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There ARE reasonable arguments against same-sex marriage, right?
January 12, 2012 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I have to publicly argue against same sex marriage in a week. Help me make logically sound arguments.

In about a week, I have the chance to debate some local public figures on Same-Sex marriage. There'll be hundreds of people in attendance.

This is a last minute thing [and not completely confirmed yet], as the people who had previously agreed to do it have backed out.

I will be arguing against same-sex marriage. This does not reflect my personal views. Rick Perry's Strong video is the best representation of my view of the majority of anti-same-sex marriage arguments. I'd REALLY like to not make arguments like that.

I'll be doing serious research over the next week, but I wanted to tap my favorite resource for this - I've never made a speech in front of an audience of this size. I'm really excited, and a bit nervous.

So with that in mind...
Has anyone heard any logically consistent, persuasive arguments against same-sex marriage?
Are there any academics who've made arguments against same-sex marriage that you've found compelling (even if they didn't convince you)?
Have you ever heard the rote conservative arguments made in a way that humanized and broadened your perspective on people who make those arguments?

Thanks! This is anonymous, because I'd rather not expose my identity this publicly, as the event will be streamed online. If you figure out who I am and what I'm doing over the next week, I'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything until after the event.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (100 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you looking to go for a Swiftian "marriage itself and civil rights in general need to be done away with" kind of thing?
posted by odinsdream at 12:46 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that there may be something to the argument that the government has an interest in restricting the privileges and responsibilities of marriage to child-bearing bio-couples. Of course, you will have to concede that divorce, childfree marriages, and certain kinds of adoption should be outlawed, but that could be fun.
posted by muddgirl at 12:49 PM on January 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'm unclear on both the context for why you are making this speech and also what your personal beliefs on it are.

The most compelling argument against same sex marriage that I know of is that the state giving benefits to married couples--while there is a long and illustrious history about marriage being about property rights the world around--is just a bad game for the state to be in. In fact many American-style Libertarians argue against same sex marriage not because they are anti-gay [though many also are] but because they believe in small government so much that they think the state should not be involved in people's private lives at all, especially by conferring any sort of benefits to married couples.

I believe that if you are a religious person you can make a strong argument that you do not feel that your religion sanctions same sex marriages and may not be okay with it because of "well the bible says..." reasons. However, the continued confusion between religious-marriage and civil marriage seems to be the problem here. I can not think of a single reason that civil same sex marriages should be problematic for non-religious people.

So, in answer to your question, no I don't think there are reasonable arguments against same sex marriage, at least not in the US. The only arguments come from a position of prejudice or a sort of status quo situation ["well if we have to teach children about this in school, that will be confusing to kids who have parents who religiously object"] and aren't logically sound. If you do not like same sex marriages you are welcome not to get one.
posted by jessamyn at 12:49 PM on January 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


Were I in your position, I would start reading some of Maggie Gallagher's writings. The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy is a good resource.
posted by BurntHombre at 12:52 PM on January 12, 2012


If you're going to have to leave religious reasons out - and if you're going to argue from a logical/rational basis, then you should - I haven't heard any anti-same-sex marriage arguments that don't collapse in about five minutes.

One way you could argue it is to argue against any government recognition of marriages, for anyone, and leave it up to the various religious traditions to handle it as they see fit. But it doesn't sound like that would work for your situation.
posted by rtha at 12:52 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


The only argument I'd make is that the state shouldn't be regulating marriage at all because doing so, among other things, privileges some classes of people above others for arbitrary reasons.
posted by liketitanic at 12:53 PM on January 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


Well, whether or not an argument is reasonable can be in the eye of the beholder. For people who believe in a certain kind of God, "Because God said so" is a pretty reasonable and compelling argument. If I were you I would look into what some of the best-founded theological objections are, though I'm not well versed enough to offer any examples.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 12:54 PM on January 12, 2012


Is this some form of an assignment? I've had to do something similar for a debate class where basically we were asked about a topic and had to argue the opposite. In fact if I recall correctly, I think I had to debate that side against gay marriage. In fact, I even stated it was against my consciousness and ethos to even attempt to, because there is no honest intellectual debate for it.

If this isn't the case then by all means don't do it. But if you truly believe that, at least try to make an engaging argument, which in all honesty in my view is impossible.
posted by handbanana at 12:54 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My gay friend is slightly ambivalent about gay marriage, because "why should we live in a society where marriage is necessary for anyone?" A huge reason these days for wanting to be married, same sex or otherwise, is the health benefits and/or being allowed in a hospital room for a loved one. Why do we have to be married at all for these things? Sort of what jessamyn said.

Historically, people married because having a legitimate heir was important. Why is it important now? Why can't we all just live in communes?
posted by Melismata at 12:55 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've often passionately argued for things I didn't agree with at all - but always in the context of a formal competitive debate, where my position was determined by a coin flip and I had to be prepared to handle Pro and Con at the drop of a hat. But you seem to be describing a situation in which people will actually see you as a proponent of this view.

The thing is, if you're trying to argue against gay marriage, and you don't want to take a religious tack, it's going to be very hard to be logically consistent without saying things that are going to be offensive otherwise. For example, you could take the "Marriage is for procreation" angle - but you'd have to be willing to stand in front of all those people and go on to declare "...and yes, that does mean that I think the marriages of infertile couples should be voided."
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:56 PM on January 12, 2012


Playing devil's advocate, perhaps one approach is to look at who gets left out (good is the enemy of perfect), or you could examine what societal inequities are reinforced or worsened by expanding the practice to gay couples. For example, is a defense of same-sex marriage rights a perpetuation of the same discriminatory gender-identity roles that underpin roles in straight marriages? Do we want to cement deeper inequality in our society, etc.? I don't agree with it, myself, but it might be a direction to think about, one which I have heard from gays and lesbians who oppose the pursuit of marriage rights.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:57 PM on January 12, 2012


In any case, why would you argue against same-sex marriage if you don't believe the argument? Are you a sociopath?

Arguing a position you don't agree with is a good mental workout with a long history. You really don't have to be a sociopath to want to explore a point from all sides.

OP, I can think of a couple of arguments -- none of them airtight. I will state them as succinctly as I can:

1) marriage is a pretty old and fundamental social institution, and we make changes to such institutions slowly and at our peril.

2) marriage is a sacrament of the church, and the civil authority has no business making changes to what is ultimately a religious matter.

I should note that these arguments are certainly subject to valid attack on a number of fronts.
posted by gauche at 12:57 PM on January 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Not my personal belief at all (I am totally for same sex marriage) but have heard the argument that people who are not gay will use legalized same sex marriage to scam for benefits. For example, I am female heterosexual and have a best friend who is female heterosexual. She has no job and therefore no health benefits, but really bad health. I could "marry" her so that she would get my benefits. She gets well and we get divorced.

It ain't much, but that's all I got.
posted by NoraCharles at 12:58 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


To actually answer the question: if you don't want to take a religious view, you can construct a gender-essentialism argument. If you say that women, and therefore wives, are biologically suited to being like THIS while men, and therefore husbands, are biologically suited to being like THAT, you can synthesize a position that claims that our society is benefitted by privileging adherence to those gender roles. It's wrong, of course, and obviously so, but it's about the only way I can see to get there from here.
posted by KathrynT at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2012


There ARE reasonable arguments against same-sex marriage, right?

Outside of "states shouldn't be involved in our personal lives at all"? no.

This is a highly emotional topic. If you really don't agree with it, why not go for the gusto and just lay it on thick with riligious arguments? If you're trying to win this debate for something you don't agree with, I'm not sure why you would care if your chosen arguments are anything other than encredibly persuasive bullshit.
posted by Blisterlips at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2012


As other have stated, one argument is that the government shouldn't be giving special benefits or recognition of any kind to married people that aren't available to single people -- recognizing same-sex marriage would just expand the group of unfairly privileged people.
posted by Perplexity at 1:00 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Has been mentioned by someone else above, but the whole "a family should be a unit that makes babies" is the [only] argument I could think of [before reading the rest of the answers].
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:04 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assuming the attorneys arguing in favor of Proposition 8 were competent, their arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger should contain just about every argument one could possibly come up with that pertain only to same-sex marriage (as opposed to marriage as a civic institution) without resorting to religious arguments. Of course, they lost (pending appeal).
posted by LionIndex at 1:06 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think the question Why does the state have an interest in regulating marriage? would be a good starting point that doesn't use religion as a foundation. This op-ed writer touches on it: Opinion: Gay marriage should not be made legal
posted by BurntHombre at 1:07 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Google for "queer critiques of gay marriage" or "queer arguments against same-sex marriage" or variations thereof
posted by Bwithh at 1:08 PM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


OP, I actually have a very relevant law review article written by a friend; I'm happy to share the cite if you contact me privately.
posted by liketitanic at 1:08 PM on January 12, 2012


"the argument that people who are not gay will use legalized same sex marriage to scam for benefits"

Not saying that it justifies prohibiting same sex marriage but, that is, along with the state shouldn't be involved at all, the only other valid argument against it that I can think of. I don't know how that kind of abuse can be prevented and if it can't be prevented it definitely will happen.
posted by Carbolic at 1:09 PM on January 12, 2012


Two points:

1. Mankind has respected the institution of marriage between a man and a woman for many thousands of years, in every society and every civilization. In some societies where plural marriage is permitted, it still involves men and women. It is only in the last couple of decades that this issue has arisen.

2. Even in those societies where sexual relations between members of the same sex was commonplace, such as ancient Greece and Rome, this activity always took place outside of marriage.
posted by yclipse at 1:09 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think there are any valid points to be made but you could make the points that popular homophobes have made and allow them to be torn apart (hopefully) thus fulfilling your requirement while still letting the correct side win.

