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Austin Cline

Weekly Poll: Should Gay Marriage be Legalized?

By January 17, 2013

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There are fierce debates over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to have the same marriage rights and privileges as straight couples do. Some argue that this would undermine the institution of marriage, but other say that it's simply a matter of civil and equal rights. There are even debates among atheists about this -- although atheists in the West tend to support equality for gays, some do oppose gay marriage.

 

Marriage, Gay & Straight:

 

Gay Rights, Gay Marriage, and Religion:

 

Arguments Against Gay Marriage:

 

Gay Rights, Gay Marriage, and the Law:

Comments
May 22, 2008 at 11:16 am
(1) Steve says:

I can’t give a yes or no answer to the poll. I completely see the desire for a gay couple to marry. However, I think it is changing the definition of marriage, and I personally think marriage is best suited to raising kids. But you don’t need to be heterosexual to raise kids. In a nutshell – I just don’t think same-sex unions should be called Marriage, but I would never try to prevent a change of the definition from being legalized. Hows that for wishy-washy?

May 22, 2008 at 11:34 am
(2) Austin Cline says:

However, I think it is changing the definition of marriage

So? Marriage has changed in lots of ways just over the past couple of centuries.

I personally think marriage is best suited to raising kids.

So? Lots of marriages have no kids. Should those marriages be dissolved?

In a nutshell – I just don’t think same-sex unions should be called Marriage

If you have no object to gay couples getting all the same rights associated with marriage, but don’t want their unions called “marriage,” this suggests that you’re basically trying to keep something special for yourself and denying it to gays. Imagine saying “I don’t think interracial unions should be called Marriage.” Notice how you capitalized it there, but nowhere else, as if it were something special reserved for straight people.

A lot of the anti-gay-marriage arguments from Christians seems to be driven by a desire to reserve the institution and concept of “marriage” for themselves. They don’t want to share it with others because being “married” confers a particular status on a couple which the rest of the community is obliged to respect and honor. People who dislike or are uncomfortable with gays, however, don’t want them to get that status — they want it reserved for straights.

Such an attitude is a perfect example of attempts to defend special privileges.

May 22, 2008 at 12:13 pm
(3) Steve says:

You make very good points.

I don’t see that it’s a special privilege for heterosexuals. If I had to attribute my reluctance to changing the definition, it would be from conditioning. It’s a shift for most people to change the personal, internalized definition of marriage to now encompass same-sex couples, as has been done successfully with many other labels that once applied almost exclusively to men or women. I recognize it as “growing pains” and a paradigm shift. While I don’t deny that it’s there, it’s still hard for me to grasp that same sex couples want to be labeled married simply because my conditioned, internalized definition means man and woman. It would be “easier” to recognize the union of a same-sex couple with all the same legal rights, with a different term. As you can see, there is no “logical” reason for needing a separate term, only an emotional one. Still, I don’t want to deny marriage to anyone, so I would say I’m not against it…

May 22, 2008 at 12:41 pm
(4) Austin Cline says:

I don’t see that it’s a special privilege for heterosexuals. If I had to attribute my reluctance to changing the definition, it would be from conditioning.

And how, exactly, is that not a conditioning to defend a privilege for heterosexuals?

It’s a shift for most people to change the personal, internalized definition of marriage to now encompass same-sex couples, as has been done successfully with many other labels that once applied almost exclusively to men or women.

Every elimination of privilege has entailed a difficult shift for those who had been conditioned to see that privilege as if it were really just a normal, part of the natural order.

While I don’t deny that it’s there, it’s still hard for me to grasp that same sex couples want to be labeled married simply because my conditioned, internalized definition means man and woman.

I’d say that what you’re describing is having been conditioned to see heterosexual privilege as being necessary and normal, not unjust privileges. You’ve moved far enough to recognize on a conscious level that this conditioning isn’t based on anything necessary or natural and that’s good — it’s much further than people who continue to assume that the definition of “marriage” is natural and immutable. The conditioning, though, is still conditioning on behalf of unjust privilege for heterosexuals.

Remember, the biggest and hardest steps in eliminating unjust privileges is recognizing that they exist and then recognizing the many unconscious ways in which they are constantly reinforced (like in the definition of marriage). If these privileges were maintained in ways that actually revealed the privileges as privileges, they wouldn’t persist so strongly. It’s precisely because we don’t recognize that we are regularly having privileges indoctrinated and reinforced that the privileges are able to remain.

May 22, 2008 at 1:57 pm
(5) Steve says:

Austin – again, excellent points. I am not much of a debater so let me just concede that what I say may be coming from one of many many blind spots, so to speak.

I don’t think that I believe marriage is a heterosexual privilege, and this may be one of my many blind spots, only that the term has always been used for a union between a man and a woman. Where I may be wrong is in believing that a same-sex union having all the same legal rights as a heterosexual union is equal to a “marriage.” I understand that the term marriage will bring a different perception both from within and outside the marriage.

