In the highly charged political
debate surrounding the issue of gay marriage, representatives on both sides of the argument continue to throw out copious
amounts of rhetoric designed to make us believe that their side is the morally and politically correct side. Activists in favor of legalizing gay marriage maintain that marriage is a basic right for all humankind, believing it to be a union between two people no matter what their sexual orientation
. The opposition
, however, contends that there is an essential complementarity that can only exist between two people of the opposite sex, a bond for which the reward is marriage. While both sides of the issue use strong emotion and logic to promote their arguments, there is little sound evidence to support the claim that homosexual
marriage should remain illegal
. Instead this position uses only traditional moral values to reinforce an idea based solely upon prejudice and fear.
In some ways, those who oppose gay marriage present a very convincing argument. They prey upon the emotions of their readers, and present the general idea that homophobia and gay marriage are two completely different ideas. For example, Lisa Schiffren states, “…one may feel the same affection for one’s homosexual friends and relatives as for any other, and be genuinely pleased for the happiness they derive from relationships, while opposing gay marriage for principled reasons,” (Schiffren, 1). At first glance, a reader might feel as though this statement were absolutely true. However, when you take a step back, the only real evidence that exists is a human sentiment that homosexual marriage and essentially homosexuality is abnormal, improper, and wrong. This is, by all means, the definition of homophobia. It is this general anti-gay feeling that is deeply ingrained in our culture that prevents us from accepting gay marriage.
A theory that the anti-gay argument tends to champion is the idea of legalized gay marriage being a stepping-stone of sorts for the ultimate decline of all that is moral. In his article “What is wrong with gay marriage” Stanley Kurtz writes that, “…in short gay marriage represents but a critical first step toward the legitimization of multipartner marriages and then, perhaps, the eventual elimination of state-sanctioned marriage as we have known it,” (Kurtz, 6). He goes on to an example in which he defames one of today’s most prominent gay celebrities, Melissa Etheridge. Kurtz alludes to a hypothetical situation in which he states that perhaps, if gay marriage is allowed, there would then be no grounds upon which Etheridge and her partner could then be denied the right to both marry the father of their child. However, by using this example he is only appealing to the sense of basic morality that we all possess, this being that a marriage consists of only one partner. By doing this Kurtz tries to attach an unrelated moral issue viewed extremely negatively by the public to make us believe that gay marriage is simply a gateway to the moral decay of society. When past the emotion, however, there is no hard evidence that proves allowing gay marriage would lead to such an extreme situation. The entire argument is based upon “what ifs,” and while Kurtz would have us believe that such an outcome is natural, he has no basis whatsoever to conclude that this outcome would actually occur in reality.
Kurtz also takes the radical, unsupported position that homosexuals are attempting to create the downfall of Western society. He draws this theory by quoting Michael Bronski, an advocate of same sex marriage, who states, “homosexuality posits ‘a sexuality that is justified by pleasure alone’ and that is ‘completely divorced from the burden of reproduction’; as such it ‘strikes at the heart of organization of Western culture and societies,’ destabilizing both monogamous marriage and the role of two sexually complementary parents within the nuclear family,” (Kurtz, 2000). By intermixing his own ideas with those of a supporter of gay marriage, Kurtz attempts to prove it is not only those opposed to gay marriages that acknowledge it might deteriorate societal norms. However, it must be noted that the strongest arguments against gay marriage come from Kurtz himself, while the Bronski statements are general and easily manipulated into favoring what is clearly not his side of the argument. Since the Bronski statements are out of context, and are also based solely upon opinion, Kurtz once again lacks any solid evidence that would prove the slippery slope theory that gay marriage would in fact lead to a widespread societal downfall.
Another generalized idea that the opposition holds is that, contrary to the beliefs of gay marriage supporters, allowing two gay men to marry will not curb their sexual promiscuity. Lisa Schiffren posits, “What will keep gay marriages together when individuals tire of each other? Similarly, the argument that legal marriage will check promiscuity by gay males raises the question of how a ‘piece of paper’ will do what the threat of AIDS has not,” (Schiffren, 2). While there is seemingly no solid evidence either way, simply stating that something will not work without even giving it a chance is illogical and judgmental. Schiffren also drops in a red herring by bringing up AIDS, which has no relevance on whether or not gay marriage should be legalized. Similarly, she does not even back up her claim about the threat of AIDS; she has no evidence that promiscuity among homosexuals has not been reduced by AIDS, nor does she have any solid evidence that this promiscuity exists in the first place. Frankly, all that Schiffren truly has to stand on is a base of traditionalistic views of homosexuality that have no place in her argument.
Stanley Kurtz also feels that the gay community has, “…put a premium on sexual promiscuity, as well as on rebellion against everything subsumed under the word proper,” (Kurtz, 2). However, he can do nothing except throw ideas like this out, seeing that he truly has no grounds upon which to base them except his own opinion. He creates a rise in emotion by using forceful language, but once again returns to nothing but traditional morals as his evidence. He continues by quoting from an article by William J. Bennett who says, “…legalized marriage would not domesticate gays but rather the reverse: that an often openly and even proudly promiscuous population would fatally undermine an already weakened institution by breaking the bond between marriage and the principle of monogamy,” (Kurtz, 2). Not only is there once again no sound evidence to support the statement, but Bennett creates an enormous generalization about the gay population. It is illogical and judgmental to assume that an entire population fits a stereotype such as promiscuity.
A popular reference used by supporters of gay marriage is the idea of miscegenation. Basically speaking, gay rights advocates feel that their current situation is not unlike that of men and women of different races wishing to marry in the middle part of this century. In response to this claim, the Commonwealth article entitled “The homosexual agenda” states, “…the analogy about miscegenation assumes rather than examines the claim that the differences between heterosexual and homosexual relations are as irrelevant as to moral reasoning and public policy as the differences of skin color,” (Commonwealth, 2). However, people in the fifties and sixties felt that skin color was as much of a moral issue as we believe homosexuality is today. The statement only looks at one side of the idea rather than examining both perspectives and addressing them accordingly.
The final and perhaps the weakest argument made against the legalization of gay marriage is the idea that the exclusive purpose of a marriage is to rear children. Since procreation is physically impossible for all gay couples, many who oppose gay marriage see it as defeating the entire purpose of marriage altogether. Lisa Schiffren states, “Society cares about stability in heterosexual unions because it is critical for raising healthy children and transmitting the values that are the basis of our culture. Whether homosexual relationships endure is of little concern to society,” (Schiffren, 2). She also states that it would be impractical to ban non-child bearing heterosexual marriages because that would be too prying (Schiffren, 2). This is a completely hypocritical statement, for if marriages are based solely upon the creation of children, then the heterosexual relationships aforementioned should not be allowed. In addition, it seems like by discriminating against homosexual marriages, we are prying into their own personal affairs as well.
While the argument against gay marriage seems to be a logically flawed and weak one, there is still a great deal of power and persuasion that remains wrapped in the blanket of morality, tradition, and gut feeling. The power that emotion has is a great one, and no matter what the logical fallacies, it will be difficult to persuade the general public that everything they know as normal is essentially wrong. It is because of this general ideal that gay marriage supporter Wendy Kaminer says, “How do you argue with a feeling? That’s the challenge facing gay rights activists today,” (Kaminer, 2).