This edition of “Arguments That Don’t Hold Water” is inspired by recent news that Rick Perry, Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, has joined Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Mitt “I will be a greater champion for gay rights than Ted Kennedy” Romney in signing a pledge to support a Constitutional amendment that would explicitly ban homosexuals from marrying by declaring marriage a union of one man and one woman.
That same pledge also calls for the creation of a special commission to investigate the harassment of “traditional marriage” supporters by same-sex marriage proponents…because it’s okay to persecute one group of people for their views, but not another, apparently.
Added note of irony: Bachmann, she of the husband who is significantly light in the loafers, has — dare I say it? — religiously avoided answering any questions about gay rights on the grounds that it is not what she is focused on. Ho ho.
Yet, the same-sex marriage debate truly should be a dead issue, because same-sex marriage foes have yet to put forth a single argument that is totally defensible. Not one. Let’s look at a few of the most popular claims for scuttling same-sex marriage…
CLAIM: According to the dictionary, the definition of “marriage” is –
MY TAKE: Stop right there. Just stop
This is without a doubt the weakest, most pathetic, and least defensible argument of all. The subtext of this argument is that a word means a certain thing, and that meaning is utterly static and can never change, no matter what sort of outside influences are placed upon it. Rick Perry has relied on this tactic before.
The idea that language is forever fixed and does not adapt is laughable. Sure, you can rightfully claim that calling beer “water” doesn’t make it water, but every day common words are given new definitions and applications. “Bad” and “sick” are now synonyms for “good.” “I dig” and “groovy” do not just mean “I make holes in the ground” and “Something with a lot of grooves in it,” respectively.
As if this line of false logic needs one last nail in its coffin, go check out what Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, and The Free Dictionary, to list but a few, have as definitions for “marriage.”
This argument also conveniently ignores exactly what marriage has been in the past, such as a business arrangement to expand land holdings and/or to ensure that land holdings remain in the family (which often meant within a particular royal line). Arranged marriages also forged alliances between political institutions.
Some of the smaller details have changed as well. Time was, men would take brides in their early teens to ensure their virginity, and no one (at least in the US) pays dowries anymore. Diamond engagement rings? Diamond syndicate DeBeers came up with that idea in the 1930s. There were historical precedents for the engagement ring, true, but DeBeers pushed the idea so hard that the idea of proposing via a diamond engagement ring is deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness.
In summary, words are as malleable and prone the adaptation and evolution as the institution of marriage itself. To claim otherwise is sheer (and perhaps willful) ignorance.
CLAIM: Same-sex marriage undermines the institution of marriage
MY TAKE: And your proof is?
One of the most oft-quoted statistics when it comes to marriage is the old saw about how half of all marriages end in divorce. It’s been widely debunked, but several reports do indicate that approximately 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce within 15 years.
First thing to bear in mind is that up until 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to conduct full-fledged same-sex marriages, divorce was the sole domain of heterosexual — or, “traditionally married” — couples in the US, so it’s not unfair to say marriage was in rocky shape already, and we have no one to blame but the straighties in the room.
The next damning piece of evidence is the most recent US Census data, which reveals that divorce rates for 2009 were highest in southern states — also known as “red states” or “Bible Belt” states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas for men; Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia for women.
The lowest rates were here in the northeast: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania for men; Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania for women.
This raises a very valid question: why do states that ostensibly hold the institution of marriage far dearer than us dastardly East Coast Liberals have such high divorce rates? It suggests strongly that the institution of marriage is already being undermined, and it’s not by homosexuals.
Same-sex marriage is still very new, and the full impact of allowing gay couples to marry has yet to be appreciably measured, especially within the context of how it affects “the institution of marriage,” but for now such claims are baseless fear-mongering, and all the available data is pointing the finger in a very straight direction.
CLAIM: Same-sex marriage will lead to the validation of other deviant sexual behavior
MY TAKE: Yeah, maybe it will. Maybe
The “slippery slope” argument is considered a logical fallacy, because the argument that Situation A will lead to Theoretical Outcome B is more often than not unsupported by data; you can rightfully say that Situation A, eating too much ice cream, will lead to Theoretical Outcome B, you get fat, because there is ample data to support a causal relationship, but no such relationship has been established between Situation A, gay people get married, and Theoretical Outcome B, people will want to marry their siblings, their pets, prepubescent children, household appliances, motor vehicles, their jobs, the sea, etc.
However, that is indeed a possible outcome — in that by becoming more accepting and tolerant of behavior that deviates from the norm (and, let’s be honest, biologically speaking heterosexuality is the standard here) society opens the door for others who have non-mainstream predilections to come forward and demand their equal and fair treatment. It could further be argued that we started down that path when African-Americans and Honky-Americans began marrying, and only the most narrow-minded of people would condemn that nowadays.
Nevertheless, long-range outcomes of legalized same-sex marriage are close to pure speculation; it assumes an extreme outcome based on nothing but the speaker’s own fears and prejudices. By that school of thought, as a counter-point I could as easily claim that allowing same-sex marriage in every state would save the economy by opening up the lucrative wedding industry to a whole new batch of clients eager to spend.
CLAIM: The Bible says that marriage is between one man and one woman
MY TAKE: Not quite…and why are you only focusing on this one particular point?
The word “marriage” appears in the Bible 21 times. Yes, I counted. Some references do not at all come across as directives, instructions, or guidelines, others could be interpreted as such, yet none of those references explicitly state “Dudes can’t marry other dudes” (or “Chicks can’t marry other chicks”). Because all mentions of marriage refer to a man and a woman, the implication to (or perhaps more accurately, inference by) the anti-same-sex marriage crowd is that marriage is the exclusive domain of one man and one woman.
These people tend to overlook passages such as Hebrews 13:4, which reads, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Repeat: marriage is honourable in all..so why are homosexuals excluded?
Same-sex marriage opponents patch this crack in their logic by referring to passages in the Bible that condemn homosexuality, such as the oft-quoted Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 goes one better and states that men who get busy with each other “shall surely be put to death,” and yet, I rarely hear anyone calling for a mass-extermination of those dirty ol’ sodomites.
That’s because opponents fastidiously cherry-pick their passages, finding the ones that support their position, ignoring those that do not — or worse, propose something so utterly insane that, if they were to advocate for it, their credibility would disappear with a loud flushing sound.
They don’t ever mention Deuteronomy 22:22, which recommends death for cheating wives and their lovers; 2 Chronicles 13:21, which reads like advocacy for bigamy; Deuteronomy 24:1, which allows a man to divorce his wife if he has “found some uncleanness of her,” which one could liberally interpret as “I want a divorce because my woman hasn’t discovered Summer’s Eve”; Mark 10:12 and Romans 7:3, which state that a woman who leaves her husband and re-marries is in the eyes of God an adultress; and — again — Deuteronomy 22:25, which states that if a man rapes a woman, she can never be with anyone else but her rapist.
If you’re going to use the Bible as your defense for bigotry, be honest about what it says. Everything it says.
CLAIM: People should have a right to vote on whether they want same-sex marriage
MY TAKE: Why are homosexuals’ civil rights different from anyone else’s?
The history of civil rights is found in the courtroom and the halls of government rather than the ballot box. Women’s suffrage? Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. African-American integration into society? The 13th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Same-sex marriage in Massachusetts? Ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2003. How come that one isn’t good enough? Answer: it is, and should be. Historical precedent says so.
Think you have a good argument against same-sex marriage? Let’s hear it.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.