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Gay Marriage: Why Not?

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Randy LeJeune on July 18, 2005:

I tried to understand some of the arguments about gay marriage, but it seemed like to me that most of the arguments boiled down to being simply anti-gay period. I also think the distinction between "marriage" and "civil unions" rather silly. I mean, that kind of requires you to hold a certain religious view. In America at least, I was under the impression that *all* marriages were really civil unions, that can be created and dissolved as both parties see fit. One odd side-affect of not recongizing gay marriage in the future may be kind of comical, though. Obviously some gay couples will split up eventually, and they will have to divide up their assets, i.e., get a divorce. Thus it may be that gay divorces are commonplace before gay marriage is. ;)

Jan Wolter on October 17, 2005:

I don't think the opposition to gay marriage can be explained simply as being anti-gay. That is a big factor, of course, but it's far from being the whole story.

I happen to be part of an opposite-sex partnership. Our life is pretty much indistinguishable from any traditional married couple: house, kids, and (shudder) minivan. But we aren't, in fact, married. My partner, especially, and I, to a lesser degree, just aren't that comfortable with the idea of being jammed into the traditional roles of "husband" and "wife". The funny thing is, when gay marriage was making big strides, we found ourselves suddenly a bit more interested in getting married ourselves, and when the gay marriage movement got slapped back down again, we once again dropped the idea. It's entirely possible that gay marriage getting legalized would make us feel better enough about the meaning of marriage in our society that we would finally get married (at the current rate of progress, our grandchildren may attend).

So though my feelings about it are the opposite of those of the anti-gay marriage folks, I do have to admit one point: the legalization of gay marriage might alter the meaning of marriage for hetrosexual couples. I think by broadening the definition of who may marry, we broaden the definition of what a marriage is and what people's roles are within it. For people like my partner to whom traditional marriage looks suspiciously like a trap, loosening the definitions of marriage may make it much more appealing. But there are people who define success in life largely in terms of achieving and maintaining a good, traditional marriage. Certainly it is not unreasonable for such people to feel threatened or diminished by a societal redefinition of marriage?

Is this reason enough to deny the right of marriage to gays? No, of course not. But it does mean that many people who are not particularly anti-gay are going to have knee jerk reactions against gay marriage. I think it is a very great mistake to assume all opponents of gay marriage are solidly anti-gay.

At some point I'd like to revise the above article again to try to get deeper into what exactly gay marriage means for straight marriage. I don't think the answer is "nothing." I think broadening the definition of marriage to allow gays to marry may broaden it's meaning for other couples too. For people like my partner and I, that may be welcome, making marriage a viable option when it wasn't before. What it takes away from people who were already comfortable with the old definition of marriage is less clear. It's not as if the new definition would no longer include them. It would just include more things beside them, making them less special, making "the straight and narrow" less narrow. It takes away a few of the walls that have defined their lives. One can't deny that walls are often good things to have around. But are these walls so necessary to keep that it justifies excluding a whole class of people from marriage?

I think a touch of anti-gay sentiment makes it easier to decide that it's OK to exclude gays from marriage, but I don't think it is the root of the desire to do so.


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