Tom Gilson

Dealing With Two Common Arguments for Same-Sex “Marriage”

My post this afternoon on same-sex “marriage” (SSM) might help you deal with two common objections to man-woman marriage.

The first goes something like this: “Why can't gays be married? Why do men and women get all the rights and they get none?” That question comes from a wrong starting point. It starts with the assumption that marriage is about the couple. You can gently point out that marriage was always intended to be bigger than that. It was intended to be love overflowing into the next generation.

Don't be surprised if the objector comes back with more questions. What I just stated is only the starting point toward an answer; it's nowhere near the whole thing. You can search the “Life and Choices” or “Same-Sex 'Marriage'” links listed at the bottom of this post for more information.

From today's post, though, it should be clear that if someone says to you, “men and women haven't exactly set a great example in their marriages,” you can agree. It's okay to agree even if you're not happy with your own marriage situation: God is gentle and gracious with people who admit weakness and/or mistakes. Other people are often gracious too.

And if I'm right with my closing paragraphs in that post, you might even be able to find a point of connection with the person there. Maybe they're angry at marriage. Maybe they've been really hurt, either by their parents or by their own past relationships. A listening ear could go a long way.

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18 thoughts on “Dealing With Two Common Arguments for Same-Sex “Marriage”

  1. This is just so silly and thoughtless. Marriage is a *legal* relation between two people and the government. The wedding ceremony, on the other hand, may be religious: Christian, Jewish, Islamic, pagan — or atheist. The ceremony is different than the institution of marriage itself. All gay activists are saying is that two people who, for example, have been monogamous for 25 years should be able to transfer property tax-free, or be able to jointly file bankruptcy. Honestly, Tom. Why can’t you and your religious friends just let people be free? John Mill characterized freedom as the ability to pursue one’s own ends according to the means of one’s own choosing. I know gay couples who literally wept when gay marriage was legalized in Maryland (notice the word *legalized*); and I know a gay couple who’s been together for literally 20 years that wept when NC passed Amendment One, saying “I don’t understand it. Why don’t people just let us sign a contract? Why are people so hateful?” This is an issue of human happiness, of human well-being; homosexuality is a fact about our species (and literally thousands of other species). It’s not going away. Let two people who care about each other and want to be monogamous just sign a little piece of paper with the government so that they can do things like inherit each other’s possessions if one were to die. If pastors and priests don’t want to marry two men, fine. No one is making *religion* accept gay marriage (not even those “militant” atheists, with their books and prescription glasses). But for goodness sake, my neighbors who have been together for 20 years should be able to make spousal medical decisions for each other, to file their taxes together, to get funeral and bereavement leave, to inherit property, to have the option of domestic violence protection orders, and so on. (Read it over: *This* is what gay rights activists are fighting for.)

    In sum, marriage itself is a legal, not religious, issue. The anti-gay marriage position advocated on this site is immensely hurtful and deeply inconsiderate. The fact is that gay marriage isn’t going to affect you, Tom, or any other denizen of this blog. But it will tremendously affect the tiny 3.8% of Americans who are LGBT (according to a recent poll).

    My message: try to be nice. Let people be free to engage in, as the Constitution puts it, the “pursuit of happiness.”

    PS. Doesn’t the Bible say some pretty nasty things about obesity? Why is everyone so hung up on whether my friends can sign a contract? Why aren’t Christians out there condemning people like Mike Huckabee for being fat? Sheesh.

  2. Phil,

    Your bleat here is blatantly bereft of any bearing on the burden of the blog post. Most notably, there is no “religious” argument here. There is a mention of God’s grace, but it’s not part of any argument.

    I feel for your friends who wept over the right to “marry,” but taking the long view, I am even more deeply concerned about the damage to marriage itself that was begun among heterosexuals and is being deepened by SSM advocates. Please see the accompanying post linked above, especially near the end.

    So while I would be glad to leave people alone if their “freedoms” (Mill was badly mistaken, by the way, if he really said what you claim) did not undermine the good of others. Unfortunately they do. Mill-ish “freedoms” can do that, you know. It’s a fact that could hardly be more obvious, given a moment’s thought.

  3. My comment was not aimed specifically at this post; I’ve been reading your posts for some time. They’re immensely callous and poorly reasoned. Again, marriage is simply a legal contract — it used to be a father “giving” his daughter away, a thought that makes many today cringe. The point is that people who care about each other should be able to file joint taxes, to make medical decisions for each other, and so on. That is what marriage is all about, and to deny that to caring couples is heartless. I really doubt you feel for my friends. After all, it was people sharing your religious persuasions that denied them the ability to “pursue happiness” by getting married.

