… Why shouldn’t gay people be allowed to marry if they want to? I detect four putative arguments.
There’s the will-of-the-people-style argument. There was a proposition, people voted and the results were the results. Superficially that seems to work, but it eludes the substantial question, which is why someone would think that same-sex marriage is a topic on which they ought to be allowed to vote and one that they ought to vote against.
So maybe the real argument is that marriage is defined on the basis of child-rearing. Maybe a mixed-sex couple provides the most stable foundation for raising children, which is why marriage is restricted to them. But that’s factually inaccurate on three counts. First, there’s no compelling evidence for the truth of the statement. Second, that’s an inept description of how the institution of marriage actually functions. We don’t ask for fertility tests before people can marry, nor do we prevent unstable people from marrying and reproducing. Hell, Britney did it. And finally, if that really were the case, don’t you think the government would be much more active in preventing out-of-wedlock births?
So maybe the argument is from tradition. That is, marriage has always been heterosexual so it ought to stay that way. But that’s both descriptively inaccurate and normatively insufficient. Even if we confine the domain of analysis to Western societies, marriage is a highly variable institution.
Both within and amongst faiths the understanding of marriage has changed throughout the centuries. I don’t think we’re requiring dowries anymore. Anyhow, even if something were to be shown to be ancient, that hardly makes it correct. Human sacrifice is really old. Warfare is awfully ancient. Slavery was around for a really long time, too.
I suppose all we’re left with is the religious or moral objection. Some churches frown on homosexuality. Well, rock on. I’m not here to tell any faith how to do its job. But, conversely, religion ought not to tell democracy how to do its job. Against gay marriage? All right then, refuse to sanction those unions within your faith community. But religious objections are insufficient to dictate public policy to a pluralistic, secular society.
Sometimes at the end of the column I’ve reached a conclusion. Sometimes I’ve sharpened my understanding. This week, all I can do is throw up my hands. If you have a better argument, I’d love to hear it. But until then, I don’t get it.
Scott Lucas, Why Not Marriage For All?
The Daily Californian