I still think that you should be able to say that arguing something so abhorrent offends you. However, that may be the crux of the exercise - the ability to understand and persuasively provide the counter-argument even if you wholeheartedly don't agree with it.
posted by Raichle at 1:10 PM on January 12, 2012


The State has a vested interest in ensuring more citizens will be available so it can perpetuate itself - marriage (as recognized by governments) confers specific legal and social benefits in order to promote child-rearing.

Outlaw marriage for people that do not have reproductive capability, or are unable/unwilling to adopt.

/I do not actually hold this position.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:12 PM on January 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


[Folks, we were aware this would be a problematic post. Please either answer it or move on. Do not call the OP names. Do not start an argument. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:13 PM on January 12, 2012


2) marriage is a sacrament of the church, and the civil authority has no business making changes to what is ultimately a religious matter.

But that argument collapses in the face of religious groups that *do* want their gay members to marry. Since nobody is talking about forcing churches to perform gay weddings that are against their beliefs, what you're left with is the civil authority interfering to *prevent* religious groups from performing marriages.

I'd stick with "it's always been this way - let's not change too quickly."
posted by rmd1023 at 1:14 PM on January 12, 2012


The argument that people who are not gay will use legalized same sex marriage to scam for benefits isn't valid, because there's nothing preventing people from using opposite-sex marriage for the same purpose.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 1:14 PM on January 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you are not against same sex marriage, you are going to have to proceed from fundamental arguments which you believe to be false. From there, you can be as logical as you want in abstract terms. But the principles you base your arguments on are never going to seem "logical" to you if you don't believe them. Nor is your conclusion as long as it is against something you are for.

Personally, I wouldn't get up in public and claim to be against same-sex marriage except in a framework where it was clearly a rhetorical exercise, and even then I would use language to show i was being satirical, and try to turn it on its head in some way.
posted by BibiRose at 1:15 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think you are going to have to come in from a bit outside "the box," as they say, and go for marriage itself.

I think you COULD make a case that marriage is pretty broken (actually that one is pretty obviously true) and that it is bad for society—and that therefore we should be diminishing access to marriage, not increasing it.

Marriage separates people into too-small groups (of just two adults! Ridiculous!), which is a fundamental basis for why we live in too-big houses, which we spent too much on, and why we drive too many cars, and why we've created stultifying suburbs, etc. Two-person-marriage is part of the reason why big cities have undernourished downtowns, why we don't have better transit systems, and why children get turned out for adoption, and also why so many grow up unprepared for adulthood.

Pouring a new and large group of people into the potential marriage pool... well, gays should be spared assisting in the shortsighted and assured destruction of society.

(I actually do mostly feel this way, even though I am a bonafide legally married gay!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:16 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would say that using any religious arguments is a bad idea. The foundation of separation of church and state means that legal marriage and the sanctity of marriage are two entirely separate issues.

If a church wants to refuse to recognize same sex marriage, that is completely within their rights as far as I know. The state however, should not ever be able to use any religious or religiously based argument for or against legal marriage of any kind (same sex or otherwise).

I can certainly think of reasons where people would argue against their beliefs (profit, education/rhetoric, etc.) but this is one area where I don't believe that I could ever bring myself to do it.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:18 PM on January 12, 2012


Legalizing gay marriage is a step toward legitimizing homosexuality--once gays have government approval of their relationships, people will stop hating gays.

Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to legalizing all sorts of other relationships. I could marry 10 wives, or 3 husbands, or a child, or a goat.

It makes the Baby Jesus cry. Adam and Steve, that sort of thing.

Since not all countries recognize same-sex marriages, this will cause immigration issues.

The word marriage is defined in the dictionary as being between one man and one woman.

Who gets to be called husband? Who gets to be called wife? It's all just so confusing to the children.

Churches will be forced to perform gay weddings, thus violating their 1st amendment rights.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:18 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


NoraCharles: [I] have heard the argument that people who are not gay will use legalized same sex marriage to scam for benefits

And this very same scam could be perpetrated in a man+woman marriage.

yclipse: Mankind has respected the institution of marriage between a man and a woman for many thousands of years, in every society and every civilization. In some societies where plural marriage is permitted, it still involves men and women. It is only in the last couple of decades that this issue has arisen.

Then your view of the world is small and limited:
Woman-woman marriage has been documented in more than 30 African populations, including the Yoruba and Ibo of West Africa, the Nuer of Sudan, the Lovedu, Zulu and Sotho of South Africa, and the Kikuyu and Nandi of East Africa.

Many indigenous societies in the Americas supported alternative gender roles for both biological men and women. These identities have been termed 3rd and 4th genders (though some cultures recognized up to 6 genders).

Hu Pu'an records the phenomenon of two-women commitment ceremonies in "A Record of China's Customs: Guangdong": Within the Golden Orchid women's societies, if two women "have intentions" towards each other, one of them would prepare peanut candy, dates and other goods as a formal gift to show her intent.
And then there's the fact that women were the "property" of their husbands.

That's the thing: there is nothing that stands up. Sexual orientation conveys no magic abilities or terrible traits to a person. Marriage for reproduction-purposes only? Then what about couples who cannot bear children, or choose not to? Should the government get into the business of enforcing reproduction? Should we try to harken back to "the old ways"?

Pick and chose a thin ideal or two, and make your peace with supporting a bigoted, dying ideal. I am not saying that you are a bad person, but you are trying to argue for something that has no logical case. Or argue for something Swiftian, into the realms of near-parody.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on January 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


1. Mankind has respected the institution of marriage between a man and a woman for many thousands of years, in every society and every civilization. In some societies where plural marriage is permitted, it still involves men and women. It is only in the last couple of decades that this issue has arisen.


Just for the record, this is false. There were gay marriages in ancient China and Rome, as well as in early Christianity.
posted by brainmouse at 1:20 PM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


Has anyone heard any logically consistent, persuasive arguments against same-sex marriage?
I have not. I understand the no-state-sponsored-marriages stance a lot of people are putting forth here, but I don't actually think that answers the narrower question at hand.

Are there any academics who've made arguments against same-sex marriage that you've found compelling (even if they didn't convince you)?

I have not encountered any.

Have you ever heard the rote conservative arguments made in a way that humanized and broadened your perspective on people who make those arguments?
No, but I do think salishsea's comment a while ago shows one way to humanize people that espouse prejudiced opinions.
posted by vegartanipla at 1:20 PM on January 12, 2012


Weirdly missing the point is your only hope here.

One way you can do that is to make an argument like Scalia made in his Lawrence v. Texas dissent: laws making gay marriage illegal aren't discriminatory (don't violate the equal protection clause), since they apply equally to everyone.

What marriage rights do straight people have? To get married to someone of the opposite sex!

What marriage rights do gay people have? To get married to someone of the opposite sex!

He (rightly) goes on to say this might have worked in Loving v. Virginia too (What marriage rights do white/black people have? To marry someone of the same color!) but he says this is different because that law was obviously meant to maintain white supremacy.

So like I said, you have to be able to weirdly miss the point, and keep a straight (sorry) face.
posted by fritley at 1:21 PM on January 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


A few years ago when I was interested in the arguments against legalizing same-sex marriage, I found these two resources very helpful:
  1. Dale Carpenter's week-long series of posts on same-sex marriage, posted on The Volokh Conspiracy
  2. Eugene Volokh's own paper on the "slippery slope" argument: Same-Sex Marriage and Slippery Slopes, 33 Hofstra Law Review 1155 (2006)
The Volokh Conspiracy has a huge set of blog posts devoted to exploring the topic.
posted by hat at 1:23 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had to do a few debates like this in college, though they were not formal academic debates but acting exercises called etudes - sort of complex improvised scenes. In that context, you didn't try to find logical or good arguments for your position if that wasn't possible (one of mine was on creationism, for example.) You researched the arguments used by the actual proponents of the side you were on, and used those. Without knowing why you're doing this debate, I have to say that's what I'd do here too because I've never heard a logical argument against gay marriage.

The only arguments I have heard against it that I accept as at least making sense are religious ones. If a particular religion wants to ban some practice, that's fine with me as long as they're not forcing me to be a part of their religion (and, though this is more complicated, as long as everyone in that religion is there by choice.) But as others have said already, I don't see how this extends outside of that particular religion to civil - or other types of religious -marriages.

Ooh, on preview I think yclipse has a good one:

2. Even in those societies where sexual relations between members of the same sex was commonplace, such as ancient Greece and Rome, this activity always took place outside of marriage.

One could argue that formalized same-sex relationships have a long history and have been an integral part of Western civilization*, and that their existence strengthens the state, but that they have always been viewed as a distinct institution from opposite-sex marriages and should remain that way. Or something.

* And possibly Eastern too, though I know less about that.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:23 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I absolutely don't believe this, but maybe you could argue that we should be striving for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, and that allowing no gay marriage would make maybe 1 in 10 people miserable (assuming that's approx the number of gay people, and that all of them want gay marriage), and that having gay marriage would make most religious people unhappy. Then all you have to do is show that more than 1 in 10 people are religious and conservative (probably true of the USA, no?) or at least that more than 1 in 10 people is against gay marriage for some other reason.

Then you argue blah blah blah democracy.

But be prepared for the counter argument that there are different levels of happiness that should be taken into account and that being denied recognition of the most important relationship in your life is a rather different level of unhappiness from having one of your moral principles breached.
posted by lollusc at 1:29 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


In terms of how the debate is framed nationally - that is to say, the "against" camp's position being that there should be no restrictions on opposite-sex marriage (in other words, the current state of hetero marriage remains unchanged) but that the right to same-sex marriage should be expressly prohibited on a state/federal level and rolled back where applicable - there are no reasonable arguments. There are a few which would probably convince a crowd, provided they weren't within reach of a smartphone or any ability to discover the facts omitted by the argument you're making.

