Issue Report: Gay marriage

Should gay marriage be legalized?

Background and context

Gay marriage, also known as same-sex marriage, is marriage between two persons of the same sex. By 2010, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Norway, Sweden and South Africa had all legalized same-sex marriage. The federal government of the United States does not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples and is prohibited from doing so by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).Nationwide, five states have legalized same-sex marriage: New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. In California, same-sex marriages were performed between June 16, 2008 and November 4, 2008, after the California Supreme Court held the statutes limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the state constitution; however, the California electorate then approved a voter initiative that reinstated the ban on same-sex marriage as part of California’s constitution. Some states recognize gay marriage, but do not grant same-sex marriage licenses, including, by 2010, New York, Rhode Island, and Maryland. The movement to obtain marriage rights and benefits for same-sex couples in the United States began in the early 1970s. The issue became even more prominent in U.S. politics in the mid-1990s with a public backlash toward the idea evidenced by Congress’ passage of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. In the late 2000s, New England became the center of an organized push to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S., with four of the six states comprising that region granting same-sex couples the legal right to marry. President Obama has regularly opposed same sex marriage, saying, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Marriage defined: Can definition of marriage include gay marriage?

Definition of marriage can and should evolve to include gays

"Let them wed." Economist. January 4th, 1996

“Marriage may be for the ages—but it changes by the year. And never, perhaps, has it changed as quickly as since the 1960s. In western law, wives are now equal rather than subordinate partners; interracial marriage is now widely accepted both in statute and in society; marital failure itself, rather than the fault of one partner, may be grounds for a split. With change, alas, has come strain.”

Marriage is about love/commitment; gays qualify

Marriage is a commitment to love and care for your spouse till death. This is what is heard in all wedding vows. Civil marriage vows emphasize love and commitment. Reproduction and child-rearing are not mentioned, nor is the sexual orientation of individuals. And, wedding vows, being the essential element of a wedding ceremony, should be seen as the most authoritative expression of what defines marriage. Gays can clearly qualify for marriage according to these vows, and any definition of marriage deduced from these vows.

Many dictionaries include gays in "marriage"

Daniel Redman. "Dictionaries recognize same-sex marriage—who knew?" Slate. April 7, 2009

“in their latest editions, the dictionaries have begun to switch sides—though until recently, no one seemed to have much noticed. The American Heritage Dictionary, Black’s Law Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, and Webster’s have all added same-sex unions to their definitions of marriage.”

Marriage is defined as between a man and woman

President Barack Obama has said on multiple occassions during his political career, including the 2008 presidential election campaign

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” Indeed, marriage, throughout its thousands of years of existence, has only been used to describe the union of a man and woman, toward the general end of starting a family and raising children. To change the definition to include gays would go against thousands of years of history, from which definitions are formed and should be maintained.

Marriage can evolve, but only in context of man and woman

Margaret A. Somerville. "The case against "Same-sex marriage." Marriage Institute. April 29, 2003

“One argument in favour of same-sex marriage is that the culture of marriage has changed over the years and that recognizing same-sex marriage is just another change. A common example given is the change in the status of the woman partner, in that marriage is now seen as a union of equals. But that change goes to a collateral feature of marriage, not its essential nature or essence as recognizing same-sex marriage would. In short, these two changes are not analogous; rather, they are fundamentally different in kind.”

Marriage is celebrated because of the assumption of procreation

Marriage is not special simply because two people love each other. Otherwise, two unmarried persons who love each other would have a relationship that is equally celebrated by friends, family, and society. Marriage is special because it is the relationship in which people enter when they plan on bringing new life into the world.

Reproduction: Is the key function of marriage not procreation?

Procreation is no prerequisite for marriage and excluding gays

"Religion & Ethics - Same-Sex Marriage: Procreation." BBC. February 24th, 2007

“society does not insist that those who want to marry demonstrate that they can and will have children: 1. heterosexuals who cannot have children are allowed to marry. 2. heterosexuals who don’t want to have children are allowed to marry. 3. heterosexuals who don’t want to have sex are allowed to marry (although the partners must have agreed to this before marriage). 4. heterosexuals who can’t have sex because one partner is in prison for life are allowed to marry. 5. heterosexuals can use technical assistance to have children. 6. same-sex couples can have children using the same methods.”

