Sunday, October 23, 2005

On Homosexual Marriage

About six months ago, a former roommate (we’ll call him Ben) and I had a very interesting discussion about gay marriage. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this discussion on my blog. If I have shared it, you can skip this post. Anyhow, I used to favor gay marriage; however, since that discussion, I have been leaning away from it. I’m still not convinced either way, but I thought I’d throw these thoughts down on paper/blog space.

I like this argument because it’s one you don’t hear too often. Well, at least I don’t. I’ve just kept these thoughts in the back of my mind, until recently. Just a couple weeks ago, Jamie (best friend) and I discussed gay marriage, and I shared this perspective. She pointed out some holes in the argument, so I’ve done some adjusting, and now it’s your turn to comment. By the way, this is far from a perfect argument. But I think it’s interesting.

First off, you should know that Ben, my former roommate, comes across as homosexual, even though he is actually very straight. He gives off this impression because not only is he more effeminate, but he is also very involved in the performing arts. He’s a dancer, singer and actor. (Forgive me for stereotyping. I’ve since repented for my misjudgment.) Because of his background, he has quite a few gay friends, and he is very understanding and accepting of their lifestyle. My point: he’s not just some homophobe.

Anyhow, Ben believes that homosexual marriage should not be allowed because it wouldn’t be in the government’s best interest. Before you lynch me, hear me out. He asked me why the government sanctions marriage in the first place. I cited tradition, tax breaks, and certain legal benefits. He probed deeper, asking why the government would give tax breaks and legal benefits to a married couple, and even go so far as to validate a religious ceremony (I suppose you could argue that marriage isn’t based in religion, but I’d disagree with you).

I just looked at him, waiting for the answer he was obviously preparing to give me. He went on to explain that the government has an interest in marriage because heterosexual families are a societal good. Heterosexual marriage is good mainly because more often than not such a union leads to children. Children create growth. Growth is good because it provides a healthy economy. According to Ben, that’s one of the main reasons the government has its hand in marriage: it wants to see economic progress.

Marriage is also important because a family is the best place for a child to be reared. Families provide moral education that the government simply cannot provide. At home, children are taught to be honest, to not steal, to serve others, to be good citizens, etc. The government RELIES on families to promote a healthy, growing society.

Now, I know your following argument: “A homosexual couple could certainly rear children in a very responsible, healthy manner.” You’re absolutely right. But so could two grandparents. Or a polygamist family. Or a single mother or father. But those situations aren’t ideal for a child, so why encourage it. Plus, it’s not certain that gay people would even have children (mainly because they lack the plumbing), so why encourage an activity that has a very uncertain result. Yes, gay people can adopt, even though they can’t make babies. However, that’s not the ideal situation either, so why encourage it.

Moreover, it’s also likely that allowing homosexual marriage would cause more people to become or live homosexual lifestyles. As homosexuality increases, the number of people pursuing families and children would decrease. Fewer families having children would result in a declining population – a bad thing for any government or nation.

Summary of the main points: 1) the government wants to encourage families because they are a societal good, they grow the economy and they help teach moral education, 2) the best way to promote families is to encourage man-and-wife unions, and 3) by encouraging homosexuality, the nation’s population would likely decline at a faster rate – a bad thing.

Okay, I’m sure you all disagree on some level. I hope I haven’t offended too many. Ha! I just thought I’d get these arguments out on the table. Many of us are probably tired of the whole homosexual marriage debate, so feel free to ignore this last post if you’re fed up with it.

I’m still trying to decide what would be best – for the nation, for families, for people. Let me know what you all think.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill here:

My favorite bumper sticker concering the whole gay marriage issue reads: "My Gay Marriage will not interfere with your Straight Divorce." The argument that encouraging homosexuality will discourage heterosexuality is erroneous. People don't decide to become gay because it has been sanctioned by some outside entity. People are gay because they are. The population will not decrease because gays, who will couple in some form anyway, can marry. Take a long hard look at the state of heterosexual marriage in this country. 50% of them end in divorce. Look at all of the children conceived out of wedlock in this nation. Gays have nothing to do with any of that. Children are raised in all sorts of situations that will exist even if all of the gay people magically vanish. Whether marriage is a religious rite or not depends on the couple who marry. But the government's role is not religious. It is legal: property rights, tax law, etc. So the argument becomes one of civil rights. Gays and lesbians (who have the plumbing to create children and can and will do so with or without the legal right to marry if they so choose) either are entitled to the same civil rights as heterosexuals or they aren't. Throwing the issue of children into the mix makes no sense. We allow middle aged and elderly people to marry and they aren't going to reproduce. We allow couples who choose to remain childless to marry. We allow single heterosexuals to adopt. Many gays have kids because they felt compelled to fake a heterosexual marriage until one day they could no longer live a lie. Therefore, discouraging gay unions encourages more sham straight marriages and more kids living in troubled or broken homes.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreement with Bill. Fundamentally an issue of civil / human rights. Moreover, the opposition arguments are rhetorically faulty, engaging in logical fallacies on multiple levels.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with Bill's comment: the notion that the sanctioning gay marriage will encourage homosexuality is not erroneous. Still, I do not think that you, GM, made a very cogent argument about that (indeed, you made no argument at all).

