What is the Problem with Gay Marriage?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Well, there are many, but Wintery Knight points us to an excellent article written by Robert George that explains some of the issues quite well.  George rightly asserts that we must, as a society, agree on what marriage is before we start re-defining it.  And, it is up to the people of the United States to make this determination, not the courts.

What is marriage?  Is it merely a piece of paper?  Is it two people who have strong feelings toward each other?  Is it two or more people who want to live together, for whatever reason?  Is it all about sexual pleasure?  What is it?

Just as the key issue with abortion is defining what human life is, the key issue with gay marriage is defining what marriage is, including its purpose.  Until we debate this definition, efforts to recast marriage in the courts are getting ahead of the American people and we will end up with an even more divided nation.

18 thoughts on “What is the Problem with Gay Marriage?”

  1. Whether marriage is a public or private issue is part of the debate that needs to occur. You have assumed, by your question, that it is a private issue, so you have effectively ended the debate before it has begun.

    Additionally, since every human civilization has considered marriage to be a public issue, you must convince us why they have all been wrong. Defining marriage as a private issue contradicts the entire weight of human history. I’m curious to hear your arguments that will overturn this consensus.

  2. Marriage is both public and private.

    The public aspect clearly has nothing to do with religion, or else an atheist like myself could not get married.

    I’m asking why do you care what the private definition of marriage is to a couple? Some view it as identical to you. Others have different opinions. Why should that matter to you or anyone else?

  3. I didn’t explain myself well. When I say public, I mean that the institution of marriage is a matter of public interest. It affects the public good. Unlike, say, my choice of a favorite candy bar, which is a private matter that does not affect the public good. Hopefully the difference between a favorite candy bar and the definition of marriage is clear.

    Every human society has had an interest in promoting and sanctioning marriage for its people. Until very recently, most societies have never left the definition or purpose of marriage as a purely private matter. It is only in the last 20 years or so that we have seen societies start telling people that they can define marriage any way they choose, thus rendering it a purely private issue.

    If you believe that societies have no business defining marriage or its purpose, the onus is on you to make a case for that position. You are swimming against thousands of years of consensus.

  4. How exactly are the people going to go about defining marriage? When, where and how will they do it, and what precedent can you name for a concerted effort at defining a social institution that didn’t involve a legal decision ‘from above’?

  5. Insofar as it has an effect on the public good, yes. I think every society needs to seriously consider the institution of marriage because of its profound impact on its members. I also consider marriage to have moral and spiritual dimensions as well.

  6. I’m not sure about its ‘spiritual’ dimensions, but I’d agree with you as far as the moral aspect is concerned.

    However, if people are defining marriage politically as ‘one man-one woman’, aren’t they jumping the gun just as much as gay rights activists who are seeking to legalize gay marriage? Surely any move to properly define marriage, if necessary, should take place before a particular version of marriage is enshrined in law?

  7. But the “one man-one woman” view of marriage has been the only view of marriage ever enshrined in the history of humankind. Surely those who wish to challenge this view must present a compelling case to overturn the collective wisdom of the previous millennia. I have yet to see this case made.

  8. But that’s rather different from what you said a minute ago. You implied that the legislature could politically define marriage by voting it into law, in which case marriage’s definition would be solely a matter of democratic consensus. Are you saying that such consensus is invalid unless it’s also accompanied by an argument that you find convincing? Or will marriage be comfortably defined as allowing for same-sex couples once the people vote for it often enough?

    I’m also extremely leery of the ‘collective wisdom’ of the previous millenia. To use an example that Robert P. George would probably dislike, the collective wisdom of the previous millenia would also urge us to accept raging misogyny racism of the variety outlawed by Loving vs. Virginia. Personally, I’m not fond of arguments from tradition for that very reason.

  9. We have at least two issues going on with gay marriage. First, we have courts re-defining marriage and bypassing the political will of the American people. This is one issue Robert George is addressing. Second, we have these same courts and the supporters of gay marriage arguing to overturn the consensus of humankind from as long as we have historical records.

    Just because a view is traditional does not mean it is necessarily correct, but it definitely means it must be addressed by those who want to overturn it. After all, for a person to imply that they have developed arguments that nobody in recorded history ever dealt with is the height of intellectual arrogance and requires some strong evidence.

