Just the other day, someone posted that the only case against gay marriage is a religious one. Someone opposed to that idea used an article they found on The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage to refute it. Now, I'm going to take this article paragraph by paragraph, refuting its' claims, and I'll demonstrate that this claim is still a religious argument, even without stating it. After all, once I found this article, those who know me know that I couldn't just leave it alone.
The debate over whether the state ought to recognize gay marriages has thus far focused on the issue as one of civil rights. Such a treatment is erroneous because state recognition of marriage is not a universal right. States regulate marriage in many ways besides denying men the right to marry men, and women the right to marry women. Roughly half of all states prohibit first cousins from marrying, and all prohibit marriage of closer blood relatives, even if the individuals being married are sterile. In all states, it is illegal to attempt to marry more than one person, or even to pass off more than one person as one’s spouse. Some states restrict the marriage of people suffering from syphilis or other venereal diseases. Homosexuals, therefore, are not the only people to be denied the right to marry the person of their choosing.
First, he makes the assumption that the regulation of marriage for any reason is just. Aside from certain cases where it could cause harm (deformed offspring from a closely blood related couple is an example) it really shouldn't be. If consenting adults choose to marry, they should have the right.
That said, regulating marriages between close blood relatives should be done due to the problem of deformations in offspring. Even with sterilization, that isn't 100% effective against pregnancy.
For polygamy, I don't see a problem so long as it's between consenting adults. Those who wish for that lifestyle are welcome to fight their battle to change those laws. This isn't an argument against gay marriage. It's just showing that there are other laws that aren't necessarily right.
As for prohibiting those with certain sexually transmitting diseases, I've been able to find very little on the subject. Most laws that I've seen only require full disclosure of STDs to marry. They don't prohibit it so long as both parties are disclosed and in agreement.
In the end, there's no real argument here. There's only a list of wholly unrelated laws with the inference that because others are restricting, justly or unjustly, that homosexuals should be as well. That's a false equivalency.
I do not claim that all of these other types of couples restricted from marrying are equivalent to homosexual couples. I only bring them up to illustrate that marriage is heavily regulated, and for good reason. When a state recognizes a marriage, it bestows upon the couple certain benefits which are costly to both the state and other individuals. Collecting a deceased spouse’s social security, claiming an extra tax exemption for a spouse, and having the right to be covered under a spouse’s health insurance policy are just a few examples of the costly benefits associated with marriage. In a sense, a married couple receives a subsidy. Why? Because a marriage between two unrelated heterosexuals is likely to result in a family with children, and propagation of society is a compelling state interest. For this reason, states have, in varying degrees, restricted from marriage couples unlikely to produce children.
Here he admits to the false equivalency. Here, the crux of his argument is that of cost. The benefits to a married couple are too costly to allow homosexuals to marry. He illustrates that, since homosexuals are not likely to have children, then allowing them to marry has no benefit to the state. There are so many things wrong with this.
First, consider the simple influx in marriages and the income for businesses within the state from allowing them to marry. That alone far outweighs the cost of benefits. Many of those benefits don't cost the state a thing, such as custody rights, hospital visitations, health insurance (which would cost the company they work for in general, though no more than any other married couple). The only place medical would cost the state is if they collect state provided benefits, which is still less expensive than leaving them uninsured and needing to use the ER for primary care.
Now, as far as marriages leading to children, that's a huge error is research. Marriage, traditionally, was not specifically for procreation. In ancient times, it was more of a business proposal. You married for wealth, land, power, prestige, etc. Procreation, as mammals, is going to happen with or without marriage. I'll get to more on procreation later.
So, again, this makes no case against gay marriage. The benefits, financially, far outweigh the costs. And, of course, the procreation argument in irrelevant.
Granted, these restrictions are not absolute. 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. One might argue that the exclusion of blood relatives from marriage is only necessary to prevent the conception of genetically defective children, but blood relatives cannot marry even if they undergo sterilization. Some couples who marry plan not to have children, but without mind-reading technology, excluding them is impossible. Elderly couples can marry, but such cases are so rare that it is simply not worth the effort to restrict them. The marriage laws, therefore, ensure, albeit imperfectly, that the vast majority of couples who do get the benefits of marriage are those who bear children.
Ok, much of this paragraph, I've already answered. But let's look at the case he makes here. Basically, he's claiming that since some things are too hard or expensive to find out if the proposed married couple can or will bear children, or in the case of the elderly, is too rare, that they just don't regulate it. So, pretty much what he's saying is that since homosexual couples are obvious, they're targeted just so this ideology can be held onto.
Again, this isn't an argument. It just illustrates the foolishness behind this way of thinking.
Homosexual relationships do nothing to serve the state interest of propagating society, so there is no reason for the state to grant them the costly benefits of marriage, unless they serve some other state interest. The burden of proof, therefore, is on the advocates of gay marriage to show what state interest these marriages serve. Thus far, this burden has not been met.
Ok, this is a bit of a strawman of the argument for LGBT equality, as well as just a bad argument to begin with. I've made a case for the cost benefits. It's really that simple. Outside of that, the other intangibles like a happy population should be enough to stand alone. However, even with that, the claims against gay marriage, by and large, are that it would be a detriment to the institution of marriage as a whole. In this, I'd say, the burden of proof is most definitely not on the LGBT community, but on the people making the claim.