That said, here are two ways you can argue against same-sex marriage:

1. Argue from a religious perspective. You'll still be wrong, but ultimately you're able to appeal to an authority which will be relatively safe in the context of the argument. This means familiarizing yourself with the in-depth argument of at least one religious figure whose talking points you can parrot.

You may need to pepper this one with the slippery-slope argument; if the people you're debating against aren't terribly good at debate then they may be stymied if you say that there's no difference between changing the laws to allow gay folks to marry and changing the laws to allow a guy to marry, I don't know, a car. Once again, you'll still be wrong, but it may work for your purposes.

or

2. Argue that marriage is a religious ceremony, and as such, it should not be sanctioned or codified on a federal level. This would work as an argument against same-sex marriage because it would work as an argument against government recognition of all marriage.

Ultimately, your safest bet is the religious angle, from where I sit. You would need to argue that behaving in accordance with God's law is what is best for America, even though it is not in the constitution, and that God's law is that only men and women should be able to marry. In the context of a debate, this is a safe choice, because you're effectively moving the goalposts to the point where they would have to prove you wrong on the big issue to do so on the small one, which I imagine would be much harder to do - not because it's true, but because the argument is so broad and nebulous.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:30 PM on January 12, 2012


The only argument that I have ever heard that held any weight with me was that marriage should be about having children, and gay couples cannot biologically have children with each other, therefor they shouldn't be allowed to marry. If you go with that argument, though, you then have to say that old people, sterile people, or people who don't want kids should not allowed to be married either.
posted by markblasco at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2012


Some opponents of same-sex marriage tend to use slippery-slope arguments that are easily countered: If two men can marry, what's to stop a man from marrying his dog, or his snowmobile, or a three-year-old child? The obvious counter is that marriage is still restricted to consenting adults; the dog, snowmobile, and child are not consenting adults.

But that leads us to a slippery-slope argument that's rather stronger: if we allow two men or two women to marry, why shouldn't we allow three or four or more consenting adults to enter into a mutual marriage? I have yet to see a good counterargument to that, other than conceding that, yes, three or more consenting adults should be allowed to enter into a mutual marriage, which is logically consistent, but still unsettling even to many people who support same-sex marriage.

Also I'll refer to my comment here listing two common non-religious arguments against same-sex marriage, and why they fail. Although if you can come up with responses to the counterarguments perhaps you can revive them.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:42 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me try this again...

Gay couples can and do have children, either through adaption or surrogates, or prior relationships. With technology they may (soon) be able to have "biological" children with genetics from each parent. (Disclaimer: I'm queer with a child.)

If you argue that marriage is for procreation, what view does that necessitate for single parenthood?

Arguing religious reasons, status quo, appealing to hate and discrimination against a minority group, or that government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all seems to be your best bet.
posted by bushmango at 1:46 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, what a tough assignment. If it's not possible to finesse the question with the "governments should stay out of marriage entirely" tack, I think all you have left is arguing in favor of the status quo.

The mendacious argument that is often made that "if same-sex marriages are legal, then religious institutions will have to perform them even if they are against that particular religion's tenets" is easily puncturable bullshit, since religious institutions constantly refuse to marry opposite-sex couples who aren't members in good standing (or good enough standing, cf. all the LDS folks in good standing with their wards and stakes who are still not permitted to marry in a temple because they don't have a Temple Recommend).

"It's the will of the people" is also a pretty easily puncturable argument, as there are a number of polls that suggest the majority of people in the US support marriage equality.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:53 PM on January 12, 2012


I think there is at least one good, rational argument against same sex marriage.

I'd make it by analogy with the period of McCarthyism in the US.

In the 30's and early 40's, there was lots of left wing activity in the US, and many people declared themselves to be Communists.

In the 50's McCarthyites used that information to ruin the lives of many, many of those people.

Right now, US evangelicals could be on the verge of seizing even more power than they have already, and there's little doubt in my mind that they would do very similar things to same sex married couples if they could.
posted by jamjam at 1:53 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I should probably state that I know that my "argument" is absurd. It also happens to be more logical than most common arguments.

If the state's sole interest in marriage is encouraging biological couples to raise their children (again, I don't agree with this), then people who are gay with biological kids would be encouraged to marry the biological parent (lawmakers will have to ignore surrogacy, as well as couples where one or both are transgender, but this is pretty typical anyway).

If you argue that marriage is for procreation, what view does that necessitate for single parenthood?

Single parenthood is already discouraged due to the fact that married parents get economic and social benefits that single parents do not. We could add legal incentives to our liking, or just recognize that government cannot encourage total cooperation in maintaining their interests.

Of course, if we follow this to the logical conclusion (as we must), the government must allow (opposite-sex) bigamy, in the interest of our children.
posted by muddgirl at 1:55 PM on January 12, 2012


Without taking a position on how strong these arguments are, here are some possible arguments I would make if I was in your shoes.

1. Heterosexuality should be encouraged, homosexuality discouraged.

2. Many people find homosexuality disturbing or wrong; the majority has a right to popular sovereignty and control over public institutions.

3. Marriage is a valuable institution that should not be tinkered with; life is complex and tinkering is dangerous.

To my mind, the strongest argument is clearly #2. Then you get to explain how #2 is compatible with a society that robustly values individual rights. This is achievable, but harder.
posted by Mr. Justice at 1:57 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


You could argue from a "process" standpoint--i.e. that there's no fundamental constitutional or moral right to same sex marriage, and that it should be decided democratically on a federal or state level. National support for gay marriage rights hovers at ~50% (so I'm sure you could find some polling data that supports the "people do not want gay marriage" perspective), and it's well below 50% in certain states.
posted by phoenixy at 2:02 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


You say you "have to" make the argument, and then you say you "have the chance" to do so. I would strongly advice you to turn the option down.

Has it occurred to you that the people who backed out did so because they realized the repercussions to their reputations in doing what you are prepared to do? Regardless of what this debate with public speakers is hoping to accomplish, what is certain is that when it goes live you will be seen and identified, locally and online everywhere, as the person who said same-sex marriages are a Bad Thing.

If your arguments are used to bolster that stance, by someone you dislike (for instance, how would you feel if Fox News applauded what you said) or if someone you like or admire distanced themselves from you because they thought that's how you really felt (do you even know who among your friends is gay? Not everyone chooses to share something so personal), I think it would outweigh whatever ego-boosting your 15 minutes of fame brought you.

That said, the only argument that makes sense, even in a twisted way, is that same-sex marriage would be a drain on the economy financially. People are worried about money right now. So the gaming the system approach is the only one that I think might fly.
posted by misha at 2:07 PM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]




Marriage, as it currently stands, is an outdated institution (co-opted by religious organisations) that often causes inequality between couples (women working longer non-paid hours by doing a greater percentage of housework and childcare etc). People in same sex relationships should not have to experience any more discrimination than they already do, therefore civil unions should be available to all people who want the state to formally recognise their relationship: same sex or opposite.
posted by b33j at 2:11 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find this sort of exercise morally dubious outside of an academic setting. It makes me almost reluctant to answer this question, because it makes me feel like I'm engaged in something dirty giving some kind of benefit (even indirect) to a bunch of bad actors. What I'll try to do is try to "get in the heads" of those who typically argue against gay marriage, and you can understand the arguments they're making.

Have you ever heard the rote conservative arguments made in a way that humanized and broadened your perspective on people who make those arguments?

Look at this from the vantage of Jonathan Haidt's moral minds. The framework he works with is arguing that conservatives have a "moral mind" that emphasizes ingroup/loyalty, respect for authority, and societal "purity". Those who oppose gay marriage typically argue that it attacks these moral pillars. (a framework of marriage that includes gays harms the "purity" of marriage as an institution, and thus makes marriage worth "less" than it would be otherwise)

Rick Santorum (hear me out!) approaches this from the standpoint that marriage isn't a "right" so much as a privilege, like a gold star bestowed upon the worthy. From his perspective as a very conservative Catholic, keep in mind that it was expected that many, many people would enter the priesthood or other religious orders and were never expected to get married. Marriage was seen, for him, as "reserved" for certain people under certain circumstances, not a "civil right" in the sense that everyone was expected to marry and denying it to a certain class of people comes across as an affront.
posted by deanc at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2012


You could argue a utilitarian kind of thing; changing it and the process of legislating/fighting it in courts is relatively unimportant considering the relatively small percentage of people who are interested in same-sex marriage, the rights are available for the most part, and civil rights resources are better spent elsewhere such as dealing with the large percentage of americans who are incarcerated, or increasing access to social supports.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:18 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about a variation of the 'marriage is for having children' argument, whereby you argue that children ideally need a parent of each sex, and are disadvantaged by being brought up by a same-sex couple? (You could tie this into an argument against single parents, as well). So you're not logically required to argue that childless marriages should also be invalidated (as some have suggested follows from using the 'marriage is for having children' argument).

Plus you could probably find some convincing-looking stats to back up the argument that children from nuclear families are better off (stats that don't control for other factors, of course).

Other than that, DevilsAdvocate's slippery slope argument that legalising gay marriage would lead to legalising polygamy has some appeal.

[Obvious disclaimer that I don't agree with these arguments, just that they seem better than some I've heard]
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:18 PM on January 12, 2012


I believe there is a solid argument in the legitimacy of democratic laws.

If a supermajority of people feel strongly that their society should not allow gay marriage, democracy breaks down if we try to impose laws that say otherwise. While it might be the wrong opinion, changing the opinion of voters is a social issue which happens to have political consequences. The purpose of good democracy is to have the appropriate institutitions necessary to implement the collective will of the people.

I am specifically using the term supermajority to differentiate it from mob mentality. If you commit grave harm to 10% of your population (or moderate harm to 30%), the social upheaval and political unrest can undermine society. So a loud minority cannot be summarily dismissed.

The laws of men aren't logical. They're created by men represent the flawed natures therein. The job of democracy is to be a mirror of ourselves, not tell us what to do.

