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Retroactive Soapbox Entry- Legality of Homosexual Marriage

Note: This is a post of an essay that first appeared on my website April 2nd, 2004. The original essay can be found here. This is part of an ongoing effort to put all of my soapbox entries onto this blog, to give a space for user feedback. A "new" retroactive post will be made every Monday.

2 April 2004

There's been a lot of information in the news as of late concerning gay marriage, so I thought I'd write down my opinions to throw into the debate. I think that marriage between homosexuals should be legal, and below are the reasons why.

In my opinion, this is a morality law, and I don't think that it's the government's job to legislate morality. The government's responsibility should be to protect citizens from other people, not from themselves. It is not the government's responsibility, nor should it be one of their powers, to mandate acceptable behavior of citizens, nor that between consenting adults, if that behavior does not affect anyone else.

The vast majority of us in this country are not government officials. We do not control the law, we can only vote for public officials and voice our opinions. If public opinion goes against us, and a law gets passed that we don't personally agree with, there isn't much recourse other than going to court, and even then we're at the court's mercy. Thankfully, for the most part, laws in this country are fair and just. But if a law is passed that affects one segment of society, a similar law could just as easily be passed that affects you, personally. The precedent will have already been set. So, if you don't want laws passed that affect you based on what other people consider moral, you have to extend that same consideration to other people.

One of the problems with trying to pass morality laws is deciding whose morals to use. It's rather straightforward to say whether a certain action does or doesn't affect others (I know there are gray areas, but don't get caught up in situations of a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa causing a hurricane in Florida). It gets more difficult to say whether or not a certain action is moral. The only criteria I can think of are either vague notions of right and wrong, or religions. The first is not going to be very cut and dry, and the second should not be used to make laws in our country, as per the First Amendment. Everyone has their own ideas of morality, and there are hundreds of religions, each with its own particular "rules." The only way, really, to make laws based on morality is to go on public opinion. But then you're faced with the problem that I described in the paragraph above, where a few people have their freedom taken away because of the opinion of the masses, and there's no guarantee that you won't be one of those people on a different issue.

Some people say that our country no longer follows the intentions of the founding fathers, that they would have intended for morality to play a part in laws. I say so what. The founding fathers gave us a good framework for our government, and they risked their lives to give our country independence, and for that we owe them our gratitude and respect, but that is all we owe them. They lived 200 years ago in an agrarian, almost universally Christian society. Times have changed. And don't forget that these are the same men that considered black people as property who only got 3/5ths representation in the government, and that women weren't entitled to vote at all. They were not always right, and I don't feel indebted to carry out their every intention. Although it's important to consider history, we should not be slaves to it. We should base our decisions on what we think is just, not on what we think somebody else would have wanted us to do.

Gay marriage also raises the question of what the definition of a marriage should be. In the legal sense, religion should have no bearing on this question (except that in view of the First Amendment, we should not pass a law that restricts religion). People get married through the state all of the time, without the ceremony having anything to do with religion. I would guess that most people in this country would say that marriage is about commitment, that the two people are committing themselves to each other for a long time. Further, there are several laws that go along with that, because of the commitment between the two people. It affects how they pay taxes, power of attorney, ability to adopt and raise children, and a whole slew of other things. Gay couples can already achieve the same legal status as heterosexual couples in many of these areas, but it's not automatic. They have to take care of each area individually. So, if they can already achieve much of this legally, why not complete it and make it automatic by allowing them to get married? "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet."

I remember when I first read Bush's statement that if judges "insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process." I liked my friend's response of, "Yeah, I hate it when crazy liberal judges force their will upon the people by allowing them to marry whoever they want. Don't they know that the government should be in charge of people's love lives? It's like the people want the pursuit of happiness or some shit." I think that's a good summary of some of what I was saying above. But looking at the rest of Bush's statement, and now his later actions, it's clear that he wants to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Ignoring the arguments that I made above, I don't think that a constitutional amendment is the right way to approach this issue.

The amendments in the Bill of Rights were passed to protect people's personal freedoms. All of the subsequent amendments to the Constitution, except for one, have been passed to give additional rights and freedoms, or as changes to the structure of the government. The exception, the 18th Amendment, Prohibition, was repealed XX years later by the 21st amendment because it didn't work. The Constitution should not be used to take away freedom, it should be used to guarantee rights. If a constitutional amendment is going to be passed regarding gay marriage, it should only be used to protect it, not to make it illegal.

