Listening to one of the many ravings of Michelle Bachmann’s husband about the sanctity of marriage and the evils of homosexuality the other day (along with the other general ravings of those religious right running for the presidency), I couldn’t help but think about the fallacies of logic presented as if they were some sort of genuine insight into the workings of the nation and indeed the world. My point is not to conclude whether or not same sex marriage viable or right. While I find the restrictions on same sex marriage antiquated and ethically unsound, the idea of convincing those opposed to a different way of thinking is decidedly unlikely. What I can do, however, is point out the intellectual shortcomings of the logic used in the arguments against it. Because arguments grounded in poor thinking deserve to be exposed. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite reasons to oppose same sex marriage and responses to them.
Argument 1: It’s unnatural because marriage is about procreation. The far right, specifically the religious right, loves to address the “naturalness” of gay marriage – never mind the naturalness of circumcision, abstinence or hair spray. Because procreation is the only reason for sex and marriage is the only reason for procreation, so the theory goes, marriage should only be allowed amongst those able and willing to bear young. However, if there is a necessary link between marriage and procreation, decidedly strange consequences would follow. A state could prohibit marriage in which one or both partners are sterile or impotent. If procreation is the essential goal of marriage, why should postmenopausal women be allowed to marry? Indeed, the state should prohibit any union where producing viable young is not an option.
Argument 2: It’s anti-religious. The argument runs along the lines that many religions of the world, including the major ones in this country, consider homosexuality unacceptable (granted, most of the religious right see their brand of religion as the only one that matters, but they’re happy to point to other religions when it helps their cause). It is offensive and a swipe to the religious freedom of the majority to have to recognize a relationship they consider sinful (and one has to wonder how offensive it really is). Never mind the vast numbers of non-religious for a moment or the even larger number of religious would would say, “just a damn minute there”. Unfortunately, by the “anti-religious” logic we might consider banning pants on women, stoning adulterers, re-imposing slavery, lopping off the hands of thieves – it all depends on the flavor of your sect and the interpretation of the week. The fact is that most Christians don’t keep Kosher because they chose to set aside the religious proscriptions against certain foods, deeming them outmoded or irrelevant to their cultural construct. So the anti-religious element falls flat. Never mind the vast numbers of non-religious for a moment.
Argument 3: It harms children. Children raised by gay parents will be gay they cry. Never mind the inherent bigotry of that concern for a moment, and consider the statistics. The fact is that we now have enough data to demonstrate that children raised by gay parents are no more likely to be gay than Asian children raised by whites will themselves turn white. The other piece of the argument is that it will lead to more adoptions, which will lead to more children living in gay homes, which means more children living lives absent a relationship with at least one biological parent. This will of course result in some emotional pain and confusion. By that same token we should simply abandon adoption altogether because the pain and confusion argument will still hold true. If the goal is to avoid pain or confusion for the child, we should be able to strip people of their rights to parenthood for a host of reasons.
Argument 4: The majority of Americans do not support it. Perhaps the strongest argument being pushed against same sex marriage is that a supermajority of voters want marriage defined as being exclusively between a man and a woman. But tyranny of the majority does not make something right. We do live in a republic in which our leaders are democratically chosen, and the will of the people is the central tenant of any democratic form of government. But we do not live in a true democracy. We live in a republic. People are fickle and will change their mind on a whim. The founding fathers believed that part of founding a republic instead of a democracy was the temperance of unstable public opinion and the protection of minority groups. The fact of the matter is that the majority will change its mind – it did with segregation and it will with this. Just because the majority wants to impose its worldview on the system, does not mean they should be allowed to.