All other things being equal, is the use of a term other than marriage where the problem lie? I can see both sides, since there is heavy emotional and unconscious associations with the term.

Thanks for helping me to see my prejudices. I know we all have them…part of being human. It’s seeing them that takes away their power to corrupt thinking.

May 22, 2008 at 2:20 pm
(6) Austin Cline says:

I don’t think that I believe marriage is a heterosexual privilege, and this may be one of my many blind spots, only that the term has always been used for a union between a man and a woman.

1. Marriage has always been one thing or another until it is changed. Marriage has undergone drastic changes in just the past century or two — and I mean legally, not merely people’s perception of it.

2. Limiting marriage to a man and a woman necessarily makes it a privilege for heterosexuals unless there is something about “marriage” which makes it impossible for gay couples to enter into. That’s not the case, though, is it? Marriage is a human social construction and thus defined by humans; it’s not an immutable feature or brute fact of nature. Marriage is defined according to what we want it to be and is changed as we want it to change. It’s a human choice to exclude gays from marriage, not a necessary consequence of some natural feature of the world which we are forced to accept.

Where I may be wrong is in believing that a same-sex union having all the same legal rights as a heterosexual union is equal to a “marriage.”

It’s not equal, any more than separate schools were equal for the black children who attended them.

All other things being equal, is the use of a term other than marriage where the problem lie?

When was the last time you saw “separate but equal” work? Would you find it acceptable to say that interracial couples shouldn’t be married, just in a “civil union”? If not, why not?

Since the presumption should be on inclusion and equality, not separation, the real question is the one that should be posed to you: if a gay union is not inferior to a straight union, if “marriage” is a human concept defined and changed by humans, and if you have no reasons to deny any of the standard legal/social rights to gay couples that are granted to straight couples, then what is the reason for trying to segregate gay couples into a “civil union” ghetto? What possible reason could there be but to retain a special privilege (in this case, the privilege is being eligible for a special label or designation that confers traditional social respectability and honor) for straights?

There is a further problem with civil unions: once created, upon what legal basis could you exclude straight couples from them? Equal protection under the law demands that they be allowed to become “civil partners” as well. Now you’ve created a subordinate class of marriage which anyone can enter into, devaluing marriage itself in the process? If marriage is good and worth protecting, then it’s precisely the wrong tactic to adopt to create a “marriage lite” option.

May 22, 2008 at 8:08 pm
(7) Steve says:

Austin – thanks for your replies. My bad, I didn’t realize you had addressed all my points in the other links on this page. You have helped me see the roots of my blind spots more clearly and gain perspective. Part of my difficulty with this issue is that I am emotionally distant from the idea of getting married anyway.

I don’t agree with all of your points and comparisons, but I know they are valid perspectives. I would have said that the interracial marriage comparison was a straw man, but I see how it applies in the sense of this being a legal challenge for equal rights.

May 23, 2008 at 3:21 pm
(8) Alžběta says:

I live in the Czech Republic. A law permitting civil unions was passed a few years ago. It caused absolutely no problems, and brought joy to many homosexuals.

So I don’t see why there should be problems with a gay marriage here or in the US.

May 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm
(9) bebecca says:

But but but, if gays are allowed to marry, won’t it diminish, or make a mockery, of my marriage to my husband of 20+ years? Just kidding, what a lame argument. There are no real, credible arguments against gay marriage, it’s really a homophobic argument. I remember hearing a comic say something like “of course gay people should be allowed to marry. Don’t they have the right to be as miserable as the rest of us?”

May 26, 2008 at 10:21 am
(10) Tim says:

The only place government should have in a marriage is enforcing the legal contract, however it may be drawn. I don’t think the state has any place endorsing, licensing or doling out the privilege of marriage. For that matter, I don’t think marriage should be limited to just two people. If three or more adults of any sex or sexual orientation seek to enter into a binding legal agreement, the only place the state should have in that agreement is to arbitrate any disputes between the parties.

The state should have no more interest in my marriage than they have in the relationship between me and the guy I sell my car to.

May 26, 2008 at 11:05 am
(11) Austin Cline says:

The only place government should have in a marriage is enforcing the legal contract, however it may be drawn.

Given the government’s necessary role in matters like divorce and inheritance, that’s simply not feasible.

I don’t think the state has any place endorsing, licensing or doling out the privilege of marriage.

Marriage is a fundamental right, not a privilege.

May 26, 2008 at 6:01 pm
(12) Tim says:

Marriage is a fundamental right, not a privilege.

My point exactly.As for the first part, I believe both of those fall under the government’s enforcement of legal contracts. Divorce, inheritance, child custody: all of these are basically disputes within the context of a marriage contract. My point was simply that government should not be selling marriage licenses or choosing who can and cannot get married.