Now, to shift this essay from strictly political/legal considerations, I'm going to look at the morality of it, at least the way I see it, since many people won't care about my personal freedom arguments above and probably still feel that morality should play a part in making laws. Being a Christian, I think that homosexuality is immoral. However, I think many people have taken a stance against homosexuality that is inconsistent with their stances on other moral issues. Also, I think that it's important to realize that most gay people are naturally homosexual. They don't choose to be attracted to members of the same sex, it's something biological.

Being a Christian, I pray and study the bible to determine what I think is moral. The Old Testament contains most of the rules for Christians, and it is very strict, and very precise. It lays out exactly what we're allowed and not allowed to do, and lays out the punishments to go along with it. When Christ came, He didn't change what was moral and what wasn't, but He did change the way that we look at punishment (John 8:7 "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.") Most Christians today would not agree with the strict punishments laid out in the Old Testament.

The Bible is very clear about homosexuality being immoral. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, it says the it is detestable, and that it is punishable by death. But there are many other crimes punishable by death in the Old Testament, including adultery, having sex before you're married, kidnapping, blasphemy, and even working on Sundays. For a fuller list, take a look at ReligiousTolerance.org (includes relevant biblical passages to the instances I stated above). So, according to the bible, homosexuality is a sin on par with having sex before you're married, or working on a Sunday. And that's about the way I see it. It's wrong, but no worse than what anybody else does. Look at how many people in our country have pre-marital sex, blaspheme, or work on Sundays, and there's no national debate over them.

One of the arguments that I've heard is that homosexuality is wrong because two men or two women together can't naturally have children. From a legal standpoint, I didn't realize that it was the government's responsibility to make sure that people procreated. From a moral standpoint, fertility is not a good criteria to use for the morality of two people being together. There are countless heterosexual couples that cannot naturally have children. Just because a couple can't bear children doesn't mean that they shouldn't be together.

But now that brings up another, seemingly more controversial, issue, that of whether gay people should be allowed to adopt children (interestingly, this is already legal even though the couple can't legally be married). This is now moving away slightly from consenting adults not affecting anyone else, because now there is a child brought into the relationship, who had no choice in the matter. But, it's not as if homosexual parents would participate in homosexuality with their adopted children. That would be like saying that heterosexual parents would do the same thing to their children. People could argue that it sets a bad example for the children, or might confuse them, but how much worse would it be than some other parent/child relationships that already exist, especially considering the argument above, that homosexuality is no worse morally than blaspheming or working on Sundays? Even if you do consider homosexuality worse than those two acts, would it be worse for a stable, successful, homosexual couple to adopt a baby, than to leave the baby in foster care, bouncing from one house to the next? Or is it any worse than a person who cheats on their spouse, or who's on their sixth marriage, or who has five kids with as many partners? Since my opinion is that homosexuality is no worse than any of the other sins that we all commit, then there's no reason that homosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt children.

I have heard it argued that by legalizing gay marriage, the government is condoning homosexuality. And to that argument, I'd like to point out that the government has already legitimized in a similar manner a partnership that I see as immoral, and that is common law marriage. I do not think that living together without being married is moral (I won't try to hide it- I'm a hypocrite on this since I moved in with my fiancée before we were ever even engaged). But the government has already legitimized this lifestyle by passing laws to automatically consider people married after they have lived together for a certain amount of time. Why is it that two heterosexual people that are unwilling to commit get all of the legal benefits of being married, when two gay people that want to commit to each other cannot?

There is also the "slippery slope" argument, that by legalizing gay marriage, the government is creating a situation where other groups will try to get their marriages legalized, such as polygamists. First off, I don't buy into slippery slope arguments very much. People have common sense. On some issues, there are definitely gray areas, but people know when they're getting out of the range that they're comfortable with, and public opinion won't let things go too far. On the other hand, what's so morally wrong with those marriages? Using the same arguments as much of the above, it's a matter of personal freedom. If you're not hurting anyone, what's wrong with it? Also, there are many religions which do practice polygamy and other forms of marriage (not to mention that many religions see nothing wrong with homosexuality). If we are to preserve those people's freedom of religion, we must permit them to carry out their customs. And from a Christian standpoint, even though most Christians today don't practice polygamy, the Old Testament has several examples, and none of those relationships were considered immoral for it.

If just for the reason of preserving people's personal freedom, our country should legalize gay marriage. But even looking at it from a moral standpoint, it's not so bad. It's no worse than many of the actions of heterosexual couples. Further, gay couples should be allowed to adopt children if they want to. They still have the potential of providing a stable, loving household to children.

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