marriage proponents have a point that the circumstances of Britney Spears' first marriage make a mockery of legal marriage. That doesn't mean, however that the next logical step is to allow gay marriage. That argument is non sequitur.

I would like to hear an argument for a sufficiently compelling social reason to recognize gay marriage legally. As I understand it, matters such as inheritance, hospital visitation rights, etc. for gay couples are largely, if not entirely, irrelevant given the proper legal documents. I have heard no argument that convinces me this is a civil rights issue.

(By the way, I owe much of my previous post to Michael Medved. His comments on the matter are extremely lucid and persuasive.)

Peter Schrenk said...

The hetero divorce rate is atrocious. I do see a lot of conservative Christian groups that are devoted entirely to nurturing and healing marriages. Liz and I went to a conference on marriage when we were engaged. Even if you hate his politics, James Dobson's Focus on the Family spends way more of its resources on trying to educate people and give them the tools to have healthy marriages and familial relationships. You only hear about Focus on the Family in the news when they offend liberals (that is not meant as a jab; think about it, it's true).

That said, there has been more political opposition to gay marriage than there was to liberalized divorce laws (that I know of). Why is that? I don't know. It could be hypocrisy. It could also have been that those laws were far more subtle; people might not have gotten worked up as much because it didn't seem as significant.

Kathy Schrenk said...

Peter, you're right about Focus on the Family. They definitely do some good stuff; but the media doesn't care about that, they want to report on the crazy stuff people do! (I'm guilty of that myself; I've been known to gloat when getting some official to say something stupid on the record.)

I'm not sure, though, that anyone is arguing that gay marriage should be legal *because* of the high hetero divorce rate; I think it's a sort of "why comment on the speck in my eye when there's a plank in yours" kind of thing. Imagine if all the time and effort spent fighting gay marriage when toward helping straight people make better decisions about their marriages?