While homosexuality manifestly is not a choice, I strongly oppose the notion that it is an inborn, unchanging thing. My experience with sexuality has been one of fluidity: as a child I was attracted to women, as a teen I was attracted almost exclusively to men, and now, as a young adult, my attraction definitely lean toward men even as my attraction to women grows. I do not consider myself an aberration.

I believe that the external and internal realms conspire to produce sexual orientation: society's approach to sexuality, therefore, can be reasonably inferred to have a demonstrable effect on the sexuality of its members. Ancient societies harnessed and encouraged same-sex liaisons to establish power structures and to provide right-of-passage markers (cf. Socrates and Athens, as well as Sparta). These norms coexisted with the expectation that the same men who found pleasure in boys would also reign in homes with wives with whom conjugal relations were expected.

Are we to deduce that bisexuality was significantly more prevalent in those ancient societies than it is today? I think so. Why? I suggest that it is because those societies' norms affected the expression of sexuality, and that the expression of sexuality affects its composition.

I recognize that the final clause in that last sentence is not well supported by the preceding comments, but I think that in general, individual experience correlates with it. Really, it's a much larger argument than I have time for today.

-Fellow

P.S. Bill, the 50% divorce statistic is a wonderfully round number that attempts to represent an enormously difficult phenomenon to calculate. It's shot around a lot, but is not corroborated. In other words, the 50% statistic is bunk.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Gay Mormon said...

To Bill:

Some would argue that by teaching children that homosexual marriage is just as acceptable as heterosexual marriage, children would be confused. As a result, the number of homosexuals would increase. Because the cause of homosexuality is not known, is this not a very likely possibility?

5:05 PM  
Anonymous imperfect prose said...

I found all of these arguements very useful, but they all show that none can really regulate anothers life. Perhaps we'd all be happier if we just let everyone make their own choices and gave neither side propoganda.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

G.M.

Bill is basically right in what he says about state-sanctioned homosexual marriage being about equality and civil rights. It is not about having or raising children; it is not about encouraging the spread of gaydom; and it most certainly is not about attacking the traditional family unit as the cornerstone of our society.

I am a Canadian, and our nation has just decided to allow (I wish that I could use the word, "embrace", but not just yet . . .)civil gay marriage. In Canada, gay marriage is a civil matter: no religious organisation that is opposed to it is required to participate in any way in gay marriage. In the face of tremendous (unCanadian) opposition, courageous political leaders and Christian leaders worked to ensure the passage of legislation that now permits civil gay marriage.

When push came to shove, passage was the right thing to do, the decent thing to do, the only conscionable thing to do. We will be a better, stronger, and more compassionate society for further guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of all of our citizens. And ain't it about time??!!!

Gay and proud and still lovin' ya . . .

Peter

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting article- a testimony from a person from Mass. before the Senate Judiciary committee on Same Sex Marriage.
http://www.ldsmag.com/ideas/051025ssmarriage.html

12:06 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I say go right ahead and be just as miserable as the rest of us. *wink*

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GM--I would love to see you develop more of a sense of entitlement. I would love it if--when someone tries to tell you gay marriage is wrong--you would say forthrightly, "I am gay. I should have the right to decide for myself--it is not your business, nor anyone else's--who I marry. If I want to marry a man or a woman, or no one, that shoud be MY decision to make." You should have that sense of being ENTITLED to choose whomever YOU choose as a spouse. Whether or not gay marriages are lagalized, more and more people are being open about their homosexuality. Children are going to become well aware--whether thru watching shows like "Will & Grace" (and there will be more of them)or readng books with gay characters in school,that gay people exist, that gay couples exist. They will be no more "confused" whether some are married by the state or not. Some gays are being married by clergymen already, even in states that do not have gay civil marriages; they can still have religious ceremonies of commitment. The real problem to worry about is not gay people, it is antigay bigotry, which leads to many gay people being beaten, taunted, even killed. (Think of Matthew Shepard being killed by those two Mormon guys for no reason other than that he is gay.) The institutions that promote anti-gay feelings--and that includes plenty of misguided churches--are cusing far more harm i our culture than any people are causing by simply loving someone of their own sex. You were, I presume, too afraid to tell your roommate you are gay. How do you know he was not in the exact same position? If more people would come out and be honest, and everyone realized just how many friends and neighbors were gay, it would make it easier for everyone to be gay--and that much harder for bigots to be dominnt. But if you stay silent about who you are because bigots have intimidated you, they have won, and they have reduced your freedom to be yourself and feel good about yourself.

3:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

G.M., What in the world difference would it make if legalizing gay marriage led to an increase in the number of gay people? The government cannot favor heterosexuals over homosexuals. The Mormon Church may consider homosexuality a sin, but that is the Mormon Church's problem; it is not the position of the government. A homosexual can be just as happy, productive, caring, and ethical as a straight person. Who is to say it is "better" for society if we have more heterosuxuals, or fewer? I have a hunch many of the repressed, closeted gay men the Mormon Church tends to turn out would be happier and more productive members of society if they could live their lives more freely and authentically. Incidntally, don't be surprised if your supposedly straight roommate turns out to be gay. You sayu he is ffeminate and very much into the arts. Most gay men, of course, are not effeminate. But most effeminate men are gay. Gay Mormons--because of all the brainwashing they've received that it is bad to be gay--tend to come out much later than gay non-Mormomns. But they eventually come out. And don't be surprised if, at a reunion with that roommate a decade from now, he has a gay partner. I've seen this happen a lot. ESPECIALLY if, as you say, he is so big on the arts (where gay people are highly represented).

3:29 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

GM, thanks for the nice comment. I'm happy to help if I can.

You will benefit from a regular review of your assumptions - a practice that I undertake for myself regularly. Ask "what if this assumption *isn't* true...what then?" Play it out, all in the safety of your mind - no need to commit to this publically.

Beyond speculation, there is no set of data that I've seen that would support that allowing gay marriage would "cause more people to become or live homosexual lifestyles." It's not like this isn't testable - there are enough case studies now to know this. I will spot you that perhaps, and on the margin, more gay-friendly legislation would make it more congenial for gays to quit hiding the fact that they are gay, but I'm assuming that after Nazi Germany fell, it was safer for Jews to come out of hiding as well - did the fall of the Third Reich *create* Jews? Of course not - it merely allowed them to enjoy the freedoms of other citizens. I would encourage you to play with this analogy and see if you fid it persuasive.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous C.D. said...

How could it possibly "confuse" kids to teach them the truth--which is that some people fall in love with members of their own sex, and others fall in love with members of the same sex? Do you think kids are being confused in nations that have gay marriage? The only confusion in the US is created by institutions like the Mormonj Church (and other anti-gay churches) which try to make kids believe falsehoods like, "There is no such thing as being gay; there are only individuals suffering from 'same-sex attraction,' who would be happier if they were straight." That harmful, provaly false teaching DEFINITELY confuses kids who are, at heart, gay. But try unsatisfactorily to do do what the church says they should. Honestly, GM, there are so many happy, friendly, decent caring gay people out there. You would be happier if you were getting to know one, and falling in love, and exchnging affection, and sharing a life with a real person out there (whjo will give you the love you need) than debating all these silly issues like "Is gay marriage proper." Debating won't help you as much as hugging, kissing, and loving someone (and letting yourself be loved back) will... Good luck! There are so many nice ways to meet folks--I like Friendster and MySpace.com, myself.... Among others. They let you see faces, chat on line, see if you feel sorta compatible, before meeting in person (if you choose to meet). CD

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill here:

The fact is, I am gay. I didn't become gay because it was acceptable or sanctioned by society. I was told it was wrong all of my life. I'm gay anyway. Not because I'm a rebel, but because I am sexually attracted to men and I am not sexually attracted to women. I am 47 years old, to give you some sense of th times I grew up in.

Arguing that sanctioning gay marriage will increase the number of gay people is the same as arguing that persecuting gay people will eliminate homosexuality. If sexuality is as fluid as some here are arguing, doesn't it follow that these are pretty normal feelings? If so, what is the problem with more gay people? Are we really at risk of heterosexuals all running to the other side, ceasing to make babies, and the human race coming to a screeching halt?

As for the divorce rate--I freely admit I have no precise figures of my own, but since divorce is a government sanctioned legal procedure, I am certain that exact numbers do exist. That divorce exists does not negate the value of marriage and that was never my argument. My real point is, crying, "Won't someone please think about the children?!" as an argument against gay marriage is illogical.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the reason government sanctions marriage is that it is better for society for people to have a mate than for everyone to be single. Children may or may not come from that union, but having adults paired together improves emotional and physical health, and lessens the chances of destabilizing activities like casual sex, etc. Marriage gives some structure to what would otherwise be a rather chaotic social system. The benefits to children in a marriage-centered system are considerable, but that should not be the main arguement for society to promote marriage in general. It is the partnering relationship that needs to be the focus when discussing the value of marriage. Having gay marriage would not affect heterosexual marriage/ divorce all that much (other than decreasing the number of gay men marrying women once they realize that there is an option), but it would affect the gay community rather profoundly in encouraging stable pairings, which in turn would strengthen society as a whole.

8:26 AM  

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