(20 years ago, I might have said this is the case in America. Since then we've long hit the point where there would be little more than a tantrum from the right. While a majority of people might have voted for Prop 8, most people also don't really care. And for the record, I am pro-gay rights.)
posted by politikitty at 2:19 PM on January 12, 2012


The arguments all boil down to one of the following:

1. Gays are icky. Not a reasonable argument, but one with some powerful emotion often mistaken for reason.

2. Change is hard. You can probably make some reasonable statements along those lines. Pretty thin ones, though.

3. Marriage is a bad thing. As a state-sponsored institution, that is. This has the largest set of reasons to attach to it, from the libertarian or feminist or radical queer perspective. Flies in the face of the "defense of marriage" crowd's arguments, but a bit more reasonable.

I have to say, though, that I find the whole endeavor a bit morally and ethically dubious and would encourage you to get up there and state that there in fact are NO reasonable arguments and cede the debate.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:19 PM on January 12, 2012


Be brave, be Stephen Colbert (from the White House correspondents dinner speech) for an hour.

Take the regular anti-marriage equality talking points verbatim and repeat them in such a way as to reveal how absurd they are.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:24 PM on January 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


You are definitely going to have to adopt first principles opposed to your own. In other words, develop assumptions very different from ones you already have. Many of these assumptions will be hateful, but if you are doing this, then you are doing this. Such is life, when doing these kinds of exercises.

BEAR IN MIND THAT NONE OF THESE ARE MY OWN ACTUAL OPINIONS.

I would internalize as best I could an argument stating that the Western Judeo-Christian tradition of the USA holds the nuclear family as its essential molecule, and that to allow for gay marriage levels "what we and our ancestors have all worked so hard to achieve." Assume that these heterosexual nuclear units are indeed the best basis of American society - argue logically after you've already made that assumption, but begin first by assuming. And if anyone tries to tell you that the USA was not founded in the Judeo-Christian tradition, roll your eyes (figuratively speaking) and inform them that while yes, Thomas Jefferson and others may have been Deists as individuals, the society around them was certainly of a Western Judeo-Christian sort. Say that even Deism itself remains to be a bit of a "junior Christianity," as that position is not as in atheism where there are no gods, nor is the position as in agnosticism where such knowledge is out of reach, but rather Deism believes only in God, not in the Bible - a sloppy creed, since capital-G God is a creature of the Judeo-Christian tradition, regardless of one's personal opinion on the Bible. Talk about the history of America with a skew towards its initial religious settlements by Puritans and such. Point out that America was not founded to be a religion-free utopia, but rather a place where those Puritans would be free to have their society, with their own religion in practice.

Dismiss the importance of individual happiness when it comes at the cost of destroying the society everyone else has worked to achieve. Say that excessive individualism and progressivism are akin to decadence. Compare the choice to have a gay marriage to the choice to sell heroin - even if you run a really nice heroin operation to willing adults, you are still undermining the rights of others to live in a society where such ills have been stamped out, and you cannot be assured that every heroin operation will be as nice as yours.

Make a clear natural law argument, stating that heterosexuality is the cornerstone of our society's ability to reproduce and organize itself. Be aggressively dismissive at attempts to naturalize homosexuality. If someone points out homosexuality in animals, respond that dogs eat vomit, lions eat competitors' cubs, and hippopotami spray feces to mark their territory. If someone points out that gay marriage existed in Ancient Rome or Ancient China, respond smoothly that the next time you seek to travel far away from America, and far behind into the past, you will bear that in mind, for "another debate on another topic: what sorts of new marriages shall we allow in this society?"

I would also try to use a slippery slope argument which attempts to show that the arguments in favor of gay marriage would lead inexorably to the right to state-sanctioned polygamous marriage.

GETTING BACK TO MY OWN ACTUAL THOUGHTS

Marriage is a bad thing. As a state-sponsored institution, that is. This has the largest set of reasons to attach to it, from the libertarian or feminist or radical queer perspective. Flies in the face of the "defense of marriage" crowd's arguments, but a bit more reasonable.

I've always thought this was by far the weakest argument, held only by soft-witted radicals who want to be more radical than helpful. "Gays are icky" is stupid and hateful, but at least it has a cognizable first principle. This argument, on the other hand, endeavors to "save" the gays from their own desire to experience marriage as equally as their heterosexual peers. This is an onerous limitation of one's rights, carried out in the guise of...libertarianism? What? By this logic, an anarchist would support a measure barring black people from holding public office.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The one thing I can think of is to take a biological perspective. Since humans of the same sex can't reproduce, then homosexuals should not be allowed to marry. (One of the main reasons we have marriage is to have children, and there is no way for them to naturally reproduce.)

(I think this is bogus, but it's one of the least horrible arguments, and it doesn't involve any gods and lightning bolts, etc)
posted by too bad you're not me at 2:39 PM on January 12, 2012


I'll be honest, I didn't read everything above me so this may have been said.

You can always argue that you don't need same-sex marriage because gay people CAN get married, just not to someone of the same sex so it isn't actually discrimination because they really do have the same rights as everybody else.

As a side note, if anyone has a good against that one, I'd love to hear it. I always go with but they can't marry the person they love but since that isn't actually protected under any laws I have a hard time with this one. Usually I just have to walk away.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:40 PM on January 12, 2012


Oh, and I don't want to pile on, but depending on how the debate is structured, you may have to prepare a rebuttal. Even if some of these arguments seem decent, what if the opposing team tears it down...will you be prepared to respond to that? Are you also going to need to prepare counter-points to their statements?

Just some thoughts for you...
posted by too bad you're not me at 2:40 PM on January 12, 2012


would encourage you to get up there and state that there in fact are NO reasonable arguments and cede the debate.

I also would like to know what the situation of this debate is. In a classroom where positions are assigned, it's at least made clear to the audience that the debaters don't necessarily hold the position they're advocating. In this public debate, will you be posing as a genuine opponent of gay marriage? Who will the audience be (how sophisticated in understanding that you're rehearsing these arguments without advocating them)? Who will your opponents be (how sophisticated)?

I can see this exercise being useful if what you're going to do is lay out the best reasons you can think of, in the plainest possible terms and with no posturing or high-blown baloney rhetoric, and then watch as the people on the other side explain how those "best reasons" are defeated.

But there are risks:
1. that your opponents will somehow fail to knock down the pins that you've set up, and your side will end up "winning", or winning over some part of the audience
2. that your way of framing the issues could give support to people who believe something you reject (i.e., that anti-gay-marriage people might adopt your framing) and it could somehow advance their cause.

Weigh these risks carefully.

Possible arguments:
a. "Change is hard, go slow" as gingerbeer says. Obvious counterarguments: this would not be a good argument for other forms of unequal treatment we've seen over the years.

b. The same legal protections can be attained by alternate legal arrangements not called "marriage". Obvious counterarguments: not always (eg some states have deliberately tried to prevent this). And "separate but equal" has been rejected in other domains of unequal treatment in the past.

c. The state shouldn't be in the business of privileging some interpersonal relations. Obvious counterarguments: The state has been in that business for a long time, and if it remains so, it should be equitable. Also, the state does have an interest in having clear default settings for inheritance, child custody, and other issues that are connected to marriage in current law (the state's interest being that it simplifies these matters so they are less frequently contested in court) - this is also why plural marriage is not an obvious "next step", since two-partner marriage gives a clear point-person for these items whereas plural marriage wouldn't as obviously.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:43 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Look folks, I know this is frustrating but we are not having these argument in the thread. Period. We are not. Take it up over email or just walk away. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:06 PM on January 12, 2012


The "marriage is for procreation" argument is a terrible one, really terrible. My (straight) parents did not have biological children together, but they raised kids together. I am married to another woman, and we are in the process of having kids right now (I'm pregnant, due in march.). She may not have contributed the genes, but she's been at every appointment and is going to be an equal parent.

The "roommates could abuse the system" argument is also a terrible one. Male-female roommates could do the same thing, why not?

Just to say, neither of those arguments is logical. Both will get shot down.

There is only one solid argument against state-sanctioned gay marriage, and that's that the government should not be in the marriage business at all. Not gay marriages, not straight ones. That's it. That's all you got.

That's also the only argument that doesn't make you out to be a bigot, and that wouldn't cause me (a happily married - 12 years together - lesbian, who is having children, paying taxes, and who supports YOUR marriage) to lose a whole bunch of respect for you. It doesn't matter if you believe it or not. Making the argument legitimizes the anti-gay side.
posted by arcticwoman at 3:34 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also in character, a la Sticherbeast. THESE ARE NOT MY OPINIONS.

The United States is, above all else, a Christian nation. Not officially, but certainly philosophically; John Adams said "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." We do not require all citizens to be Christian, but our nation as a whole is inarguably so. References to God, to the Creator, and even to Christ and His church abound throughout the founding documents of our great nation. Submission to the Christian principles of morality and virtue is not an affront to liberty; it is essential for liberty, for we are only free when we are not bound by our vices.

We can't force people to behave virtuously and morally, of course. That would be foolhardy and impractical. But it would be equally foolhardy and impractical to wave our hands and claim that virtue and morality don't exist! What basis then would there be for any law at all? We could pick one another's pocket or break one another's leg with no regard for consequence at all.

Much has been made of marriage as a "contract," like any other contract between two people, but this is provably false. Marriage is not a civil contract, but a higher calling; it is a mirror for God's endless and boundless love for His people. This analogy is made constantly throughout the Bible -- Isaiah 62:5 and Ephesians 5:22-27, for example. Nuns are not just women in service to God; they are the Brides of Christ. It's not just about property rights and raising of children, as our own legal system shows: our Family Courts claim jurisdiction over disputes around household disbursements and child custody arrangements whether or not the petitioners are married.

