Discussion on same-sex marriage has heated up quite a bit in the last few months with the Supreme Court overruling the Texas anti-sodomy law in Lawrence vs. Texas, legalized same-sex marriage in Canada, a group trying to "de-legalize" marriage in general, and articles by pundits like Andrew Sullivan.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to have meaningful debate on this topic without being labeled a bigot or a homophobe or a hate criminal. While I readily admit that many individuals against same-sex marriage do fit into that mold, it is a typical liberal tactic to disarm an adversary by labeling him as a racist, bigot or fascist in order to force that individual to defend themselves personally rather than debate their views. I fully expect to be attacked personally for my views on this subject, even though I have several gay friends and do not advocate any discriminatory behavior against homosexuals.
One of the biggest problems I see with many proponents of same-sex marriage is that they are using the legalization of this union as a measurement for the acceptance of the gay lifestyle by society. If society would just accept same-sex marriages, this would show that the walls of bigotry, discrimination, and hatred against homosexuals are being torn down. However, the institution of marriage is an inaccurate and unfair measure of acceptance.
On the other side, many opponents of same-sex marriage make the mistake of attacking the straw man issues of claiming same-sex marriage will usher in bestiality and pedophilia. Or that same-sex marriage violates religious beliefs and standards. Using these topics to oppose same-sex marriage is both unnecessary and counterproductive.
Most arguments I've seen in favor of same-sex marriage have been similar to the approach recently taken by Canada. The definition of marriage in Canada has been changed to be as follows: the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. The redefining of marriage is not meant to include polygamy or bestiality. Curiously though, it leaves the door open for pedophilia. But for argument's sake, let's assume the intent is for two "adults" to be engaged in a lawful union.
So, why did Canada change the definition of marriage? Taking the radical step of redefining one of the most important building blocks of a stable society must have come with some serious consideration. One Canadian Justice wrote in a legal opinion "The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offense to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them." It is further argued that restrictions against same-sex marriage violate both human and Constitutional rights in Canada.
But if we are to assume that the new marriage definition is to be between two consenting adults, that would allow related individuals to marry as well. There are laws against incest marriages in both Canada and the United States, so would same-sex marriage advocates argue that those individuals have had their rights violated too? If there is concern about the risk of birth defects between related adults, then what about two sisters or two brothers or a mother and daughter getting married? By definition, their rights are being violated as well.
Next, we need to address polygamy. I know the new definition of marriage isn't supposed to include more than two adults, but why not? If we're going to change the definition of marriage because of a violation of rights, then polygamists have also had their rights violated. It is quite discriminatory to say that heterosexuals and same-sex couples have the right to make a marriage commitment while polygamists do not. Heck, even the Bible makes reference to polygamy within a marital definition.
There is a reason we use the terms same-sex marriage, polygamy, incest, and even common law marriage when describing these relationships. It's because there is actually a difference between these relationships and traditional heterosexual marriage. Changing the definition of marriage doesn't make that difference go away. Instead, it weakens the institution of marriage.
I know most same-sex marriage supporters disagree with that last statement, but I'll explain. Grouping such different relationships under the same definition for marriage erodes the meaning of marriage. An institution that has been the core of family and society in this country for centuries no longer carries any real meaning. Marriage essentially refers to whatever each individual wants it to mean. This is a dangerous development.
A similar assault on the definition of "family" happened over the past 25 years. Liberals throughout the country insisted that the traditional family definition was inappropriate, bigoted, and in need of modification. Dan Quayle ignited a firestorm of controversy when he criticized Hollywood for glorifying the non-traditional family structure portrayed in the show Murphy Brown. But like it or not, the vast majority of our societal problems stem from the breakdown of the traditional family. When you look at murder, rape, suicide, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, and homelessness, the vast majority of those afflicted by these societal ills are from single-parent homes.
Same-sex marriage is not about homosexuality or gay rights. It is about marriage. It is about changing the definition of the most important institution in our society. It is about the prospect of raising a generation of children some day who will hear the word "marriage" and make no distinction between the current definition, a same-sex couple, four men and fifteen women in a polygamous union, or two adult sisters bound in marriage. For those who don't find this to be a troubling concept, just wait to see the effect on society in fifteen or twenty years.
I strongly oppose discrimination against the gay community, but equating same-sex marriage with breaking down the walls of discrimination is a mistake. If denying same-sex marriage is a violation of human rights, then so is denying polygamy and incest marriage. Marriage is not a right. It is an institution that is essential for a healthy environment to raise children. Radically changing that institution carries a terrible cost to society.