    I have heard many of the arguments of the pro gay marriage movement, and they do not adequately address the traditional view. If you have a convincing argument for why the traditional view of marriage should be tossed aside, please make your case. I am willing to listen.

  10. I don’t want to ‘toss aside’ anything, since I don’t see gay marriage as something that could possibly threaten traditional marriage and I can’t think of a single reason to oppose it that isn’t rooted in religious belief. I’m merely trying to determine under what conditions people like yourself would accept the legalization of gay marriage. Since Supreme Court rulings are apparently out, that leaves the democratic process of putting the issue to a vote. Yet that also doesn’t seem to be good enough, which leaves gay marriage proponents in the situation of having to convince people like you that they have the moral high ground, which they can never hope to do because what they say will inevitably be in conflict with the tenets of your religion. Their only options from there are to accept what amounts to religiously motivated oppression (which they won’t do) or else take what they want over the continuing criticism of the religious right – which is exactly what’s happening.

    I emphasize religion so strongly because the argument from tradition, the one you’re using here, is so useless that it doesn’t even need rebutting. Its sole purpose is to say ‘This is how things have been for [x] years’, the proper reply to which is ‘So?’ An argument from tradition collapses instantly unless strengthened by another argument, in which case it becomes vestigial and is pointless anyway. Since the supposedly secular arguments against gay marriage are so weak, the only obstacles left are religious arguments – which, as I’ve already said, are impossible to fight anyway.

  11. I will become convinced that gay marriage is reasonable when you show me how it promotes the good of our society. After all, that’s what laws are for. With regard to whether courts are the right place for this issue to be resolved, the answer is “no.” The Supreme Court attempted to “settle” the abortion debate in 1973 and has caused a split in our country that has polarized us for 35 years. Legalizing abortion did not settle anything!

    Likewise, if the courts force this gay marriage debate along, we will settle nothing. After all, don’t gays want their unions to be respected and even celebrated by the rest of society? This won’t happen if we skip the debate and just get to the answer they want.

    With regard to religion, I haven’t mentioned a single religious argument and would not argue against gay marriage using religious arguments, as those who do not share my religious views will find these arguments completely unpersuasive. You have assumed something about me that is not true. You want me to make a religious argument so that you can shoot it down, but since I didn’t offer one, you manufactured it for me! Thanks.

    I also have not offered an argument against gay marriage based on tradition, as you have accused me. I have only said that because the traditional view of marriage is being attacked, the attackers had better have some good ammunition to refute the collective wisdom of previous ages. Instead of offering that ammunition, you just keep telling me that tradition can be wrong. Yes, I know that! Offer me an argument showing that the traditional view of marriage is wrong.

    Again, show me why gay marriage is good for our society. Why should we change our laws?

  12. I also have not offered an argument against gay marriage based on tradition, as you have accused me. I have only said that because the traditional view of marriage is being attacked, the attackers had better have some good ammunition to refute the collective wisdom of previous ages. Instead of offering that ammunition, you just keep telling me that tradition can be wrong. Yes, I know that! Offer me an argument showing that the traditional view of marriage is wrong.

    No, that wasn’t my point. My point was that the argument from tradition is so insubstantial as to be worthless, which means that if that’s the only argument against gay marriage you can show me then there is no argument against it. If there is no argument against it, then no particular argument for it is necessary either – if the people want it, there is no reason not to allow it. The ‘collective wisdom of previous ages’ is completely irrelevant.

    Unless, of course, there actually is more to the issue than mere tradition. Is there?

  13. There is most certainly much more to be considered about the issue on both sides of the spectrum than a mere collective traditional view.
    #1, It is against all the Moral Standards of God.
    #2 The true constituents pushing the Gay Marriage issue are not “Truly” for Gay rights either.(They are for removing everyones rights)
    I have a post called “Apostasy Now” on my blog site:
    I say this to anyone who cares to either read it, comment on it, and, or jump in with me smack dab into the middle of the “Can of Worms” I may have just opened up here. I respect this site too much to impose such a debate, therefore, the offer is extended.

  14. Public institutions grow and change. Human biology changes more slowly. The world population is approaching 7 billion and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Internet is bringing the world together. Why are we afraid that a handful of gay folks want to get married?

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