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February 20, 2007

You Know Everything About Same-Sex Marriage

Submitted by Robert Latham

Last week was Freedom to Marry Week. No, Outlaws didn’t make this up: it has a website (freedomtomarry.org), a logo (that looks like a robot face with a baseball home plate and cartoon heart for eyes), and a ten-year history of falling around Valentine’s Day for optimal poignancy. That’s right: ten years. Ten years of family carnivals and informative lectures and pedantic (often bordering on ranty) op-ed pieces.

This is one of those op-ed pieces. Even though Outlaws asked me to write it, I’m doing so from my own perspective and with my own thoughts. Why? Because I’m under a deadline. And because I don’t know that everyone in Outlaws could reach a consensus on this topic. And because you already know everything there is to know about same-sex marriage.

That’s right, you already know everything there is to know. There are no surprises anymore, so each side of the battle is really just waiting for the other to lose steam, change its mind, or age out and die.

In case you think I’m trying to avoid engaging the arguments, here are the major talking points from both camps:

Arguments against same-sex marriage:

(1) Marriage is an institution defined historically as the union between one man and one woman.
(2) Children are optimally cared for in homes with a mother and a father.
(3) The purpose of marriage is procreation and societal stability.
(4) Same-sex marriage is an untested and dangerous social experiment.
(5) Same-sex marriage is part of a slippery slope to universal depravity.
(6) Gay relationships themselves are immoral.

Arguments against the arguments against same-sex marriage:

(1) You don’t have a bit of evidence for any of that, and
(2) Please, quit being a jerk.

See? No surprises.

Now, I want to confess that I’m very gay, and the rest of this article will be biased appropriately. I also want to confess that I have no idea what marriage is. That’s ok, though, because if we had enough time and wine, I’m pretty sure you’ll discover that you don’t either. This should not prove any impediment to the conversation.

You might notice that the arguments against same-sex marriage seem to be more numerous than the arguments for it. There are two reasons for that: first, most of them aren’t actually arguments against; and second, arguments don’t get you very far in this sort of thing anyway.

Let’s start with that first part. Even though I put six things on the list, most of them aren’t arguments against same-sex marriage at all. Argument (1), for example, isn’t against same-sex marriage--it’s for the strengthening of hetero-sex marriages. Same with (2). Argument (3) is similar, except that given the now-public knowledge that men and women don’t have to be married or even in the same room to conceive a baby, it actually argues for extending marriage to anybody willing to raise a kid in tandem.

Two of them are just smoke screen distractions. Argument (4) has always sounded silly to me, because everything new is potentially dangerous, and same-sex marriage isn’t untested anymore; and Argument (5) is popular among juridical thinkers, but is equally a non-starter in the real world. Really it is: why can 5th cousins but not 4th cousins be married? Because we drew the line there. Why will allowing gays to marry not automatically allow people to marry patio furniture? Because we’ll draw the line there as well. Those who find themselves in a committed relationship with a wicker bistro set will have their own fight to fight. I will happily stand behind their right to love whatever they love. They, however, will be responsible for figuring out the tax implications of their blessed union.

That brings us to Argument (6): Gay relationships are themselves immoral. What can you even say to that? Nothing. That’s when you stop the debate and see if the person wants to grab dinner one night instead. Then you move in down the street a few years later, go shopping with them, watch their dog while they’re out of town, invite them over for Super Bowl parties, call them to gossip, swap turns carpooling the kids to school, and just live. It might take five or ten years, but they’ll figure it out, without you ever saying a word.

The nice thing about the “against same-sex marriage” list of arguments is that it isn’t getting any longer. They’ve had thousands of years to tell us why we’re broken, and about forty years to figure out why we can’t get married (the first American cases were in 1971, according to HRC). Based on what I’ve been hearing for the past 27 years of my own life, it sounds like they’ve run out of new ideas.

On the other hand, every committed same-sex couple is another argument for same-sex marriage. Every kid who comes out is another reason to quit being a jerk and let him dream of white picket fences and a family and love and all the stuff that other kids think they’ll have before they learn how the world really works.

I’m highly optimistic that over the next ten years we won’t need arguments anymore. There is no need to debate what you can plainly see: that it’s love that makes a family, and the energy and breath we waste fighting over who should be a family could be much better spent supporting and encouraging the families that continue to exist whether we legally recognize them or not. It doesn’t require even a minute of legal research, or a page of historical reference. It needs neither clever twists of equality doctrine nor the due process guarantee. To see that same-sex marriage should not be denied any longer takes only a single ounce of kindness.