Marriage isn't just a word, it's a miracle; two souls, two hearts, two bodies joining to become one flesh, to become one in the substance from which God created Adam and Eve. It's a union that signifies hope above despair, that demonstrates how fully God's love can be found on Earth. People are free to form any kind of relationships they choose, and a free and just society can not and should not legislate against them. But a marriage is inherently a holy act, and can't be considered separately from the essential Christianity that permeates the philosophical underpinnings of every word and truth this country is founded upon.
posted by KathrynT at 3:34 PM on January 12, 2012


Much has been made of marriage as a "contract," like any other contract between two people, but this is provably false. Marriage is not a civil contract...

I don't even have to be in character to point out that a state-sanctioned marriage is indeed not a civil contract at all. You get one with the state's say-so and you can't even get rid of one without the state's say-so again (in the form of a divorce).

You can always argue that you don't need same-sex marriage because gay people CAN get married, just not to someone of the same sex so it isn't actually discrimination because they really do have the same rights as everybody else.

As a side note, if anyone has a good against that one, I'd love to hear it. I always go with but they can't marry the person they love but since that isn't actually protected under any laws I have a hard time with this one. Usually I just have to walk away.


This one's actually pretty easy. The whole point of the gay marriage debate movement is to enact laws which would allow people to marry whom they want to marry. Of course that isn't actually protected under any laws before gay marriage is legalized - that's the whole point of fighting for gay marriage.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:03 PM on January 12, 2012


"It would cost a lot of money to redo all of the forms that state and federal governments use that incorporate the assumption that marriage is between males and females."

So basically, uh, printing costs. The nice thing about that argument is that it's fundamentally kind of stupid (people redo forms all the time for reasons like it changed from Form 109933338d to Form 109933338e without sending the country into a massive economic crisis) but has an air of seriousness.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:05 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Echoing previous arguments, legal change is a part of a larger process of determining the morals and norms that apply to a particular society, and the desires of the population have to be taken into account when changing laws. Public opinion and perceptions are in theory taken into account at every level of governmental decision making--for instance, the majority in the Supreme Court case Roper v. Simmons decided against juvenile death penalty and cited 'evolving standards of decency' as an argument against using the death penalty on under 18s as one of the reasons for this. You could certainly make an argument that the standards of decency in the US haven't clearly evolved in a way that supports gay marriage.

Are you making an argument against gay marriage on the state or federal level? I think that there are different issues depending on which level of government you're talking about which implies that you should look for a different set of evidence to support either position.

There are a number of bases that have been used to justify specific legislation in the US that are relevant to gay marriage:

Moral: arguments based on US society as being founded on Christianity vs. natural law perspectives
Legal: I guess there could be a number of arguments. Are you arguing locally for a change in national police, or a change in local policy? There could be a number of issues here:
-states' powers vs. the power of the federal government in terms of making or overturning laws.
-whether there is enough evidence for or against popular support for gay marriage nationwide or in the particular place that you're arguing for gay marriage in.
Biological: perhaps marriage for procreation vs. marriage as a union of two individuals recognized by the government
Societal: The 'what about the children' and 'institution of marriage' arguments.
Practical: I'm sure you could be more creative here, but off the top of my head:
-how are gay marriage currently supported (or not) by private employers, and what are the problems with gov't requiring private employers to extend the same types of maternity/ paternity leave to homosexual couples as they do to same-sex couples--specifically for religious organizations, for instance.

It might help to craft your arguments along these lines to keep organized. I think that you're still going to be in a weaker position, but thinking in these terms should help you make a stronger statement based on previous law, etc.
posted by _cave at 4:08 PM on January 12, 2012


I think that if you're going to do this ethically, then KathrynT's suggestion is exactly what you CANNOT do. It's exactly that kind of grand-sounding rhetoric that confuses the issue and risks sweeping audience members to a position you reject; if you don't really think that stuff it would be irresponsible to be another source of that kind of rhetoric. The only way you can do this ethically is to offer dispassionate arguments that contribute to keeping the debate focused on the real merits of the issue.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:09 PM on January 12, 2012


Michael Warner made a left, queer argument against gay marriage (but for civil union) in his book The Trouble with Normal. The book is a bit old now (it was written in 1999), but I found it reasonably compelling at the time. His argument, essentially, is a Foucauldian one, and rests on the idea that marriage is predicated on exclusion, and that gay marriage is predicated on splitting the queer community and declaring some ways of being queer acceptable and some unacceptable and outside the polity. He finds the rhetorical argument, as set forth by proponents, to be akin to a devil's bargain. "If you let us (same-sex marriage proponents) join you (heterosexuals), we promise to disavow them (queers who don't want to get married), and to exclude their ways of being from serious consideration. In other words, Warner sees the argument as predicated on creating a new type of queer underclass. He links this to a general turn toward prudishness in our culture, and a rewriting a queer history so that the dominant story becomes about being "just like heterosexuals." He also makes some arguments about the difficulty of maintaining an adequate community public health discussion about safe sex when having non-monogamous sex is disavowed in the service of arguing for same-sex marriage. He does argue that civil unions are the fairer and more egalitarian solution.

I actually find this argument compelling in the abstract. I think the problems with it mostly come from the historicity of the political arguments, and I'm not sure how to reconcile that with Warner's argument. The ship seems to have already sailed on this (the debate between civil unions vs. same-sex marriage), and there is not question that there is no argument for having neither of the two.
posted by OmieWise at 4:09 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


*no question that there is no argument for having neither of the two.
posted by OmieWise at 4:26 PM on January 12, 2012


Because it discriminates against celibate people. If two women, who for whatever reason are not interested in sex, decide to form a bond, a deep friendship, and live together and share expenses and one has health insurance at work and the other one does not then why should the one without health insurance get sick and die for lack of health care just because she is not in a traditional man-woman marriage OR a gay marriage. Why does she have to have sex to have health insurance?

If a person wants to get married to anyone in a spiritual sense they can do that now. If someone wants to get married for financial and legal reasons, that could be covered with contracts and wills and trusts - no need for marriage. If someone wants to get married just so they can afford health insurance - well that's just a big problem with our health care system not gay rights.
posted by cda at 4:30 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, there's the fact that the degree of cultural acceptance and legitimacy offered by the right to marry will obliterate a fair amount of "traditional gay culture", for lack of a better term, in sort-of-but-not-quite the same way missionaries brought cultural influences that eroded various native cultures, and the question of whether introducing marriage into aforementioned gay culture might, uh, violate the Prime Directive or something.

I say this with a certain amount of flippancy, but there's a fair amount of truth in it - equality is a lovely thing, but too often "equal" comes to mean "the same", and that can be bad. I'm basically a proponent of equal marriage rights, but I am also good at the 'devil's advocate' thing, and that'd probably be the tack I'd take.

Or you could go with my favorite argument, which isn't really an argument but a counter-proposal: agree with the marriage stance of your opponent, but add the stipulation that divorce be made completely and totally illegal - and go from there. I don't know whether that qualifies as debate or derail, but it sure does make for some interesting discussions. ;)
posted by mie at 4:40 PM on January 12, 2012


This is NOT my real position on the issue, and I think it's an easily refutable argument, but:

Without getting into religion at all, you can still make an argument along these lines: What is marriage? What makes "marriage" a different condition from just sharing a home, money, sex, future life plans, children, etc. with your chosen partner? (As we know, same-sex couples can already do all of the above, short of—except in some localities—marrying.) What makes "marriage" a different state from cohabitation etc. is the community's approval. When you get married, the community gives a special recognition to your partnership; that recognition is solemnized by a civil or religious officiant and it comes along with certain legal privileges and obligations that will be upheld/enforced by the community. The marriage doesn't belong to the couple; it is granted to them by the community. If the majority of the community doesn't want to grant that kind of recognition to a certain class of couples, then "activist" politicians and judges shouldn't force the issue on behalf of a vocal minority.

(Like I say, this is NOT my real position and I can think of several counter-arguments off the top of my head, starting with the observation that if we all agreed to this principle, interracial marriage would quite possibly still be illegal in many of the southern states of the U.S.)
posted by Orinda at 4:40 PM on January 12, 2012


Though I disagree with it, I suppose one could make the argument that:

·         Marriage is an institution with a specific social history and context. People get married to buy into that institution; as a public signal to everyone else in their community that they are committed to their partner.

·         The utility of marriage is related entirely to the social recognition – esteem and respect and approval – that the community accords the relationship based on the that commitment. Very clearly, debates around gay marriage do not relate purely (or even primarily) to issues of rights and entitlements - otherwise everyone would be happy with civil unions.

·         Gay marriages, by virtue of their novelty and the controversy which surrounds them, clearly does not command the same esteem and respect and approval. Regardless of what one thinks about the merits of the arguments, one cannot deny that the arguments are being had; that they are based on deeply-held beliefs, and that they are divisive.

·         Accordingly, gay marriage cannot be seen to possess the primary element of marriage: the willingness of a community to recognise and respect the union. To attach the title ‘gay marriage’ to gay partnerships is to pretend that the union is something that it is not, foolishly denying that social disapproval exists, and also bestowing the title upon a gay couple while being patently unable to guarantee the most important, primary benefit of the institution.

·         To legislate for gay marriage, or, even worse, to obtain recognition of gay marriage through the courts without the consent of the community, is to sidestep and ignore those very elements of social recognition and respect that make marriage valuable and unique.

 
Yes, it’s a circular argument, and ignores that societies have not waited around for complete community approval before legislating for other important civil rights, but at least it does not depend on religious arguments, and has the capacity to appear rather reasonable...
posted by the_wellspring at 4:46 PM on January 12, 2012


I think that if you're going to do this ethically, then KathrynT's suggestion is exactly what you CANNOT do. It's exactly that kind of grand-sounding rhetoric that confuses the issue and risks sweeping audience members to a position you reject; if you don't really think that stuff it would be irresponsible to be another source of that kind of rhetoric. The only way you can do this ethically is to offer dispassionate arguments that contribute to keeping the debate focused on the real merits of the issue.

