Sunday, November 16, 2008

What opposition to gay marriage is really about

It's not about marriage. It was never about marriage. It's about homosexuality.

Many opponents of gay marriage claim otherwise. Some are sincere in that belief. But they're still mistaken.

The "we're pro-marriage, not anti-gay" argument rests on the assumption that the relationship between two gay people is qualitatively different from a relationship between two straight people in such a way that the entire meaning of marriage would be changed if it were to be applied to both types of couples. This inaccurate impression is bolstered by the cosmetic fact of the difference in gender make-up of the two couples.

Those of us who support gay marriage believe that the difference in gender make-up does NOT translate to any difference in meaning. A man wanting to marry a man and not a woman is no different from a man wanting to marry a 60-year-old and not a 40-year-old. All the emotional aspects of an opposite-gender relationship that are fulfilled by marriage occur in EXACTLY the same way in a same-gender relationship. Not "almost" the same, not "approximately" the same, but EXACTLY the same.

Same-sex couples who want to get married do not believe that marriage would be "redefined" by letting them marry. Letting them marry would instead mean that marriage was finally being made available to every couple that qualifies for it according to its current meaning.

They have no problem with the meaning of marriage as it currently exists. They just disagree about which types of relationships conform to that meaning. They believe that their relationships do conform to it.

Opponents of gay marriage do not believe this. They believe that a same-sex relationship CANNOT be the emotional equivalent of an opposite-sex one. It therefore cannot be fulfilled by marriage in the same way that an opposite-sex relationship can be, and the very meaning of marriage would be changed if marriage could include same-sex relationships as well as opposite-sex ones.

People's opposition to gay marriage therefore stems not from their view of marriage, but from their view of homosexuality. As long as they believe that homosexual relationships cannot have the same emotional aspects to them as heterosexual relationships do, they will believe that including same-sex couples in the definition of marriage would mean "redefining" marriage in a way that renders marriage less than it was. Because they believe this, they will also view themselves as "pro-marriage" rather than "anti-gay". They are mistaken.

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