There are protests throughout America today in support of same-sex marriage rights. One thing that troubles me is how phony the arguments are on both sides.
Those in favor of same-sex marriage portray it as an equal rights issue. As if gays and lesbians were ever barred from entering into a marriage! Of course they are free to marry… a person of the opposite sex. Broadening the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions is an unprecedented step. That is not to say that it is wrong to take this step, but it’s not quite the same as, say, allowing women to vote.
But those opposed to same-sex marriage have equally phony arguments. They have a right, they say, to the traditional definition of marriage, as if broadening the definition of marriage ever threatened traditional, heterosexual unions. They are worried that pastors and ministers will be forced to marry homosexual couples, not that there is a precedent of a pastor or minister ever having been forced to marry anybody.
Why can we not have a reasoned discussion instead? The argument in favor of same-sex marriage is strong. It is about the rights of two people to care for each other, to be able to act as legal guardians of one another, inherit from one another, visit one another in hospital, and so on. Denying a decent, loving couple these rights just because it doesn’t agree with our idea of a “marriage” just doesn’t sound right.
On the other hand… is it really necessary to provocatively call this “marriage”? I don’t mind it, but many do. If it is indeed about rights and not the symbolism of the word itself, what’s wrong with same-sex unions?
On the third hand… if we recognize marriage as a relationship that legalizes the love and care people feel for one another (as opposed to the potential to procreate), why would we artificially limit it to two people? What is wrong with legalizing polygamy?
On the fourth hand… if, as opponents of same-sex marriage say, marriage is indeed about procreation, what about childless heterosexual couples? Should older or infertile people be allowed to marry?
I believe these are valid questions for a reasoned discussion. Unfortunately, neither plebiscites aimed at changing a state’s constitution to deny a hard-earned right, nor street protests with empty slogans lead to reasoned discussion.