With President Obama’s landmark endorsement of gay marriage, the United States has taken a significant rhetorical step forward in the First World. The barrage of hate and vitriol spewing from the Far Right seems farther and farther removed from the opinions of workaday Americans, who appear to be coming around to the belief that things like economic security and healthcare are more important than spying on the neighbors’ bedroom antics.
Even so, there is still plenty enough hate and vitriol to go around. In April, an activist group boasting a quarter of a million women supporters lobbied Congress to block the most effective domestic abuse bill in history because it extended protection to lesbians. (LINK) In February, Georgia’s own Tanya Ditty testified on behalf of the Concerned Women for America of Georgia. Her claim? Homosexuality is in the same class of sexual dysfunction as necrophilia. (LINK) In both Atlanta and California, there are ongoing debates about whether certified mental health practitioners may practice bigotry against homosexuals. (LINK) (LINK) And of course, there’s FOX News’ defiant claim that Obama is waging war against marriage. (LINK)
While the debate continues to rage, perhaps it is important that we take a step back and ask a very fundamental question: Why is this an issue in the first place?
Ostensibly, the issue at the heart of any social debate is whether harm is being caused. The Christian Right, in league with Republicans, have trotted out a number of claims about the harm caused by permitting gay marriage:
- Tradition itself. Marriage, they say, is between one man and one woman, and that’s the way it’s always been, and that’s the way God wants it.
The problem with this claim is that it’s wrong on absolutely every count. Marriage is as diverse as culture, and the concept of exactly one man and one woman, indissoluble for life, is extraordinarily recent. In fact, it was not commanded by anyone in the Bible. Not Jehovah (who was a big fan of polygamy) nor Jesus, nor Paul. The definitive command to only marry one woman came from the Catholic Church. In 1563 CE. (LINK)
It’s also completely untrue that it’s always been between men and women. Gay marriage — or the cultural equivalent — was an old concept when Jesus was known as Tammuz. There are cultures far older than Christianity that have survived just fine with all manner of marriage, including marriage to ghosts, and no marriage whatsoever. (LINK)
- Gay marriage weakens society. Immorality, crime, depravity, and sexual deviance will thrive if we go down the slippery slope of gay marriage.
Only, that’s not what’s happened in any of the other countries that have allowed it. Not only has there never been even one study demonstrating even one increase in societal dysfunction linked to gay marriage, the best country in the world according to the U.N.’s societal happiness rankings has had legalized partnerships since 1993 and fully neutral marriage since 2008. (LINK)
- Gay marriage is unstable, bad for children, and leads to dysfunctional relationships.
No, it is not, it is not, and it does not. The “bad for children” meme is perhaps the most emotionally charged, but it’s completely false. There is so much hard data on the subject that it’s considered rather droll to suggest continued study. Not only is gay marriage not bad for children, there is substantial evidence that especially for girls, the best arrangement is two moms. (LINK)
When confronted with the facts, the argument against gay marriage becomes threadbare. ”Traditional marriage” is a recent invention. Gay marriage is very common in world history. It’s never harmed a society. It doesn’t harm children. So… What’s the problem?
One suggestion is that legalizing gay marriage is threatening to homophobes who are unwilling to examine their own homosexual desires. There is very good evidence that this might be true. An experiment at the University of Georgia demonstrated quite conclusively that 80% of aggressively homophobic men are turned on by homosexual porn. (LINK) Of course, we don’t restrict the rights of others because of our own self-loathing, so this is certainly not a good argument for DOMA.
There is also the argument that God says gay marriage is wrong, and God’s laws supercede America’s laws. This argument has — shockingly — been advanced by one of our Supreme Court Justices. (LINK) Fortunately for the rest of us, there is still the First Amendment, which vehemently denies the right of the government to make any law based on religion. There’s also the inconvenient fact that there is no explicit prohibition of gay marriage in the Bible. (LINK) Such strictures must be interpreted, not directly gleaned from the pages of the Christians’ holy writ.
Once we’ve debunked the alleged threat of gay marriage, exposed the self-loathing of aggressive homophobes, and remembered the existence of the constitution, what is left? What argument can be raised which justifies the continued legal discrimination against people who happen to love someone of the same sex?
The truth — the sad truth — is that gay marriage is an issue because the American populace is woefully undereducated in the science of human sexuality, and frightenenly over-attached to beliefs they took on faith, not from their holy book, but from homophobic pastors, priests, and politicians. For some politicians, gay marriage is a wedge issue that serves to deflect attention from more inconvenient issues like universal healthcare or tax cuts for the rich. It creates single-issue voters who will ignore real societal problems in favor of perpetuating their own bigotry. For pastors and priests, the pulpit is a source of incredible revenue in opposition to the “godless liberals” who would dare contravene the will of the almighty. Perhaps for some, it is an attempt at catharsis. Physician heal thyself, indeed.
There is no place for reasonable debate on the issue precisely because there is no reasonable argument against gay marriage or even homosexuality itself. In a country where freedom and liberty are the highest ideals, we do not restrict the freedoms of an entire class of people when there are no good reasons for doing so. At this critical juncture in American history, we must ask ourselves if we really do value these ideals. We must ask if we are willing to forfeit the foundational principle of our government simply to appease vociferous raconteurs with chips on their shoulders and gay porn stashes on their laptops. It is time in America that gay marriage stops being an issue.