    I will be writing more about this Debunking Christianity. Fortunately, more and more people are recognizing that there is simply no good reason for letting two people who are committed and loving to sign a contract with the government giving them certain legal rights. People are hurting because of this ridiculous push against individual freedom.

    PS. If you’re concerned with the state of marriage more generally, then fine. But you have yet to show that my friends — the 8 year couple or the 20 year couple — would in any way hurt the institution. After all, to recapitulate, the LGBT community is a mere 3.8% of the American population. Why can’t people just let that 3.8% make a contractual agreement with the government?

  4. And again, why the obsession with gay marriage? The Bible condemns plenty of things *more* than gay marriage. It’s crazy that so many people are so fixated on this single issue — surely gluttony is a bigger issue, right? After all, could you imagine if the Bible told people to “put a knife to their throats” if they fall for someone of the same biological sex?

  5. Write all you wish at your blog. Pronounce marriage “just a legal contract” by your own fiat if you like. You’ll be proving my point: it’s all about the couple in your mind, isn’t it?

  6. There is no active pro-gluttony lobby trying to ruin eating as a novel act if law.

    And no, gluttony is not more harmful than the destruction of marriage that has been slowly proceeding for decades now.

  7. But marriage *is* a legal relation between couples and the government. If marriage were a religious institution — a relation between couples and God, as I was always told — then there would be no such thing as an atheist marriage. And yet atheists do get married. So do Jews, Muslims, Scientologists, pagans, New Age people, and theists who don’t subscribe to any particular religious doctrine.

    And there may be no pro-gluttony lobby. But, um, so what? My point was this: the Bible says X is bad once or twice, somewhat ambiguously. The Bible says Y is very bad multiple times, quite clearly. In the US, we have *a lot* of Y, and some people who, for ethical / humanitarian / compassion / human well-being -related reasons, advocate for X. Christians are massively obsessed with X, which would have a minuscule impact on 97% of the population and a massive impact on 3%, while completely ignoring Y, even though Y is ubiquitous, significant and a very serious public health issue.

    If you haven’t figured it out, X is gay marriage and Y is gluttony / obesity. The point: why care so much about an issue that’s given so little attention in the Bible? There are *bigger* problems — like obesity in America.

  8. Phil,

    Again, marriage is simply a legal contract

    So prior to any laws or contracts, marriages didn’t exist. How dumb is that logic? If you mean to say a verbal agreement makes a marriage, then that is equally as dumb.

  9. “All gay activists are saying is that two people who, for example, have been monogamous for 25 years should be able to transfer property tax-free, or be able to jointly file bankruptcy.”

    No it isn’t. If it were all they are saying then a civil union would suffice. Why isn’t that just as good an option if that is all they are saying?

  10. @BillT

    Do some research. For starters, Civil Unions don’t provide the right to federal benefits; they’re also not recognized by all states, so some couples lose rights as soon as they cross state lines.

    Again, why care so much? We are talking about 3.8% of the population (only a fraction of which would even get married). Just let this tiny minority of people be free to sign a contract if they want to fine taxes jointly, make medical decisions for the other when one is in a coma, and so on.

    PS. Remember when white and black people couldn’t marry, and the thought was to many Christian conservatives abhorrent? Those were the days… but then the institution of marriage was defiled. And now we’re battling against gay marriage!

  11. The problems you cite for civil unions could be fixed with better written laws. Raising interracial marriage as a parallel is an absolutely despicable smear not worthy of a response.

  12. Phil, you claim on your blog to have done some study in Harvard’s philosophy department. Did no one there teach logic? You say,

    But marriage *is* a legal relation between couples and the government.

    But a cat *is* a mammal. Therefore a cat is not a carnivore! Right?

    Marriage *is* a legal relation between couples and the government. Therefore there is nothing else true that can be said about marriage, right? That one description exhausts all that there is to be said about it, or so it seems!


    Second, you are still really up in arms about marriage being a religious institution. Do some research, as someone here recently recommended. No one on this blog has given any effort recently to mounting a religious defense of marriage. No one here has said that marriage is a religious institution. No one here has suggested that religion is necessary to marriage. We acknowledge that it is God-ordained but we do not suggest that others have to believe that in order to accept the natural-law arguments in favor of marriage.

    I can’t imagine why you think there’s something to be gained in arguing against a position that no one’s defending.

    The Bible says repeatedly that sexual immorality is bad. It is at the end of the long list of progressive degradation at the end of Romans 1. Your biblical argument against our position fails on the rocks of your biblical ignorance.