One may argue that lesbians are capable of procreating via artificial insemination, so the state does have an interest in recognizing lesbian marriages, but a lesbian’s sexual relationship, committed or not, has no bearing on her ability to reproduce. Perhaps it may serve a state interest to recognize gay marriages to make it easier for gay couples to adopt. However, there is ample evidence (see, for example, David Popenoe’s Life Without Father) that children need both a male and female parent for proper development. Unfortunately, small sample sizes and other methodological problems make it impossible to draw conclusions from studies that directly examine the effects of gay parenting. However, the empirically verified common wisdom about the importance of a mother and father in a child’s development should give advocates of gay adoption pause. The differences between men and women extend beyond anatomy, so it is essential for a child to be nurtured by parents of both sexes if a child is to learn to function in a society made up of both sexes. Is it wise to have a social policy that encourages family arrangements that deny children such essentials? Gays are not necessarily bad parents, nor will they necessarily make their children gay, but they cannot provide a set of parents that includes both a male and a female.
Alright, here he contradicts himself. He claims that you don't need marriage to reproduce. That completely counters his argument that marriage is for the sake of procreation. Then, he talks about children needing both a male and female parental figure. This is demonstrably false, for one, and secondly, it's irrelevant.
First, so long as a child is raised well, given the love and attention they deserve, they'll generally grow up well adjusted. The gender of the parents doing so doesn't make a difference.
As to the second point, 25% of children in the US are raised by single parents. If we follow his logic, being a single parent would also be outlawed. A great many of children raised by a single parent grow up well adjusted. Doesn't it follow that if they have two mothers or fathers instead of just one, they'll get more attention, more affection and develop even better?
Some have compared the prohibition of homosexual marriage to the prohibition of interracial marriage. This analogy fails because fertility does not depend on race, making race irrelevant to the state’s interest in marriage. By contrast, homosexuality is highly relevant because it precludes procreation.
Here he's just reiterating an argument I've already dismantled. Moving on.
Some argue that homosexual marriages serve a state interest because they enable gays to live in committed relationships. However, there is nothing stopping homosexuals from living in such relationships today. Advocates of gay marriage claim gay couples need marriage in order to have hospital visitation and inheritance rights, but they can easily obtain these rights by writing a living will and having each partner designate the other as trustee and heir. There is nothing stopping gay couples from signing a joint lease or owning a house jointly, as many single straight people do with roommates. The only benefits of marriage from which homosexual couples are restricted are those that are costly to the state and society.
So, basically, for the crime of your biology, that is, being gay, you need to jump through hoops for the benefits that any heterosexual couple gets without challenge? I need not say more.
Some argue that the link between marriage and procreation is not as strong as it once was, and they are correct. Until recently, the primary purpose of marriage, in every society around the world, has been procreation. In the 20th century, Western societies have downplayed the procreative aspect of marriage, much to our detriment. As a result, the happiness of the parties to the marriage, rather than the good of the children or the social order, has become its primary end, with disastrous consequences. When married persons care more about themselves than their responsibilities to their children and society, they become more willing to abandon these responsibilities, leading to broken homes, a plummeting birthrate, and countless other social pathologies that have become rampant over the last 40 years. Homosexual marriage is not the cause for any of these pathologies, but it will exacerbate them, as the granting of marital benefits to a category of sexual relationships that are necessarily sterile can only widen the separation between marriage and procreation.
Here he makes the false statement that the purpose of marriage in every society around the world up until recently has been for procreation. I've already addressed this. He also makes some unfounded accusations, such as LGBT couples caring more about themselves than their children and society. There is no logically required link between marriage and procreation. He's built up that strawman argument throughout his article, and it still has no foundation in reality.
The biggest danger homosexual civil marriage presents is the enshrining into law the notion that sexual love, regardless of its fecundity, is the sole criterion for marriage. If the state must recognize a marriage of two men simply because they love one another, upon what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example, or a sterile brother and sister who claim to love each other? Homosexual activists protest that they only want all couples treated equally. But why is sexual love between two people more worthy of state sanction than love between three, or five? When the purpose of marriage is procreation, the answer is obvious. If sexual love becomes the primary purpose, the restriction of marriage to couples loses its logical basis, leading to marital chaos.
He keeps insisting that love is irrelevant to marriage, and I'll grant him that in ancient cultures, that was often true, however, that doesn't make it right, nor does it make it relevant to now. As I've addressed the rest of this already, I'll move on.
In the end, his argument is weak and unsupported, as well and contradictory throughout the article. Also, as we've reached 7 billion people on earth, and there are food and water shortages and full orphanages worldwide, the procreation argument is poor to begin with. Now, as I stated at the beginning, I'll show that it is also based in religious principles.
In order to make marriage as an institution entirely about procreation, or even primarily about procreation, you have to subscribe to the worldview that sex and/or procreation outside of marriage is somehow wrong, or sinful. THAT is entirely a religiously based ideology.
So, I'll stand by the fact that there really is no secular case against gay marriage.
You can like the Meanwhile, Back in Reality page on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter @skepticcoffee
Check out the Skeptic Coffee Break Podcast on iTunes!
My YouTube video blog can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/Neurotraveller8
You can follow me on Digg at http://digg.com/neurotravellerphilosophies
You can follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/skepticcoffee