If the OP's goal is to cultivate the strongest arguments against same sex marriage, to the pathetic extent that there are any, then the OP would be remiss to weaken his/her argument just to avoid leading people to the dark side. Presumably the OP has to present arguments against same sex marriage so that these points can be debated; the OP would be doing the debate a disservice by intentionally hamstringing it by not taking it seriously.

While grandstanding might not be the most effective standpoint rhetorically, KathrynT is right to keep culture and religion to the fore. The only really compelling arguments against same sex marriage begin with first principles that are mostly alien to MetaFilter, and chief among these first principles is the acceptance of a reality in which certain social and religious ideas are as real as concrete. Once you accept these first principles, it's easier to argue logically from them, but unless you do accept those first principles, you're left up a creek without a paddle.

Of course, solid debater on the other side would recognize and leap upon the weakness of these arguments' structure. Once you cut out the idea that we are not only a theocracy, but a theocracy founded on their particular interpretation of their particular religion, then the whole thing falls apart.

...

I actually find [Warner's] argument compelling in the abstract. I think the problems with it mostly come from the historicity of the political arguments, and I'm not sure how to reconcile that with Warner's argument.

This one's more interesting than your usual argument against gay marriage, to be sure. I'd say that, for one thing, it's interesting how his argument is every bit as anti-individualistic and anti-choice as that of a social conservative - gay people ought to be disallowed from entering into gay marriages, as that could tarnish this "gay underclass" who would materialize as, in Warner's opinion, a result. In his opinion, to allow for gay marriage would denigrate society - not the society of straight marriage, but the society of non-monogamous gay people. It's almost the same exact logic as that of Rick Santorum, but with different referents.

He does have a point about gay marriage as tilting the argument towards gay people being massaged to be "just like straights," but once again, there's that Santorum-esque logic where basically the freedom to enter into gay marriage must not be allowed because it would denigrate society. To Warner, the individual desires of two lesbians to get married must be overridden for the common good of society.

There's also the complete acceptance of the socially conservative line that marriage means, and shall always mean, a union between a man and a woman. Neither Warner nor Santorum could see the meaning shifting at all. For a gay person to marry would be to become necessarily more heterosexual, even if only in a figurative sense. This makes about as much sense as, or at least has the same implications as, saying that a woman with a job has basically become a man.

I don't buy Warner's argument at all, but it is interesting, and it's even more interesting when you take a critical eye to it.

OP, if you're interested in having as strong an argument as you can muster, consider synthesizing Warner with the right-wing argument against gay marriage. Give those two viewpoints the marriage they deserve.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:46 PM on January 12, 2012


The work of Robert George (Princeton prof of jurisprudence) is a good place to start if you`re looking for well-researched and rigorous arguments on this subject. His recent article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy is linked, with assorted other sources, here.
posted by yersinia at 4:49 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe gay marriage should be legal. I believe polygamy should be legal. That said, here's the only argument that has ever logically stood up for me. I don't find it ultimately convincing, but it did make me stop and think for a minute that there might be something there. It's basically a realpolitik/slippery-slope argument, but instead of spiraling into moral absurdity, it spirals into logistical absurdity. Here goes:

Legalizing something that a significant minority (what are the latest numbers--about 44% against?) objects to weakens the authority of the government. This then erodes the ability of the government to exert its authority in other areas, like taxation, regulation, public spending, etc., until the government needs to hold a referendum every time it needs to re-pave an interstate.

For a government the size of the United States--for a COUNTRY the size of the United States--that becomes so impractical that it will eventually become ungovernable.

The end result is that a weak government has less ability to provide welfare, regulate industries, preserve public safety, maintain national defenses, fund scientific research, etc. etc. etc. (Many libertarians would be just fine with this. I am not one of them.) But let's say for argument's sake that these are good things for the government to support--is it morally acceptable to risk these good things for the sake of gay marriage?

How much indirect suffering are we willing to inflict (in people who die of cancer that might have been cured by research funded by the NIH, for example, or in people who lead marginal lives because they never got an adequate education) in order to relieve the direct suffering of others? And what's the ratio at which the tradeoff becomes acceptable?

To sum up:

I think you could argue very convincingly that for a government that rules by consent, you can't afford to alienate 44% of the population and still expect the government to function. In many ways, we learned this the hard way during the Civil War, and again during the Civil Rights ear, and I think we continue to feel the effects of that alienation to this day.
posted by elizeh at 4:49 PM on January 12, 2012


[W]hy shouldn't we allow three or four or more consenting adults to enter into a mutual marriage? I have yet to see a good counterargument to that, other than conceding that, yes, three or more consenting adults should be allowed to enter into a mutual marriage, which is logically consistent, but still unsettling even to many people who support same-sex marriage.

Not to argue (because I don't really have an oar in this), but to help the OP avoid slippery slope arguments: the right to marry is in large part a right to enjoy community property, alimony, and other fruits of divorce, where pretty much all legal precedents are focused on resolving divorces between two people, generally regardless of gender.

Ergo, while it would be trivial to allow same-sex marriage, you'd have to re-think U.S. case law from the ground up to offer legal protection to poly divorces. That's what puts a screeching practical halt to the slippery slope.

This is also a major stopper to the arguments that the government shouldn't be involved in marriages or that homosexual couples should seek some alternative way of doing things. The end of a long-term relationship is messy. Even if people wrote their own marriage contracts and didn't call them marriages, the courts would still have to adjudicate disputes and terminations of those contracts. So the government is going to be in the divorce business, regardless.

Anyway, to really answer the OP, a Rortyan argument that concludes "because that's not the world I want to live in" is always consistent and reasonable, in spite of having no secure foundation, because it's a statement that asserts a truth of which you yourself are the only arbiter and because you are an ordinary thinking person asserting a truth of your personal attitudes. And if a larger percentage of the population still agreed, then that would in fact still be the world we live in, and we'd hardly notice the alternative, just as we all fail to notice so many other reasonable alternatives to our current preferences every day.

There's still a positive, reasonable argument to be made there--it's just not proof against what everyone else wants.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:49 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Something I'd do, personally, to set this up in my own mind, is first set out my starting assumptions. That is to say, if you argue something you don't believe in and/or believe the people who argue it are kind of assholes, one thing you can do is set out their 'best possible world' belief system and mark the points where it's sane. So like, research a bunch of arguments-- like really go to town and do research. I don't mean metafilter-type research, I mean go to the library and read a wide range of law/culture/theological articles. The best way to present a really good argument within the culture-war context (in my view) is to perversely avoid any flavor of the culture-war context. You'd need to do hardcore research, but it can be done. Somewhere underneath all the fluff, there are actual thoughts people had. Maybe. Anyway, plenty of LGBT liberal folks are against fighting for marriage rights when trans folks are attacked/not given rights, gay teenagers are killing themselves, and we haven't reached full equality in economic progress of LGBT individuals. That's just a pre-made argument.

The list of axioms you'd pick among as a preface if you wanted to construct your own would go something like this:

- What is marriage? [define, give sources]

- Related but not the same, what is the purpose of marriage? [define, give sources]

- What is the cultural value of semi-set gender roles in society? What is the value/benefit of segregating cultural roles and work/benefit opportunities by gender? [there is some! not that hard!]

- What is the influence of religion on this decision? What role does the Church play in consecrating personal unions, and what is the benefit of such communal context for the institution of marriage, as opposed to it being fully under State control? What is the harm of liberal rejection of Church influence on the social contract, and how does it function to give power over this conversation entirely to the conservatives?

- What is the liberal argument for lower State control over social freedom? [Framing a religious def. of marriage as 'social freedom' in the liberal sense].

[in effect, this is the libertarian argument against same-sex marriage, but potentially more interesting]

- What is the liberal argument for abolishing gov't regulation of nonviolent communication and relationships? What might such a society look like? What would it look like if the gov't stopped regulating entirely in people's social status,and instead only regulated relational property disputes given a contract, or only violent altercations or fraud?

- What about the assumption of rights given in marriage to straight couples? Can/should they be abolished? [nothing about arguing against same-sex marriage means you can't also argue for this, and if successful, you'd have a great hidden 'fuck you', too.] What about leaving rights only for couples with children, outside 'marriage' as well?

- explicitly name this as a culture-war issue and say this means it's ultimately subjective and really a bellwether of various irrelevant allegiances/factors and social memes (such as the LGBT rights movement), and any argument should therefore not be taken at face value; if you frame this right, it won't work against your so-called opposition to same-sex marriage because you're arguing it while divorcing yourself from its context and thus might win over people who're on 'the other side'.
posted by reenka at 5:09 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My friend Tim is gay, and a priest, and has a very reasoned argument against legal marriage for gay people and straight people.
posted by cogat at 5:09 PM on January 12, 2012


Another thought: a friend of mine who is gay has an argument he makes against gay marriage sometimes (usually when he is drunk) that the lack of marriage rights for the gay community serves as a convenient proxy for discrimination against gay people in general, and that if we allowed gay people to marry, everyone would assume discrimination against gay people had ended. Even though it would not be true. So having this issue to come together behind helps encourage gay people and their allies to fight for equality in all sorts of areas, and "solving" it would do more harm than good.
posted by lollusc at 5:40 PM on January 12, 2012


maybe you could argue that we should be striving for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, and that allowing no gay marriage would make maybe 1 in 10 people miserable (assuming that's approx the number of gay people, and that all of them want gay marriage), and that having gay marriage would make most religious people unhappy.