Vows are about love, not reproduction; gays qualify

The Standard Civil Ceremony is as follows

“[Name], I take you to be my lawfully wedded [husband/wife]. Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you, with all of your faults and strengths, as I offer myself to you with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and will turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.” The emphasis is squarely on commitment and love, and has nothing to do with reproduction and starting a family. On this core, clearly gays qualify for marriage, because they can love and commit to each other.

Marriage is about much more than kids; gays qualify

"Let them wed." Economist. January 4th, 1996

“It is true that the single most important reason society cares about marriage is for the sake of children. But society’s stake in stable, long-term partnerships hardly ends there. Marriage remains an economic bulwark. Single people (especially women) are economically vulnerable, and much more likely to fall into the arms of the welfare state. Furthermore, they call sooner upon public support when they need care—and, indeed, are likelier to fall ill (married people, the numbers show, are not only happier but considerably healthier). Not least important, marriage is a great social stabiliser of men.”

Gays can reproduce and start a family.

For a lesbian couple, one woman’s egg can be implanted into their female partner’s uterus and then fertilized with an unknown donor’s sperm. After the baby is born, instead of the father’s name being used, the other spouse’s names can be stated. Gay couples can also reproduce using one man’s sperm and a surrogate mother. In both situations, the couples can raise-children, and fit any criteria of marriage being about reproduction and starting a family.

Gays cannot recklessly procreate as straights can

A New York Court ruled in 2006 presented what is known as the “reckless procreation” rationale in favor of gay marriage. “Heterosexual intercourse,” the plurality opinion stated, “has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not.” Gays become parents, the opinion argued, in a number of ways, including adoption and artificial insemination, “but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse.” In other words, the non-procreative nature of homosexuals is as much a blessing as it might be seen a curse.

Gay marriage is no threat to procreation in overpopulated world

Scott Bidstrup. "Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives"

“5. Marriages are for ensuring the continuation of the species. The proponents of such an argument are going to have a really hard time persuading me that the human species is in any real danger of dying out through lack of procreation. If the ten percent of all the human race that is gay were to suddenly refrain from procreation, I think it is safe to say that the world would probably be better off.”

Argument: Marriage is a sign of affection and a symbol of further closeness and intimacy among two people. It shows love. As long as the two people have strong feelings for each other and wish to legitimise their relationship, why not? Sex and reproduction takes place in and out of marriages, just that only children born within a marriage is a legitimate child. However, who said marriage is for reproduction? Are you going to ban all couples from getting married if they don't want children? Already the world's population is increasing at very high rates. There is no need to reproduce like flowers as required in the 20th century when growth was the most important.Please, move on to the 21st century.

Marriage is mainly for reproduction; can't include gays

Margarette Somerville. "The case against gay marriage." McGill Center for Medicine, Ethics and Law. April 29, 2003

“Marriage is, and has been for millennia, the institution that forms and upholds for society, the cultural and social values and symbols related to procreation. That is, it establishes the values that govern the transmission of human life to the next generation and the nurturing of that life in the basic societal unit, the family. […] To change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would destroy its capacity to function in the ways outlined above, because it could no longer represent the inherently procreative relationship of opposite-sex pair-bonding.”

Marriage is not about love, but starting family

Margarette Somerville. "The case against gay marriage." McGill Center for Medicine, Ethics and Law. April 29, 2003

“Jonathan Rauch, in his recent book Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, defines marriage as essentially a legally enforced, long-term relation of mutual aid and support between two sexual partners. Marriage, he says, “is putting one person ahead of all others.” According to Rauch, “if marriage means anything at all,” it is knowing “that there is someone out there for whom you are always first in line.” We can here leave aside how odd this definition will sound to any married couple with young children, partners whose first responsibility is not obviously spousal.”

Marriage is categorically about procreation despite exceptions

Susan M. Shell. "The liberal case against gay marriage." Public Interest. Summer 2004

“marriage, in all the diversity of its forms, draws on a model of partnership rooted in human generation. […] Gay relations bear a less direct relation to the generative act in its full psychological and cultural complexity than relations between heterosexual partners, even when age, individual preference, or medical anomaly impede fertility. Gay relations have a plasticity of form, an independence from natural generation, for which they are sometimes praised, but which, in any case, also differentiates them from their heterosexual counterparts.” In other words, male-female partnerships, categorically, hold the potential for procreation. It is true that there are exceptions, such as infertile couples, but these are exceptions. Gays, conversely, cannot, as a category, reproduce together. This makes them ineligible for marriage, while still making it acceptable for infertile male-female marriages to exist, as they are consistent with the rule.

