Oral arguments have wrapped up at the Supreme Court. The lawyers have packed up their briefcases, the protestors on both sides have gathered up their placards and gone home, and the Justices have retired to their chambers to decide the fate of two laws prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages, and equal treatment of same-sex couples.
Now we wait. That doesn’t mean that everyone has stopped talking about marriage equality and the Court, or the oral arguments themselves. The discussion is likely to go on until the Court announces a decision. But things have quieted down a bit. And since I’ve been writing about marriage equality almost as long as I’v been blogging, this seems like a gold time to review some of the best arguments I’ve heard against same-sex marriage.
Let’s just get this out of the way: APRIL FOOLS!
I’ve been blogging about marriage equality for a long time, and in that time I’ve head some of the craziest arguments imaginable against it. Mind you, these are not weird arguments and weird questions heard during oral arguments at the Supreme Court last week, though most of them have been repeated in the past week. In fact, some of the most homophobic arguments against marriage equality were MIA at the Supreme Court last week.
These are some of the arguments I’ve either read in discussion on my own blog, that readers have sent to me over the years, or that I’ve come across in the course of my own research. So, if you’re ready to leap through the looking glass, here are the top craziest arguments I’ve heard against same-sex marriage in my years of blogging.
6. Everyone will just go gay.
This, of course, is a perennial favorite. It crops up in just about every debate, so it’s not really all that astounding, but this list wouldn’t’ be complete without it. The most recent opponent of marriage equality to spout this line is Georgia GOP Chair Sue Everhart.
Sue Everhart, the chairwoman of the Georgia Republican Party, said in a story posted over the weekend that straight people might abuse gay marriage laws in order to get marital benefits.
“You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow,” Everhart told the Marietta Daily Journal. “Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal.”
Everhart added: “There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”
Everhart stressed that she doesn’t think gay people should be ostracized. But she also said it’s “not natural” for them to marry and suggested that gay marriage would lead children to believe that homosexuality is natural and discourage them from engaging in heterosexual relationships.
It’s almost amusing when conservatives suggest that everyone has a raging homosexual trapped inside of them that’s screaming to be released, and the only thing keeping it in check is the prohibition against same-sex marriage and prejudice against gay people in general. In other words, if society didn’t register its disapproval by codifying it, right away you’d see homosexual orgies happening right out in the street. (Look for one to break out on your street if the Supreme Court strikes down part of all or Prop 8 and DOMA.)
This argument has a dopleganger that turns up in debates about religion, except that in that case the argument is that religion is the only source of morality, and without it we’d all become thieving, raping, serial killers. All of us.
Everhart does have a point, of sorts. Same-sex marriage probably will be just as subject to fraud and abuse as heterosexual marriage. Heterosexuals already join scam marriages for the purposes of gaining benefits, whether its citizenship or health care benefits (See my post “The Dawn of the Insurance Card Marriage” for more.) So, actually that is equality, of a sort. And since there are already laws against fraud, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Everhart beats another dead horse: that gay parents are likely to raise gay children. Every gay person raised by straight parents, stop laughing for a minute and please raise your hands. And, not that it matters, but gay parents produce gay kids at about the same rate that heterosexual parents keep churning us out.
6. Gays have an equal right to marry the opposite sex.
Speaking of fraudulent, scam marriages, this one is almost laughable, until you realize that the people spouting it are completely serious. Gay people already have marriage equality, but they have to marry someone of the opposite sex.
According to Michele Bachmann, the world’s most disingenuous person, gay Americans already have the same marriage rights as straight Americans. Because gay people can get married if they want, just as long as they marry people of the opposite sex whom they are not attracted to. “Every American citizen has the right to avail themselves of marriage, but they have to follow what the laws are,” she explained to a high-schooler in Waverly, Iowa, yesterday. “And the laws are you marry a person of the opposite sex.” Onlookers actually applauded this, as if it made any sense. “There are no special rights for people based upon your sex practices,” she added.
Actually, there are: Straight people have the right to marry people they love, and gay people don’t. If you’re going to be a bigot, own it. Don’t try to disguise your prejudice as principled egalitarianism. It is embarrassing.
So, straight people have a right to marry someone they love, but gay people can only marry people they aren’t ever going to “love” as anything more than a friend?
In his Sunday Strib column, righty radio talkster Jason Lewis argued that a ban on same-sex marriage doesn’t discriminate against gays or lesbians because they have an equal right to marry anyone they want, as long as the person they marry is of the opposite sex.