This assumes not only that all gay people want gay marriage (as you say) but that the only people who would be made happy by gay marriage are gay people. But in fact a percentage of hetero people would also be (and are) made happy by gay marriage.
posted by torticat at 5:43 PM on January 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


On a meta-level, can I also STRONGLY recommend that if you're interested in having a good debate on gay marriage, you make sure (1) that all of your definitions are crystal-clear, and (2) that you and your opponents agree on them beforehand? 99% of the arguments I've heard on this subject (from both sides) suffer from a horrifying lack of clarity about terminology and premises, which I suspect is why people end up grandstanding past each other about Basic Civil Rights and The Moral Fabric of Society, instead of having any sort of productive exchange of ideas.

For instance, are you talking about "legalizing" gay marriage at the level of townships, states, or nations? About merely making it legal for gay couples to be married before a J.P., or also making it illegal for any existing religious institutions to refuse to solemnize gay marriages as they would straight ones? By "marriage," do you mean the title of marriage, the experience of a wedding, the legal benefits to either spouse that come with marriage, the social benefits and obligations to either spouse that come with marriage, or all of the above? In a broader sense, what do you think a "marriage" (besides the two parties in it), and what do you think your opponents think it is? (So much confusion could be avoided if there was even a tad more awareness of the many, many things marriage has been, historically, besides a very special bond between two people in luuuurve.)

Likewise, if you're going to be talking about "rights", do some thinking about whether you believe these to be positive (i.e., things that you deserve to have provided for or to you by the world), negative (i.e., things that you ought not to be prevented from doing on your own), or both; where rights come from; what level of obligation they confer; and what level of universality they have, even in the face of (apparent) local ideological variations. Ditto other fuzzy buzzwords like "freedom," "family," "democracy," "equality", nd so forth. Just basically try to be very, very precise about your premises, and quick to ask your opponents to clarify theirs, because these things have a tendency to slide very quickly past undiscussed premises into mutual incomprehension, and the almost inevitable outcome of mutual incomprehension is that the person in your position gets called a bigot and is presumed to have lost the argument.
posted by yersinia at 6:13 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This one's more interesting than your usual argument against gay marriage, to be sure. I'd say that, for one thing, it's interesting how his argument is every bit as anti-individualistic and anti-choice as that of a social conservative - gay people ought to be disallowed from entering into gay marriages, as that could tarnish this "gay underclass" who would materialize as, in Warner's opinion, a result. In his opinion, to allow for gay marriage would denigrate society - not the society of straight marriage, but the society of non-monogamous gay people. It's almost the same exact logic as that of Rick Santorum, but with different referents.[…]
There's also the complete acceptance of the socially conservative line that marriage means, and shall always mean, a union between a man and a woman. Neither Warner nor Santorum could see the meaning shifting at all. For a gay person to marry would be to become necessarily more heterosexual, even if only in a figurative sense. This makes about as much sense as, or at least has the same implications as, saying that a woman with a job has basically become a man.


As I understand it, we shouldn't really be having our own argument about this, but I'll just say that your characterization bears no resemblance to Warner's argument as I recall it. Which is not to say that there aren't problems with his position, but I don't think you've really addressed them here. I provided the link so the OP could take a loom at the argument for his or herself.
posted by OmieWise at 6:15 PM on January 12, 2012


I think I'll always remember hearing a woman state, in 1992, how long she'd spent waiting at her doctor's office and then adding, "Just think how long the wait will be once HILLARY takes charge!" (or something similar, but months before Bill Clinton actually got elected). Legal recognition of gay marriage would likely lead to expanded health care coverage (given the Republicans' determination to undermine Obamacare, gay marriage might be the best opportunity many have to ever receive such benefits), which might lead to increased costs to employers (would it?) and longer lines, at least in the short run, to see your doctor.

Also, it would likely lead to an initial burst of contention for wedding licenses, wedding spaces, and at some point thereafter, (I'm being a combination of cynical and realistic) divorce lawyers and courtroom time.

(All of which are the sorts of growing pains that happen when you start treating your fellow human beings the way you'd like to be treated, and some of which are profit/investment opportunities, if, you know, you're into capitalism.)
posted by kimota at 6:18 PM on January 12, 2012


I'd second reading that essay by Megan Mcardle/Jane Galt that verstegan linked above. It may give you a starting point for making an argument that won't be instantly apart down by your opponent.
posted by torticat at 9:30 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Try this on for size; it's a thought exercise I've been playing with for a while now. Caveat Emptor; flaws may follow:

Marriage, at its most basic level, is not an institution for the benefit of the couple, but an institution for the benefit of the community of which they are members. If a community is to have a future, it must ensure its own continuity. This is done through marriage.

Marriage is a public declaration by a couple that they will bear the responsibility of providing (or attempting to provide) children for the future growth and prosperity of the community. Part of that responsibility includes raising the children and instructing them in the skills that the community will need in the future in order to ensure the continuity of the community after the couple have passed away. Marriage also provides a legal protection for the children, legitimizing them as members of the community (and entitled to the community's protections) in case of the death of one or both of the parents before the children reach the age of majority.

Since a same sex couple cannot naturally provide children on their own for the community's benefit they cannot provide for the future of their community beyond their own lifespan and thus have no need for the legal protections of marriage, since their coupling is primarily for their own benefit and not that of the community.



(FWIW, I always feel like a heartless bastard philosopher-king in a post-apocalyptic setting when I think about this).

posted by KingEdRa at 10:05 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your opponent is any good, they will instantly rip apart that line of argument by pointing out that all of the relevant slippery-slope examples the author used were of reforms designed to reduce the privilege granted to those who marry, which the proposal to extend the availability of marriage to gay couples does not; a much fairer test would be to look at whether repeal of anti-miscegenation laws, and the consequent rise in socially legitimized inter-racial marriages, has been of net benefit to society or not.

If your opponent is any good, they will win the debate simply by focusing on the fact that it's widely recognized that the existence of stable, loving, committed relationships is an unqualified social good, and that as a society we do ourselves ongoing harm by arbitrarily discouraging the formation of such relationships.

Since a same sex couple cannot naturally provide children on their own for the community's benefit they cannot provide for the future of their community beyond their own lifespan and thus have no need for the legal protections of marriage, since their coupling is primarily for their own benefit and not that of the community.

This line of argument reveals itself instantly as a red herring, when faced with the simple truth that a committed and loving relationship is the best environment within which to bring up children even if those children are not the offspring of the people in that relationship. Were this not true, neither foster care nor adoption would be of any use. And it also completely ignores the wide variety of assisted reproductive options available today.

There's a related line that says that a heterosexual relationship is a healthier and "more natural" arrangement for the raising of children than is a homosexual one. I have never seen actual research quoted in support of this, which is probably because the facts simply don't. So I can't recommend that line to you either.
posted by flabdablet at 10:23 PM on January 12, 2012


FYI, my own personal opinion is we should do away with civil/governmental marriage altogether. Let marriage be religious or cultural or social or whatever.

The government's interest is with the 'civil union' aspect of marriage, where people band together voluntarily to make a social unit and pledge to look after each other and take care of each other like a family.

So, if that is a man and a woman, fine. If it is a man and two woman, also fine. Two woman, fine. Three woman, fine. Two men, fine. etc etc etc. What these people are (or, just as likely are NOT) doing in the bedroom is their own private business and none of the government's business.

The government's interest is that these people are taking care of each other, and doing so of their own free will, and making a pledge to do so over the long term. That makes for a happy, stable society and the more people we can encourage to enter these 'civil unions', the better.

Now as to how this relates to "gay marriage"--or "heterosexual marriage", for that matter.

I see the civil union as embracing FAR MORE than just gay marriage or hetero marriage or both combined. Polygamists want to all get civil unioned, fine. Polyandrists, fine. Groups of men/women (like a group marriage), fine. (They all want to band together into a family unit and take care of each other--why do the rest of us even care a whit?)

But where it is IMHO even more interesting is when you have, say, two elderly woman friends, or two retired male friends, or two distant cousins, or three, or whatever, who just happen to be good friends, or any other combination like that. For whatever reason, these two unrelated or distantly related people want to make a household together and live together and make a life together. Let's say they are not gay at all (though they could be--point is, why do we as a society care one way or the other--that's their own private business), but they still just want to live together and make a household and take care of each other over the long term.

Why don't we give these people the option of civil union and all the economic benefits that come with it, the ability to share insurance plans, the ability to visit each other in the hospital and make end-of-life decisions, the ability to make after-death decisions, and all those other benefits that married couples have and the gay couples often want. Why not give those type of benefits to ANY adults who are willing to make that level of commitment?

So, back the question, "Why gay marriage is bad"--well, it's bad because it is a partial solution only, and a lesser solution than the ideal, and it diverts our attention and our political will away from this even better solution, that would benefit even more people, and that would benefit society as a whole even more than gay marriage would.

And that solution is civil unions for any consenting adults of any variety who want it--and no special recognition by government of "marriage" in any special way beyond what the government gives to civil unions.
posted by flug at 10:59 PM on January 12, 2012


To argue "the state shouldn't sanction any kind of marriage," you'll need a good reply to "but they already do." It won't be enough to simply argue that it'd be better were marriage not to exist; you'll need to argue that some new harm occurs by the act of sanctioning gay marriage.

You could argue that marriage is reaching its breaking point, and that the biggest driving force is excluding gay couples who so obviously deserve equal recognition. Allowing gay marriage would coopt what would otherwise evolve into a rejection of marriage and greater freedom for us all.

Yes, it's important that people can have a committed romantic / sexual relationship with a person of whatever gender they choose. But that's just the beginning of the freedoms we need. Rejecting marriage as it stands today would lead to not just more freedom to define the kind of sex we want to have, but the freedom to define our primary relationship(s), our family, however we choose.

For some people, their defining relationship is not the person they have sex with at all. It's their war buddy, or their lifelong best friend, or the ailing relative they care for. Suppose Jane moves from the big city to live with her small-town cousin Beth, a single mother, to help Beth raise her son. Jane knows she's effectively giving up on dating. Should she be excluded from the benefits accorded those who commit their life to a romantic partner? No, right? But is the gay marriage movement going to let Jane marry her cousin? Doubtful. Yet why should Jane and Beth not be able to pool insurance coverage and be first in line for one another at the emergency room?