    The 3.8% argument would be fine to adhere to if it only affected 3.8%. What it is instead is the widening edge of a wedge that’s destroying marriage in our culture. Please see the other posts I’ve written recently about how this started with the heterosexual attack on marriage.

    Not only that, but it’s part of a long-term strategy of de-normalizing and devaluing sexual morality even further than has already been accomplished in the past 50 years. It has been enormously, massively destructive already. The chief victims of this change have been women and children, who have been left bereft of their men, although in another sense men have let themselves be stripped of their manhood, making themselves small in character, by making themselves less than responsible for their offspring.

    So I don’t buy your 3.8% number for one minute. And if you would take your head out of the sand you wouldn’t try to toss it around yourself.

  13. “A marriage is just a contract,” you say.

    I say you are badly, horribly deceived. My marriage is not just a contract. I didn’t sign a contract with my children, yet they are heavily invested in my marriage. I didn’t sign a contract with my wife, either. I made a covenant with her that was sealed by the state. I signed a license. But there is no contract, legally speaking, without a “consideration.” We didn’t talk about fees or payments or the exchange of goods or services. We didn’t bargain over benefits. We talked about making a lasting life and home and family together.

    And we hardly ever consult the small print to decide who does tonight’s dishes or takes out the garbage.

    The “contract” view of marriage is a belittling view. It is a sign of how successfully marriage has been devalued in your mind. I do not wish to see it likewise belittled in the minds of other children’s parents.

  14. what is belittling is your insistence that 3.8% of people who live together, care for each other, are monogamous, and so on, shouldn’t have the legal right to make medical decisions for each other when one is dying of cancer. That is belittling. It’s also immoral, mean-spirited, and on the losing side of history. I think people will one day look back on things like this blog with a bit of shock and consternation about how thoughtless and hurtful humans once were. (Plenty of historical precedents for this, of course. At one point, conservatives were *appalled* by the thought of white and black people marrying. Now, even the most conservative religious person in the US thinks it’s okay. Same will happen with SSM, no doubt.)

    Just let people be free, Tom. Let them enter into a legal relation with the government so that they can get Medicaid and disability and file for bankruptcy jointly. It’s 3.8% of the population we’re talking about, after all.

  15. And yes, the Bible repeatedly says that sexual immorality is bad (a bit of a pleonasm, by the way). But how often does the Bible specifically mention homosexuality as sexually immoral? Not enough times for *many* sincere, believing, heaven-bound Christians around the world to think there’s sufficient theological gray area for accepting gays into the church and no longer being mean towards them by denying them rights. Surely Jesus would have mentioned something specific about gays if being gay was *this* big a deal (i.e., big enough to be a major issue in elections). Surely the Bible would have linked homosexuality to sexual immorality a bit more clearly — say, enough to convince Christian leaders the world over to condemn all gay people. The fact is that the Bible just doesn’t say much about homosexuality; when it does, there are competing interpretations that are quite plausible. Again, the Bible is much clearer about things like gluttony, yet gluttony — a problem in the US; a problem among Christians — isn’t an election issue. Why not? It certainly should be, if people actually cared about what the Bible says.

  16. I would just add my bit of logic to this argument if I may.. First, it is important to see the sham that this debate is. Marriage is not between a couple and government. Government only became involved about a century ago. It is between 2 people. Its definition is determined by those who engage in it, or by those that they entrust for their spiritual lives. AKA, the church. For all the Christians (which I am) who say we shouldn’t let a government come up with a definition, I simply ask “Does the govt defining it make it truth?” No! Definitions are not based on truth. Truth is found outside of beliefs, interpretations, and definitions.

    If Christians want to call a marriage a union between a man and a woman, that’s great! But just because they have one definition and it’s different from some others should they then use government to enforce that definition, and in the same way those that believe marriage is anything you want to have it be, shouldn’t force their view on others. I would think the most important thing to Christians is that there is less homosexuality. As Christians believe it is a sin. Notice I said believe. Everyone is free to believe what they want. However, trying to stop gay marriage will not decrease homosexuality. Government is a tool that Christians are using to enforce their beliefs on others. Government is becoming their God and idol.

    A Christian’s relationship is between God and himself, not between him and God via the government.

  17. The trick would have been to have religious groups come out strongly in favor of fixing civil unions, and getting the government out of the “marriage” business entirely. A decade ago, a negotiated peace might have been possible.

    But that never happened; I suspect by the time NOM & friends realized they might actually lose this fight, there weren’t the resources or time to find a middle ground.

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