*Disclaimer: I believe that marriage is a right that belongs to every consenting adult. I support state, federal, and international recognition of same-sex and different-sex marriages as well as the marriages of those that do not fit into binominal gender categories.
However I have had many conversations with people who are against the government’s recognition of same-sex marriages. It is important to understand where they are coming from. In parts of this entry I present common arguments against same-sex marriage in a -hopefully- unbiased manner. I don’t want to offend anyone but I do wish to respectfully summarize the opposing view
before pointing out their flaws.
Arguments Against: The ma and pop definition of marriage
The legal recognition of same sex relationships in the United States started with Vermont’s legalization of civil unions in 2000, six years after the Romer v. Evans Supreme Court decision which ruled that exempting gays and lesbians from anti-discrimination laws was unconstitutional. The trend in extending rights to gay men and women – which recently has culminated in same sex marriages – is argued by critics to exceed basic equality and now trespasses into changing social institutions.
The argument is that anti-discrimination laws protecting gay men and women create equality while civil unions and marriages are unique privileges which create the legal basis of the family institution. Gay men and women cannot procreate or raise a family without outside measures such as adoption or fertilization with another biological participant. Because of this they do not have a basis for creating a family and have no need for the legal institution of marriage. The reality is that facilitated measures such as adoptions and third party fertilizations have resulted in legal issues ranging from custody battles to changes in the language surrounding the parent-child relationship.
At the basis of the argument against the government recognizing same sex marriages is the definition and function of marriage.
Marriage creates familial ties, generates lines of decent, defines the status of children, solidifies economic ties and dependencies, and regulates sexual relationships 1 . Government acknowledged marriage functions as the legal foundation for the cultural institution of family. Marriage has a procreative purpose and the rights given to those in such a union are meant to ease the socially necessary burdens of raising children and to protect property rights so that families can inherit wealth.
This definition of the function of marriage is supported by the nature of the measures listed in the 1,138 federal rights given to heterosexual marriages such as Social Security benefits upon death of a spouse or exemptions from federal income taxes in certain cases 2. Most of them either ease the burden of maintaining a family or protect property rights. The government gives tax breaks to and makes sharing insurance easier for married couples because doing so is an investment in their potential and purposive function of birthing and raising children.
The reason same sex couples are excluded from this function of marriage, and subsequently from marriage itself, is that there is evidence which supports the view that households without the biological mother and father present are detrimental to the development and outcome of children raised in such homes. One recent study found that people who report that their mother has had at least one same sex relationship are statistically different in terms of education attainment, depression, employment status, and marijuana use than people who were raised in a household with both their biological mother and father 3. This study measured a large sample of approximately 3,000 participants who came from a diverse background of family structures and supports many of the claims made by those who favor male-female unions as the optimal family structure.
The Catholic Church in America
One of the most powerful groups against the legalization of same sex marriage is the Catholic Church. In the United States about 24% of the population identifies as Catholic – practicing and non-practicing. This group is overrepresented in our federal government, making up 30% of Congress and two-thirds of the Supreme Court 4. Because of the power of Catholics in government and as one of the largest minority groups in the U.S. it is especially important to understand their stance on same sex marriage as it influences 24% of the population directly and the whole country indirectly through the policies supported by Catholics in government.
The Catholic Church clearly defines marriage and its reasons against same sex marriage in The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. In this document marriage is defined using the language of totality, unity, indissolubility, fidelity, and fruitfulness 5 (II Marriage, The Foundation of the Family). Same sex marriages are illegitimate in that they are not biologically fruitful nor can the psychological and physical unity required of marriage be accomplished without vaginal intercourse 6 (The Social Subjectivity of the Family).
Besides failing to meet the basic definition and functional purpose of marriage as defined by the Catholic Church, same sex marriages create “grave detriments to the common good” 7 (The Social Subjectivity of the Family). Specifically, the legalization of same sex marriage will legitimize same sex relationships and will result in future generations viewing homosexuality as acceptable 8.
The other detriment to society caused by same sex marriages is that it produces family structures which are viewed as unhealthy. Similar to the psychological mal-effects of same sex parenting found by Regnerus, the Catholic Church argues that without both a father and a mother, children are not able to develop proper gender norms 9. This hurts both the children raised by same sex couples and the couples themselves because their guise of marriage is incapable of fulfilling the purposes of marriage.
These are only some of the arguments used to oppose same sex marriage.
I summarized the Catholic perspective because of its huge lobbying power and my own personal experiences. Please check out the other sections of this series - The Issue with Same-sex Marriage and Arguments For Same-Sex Marriage.
Are there other substantial arguments used in the same-sex marriage debate not mentioned?