Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Why I Support Gay Marriage

John Scalzi has written an incredibly eloquent essay on why he, as a married man, supports gay marriage. He asks the same question I’ve been asking of every person I speak to who is against gay marriage, which is usually answered by nothing but empty rhetoric:

I keep hearing how allowing gays to marry threatens marriage. Fine. Someone tell me how my marriage is directly threatened by two men marrying or two women marrying. Does their marriage make my marriage less legal? Does their love somehow compromise the love I feel for my wife, or she for me? Is the direct consequence of their marriage that my marriage and the commitment therein is manifestly lessened, compromised or broken? And if the answer to these questions is “no,” as it is, exactly how is marriage threatened?…

The institution of marriage lies in the union of souls; to discuss marriage in general without acknowledging that it exists because of marriages in particular is a pointless exercise. If no single marriage is directly affected by two men or two women getting married — if I and my neighbors and my family and friends and even my enemies are still well-ensconced in our individual marriages to our spouses — how is the institution of marriage harmed? No harm has come to its constituents, who are the institution.

Dead on accurate. Over and over again we hear about the “sanctity of marriage” as though “marriage” exists apart from human beings, as though it was merely an abstraction that exists even if no one actually is married. When asked for anything specific, those who oppose gay marriage merely respond with increasingly abstract rhetoric, devoid of any connection to the real world. But people are not abstractions, and “marriage” doesn’t exist aside from those who participate in it. And in reality there are thousands and thousands of gay men and women in long term committed relationships, just like straight couples, who want only a happy life with the same civil commitment that straight couples want. Except that if one of them is sick, the other doesn’t even have the right to visit them in the hospital because they aren’t immediate family, something any married couple simply takes for granted. When it comes time to make life and death decisions due to terminal illness, the lover to whom they have pledged their life has no legal say in what happens – again, something any married person would simply take for granted. Real people suffer because of this bigotry. Real people’s lives are damaged by it. And no amount of empty rhetoric is going to balance the scales here. John’s essay ends with this:

On what grounds do I as a married person tell others who want to be married that they are undeserving of the joy and comfort I’ve found in the married state? What right do I have morally to say that I deserve something that they do not? If I believe that every American deserves equal rights, equal protections and equal responsibilities and obligations under the law, how may I with justification deny my fellow citizens this one thing? Why must I be required to denigrate people I know, people I love and people who share my life to sequester away a right of mine that is not threatened by its being shared? Gays and lesbians were at my wedding and celebrated that day with me and my wife and wished us nothing less than all the happiness we could stand for the very length of our lives. On what grounds do I refuse these people of good will the same happiness, the same celebration, the same courtesy?

I support gay marriage because I support marriage. I support gay marriage because I support equal rights under the law. I support gay marriage because I want to deny those who would wall off people I know and love as second-class citizens. I support gay marriage because I like for people to be happy, and happy with each other. I support gay marriage because I love to go to weddings, and this means more of them. I support gay marriage because my marriage is strengthened rather than lessened by it — in the knowledge that marriage is given to all those who ask for its blessings and obligations, large and small, until death do they part. I support gay marriage because I should. I support gay marriage because I am married.

Here, here, Mr. Scalzi. Here, here.

Comments

  1. #1 ilona
    February 28, 2004

    I don’t have a stance yet on this subject…. I am still at the question of “What -really- is marriage?”

    This whole issue has brought that question forefront. Something many of us ( me, at least) never gave alot of thought.

    I have all sorts of ideas on how to work out a marriage, but nothing on the basis of what marriage is really supposed to be. You know, in the basic sense of definition and purpose.

    If I take a modern approach… it is all lost in the subjective “it is what two or more people want it to be”, but that does not work well in law.

    If I take it in the Bible defined sense given in Genesis, then it would be heterosexual because of the “multiply” or reproduce factor.

    What is our most basic idea of what marriage is, and where does that come from?

    Your opinion on that would interest me.

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    February 28, 2004

    Even if we assume that the “multiply or reproduce factor” is the key to why marriage exists, that tells us little about how it should be structured because that has changed over time as well. For example, in societies where there are more women than men and where there is a need for a very high reproductive rate to insure group survival – the Mormons in the US in the 1800s or the ancient Israelites, for different reasons – polygamy was advocated and practiced because it served the needs of the group. We do not today deny the right to marry to those who either cannot have children or choose not to, and of course it is entirely possible to reproduce without beign married, so obviously the limits of marriage are not defined solely by reproduction.

    I really don’t think there is a single objective definition of what marriage is “supposed to be”. There are simply too many varieties throughout history and still in existence today. Some cultures are polygamous. Some have arranged marriages, where the notion of marrying for love rather than for economic or social status is entirely foreign. Some cultures prohibit marriage outside of the religion, or even outside the same sect of the same religion. Some cultures view marriage as solely an economic and reproductive arrangement, where the wife raises the children and the husband brings home the money, with no thought to love; in many of those cultures, it is considered perfectly normal and acceptable that one or both partners have lovers apart from their spouses. In some cultures, the most powerful men simply have their pick of women in their group and may have over 100 wives.

    Now, none of those are my definition of marriage and I’d be miserably unhappy in any of them. But as long as the people in them enter into them consensually, it’s not really up to me to decide they can’t do that, any more than I would allow them to tell me I can’t marry a single woman because I love her and live a life of monogamy. I know gay couples who have been together longer than most of the straight couples I know, whose love for each other is no different than the love that straight couples do, and I see no reason why they should be denied the opportunity to make a public commitment, with all of the benefits and responsibilities that come with that, like I can. And the arguments offered against that by the anti-gay marriage crowd just tend to be so irrational (because in point of fact they are irrational, in the strictest sense of the word – they are purely visceral responses to something they don’t understand) that I cannot countenance denying that right to gay couples on such an absurd basis.

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