Already, the unavailability of gay marriage has led to an expansion of acceptable relationships. People invite one another plus their "partners" or "significant others," reducing discrimination between those with "boyfriends" vs. "husbands," and potentially those with "co-parenting cousins." Employers, emergency rooms, and others are experimenting with ways to recognize non-heterosexual committed relationships. These non-governmental alternatives have a much greater likelihood of being adapted for cousins Beth and Jane than gay marriage does.

Society needs to find new ways of treating all interpersonal commitments equally -- be they sexual relationships between people of opposite genders, sexual relationships between people of the same gender, or non-sexual but equally committed relationships. And this is on its way to happening. Between brief celebrity marriages, absurd divorce wranglings, and committed gay couples who cannot marry, people are realizing that marriage does not map to our idea of commitment. But this idea has not gone far enough, and gay marriage could co-opt what would otherwise be an anti-marriage movement and speedy evolution of alternatives.
posted by salvia at 12:46 AM on January 13, 2012


flug and salvia are both showing you that playing any form of the "slippery slope" card will just let your opponent take your argument to places where you end up looking about as credible as Peter Venkman. So you're probably best off avoiding that line of argument too.
posted by flabdablet at 12:52 AM on January 13, 2012


I'm pretty sure the debate has been cancelled by the organizers, if it's the one I'm thinking about.
posted by hades at 1:13 AM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


LionIndex: "Assuming the attorneys arguing in favor of Proposition 8 were competent, their arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger"

Yeah, but that's a pretty terrible assumption. The defendants were delivered one of the most thorough smackdowns by a federal judge in recent memory. Their defense was a complete mess, and the two "expert witnesses" supplied by the defense were actually cited as supporting the ruling against them.
posted by schmod at 8:48 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd suggest looking into the numerous court cases on this subject to see which points each side argued.
posted by mingshan at 9:02 AM on January 13, 2012


Wow. An attempt to actually answer your question:

Religious arguments aside, it seems like your answer would be based on determining why societies have recognized the (near) universal concept of marriage in the first place.

Fortunately, there is a lot of wiggle room there; you get to define "marriage" as a set of goal-qualities on your own terms, picking out a few that (since you are on this side of the debate) preclude a recognized marriage arrangement between two people who share the same sex.

Don't allow yourself to get slowed down by the infertile/intentionally childless hetero-couples angle. Similarly, the goal of public school is meant to educate children and provide a place where social conditioning can occur. Just because some children cannot or will not use schools for that reason, does not mean that we should allow 40-year-olds to matriculate to public schools to make use of them in the same way that those unengaged students do (socializing, use of public facilities, public programs, etc).

The state is absolutely within its rights to determine the point at which liberal application of an estate undermines the effect of the estate, to the point that it erases any benefit of that liberalism. Let's say that you were to decide to argue that marriage provides a stable home for children, and that having a child's two biological parents in the home together as a married couple is integral to that, and is a practically beneficial goal for the state. Two young heteros who get married may very well decide to have children later on in life, but partners of the same gender can never do so, even if they adopt, because the goal is stated in such a way that it is literally impossible for them to meet it. Even if they have a change of heart, they are left biologically incapable of meeting that goal.

There are other religious-less goals you might take up, but your best bet is to read about what other societies have stated the point of marriage to be, and which ones best support your ultimate argument. Sadly, debates are an exercise in Sophistry, which is also known as "straight up lying", so no one should expect your arguments, well-constructed as they may be, to also reflect your views or even an appropriately practical expression of logic.

I hope this helps. I do think this argument can be made dispassionately, and without resorting to bashing. If someone brings up infidelity or divorce, they are still not attacking the central premise (for example, the one I have partially proposed above). If they wish to have a debate at a later time over divorce that's well and good. That is not what your debate will be about.

Sounds fun! And if anyone needs me to say it, the above argument does not reflect my personal opinion. Good luck!
posted by Poppa Bear at 9:03 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


After more musing about this, I came back to suggest you could argue that, gosh-darn, it's simply too expensive to change all of our legal paperwork and computing systems to recognize same-sex marriage. Here's a database engineer's perspective on supporting same-sex marriage in relational databases (Y2GAY).

Flip-side, it's a jobs program!
posted by odinsdream at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2012


A lot of commenters are dismissing potential arguments by presenting rebuttals. That doesn't mean that the argument is useless for the OP's purpose.

For an exhibition debate, which I assume is what the OP is participating in, it should not be possible for one side to build an absolutely airtight case that the other side can't rebut. If they can, the organisers did a poor job of selecting a topic and its going to be a very boring experience for the audience.

Choose the arguments that you think are best, and argue them as persuasively as you can. Its not your job to throw an argument out because a rebuttal exists- its your opponent's job to realise the rebuttal exists and present it.

(And just between you and me, giving your opponent a public forum to deconstruct the most common 'logical' arguments against same sex marriage would be a good thing.)
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 6:44 PM on January 13, 2012


I guess blindered Biblical arguments are the way to go. You know 'adam and steve' kind of BS. But why in the world you'd want to do this is beyond me.
posted by thatone at 7:52 PM on January 13, 2012


Found this browsing old questions, and thought I'd throw one out there for the hell of it.

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT BELIEVE/SUPPORT ANY OF THE ARGUMENTS. I AM PRO-GAY MARRIAGE, PRO-GAY WEDDING SHOWERS, PRO-GAY HONEYMOONS, PRO-GAY SAVING-MONEY-TO-BUY-A-HOUSE, AND PRO-GAY IT'S-YOUR-TURN-TO-DO-THE-DISHES-HONEY. I AM NOT REALLY PRO-GAY DIVORCE UNLESS OTHER AVENUES HAVE BEEN EXHAUSTED, I WOULD PREFER TO SEE THE COUPLE AT LEAST GET PRO-GAY RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING FIRST.

That said, non-religious arguments I've heard includes:


(1) Contrary to popular opinion, marriage has NEVER been a universal human right, and society (usually in the form of government) has always had restrictions on it, for the protection of all parties involved.

For example:

(a) in many societies it is not permissible to have more than one spouse simultaneously.
(b) in many societies, an adult may not marry a child, or children may not marry each other. (the definition of "child" and "adult" varies from society to society, but is largely consistent)
(c) in many societies it is not permissible to marry someone who is considered mentally disabled under the law, without the consent of the disabled person's legal guardian(s).
(d) in many societies a human is not allowed to marry an animal, inanimate object, or other non-human.
(e) in many societies, it is not permissible to marry someone after he or she has died.
(f) in many societies, it is not permissible to marry someone solely to acquire certain legal benefits, such as citizenship in a specific country or avoidance of testifying against one's new spouse.
(g) in many societies, it is not permissible for a free person to marry a slave, or for slaves to marry each other without consent of their owners.


There are other examples, of course. The bulk of restrictions are designed to protect the rights of one or more parties. As a result marriage has never been a universal human right.

Same-sex marriage has traditionally been among the marriage restrictions (or not considered an option) because there was no perceived benefit to the parties entering the marriage or to the society supporting it. Gays have not presented adequate evidence that allowing same-sex marriage is a benefit to society, and until they do, the traditional exclusion should stand.



(2) Gays _already_ have the same rights as straights to get married under the law. A gay person can marry any opposite sex partner that is willing to enter into marriage with him/her. The argument about "having the right to marry the one you love" makes no sense, because no one, straight or gay, actually has that right.


(3) Gays are demanding a legal right that has not existed in the West since at least the Roman Empire days, and has never been a widespread practice. Gays are confusing the historical existence of informal, unsanctioned same-sex relationships with actual legal marriage.


(4) Opposite-sex marriage has for millenia been the institution that forms and uphold for a society the cultural and social values related to procreation. By institutionalizing a relationship that has an inherent capacity to transmit life--that between a man and a woman--marriage symbolizes and engenders respect for the transmission of human life. Changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would destroy its capacity to function in the ways outlined above, because it could no longer symbolize the inherently procreative relationship of opposite-sex pair-bonding. Even if a particular opposite-sex couple does not wish to have, or cannot have, children, their getting married does not damage this important symbolism for society.

In short, marriage is a ritual that reinforces society's respect for procreation. Same-sex marriage flies in the face of that, because there is no inherent procreative aspect to same-sex relationships.



(5) Here's one I read from a gay rights activist: the push for gay marriage is "just another way to show the straight that we're the same as them, that we’re as “normal” as the heterosexuals with whom we share the planet and thereby are worthy of acceptance into their clubs. Well... guess what—we’re not the same. We’re different. Rather than try to paint heterosexual stripes on our pelts, let’s examine, explore and celebrate our different coloration...The goal of the gay rights movement should not be to erase the perception of difference in the minds and hearts of our fellow citizens but to eliminate the use of that difference to deny us rights enjoyed by others. ”

(7) And from the same gay rights activist: "Marriage, as will be loudly declared by every Bible-thumping preacher and politician pushing for a constitutional amendment, is a heterosexual institution. 'Marriage' is a term with a specific meaning and history.

"And they’re right. Let them have it—the term and the institution. To engage in that argument is to be sidetracked by semantics. We should demand equal rights under the law until we receive them. Demand a civil contract recognized by state and federal governments that gives gay and lesbian unions the same rights, advantages and protections that marriage gives to heterosexual couples. If you want to have a clergy-blessed ceremony around the signing of that contract, have one. If you want to register at Target and get lots of stuff when you 'wed,' do it. Let heterosexual men and women have their institution and their name for it; we need to find the imagination and the guts to visualize and build our own."



Ugh. Anyway, there you go. Too late to help, but it's an interesting intellectual exercise.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:32 AM on May 16, 2012


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