You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
… Louisiana in the 1890s had separate railroad cars for white and “colored” people. Homer Plessy was a “colored” man (actually, seven-eighths white, by ancestry) who was kicked out of the white car and made to sit in the “colored” car. He sued, seeking to have the state law on separate railroad cars struck down under the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court, by 7-1, upheld the Louisiana law under the argument that it treated whites and blacks equally, even if it required that they be separated. After all, whites had no more right to sit in the “coloreds-only” car than “coloreds” had to sit in the whites-only car. What could be more equal than that?
De Jure segregation remained legal for more than 60 years under the Plessy doctrine before the Supremes figured out, in Brown vs. the School Board (1954), that separate was inherently unequal.
Now comes Lewis to argue, in 2011, that gays and lesbians already have equal marriage rights with straights. They are all equally entitled to marry an individual of the opposite sex.
Thanks, but I’ll pass.
5. Marriage is for making babies.
Now we come to something I call “the procreative imperative.” This one is another favorite of equality opponents. It came up before the Maryland Supreme Court, and formed the basis of other state supreme court decisions.
“Looking beyond the fact that any inquiry into the ability or willingness of a couple actually to bear a child during marriage would violate the fundamental right to marital privacy recognized in Griswold, 381 U.S. at 484-86, 493, 85 S. Ct. at 1681, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510, the fundamental right to marriage and its ensuing benefits are conferred on opposite-sex couples not because of a distinction between whether various opposite-sex couples actually procreate, but rather because of the possibility of procreation.”
…Now the Maryland Court of Appeals is telling me that because the hubby and I did not biologically produce the son and daughter we are raising that we do not deserve the protection and benefits of marriage, and that our children do not deserve the protection and benefits of having legally married parents. It takes very little time to conceive, nine months to bring to term, and many hours to deliver an infant into the world.
…In its primitive ruling, the Maryland Court of Appeals has reduced the foundation of marriage — love, commitment, responsibility — to little more than the possibility of biological functions that anyone capable achieving puberty will probably also achieve, in some cases without even knowing it, or understanding the implications.
After the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling, I wrote this:
Put crassly, any teenager who can achieve and erection or get her legs open can reproduce. Compared to the time and effort required to raise a child to a happy, healthy, productive adulthood, reproduction is the relatively easy part. The world is full of stories of people whose parents were able to accomplish the above to become parents, but were ill-equipped for the task of parenting itself.
If I may put it somewhat less crassly, it takes little in the way of talent, intelligence, or much else besides functioning gonads to make a baby. However, it takes all of the energy, strength, intelligence, patience, and compassion you can muster to really raise a child.
If we’ve learned anything from the constant parade of poisonous parents, it’s this: being gay doesn’t automatically make you a bad parent. And being straight doesn’t automatically make you a bad parent.
4. Adoption is a “second best” option, because children are meant to be raised by their biological parents.
It seems like something you’d have been more likely to hear 50 or 60 years ago, when adoption was considered something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, to the extent that adoptive parents often didn’t even tell children they were adopted. (I’ve been told by adult adoptees that not telling is the worst thing an adoptive parent can do.) But this was an argument that came up when Prop 8 was before the California Supreme Court.
It came up in the oral arguments before the California Supreme Court, too, in a way that applies both to us and John McCain.
It is difficult to understand why a legal union of two people who love each other and want to express their love as a mutual commitment recognized by the state — with all the responsibilities that entails — would undermine marriages between men and women. Isn’t it just the opposite? Doesn’t the proliferation of unwed partners undermine the institution of marriage?
Chief Justice Ronald George — appointed by former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson — put the question in a legal rather than cultural context, asking whether same-sex marriages would violate any rights of heterosexuals. It wouldn’t.
George also bristled when Staver suggested that same-sex marriages should be banned because children are meant to be raised by their biological parents.
“Do you mean adoptive parents are not as adept at raising their children?” George asked.
In fact, as one of the lawyers challenging the ban pointed out, California prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in adoption, foster care and custody battles — so it’s a legal stretch to argue that the marriage law must do just the opposite in order to protect children
And, if that wasn’t enough, on the eve of oral augments before the Supreme Court, the National Organization For Marriage doubled down on the anti-adoption argument, and even addressed Chief Justice Roberts’ family.
The leader of a prominent anti-gay organization called Supreme Court Chief John Roberts’ decision to adopt children the “second-best option,” the AP reports.
“You’re looking at what is the best course societywide to get you the optimal result in the widest variety of cases. That often is not open to people in individual cases. Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts’ family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option,” said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.
