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In the spirit of divisive moral and political issues (which may prove to be the

overarching theme of the next few months, as I’m taking both Political Science and
Ethics this semester), I’d like to discuss gay marriage. The main reason for the endurance
of this issue, far more than its proximity to our diluted puritanical views about sex, is the
ability of those on each side of the argument to speak about the same issue on two
entirely different planes.
Those against gay marriage see the issue as a moral one, since most Christians
(and other assorted monotheisms) are of the belief that homosexuality is a sin. They hold
that to allow state sanction of the homosexual lifestyle under a banner of tolerance is too
far for a concerned Christian to go, and would indeed make the job of salvation (by
conversion of sinners, which of course include homosexuals) only harder to achieve. For
the committed Christian, allowing sin through legislation is tantamount to condemning
millions of homosexuals to hell. In this way, Christians view their position as one of
compassion, a way of hating the sin and not the sinner.
Those who support gay marriage see the issue in quite a different way. Though
many of them might still be Christian (or other religion), they either do not agree with an
anti-gay interpretation of their religious materials or believe that since their opposition of
homosexuality is based purely on religion, this view is not relevant to their political
opinion1. And, of course, there also exist a large number of gay marriage supporters with
no religious preference at all, whether agnostic, atheist, indifferent, or ambivalent to
religion. They, though comprising quite a disparate group, are all defined by the fact that
they view gay marriage as a political issue, not a religious issue. And, more specifically,
an equal rights issue. They are of the opinion that the state’s support of heterosexual
unions and not homosexual unions is a contradiction, and indefensible from the point of
view of a government with interests that do not include validating some consensual
sexual lifestyles and not others.
To this, those who oppose gay marriage (if they are interested in argumentation
outside of their purely moral defense, which many deem unnecessary and foolish) would
reply that the state does have an interest in preserving marriage as only between a man
and a woman. The reasons for this are varied, but the most convincing argument is that
marriage derives its special stature from the purpose of creating offspring in a secure
environment. Absent this ability to naturally procreate, they say marriage becomes
merely a legal contract between two adults, an arrangement that is close enough to
lifetime partnership to make pressing of this issue not worth its moral offense to a
majority of the United States population that opposes gay marriage2.
It is certainly a weakness of argument to include as part of a political debate a
request for the minority opinion to concede as a courtesy to the moral welfare of the
majority. And indeed, the request itself is religious is nature, and is therefore irrelevant.
And as for marriage’s importance outside of procreation, I will defer to Jonathan Rauch
and an excerpt from his essay “Who Needs Marriage?”:
“All by itself, marriage is society’s first and, often, second and third line of
support for the troubled individual. Absent a spousem the burdens of contingency fall
immediately and sometimes crushingly upon people who have more immediate problems
of their own (relatives, friends, neighbors), then upon charities and welfare programs that
are expensive and often not very good. From the broader society’s point of view, the
unattached person is an accident waiting to happen. Married people are happier,
healthier, and live longer; married men have lower rates of homicide, suicide, accidents,
and mental illness. In large part, the reason is simply that married people have someone
to look after them, and know it.”
Now I’m sure there are many who would refute this claim, but I do not think it’s a
stretch to assert that most of society views marriage in this connotative way, and not just
as a baby-making contract. And if this is true, then marriage has value outside of
heterosexual unions, and will not disintegrate in meaning when extended to homosexual
couples.
That being said, just because one has disproven the opposition’s claim (though my
critique could not be viewed as conclusive), doesn’t mean the opposition must concede
the point. And really, that is not my intention. What’s really important is to establish the
purity of the opinions involved, because there are many people who try to marginalize or
moderate this issue in a way that, when put under logical scrutiny, reveals itself to be one
of the two polar opposite opinions in sheep’s clothing. I’ve met homosexuals who say
that they don’t need marriage; I’ve met conservatives who saw they don’t know why
everyone’s making a big deal about this whole thing. The former is trying to be
pragmatic and unselfish; the latter is just being dismissive. And both don’t care enough
about the issue to know the significance of the words they say.
For others, who have taken the time to examine the arguments on both sides,
comes an understanding of the irreconcilability of the two stances. Gay marriage
supporters will have a hard time asking the opposition to give up part of their religious
beliefs, and the opposition will have a hard time asking gay-marriage supporters to accept
unequal rights as in line with our Constitution. Which brings us to the state we’re in
today: unbending religious-based partisanship. I do not pretend to know what will
happen next, but I do know that as a man who tries to guide himself by reason, I cannot
justify being against gay marriage. Opposition to the union is merely a remnant of old
prejudices swallowed into religion long ago, and not in any way a logically defensible
position.

1. To be honest, I think the latter view lacks a certain conviction to a moral code
(Christianity) with such dire consequences (eternity in damnation) as to make
their ability to dilute their own morality quite distressing, if not a symptom of
their attitude toward the Christian faith.
2. If I have failed to state the best argument for the opposition’s case, please
respond, as it is not my intention to attack a paper tiger.