Denying marriage to infertile would be too costly

Adam Kolasinksi. "The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage." The Tech (M.I.T.) February 20th, 2004

“A small minority of married couples are infertile. However, excluding sterile couples from marriage, in all but the most obvious cases such as those of blood relatives, would be costly. Few people who are sterile know it, and fertility tests are too expensive and burdensome to mandate.”

Marriage is safety-net for accidental pregnancies (N/A for gays).

Marriage is often about men “doing the right thing” and marrying a woman that they make pregnant. This is beneficial for society as it discourages single-parent child-rearing. Homosexuals do not experience this circumstance and cannot claim marriage as a reason to aid children. This is an additional reason for denying them the ability to marry; it doesn’t provide the same utility to society as it does for heterosexual child-rearing.

Gay marriage undercuts procreation at time of vulnerability

Margarette Somerville. "The case against gay marriage." McGill Center for Medicine, Ethics and Law. April 29, 2003

“We now need the procreative symbolism of marriage more than in past, because of new technoscience possibilities for transmitting life, if we believe that, ethically, there should be limits on the use of these technologies.”

Tradition: Is tradition insufficient to ban gay marriage?

How about washing?

Traditions can be made, traditions can be destroyed, traditions can be followed. Just because something is traditional, doesn’t mean that we should follow them. During the Middle Ages, bathing and washing was considered sinful and untraditional. Does that mean that we should not bathe and wash just for the sake of tradition? No. Like this, traditions disappear when they make no sense and when we no longer need them. Traditions are made because we need them. We’re entering a new age. Let’s face it. The rules don’t apply anymore, and traditions are rapidly disappearing.

Gay marriage should not be banned for tradition

Ted Olson. "The conservative case for gay marriage." Newsweek. January 12, 2010

“The explanation mentioned most often is tradition. But simply because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it must always remain that way. Otherwise we would still have segregated schools and debtors’ prisons.”

Being unaccustomed to gay marriage is no argument

"Let them wed." Economist. January 4th, 1996

“In the end, leaving aside (as secular governments should) objections that may be held by particular religions, the case against homosexual marriage is this: people are unaccustomed to it. It is strange and radical. That is a sound argument for not pushing change along precipitously. Certainly it is an argument for legalising homosexual marriage through consensual politics (as in Denmark), rather than by court order (as may happen in America). But the direction of change is clear. If marriage is to fulfill its aspirations, it must be defined by the commitment of one to another for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health—not by the people it excludes.”

Gay marriage threatens cultural tradition of marriage

Margarette Somerville. "The case against gay marriage." McGill Center for Medicine, Ethics and Law. April 29, 2003

“To form a society, we must create a societal-cultural paradigm — the collection of values, principles, attitudes, beliefs, and myths, the “shared story” through which we find values and meaning in life, as both individuals and society. In establishing a societal-cultural paradigm all human societies have focused on the two great events of every human life: birth and death. Marriage is a central part of the culture — values, attitudes, beliefs — that surrounds birth. We require a culture related to birth in a secular society, at least as much as in a religious one, and must establish it through secular means. That is one reason why the legal recognition of marriage is important.”

Yes. This is why supporters of same-sex marriage do not fight to legalize polygamy

People who wish to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships insist that marriage remain as a union between no more and no less than two persons. This is because marriage traditionally involves two persons.

Marriage institution: Can gay-inclusion uphold the institution of marriage?

Gay marriage does not devalue institution of marriage

Ted Olson. "The conservative case for gay marriage." Newsweek. January 12, 2010

“Another argument, vaguer and even less persuasive, is that gay marriage somehow does harm to heterosexual marriage. I have yet to meet anyone who can explain to me what this means. In what way would allowing same-sex partners to marry diminish the marriages of heterosexual couples? Tellingly, when the judge in our case asked our opponent to identify the ways in which same-sex marriage would harm heterosexual marriage, to his credit he answered honestly: he could not think of any.”

Gays strengthen marriage by desiring it

"The case for gay marriage." The Economist. February 26th, 2004

“Gays want to marry precisely because they see marriage as important: they want the symbolism that marriage brings, the extra sense of obligation and commitment, as well as the social recognition.”

Gay marriage doesn't weaken desire of straights to marry

Ted Olson. "The conservative case for gay marriage." Newsweek. January 12, 2010

“Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex. How, then, would allowing same-sex marriages reduce the number of children that heterosexual couples conceive?”