Eastman was responding to a question about the Chief Justice’s position on the rights of same-sex couples. Roberts and his wife adopted two children, Jack and Josie, in 2000. Both children are now 12 years old.
If an upstanding,conservative adoptive parent like Roberts is “second best” I can only imagine where the hubby and I rate. But, honestly, I’m not worried. Every reputable study out there says we’re fine parents.
Of course, it doesn’t matter to Staver — or to the folk John McCain is pandering to by declaring that he doesn’t “believe in” our families — that studies consistently show the exact opposite of his claims. That is, research to date has shown that gay parents are just as good as non-gay parents.
Children raised by same-sex couples are a very small minority of all children. Less than 1 percent of all children in the United States are being raised by a same-sex couple, and the numbers were even smaller in the past. Of the 9.5 million minors in California in 2006, about 58,000 were being raised by same-sex couples. Nationwide, there were 74 million children, of whom about 419,000 were being raised by same-sex couples in 2006.
…Opponents of same-sex marriage complain about the non-random sampling and the small sample size of these studies. By casting doubt on this body of research, they claim that we do not know enough about same-sex couple parents, and that therefore it is premature to grant same-sex couples the right to marry. In their friend of the court brief before California’s Supreme Court, conservative family scholars including most notably James Q. Wilson claimed, “We do not have a single study based on nationally representative data that can tell us how the typical child raised from birth by a same-sex couples fares.”
But, in fact, there are nationally representative studies of children raised by same-sex couples. The public use files of the 2000 U.S. census contain information about thousands of individual children living with same-sex couple parents, and a million children living with other family types.
We can tell, by analyzing the census data, whether children raised by same-sex couples are any more likely to be held back in elementary school than children from other families. If being raised by same-sex couple parents were such a profound disadvantage as critics claim, we should expect children raised by same-sex couples to do poorly in elementary school.
The census data show that children raised by same-sex couples are just as likely as children raised by heterosexual couples to make normal progress through elementary school, given the same levels of parental education and income.
What’s more, children living with stable families have a powerful advantage over children without consistent family commitment and support. Foster children are twice as likely to be held back in school, and children living in group quarters are three times as likely to be held back in school compared with children living with permanent families.
So we know that same-sex parents are raising children successfully. Given that raising children is hard work for any family, why not provide these couples and their children with the respect and dignity that official marriage confers? Fifty-eight thousand children stand to benefit from same-sex marriage in California, at no financial or social cost to the state. That’s a pro-family agenda we should all support.
3. Gay marriages aren’t “real” marriages, because they can’t be consummated.
Now we get into the really weird arguments, and one of my favorite conservative arguments against marriage equality: unless a penis goes into a vagina, it’s not marriage.
I’ve got a few posts in the hopper related to the California Supreme Court marriage ruling, but this one moved to the top of the pile as soon as it was brought to my attention. Of all the conservative responses to the California ruling this one takes the cake. I’ve written about the procreative imperative, which the right wing has tried to establish as the basis of marriage. I’ve written an entire (and ongoing) series challenging the rightwing notion that marriage is only for making babies and only for people who can (or possibly could, if miraculously cured of infertility) makes babies. (But not for people who can raise well-rounded, developmentally normal children they didn’t conceive together in loving, safe, supportive homes.)
This, however, makes all of that seem almost logical. Forget about making babies. Forget about raising happy, healthy children. In their increasingly desperate question to narrow marriage down to something two queers can’t possibly accomplish together, they’ve boiled it down to this: in order for a marriage to be valid a penis must go into a vagina.
California’s Supreme Court ruled last week that homosexuals have a constitutional right to marry because to deny them a status afforded heterosexuals was deemed discriminatory.
“Reserving the historic designation of ‘marriage’ exclusively for opposite-sex couples poses at least a serious risk of denying the family relationship of same-sex couples … equal dignity and respect,” according to Chief Justice Ronald George.
But in fact, permitting individuals of the same sex to describe their relationships as marriage gives them a right not extended to heterosexuals, for whom “marriage” is very narrowly defined.
Although a man and a woman may legally wed, the law does not consider the marriage valid unless it is consummated. A minister may have declared the couple husband and wife, the state may have issued them a license; they may share a name, a house, a bank account, and wear each other’s rings.
They may have engaged in various intimacies only Bill Clinton would not describe as sex. But unless the relationship includes the one act defining marital union, the marriage can be annulled because it is deemed to have never existed.
