Short Relief: Society benefits when gays can marry
I am the child of a traditional one man-one woman marriage, one of three sons in a reasonably conventional family. I have been married for 18 years. Together, my wife and I have two children.
It isn’t all peace and love. It takes effort. Sometimes, it’s downright difficult. Even so, I believe that marriage and family are the basic building blocks of society, and that they are the best mechanisms for producing happy, healthy, well-adjusted citizens.
That said, to the extent it is up to me, I am willing to share marriage with gay people.
It is difficult for me to rebut the argument that gay marriage is against God’s will. I am no religious expert. I only note that some religious denominations, foremost amongst them the Episcopal Church in the United States, accept gay people, gay marriage and even gay clergy.
Some argue that homosexuality is unnatural and shouldn’t be legitimized through the acceptance of gay marriage. But homosexuals are the offspring of heterosexuals, naturally. And, studies find homosexuality present in most societies to varying degrees, find significant concordance of homosexuality in identical twins, and find homosexual behavior in many animals. My own sense is that sexuality is a function of both nature and nurture.
Others argue that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation, and homosexual couples are incapable of conceiving. But we don’t require heterosexual couples to have children in order to marry. Some do not, either because they are unable to or don’t want do. Other married couples adopt children. We don’t invalidate their marriages.
Some people say that gay couples make poor parents. But straight couples can be lousy parents and gay couples can be terrific ones. Their sexual orientation seems to have little to do with it. Providing a stable, orderly, loving, and nurturing home does.
Still others say that homosexuals are bad role models for boys and girls. But, we have moved past stereotypes of the strong, silent man and weak, emotional woman. We have many models of masculinity and femininity: working moms and stay-at-home dads, competitive women athletes and computer-geek entrepreneurs, women in the military on the battlefield and guys in the kitchen on TV. Our world is richer for that diversity.
Some define marriage as the union of one man and one woman and argue that the union of two men or two women does not fit that definition. Whatever its formal definition, the practice of marriage has varied over time. As I understand the Bible, Abraham, Isaac and Moses all had more than one wife. Within recent memory, the concept of marriage has evolved from a relationship in which a wife was considered a piece of property that a husband owned, to one in which a husband was lord and master and a wife was his humble servant, to a partnership of equals. Beyond that, my sense is that every marriage is a unique constellation of arrangements that defies simple definition.
Others warn that gay marriage is another step down a slippery slope to perdition, after our high divorce rate, single motherhood, one-parent households and latchkey children. It will further debase the values that made our country great. But it seems to me that gay marriage doesn’t contribute to these particular problems. It helps solve them.
Some complain that allowing gay people to marry will decrease tax revenues as more people file returns jointly, and increase spending on benefits as more people qualify as dependents. But those are not reasons to exclude gays, if fairness requires that they be entitled to marry. It just heightens the need to reform entitlements on other bases.
Some argue that traditional marriage has stood the test of time and shouldn’t be lightly discarded. I am not sure how well it has weathered heterosexuals’ stewardship. Allowing gays to marry is not throwing away marriage. It is modifying marriage in a way that better serves its nature and purpose: to solemnize, symbolize and formalize the love and commitment that exists between two consenting adults and the society in which they live.
Another purpose of marriage is to regulate human behavior, including sexual behavior. Marriage establishes the rights and obligations of spouses and children. It regulates relations between a married couple and their families and larger society. These purposes are served if marriage is extended to gays.
Gay people are a productive segment of society. They love and are loved. They want to marry to share and profess their love, to formalize their commitment to each other, and to be accepted and supported by their friends, family and community. Society has an interest in supporting their stable relationships because happy, healthy people make better, more productive citizens.
That’s why I support gay marriage.