A columnist in the Chicago Tribune wrote a column about why the arguments against same-sex marriage fail. I certainly appreciate that he responds to the arguments with rational responses rather than ad hominem attacks or red herrings. That's a refreshing change. But I still think his responses fall short of undermining the reasons. Here's why.
"Gay marriage violates tradition." He says that tradition is a mixed bad and expanding rights requires overturning it. In principle, he's right. But we don't appeal to tradition just for the tradition's sake. "We've always done it this way." it's a universal tradition across millennia, cultures, races, and religions. It's pretty much universal tradition. So there's a pretty big precedent that can't be dismissed. And there's reason behind this vast tradition. It's the way societies work best to organize families to protect children to perpetuate the next generation. Look, tradition has been overturned before the push for same-sex marriage. It was most notably overturned in the U.S. when no-fault divorce was introduced and the sexual revolution ensued. Families have been eroding for a while now and the results aren't good. Experience would argue that there was wisdom behind tradition and we should return to it instead of advancing on to further social experiments.
"Gay couples can't produce children." He cites other cases of marriage we allow that don't produce children. True enough, but citing exceptions doesn't undermine the rule. In general, society's interest in marriage is the children they produce. Same-sex marriage doesn't create an exception but an entirely new class of marriages in which children do not result as a rule. While individuals may be free to engage in these relationships, society and government just don't have a stake in them so marriage doesn't apply.
"Having a mom and a dad is better for children than having two moms or two dads." All of our experience says so and so do studies. Study after study in the last 30 years has demonstrated the horrific consequences for children in single-parent families and broken homes. The damage to children and society as a result is significant. J. Warner Wallace guest hosted the radio program Sunday and opened the show commenting on this. You can listen here.
"Legalizing same-sex marriage will put us on the slippery slope toward legalizing polygamy." He asserts that same-sex marriage does not fundamentally alter the two-person model of traditional marriage. Only if you consider the sexes interchangeable. It's not as though the two people being male and female is incidental to the traditional marriage. It's a fundamental change to the definition. And there is a logical slippery slope between the way proponents of same-sex marriage justify their arguments and polygamy. Once the arguments are encoded in the law, there's nothing in principle that keeps the justification for one from justifying the second. Supporters of same-sex marriage admit that further radical redefinition of marriage is part of the agenda.
"Same-sex marriage trivializes and therefore weakens the institution of heterosexual marriage." To the extent that heterosexuals have already weakened and trivialized marriage with divorce, living together, and out-of-wedlock parenting, the institution has already taken some significant hits. But that doesn't mean we should make further changes that undermine it. And the fact is that homosexual couples haven't taken advantage of the freedom to marry in significant numbers according to the U.S. Census and studies in other countries. That seems to indicate that the goal isn't marriage as much as social acceptance that marriage conveys.
"Homosexual behavior is immoral and ought not be encouraged." He doesn't want to argue morality. Fair enough. But arguments about morality aren't simply based in religion. Largely, morality arguments are drawn from nature, which can give us a good justification for design and purpose. Greg gives a case here
But all of this really is beside the point. The real issue is whether or not marriage is a right. It's not. It's nor more a right than a drivers' license is a right. As far as goverment's recognition of marriage, there is no right to either on. They're civil arrangements that the goverment has an interest in. The only obligation to rights the government has is to treat equally all citizens who meet the qualifications. If you pass the driver's test, you get a license. If you meet the qualifications for marriage, you also get a license and recognition from the government. And in that respect, everyone - heterosexual or homosexual - has exactly the same access to marriage: Each is equally free to marry one person at a time of the opposite sex. The qualification for marriage has never been to marry who you love, it's bee to marry an individual that creates a union the government has an interest in. Everyone else is free to carry on relationships as they wish.
It doesn't come up in this column, but just because I think it's such a good argument, here is Frank Beckwith's explanation for why the analogy between interracial marriage and same-sex marriage fails.