Why, then, should there even be a question of whether same-sex couples can marry? Applying existing law, the question is moot; homosexual marriage is physically impossible.
She’s serious, folks. (So much so, in fact, that the was probably too pleased with herself for having worked in the obligatory Clinton reference to remember that he was the president who signed the Defense of Marriage Act.) Until and unless that penis goes into that vagina you are not married.
This goes pretty deep, actually. A Catholic marriage is violable if not consummated, though not actually void until the Pope himself says so. And some Catholic theologians say that Mary’s marriage to Joseph was never consummated, and thus she died a virgin. (This makes explaining Jesus’ siblings a bit of a sticky situation.)
How this would play out for people who, for various reasons, can’t consummate any kind of marriage? Conservatives have a similar answer to these folks as they do for elderly/infertile couples: their “symbolic” ability to consummate/procreate is sufficient. After all, a miracle could still grant them the potency and/or fertility to get ‘er done.
But there it is, in all it’s primitive glory: Unless a penis goes into a vagina, it isn’t marriage.
It’s a belief that harkens back to the days of bizarre wedding traditions like guests crowding around the door listening for noises as the bridal couple consummated their union, or waving a bloody sheet (or wine-stained, like Streisand did in Yentl) out of the window.
Now, that takes care of all this “gay marriage” silliness, doesn’t it? Not really, since only a few states require consummation for a marriage to be valid, and while I wouldn’t put it past conservatives to attempt to pass more such laws, I can’t see them being met with much more than derisive laughter in most places.
2. Same-sex marriage are anti-diverse, gender exclusive, and discriminatory against the opposite sex.
I told you we were getting into the really weird arguments. Here’s one that shocked even me: same-sex marriages are anti-diversity, because they exclude members of the opposite sex.
Where’s the Diversity?
Same-sex unions introduce all-male-white-dominated public institutions.
Homosexuality is Gender-Exclusive
Heterosexuality is Gender-Inclusive
‘Gay’ Folks are Casualties of Homosexuality
• Homosexuality segregates men and women into same-sex groups
• Lesbians categorically exclude men, in the name of ‘love’ (i.e. discrimination)
• ‘Gay’ men categorically exclude women, in the name of ‘love’ (discrimination)
• Homosexual ‘love’ is intolerant to equality and diversity of the sexes
• ‘Gay’ men use women as 2nd-class, artificial sperm incubators for childbirth
• Homosexuality automatically excludes children in the name of ‘love’
• Homosexual ‘love’ automatically excludes a child’s mother or father
• The Constitution requires sex equality (e.g. man + woman heterosexuality)
• Nature maintains 50/50 equality of men and women on the planet
• One man + one woman is uniquely inclusive diversity & equality orientation
Most gay folks don’t feel hate towards the opposite sex. However, when it comes to ‘love’, homosexuality causes an otherwise loving person to always exclude diversity and equality of the sexes simply because the other person is different (i.e. complementary!). This is why people call homosexuality a perversion. Jesus required diversity and equality of the sexes in marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 and Luke 10, etc. Gay marriage is same-sex oriented, the opposite of heterosexual diversity orientation: one man, one woman. In fact, gays claim to have a genetic (preconceived), unchangeable (intolerant), sexual preference for their own sex (narrow-minded) above the diversity of the complementary sex. However, if each of us don’t love gay folks, etc., and others who are different than ourselves than we are no better. We need to lovingly help LGBT folks, ourselves, and anyone else to be more diversity oriented.
Sexual preference is no better than racial preference, e.g. a white person always preferring whites above blacks in the name of ‘love’. Since when is anti-diversity a form of diversity?! Since when is discriminatory segregation a form of equality?!
Calling gender-exclusive or racially-exclusive anti-diversity a form of ‘diversity’ and ‘love’ that ‘isn’t hurting anybody’, is at minimum a perversion of the English language and of common sense and logic, is a bad role-model to children, and would legally open the doors to all kinds of ‘legalized’ discrimination.
So, wanting to be legally married to my husband puts me in the same category as the likes of the Klan and the White Citizens’ Council? And if I want to get married I should be “nondiscriminatory” where the opposite sex is concerned?
I told you, didn’t I? Mind you, this is the kind of argument that conservatives applaud for its brilliance. Of course it has its roots in a defense of gender complementarity, because marriage equality is a big threat to gender complementarity.
