Friday, April 5, 2013

How Gay Marriage Will Fail to Destroy America

I know this has been in heavy rotation on blogs both inside and outside the Mormon blogosphere for a while now...but I think I'm finally going to weigh in on this whole gay marriage deal.

I'm straight.  Although I was raised with the implicit understanding that gays were to be avoided, I've since discovered that gay people are not, in fact, poisonous.  And they'll be just as non-poisonous when they're married to each other.
Opponents of gay marriage have repeatedly claimed that allowing gays to marry will destroy straight marriages, erode the family unit and bring about a gaypocalypse.  The response of many same sex marriage proponents, including me, has been along the lines of, "And how, exactly, is that going to happen?"

Last week, I finally read an attempt to tackle this baffling question head-on in the Mormon-run Meridian Magazine.  The article started off well enough.  I thought I was about to read an intelligent, carefully considered argument for something I disagreed with.  
The oft-repeated and oft-unanswered question "How does gay marriage affect you personally?" seems to be a rhetorical trump card.  Talking heads in the media rarely have the time in our sound-byte driven news cycle to give a thorough answer to the question.  
Right off the bat, the article's author, Mary Fielding Summerhays, makes a fair point.  The question in question, usually asked with a level of snark, has such complexity that fitting a complete answer into a clear, concise sentence or two can be extremely difficult.  At first, she had my respect.  But then the rest of the article happened.

Summerhays' conclusion gives a brief run-through of her arguments:
Families with three homosexual parents; a loss of fathers' rights; children without the right to a mother and a father; adoption policy protecting homosexual adults over defenseless children; and heterosexual marriage being redefined--this all sound so implausible, but it is now historical fact.  These events are the first tremblings of a tidal wave of familial case-law chaos--that is, if genderless marriage continues unabated.
The body of the article reads along the lines of "I don't want gays to marry, so I thought of reasons why."  She cites a number of legitimate concerns, using specific examples to illustrate some of the negative consequences of allowing same sex marriage.  But they're all logistical problems.  All the problems she presents are important--but they're problems with adoption and child custody laws.  The only possible
exception is her section on how the government is redefining the definition of marriage:
Once we change the essential public purpose of marriage, genderless marriage effectually goes on to legally declare the following:  (1) that marriage is about meeting the private emotional and romantic needs of adults; (2) that contrary to nature and science alike, children do not need or deserve the protection, service, and socialization of both a male and female parent; and (3) that government, rather than biology and the procreative act, will determine the roles in relationships.

(1)  Not every marriage is about the same thing.  Lots of people get married to start a family and raise children.  But by defining marriage as being solely for the purpose of uniting parents with their children, we would be invalidating numerous legitimate marriages.  For example, my girlfriend's grandfather recently remarried.  His children are all grown and capable of taking care of themselves.  He and his new wife are way too old to possibly have any children together.  So yeah--marriage can be about meeting private emotional and romantic needs and that's totally fine.

(2)  It's kind of absurd to even bother bringing up the point that children deserve both a mother and a father. The point should be that children deserve two responsible, united and loving parents.  Gay marriage is not the enemy of the rising generation.  Crappy parents are the enemy of the rising generation.  Absent parents are the enemy of the rising generation.  Abusive parents are the enemy of the rising generation.  Two self-sufficient, compassionate and dedicated homosexuals are far better equipped to raise a child together than some of the irresponsible, selfish and lazy heterosexuals I've had the displeasure of knowing.

(3)  By allowing gay marriage the government will not be determining the roles in relationships.  It will be doing the exact opposite.  It will be saying that any two adults who wish to dedicate their lives to each other will be allowed to marry, and leave the relationship roles up to the the individuals.  You'd think small-government conservatives would like that idea.

Perhaps the most important thing that I agree with Summerhays about is that legalizing gay marriage nationwide will create problems.  But any broad change in policy creates problems.  Call them growing pains.  Emancipation of the slaves and the civil rights movements were the same way--there were plenty of logistical complications and it took a long time for the kinks to be ironed out (I suppose some are still being ironed out) but it was the right thing to do.  Allowing gays to marry each other is similarly fraught with unwanted consequences--but it's the right thing to do.

I have still not seen a good argument against same sex marriage that confronts the issue as a civil rights issue. I still haven't seen any anti-gay-marriage articles that come across as anything other than bigoted or distrustful of homosexuals--and some of the articles were written by homosexuals.  To me, the basic issue here is that straight people are allowed to marry any one person they wish to and gay people are not permitted the same right.  I'm lucky enough that, if I ever want to get married, all of the people that I'd want to marry would be women--which means I'd be legally allowed to be married.  For gays, the opposite is true.  Any of the people they would wish to marry would be the people they'd be legally barred from marrying.

That's not fair.  And it's not right.  And fixing that problem will not bring about a gaypocalypse.

People have a tendency to view the current political climate as the final battle for the fate of the universe.  People are currently freaking out about gay marriage and gun control as though one wrong legislative step could trigger some kind of massive destruction of the nation.  The country has live through plenty of similar and worse situations, and though many of them seemed like Armageddon at the time, when it comes to treating our citizens as equals, I think we should just grit our teeth, do our best to fairly legislate egality, and let its opponents get over themselves.  People were up in arms about freeing slaves, allowing women to vote, dissolving segregation and plenty of other past issues.  But the country came out better for all those changes.

I wouldn't have said this ten years ago, but let's just let gay people get married.  The fact that this is spending so much time in the limelight is absurd.  The answer's simple:

Do the right thing.  (That sounds vaguely familiar.)

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