May 26, 2008 at 8:05 pm
(13) Austin Cline says:

My point exactly.

Really? Well, I don’t believe that any courts have found entering into a generic contract to be a fundamental right. So, if marriage is transformed into a generic contractual relationship, it might be harder to defend it as a fundamental right anymore.

As for the first part, I believe both of those fall under the government’s enforcement of legal contracts.

Except there is nothing about them in the marriage license. They aren’t part of any contracts, they are part of the law. Your proposal would require that everyone go to the expense and effort of creating divorce, inheritance, and other provisions for each marriage rather than go with the standard provisions that currently exist. I don’t think you’ll be able to make a compelling case that they’ll get anything of equal or greater value in return.

My point was simply that government should not be selling marriage licenses or choosing who can and cannot get married.

Your belief is that government shouldn’t be selling marriage licenses, but you don’t make any arguments to justify why all current marriage law should be tossed aside in favor of merely enforcing whatever people choose to write into individual marriage contracts.

It should be noted that standard marriage laws which apply equally to everyone can be an important force for equality. It can prevent, for example, people who already have power (men) from denying power (money, assets) to women. Thus rather than having marriage contacts which deny wives anything in the case of divorce or being made widows, we have a standard marriage law which provides for women.

There is also the fact that marriage is nearly unique in that it makes people kin – not just those getting married, but many others as well. Being kin implies a host of moral and legal obligations that go well beyond what a contract can possibly cover. However, if you think you can demonstrate that a contract can do and provide for everything which current family and marriage law cover, feel free to make your case.

May 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm
(14) Marc says:

This is really VERY SIMPLE! All of these unions whatever you wish to call them are merely legally recognized unions for division of property, inheritance, taxes, etc. Requirements to operate an orderly society. “Marriage” is a religious institution, the government should NOT be involved, period. therefore, the answer to the poll should be; “The government should get out of sanctioning marriages, period.”

May 29, 2008 at 6:26 pm
(15) Austin Cline says:

All of these unions whatever you wish to call them are merely legally recognized unions for division of property, inheritance, taxes, etc. Requirements to operate an orderly society.

No, marriage is about more than that.

“Marriage” is a religious institution

Prove it.

the government should NOT be involved, period.

So, you think marriage exists to provide for the requirements to operate an orderly society, but government should not be at all involved with that which is necessary to operate an orderly society.

Yeah, that makes sense.

December 10, 2008 at 1:38 pm
(16) Chris says:

Ya know, this is the FIRST poll I’ve ever seen that included a question about government not being involved at all. BRAVO!

January 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm
(17) Bob Kniola says:

As an athieist i am stating this world is all there is. Why would I deny anyone that which does no harm to anyone but would provide for happiness and equality in quality of life in the eyes of the government & entitle them legal benefits otherwise denied to them. AS for destroying normally defined marriage, has anyone notice the number of divorces and the increased number of people choosing to live outside of wedlock?It is the latter that I find more disturbing. To think that our society is unwilling to make a commitment for life especially as it pertains to the children of that relationship I find very disturbing. I am proud to state I have been married to a wonderful person for 52 years and never entertained the idea of making a change! .

January 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm
(18) Bob says:

If gays want to marry let them marry. Nobody should be stopped from doing what they want to do unless it can be proved it would be harmful to other people or society.Too much of the opposition to a minority of people doing what they want to do comes from people wanting to enforce their own prejudices.

January 19, 2013 at 2:53 am
(19) Borsia says:

My take on this isn’t from any religious or non-religious base.
The second the government started issuing marriage licenses it became a Constitutional matter.
Every American regardless of anything else has the same rights under the Constitution and that includes the right to anything that is in any way regulated or promoted by any government body, from town hall to the Federal government.
As far as I am concerned this is the only issue that matters.
I don’t believe that any church, priest, rabbi or any other religious institution should be forced to preform a service that is against their doctrine. But the government agency have no right to deny a license so long as they are consenting adults.

January 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm
(20) Deucalion says:

Well said Borsia, couldnt have said it better myself (Or at least, couldnt have said it in a calm and dignified manner with constant use of four letter words.)
Yes, as soon as it becomes a civil issue it is no longer religious. Buddhists marry and it’s not a religious issue, it’s a personal issue, an issue of love between two human beings, be they man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman. If you only allow straight couples to marry (or adopt) then where does the line get drawn? As Austin pointed out, this is basically akin to segregation, affording rights to one group while witholding them from another. It’s bigotry plain and simple.

*“Marriage” is a religious institution*
Oh? Then why are there married Atheists? Married Laveyan Satanists? Married Scientologists? Most of those people are married for non-religious reasons, so your claim is kinda easy to shoot in the face. To me marraige is nothing more or less than two people declaring an offiicially recognized monogamous relationship sanctioned and recognized by the governing civil body. Which is the government, not the/a church.

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