It’s no coincidence that the political forces opposed to same-sex marriage or marriage equality also oppose gender equality and advocate returning to more strictly enforced gender roles. The Institute for Progressive Christianity recently published a paper titled “The KIngdom of God and the Witness of Gay Marriage,” which includes among it’s premises:
1. Gay marriages demonstrate the possibility and desirability of gender equality in any marriage by modeling a relationship where the parties to the marriage do not distribute roles and responsibilities based on gender. This modeling supports the positive transformation of the curse of gender conflict, and subsequent patriarchal domination pronounced at the Fall from Paradise into gender egalitarianism .
2. Gay marriage’s ascendancy and resilience in society participates in a fundamental shift of the culture’s understanding of marriage. That is, marriage is being transformed from a utilitarian arraignment grounded in the idea that women are sexual property to an egalitarian life journey with a partner who one chooses to develop and share mutual love, affection, respect, and support.
… One of the most obvious issues to which gay marriage speaks is gender equality. One of the strongest and most relied upon objections to gay marriage from the Right is that it violates the concept of gender complementarity. Gender complementarity is the metaphysical claim that men’s and women’s social functions in the world are determined dichotomously by their biological sex, such that where men are convex women are concave.
… Undergirding the concept of gender complementarity is the assumption that men are metaphysically meant to rule over women (ideally in the spirit of love, of course) and women are metaphysically meant to serve men
… Thus, from the gender complementarian perspective, those who act as though women and men gain equal spiritual, emotional, psychological, and existential satisfaction and dignity from leading and serving, and are meant to experience both of these sides of the human psyche, are disordered, as are those who advocate this notion of equality and balance.
The possibility of gay marriage invites heterosexuals to view their intimate partners (or potential intimate partners) not through a lens of gendered otherness primarily —that is through the lens of gender complementarity— but through the lens of sameness, that is through the lens of sharing a common human dignity, as it was in the beginning.
As much as it may seem like a tangent, the above both reinforces the relationship between sexism and homophobia, and places gay & lesbian equality in general and marriage equality specifically in the context of earlier progressive social movements, all of which — from the abolitionist movement, to women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement — had strong foundations in moral principles; progressive moral principles like those Pitt referenced in his column.
1 Same-sex marriage might lead to same-sex conception, which robs deprives children of the right to be born of male and female gametes.
I kid you not. You don’t think I could make this stuff up, do you?
This one actually came to me via a comment on one of my blog posts. The commenter asked me to comment on his position, summarized above.
And in dealing with all that, I forgot one more concern some folks have about the hubby and I being able to legally marry each other. It’s that the hubby and I might someday desire to — wait for it — make a baby. With each other. I’d forgotten about that one until I got this comment on a old blog post about the procreative imperative.
Hey Terrence, it’s been a year since I posted my comment above – have you responded anywhere, in another post perhaps? What are your views regarding same-sex conception, do you insist on a right to try, or would you agree that people should only be allowed to conceive with someone of the other sex? By accepting that limit, we could achieve a consensus on how to resolve the marriage debate so that same-sex couples get federal recognition and equal protections in all other areas except conception rights. Looking forward to hearing your views.
This is the comment he wanted me to respond to.
It’s a procreation *right*, not imperative. Marriage makes it legal to conceive children together. It gets official consent from both parties and the state and announces and welcomes the concept of this couple having children.
Of course it doesn’t require it! It allows it. It also obligates the parties to each other, even if they don’t have children.
But people should only be allowed to conceive with another person of the other sex. We shouldn’t allow cloning (or marrying yourself) or same-sex conception (or marrying someone of the same sex). Same-sex conception would require genetic engineering and would be too risky, we should only allow natural conception of a man and a woman.
Marriage must continue to guarantee the right to conceive children together, using the marriage’s own gametes. It would be dangerous to allow any marriages of people who are not allowed to attempt to conceive together, since this could spill over into heterosexual marriages and forced eugenics.
At the time I didn’t respond because I didn’t think it required a response. I thought, “You’re kidding me, right?” And I quote “We shouldn’t allow cloning (marrying yourself) or same-sex conception (or marrying someone of the same sex).” Never mind the “marriage equals penis-into-vagina.” We’re now all the way back to “marriage equals sperm into egg.” And where does one begin with this bit of bizarre reductionism: Marriage must continue to be the right to conceive children together, using the marriage’s own gametes.)
Just that bit unreason was enough. I didn’t need to stroll down the garden path of “some-people-shouldn’t-be-allowed-to-reproduce.”
Do I need to say any more?
With arguments like these, I wonder why the opposition chose not to hold forth on any of these points before the Supreme Court.