Gay marriage is no social experiment; it's tried and tested

It has demonstrated to be successful in many countries around the world and in states in the US. The results are no longer unclear. Gay marriage is harmless, and in fact beneficial.

Gay marriage is no worse for institution than other things

Tod Lindberg. "The case against gay marriage." Washington Times Op-ed. 2003

“Will the union of Mr. X and Mr. Y in particular, who want only to be married, be any worse for the ‘institution of marriage’ than any number of existing unions that fall far short of the social ideal, or for that matter fail altogether? This is an impossible contention.”

Straights have done more to weaken marriage than gays

"The case for gay marriage." The Economist. February 24th, 2004

“The weakening of marriage has been heterosexuals’ doing, not gays’, for it is their infidelity, divorce rates and single-parent families that have wrought social damage.”

Gay marriage would reduce pressure on gays to marry straight

Without gay marriage, homosexuals are often pressured to marry straight, causing terrible emotional and social strife and undermining the institution of marriage.

Gay marriage devalues the institution of marriage

It has been this way throughout history, regardless of religion, in ALL societies from primative to developed. It is natural law. It provides the structure for procreation and then nurturing, educating, and developing the children into productive members of society. Each child needs a father and a mother in their upbringing to model both. There is ample evidence that when either are missing, poverty and dysfunction increases (however noble the efforts of the single parent).

Gay marriage devalues marriage, frequency of obtaining it

"High Cost of Tampering with Marriage – Kids Hit Hardest." Alliance Defense Fund on

“according to David Blankenhorn’s book, The Future of Marriage, evidence suggests that when states adopt same-sex “marriage,” opposite-sex couples are more likely to decide that there is no need to get married prior to having children (cause and effect is an open question, but the correlation is definite). An increase in single parenthood and family dissolution as a secondary effect of devaluing marriage will be devastating to children and will generate significant additional costs to taxpayers.”

Gay marriage is a radical social experiment

Jack Kerwick. "The failed case for gay marriage." Intellectual Conservative. February 19th, 2010

“Gay marriage” would mark, at the very least, a potentially radical alteration in the institution of marriage. We don’t know what its impact, not just on marriage, but on a host of institutions, will be, but we do know that it will have an impact, and a considerable one at that. The critics of ‘gay marriage’ do no one a bad turn, then, in refusing to exchange a certain present for a most uncertain future.”

Bad straight marriages don't excuse gay marriage

Margarette Somerville. "The case against gay marriage." McGill Center for Medicine, Ethics and Law. April 29, 2003

“One common response [pro gay marriage argument] is to point out the deficiencies of marriage. The issue is not, however, whether all or most opposite-sex couples attain the ideals of marriage in relation to fulfilling the needs of the children they produce. Neither is the issue whether marriage is a perfect institution — it is not. It is, rather, whether we should work from a basic presumption that children need a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents. I believe they do. The issue is, also, whether society would be worse off without the aspirational ideals established by traditional marriage. I believe it would be.”

Slippery slope: Can gay marriage avoid slippery slope to incest etc?

Gay marriage "slippery slope" argument is scare-mongering

Scott Bidstrup. "Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives

“[Claim] 9. Same-sex marriage would start us down a “slippery slope” towards legalized incest, bestial marriage, polygamy and all manner of other horrible consequences. [Answer:] A classic example of the reductio ad absurdum fallacy, it is calculated to instill fear in the mind of anyone hearing the argument. It is, of course, absolutely without any merit based on experience. If the argument were true, wouldn’t that have already happened in countries where forms of legalized gay marriage already exist? Wouldn’t they have ‘slid’ towards legalized incest and bestial marriage? The reality is that a form of gay marriage has been legal in Scandinavian countries for many years, and no such legalization has happened, nor has there been a clamor for it. It’s a classic scare tactic.”

Gay marriage is slippery slope to polygamous marriage etc

There are many possible ways in which gay marriage could lead to other attacks on the basic principles of marriage. It is possible that gay marriage will be seen as an opportunity by polygamists and polyamorists to attempt to obtain marriage rights. What logic could stop this if marriage is offered to homosexuals? If the traditional definition of marriage is stretched to include homosexuals, what rationale could prevent it from being stretched to include polygamy and polyamory? The same justifications for gay marriage could be put forward by polygamists and polyamorists; That there relationship is based on love and commitment. And, obviously, if marriage is extended to these groups, the traditional institution of marriage and the principles that it stands on will be damaged if not utterly destroyed.

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