Arguments against equal marriage: #5 Equal marriage could change society drastically
The argument here is that equal marriage will change society too much and will be too disruptive. The argument sounds plausible at first, implying that this change should be made gradually, slowly adding rights and freedoms until complete equality is finally reached.
Except that, oddly, most advocates of this position never seem to be saying, “Let us give gays and lesbians equal marriage, but do it slowly, step by step.” No, their main argument seems to be, “This would change society too drastically, so let’s never do it at all.”
Which should be an instant red flag to anyone who’s paying attention. Because it demonstrates that it’s not the “disruption of society” they’re really worried about, at all. If that were their big worry, they would surely welcome the solution of making the change, but making it gradually. But they don’t welcome it. In fact, speaking anecdotally, I have heard far more gay and lesbian marriage advocates arguing for the gradual approach than heterosexuals. The problem gets addressed with agreement by gays and lesbians, and the heterosexuals ignore this. Because most of the people who use this argument do not want a solution to the perceived “problem”. They want to put a stop to the change altogether.
We should also point out that “A Law Changes Society Drastically” is no argument in itself to refrain from making a law. Society changed drastically when women were given the vote. Shall we rescind the vote for women? Society also changed drastically when the Canada Health Act was passed. When Alberta or Newfoundland joined Canada. When Worker’s Compensation was introduced.
In fact, society changes in one way or another with every single law passed in this country. (Kind of the whole point of any law, in fact.) Shall we refrain from making laws? Shall we repeal every single law ever made by parliament (or Congress), because it changed society?
It is clearly not “drastic change” that should be the criterion for whether or not a law should be made. Societies are apparently quite willing to undergo drastic change in some cases. So other considerations are far more important.
When Member of Parliament, John McKay, spoke against equal marriage while the debate was going on in Canada prior to legalization of equal marriage, he used many of the arguments we have already demolished: the gender requirement is paramount (despite how a same-sex couple actually functions the same way an opposite-couple does in these relationships); biological children have to be privileged over mere “legally recognized” children [implication: adoptees!], and so on. We already know how much weight these arguments carry, which is very little.
He also said this (see his entire speech here:
Margaret Somerville, the noted secular medical and legal ethicist, argues that the Government of Canada is proposing to change an inherent feature of a social institution. I would say that it is a critical feature. I would say it is a sine qua non, that which cannot exist without it: the opposite gender requirement. Doing so, Somerville argues, will have a direct impact on the life of the social institution, radically re-engineering marriage and directly affecting the work it does in society.
We’ve seen some of this before, as we discussed the “Differences” argument. Again, there is no weight to that part of it. But perhaps we should address something else he says on the same subject:
First, marriage will no longer act as a unique forum for interplay between men and women in which the gender gap is bridged to create stable bonds between men and women. Marriage is easily the best way in which men relate to women and is easily the best way in which women relate to men.
My response to this is an incredulous — WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH HOMOSEXUALS?? When a man is gay, Mr. McKay, he is simply not going to “relate to women” in the way you’re talking about. Ever. Period. Denying this man the right to marry the person he does relate to in that way is going to improve the way heterosexual men and women relate to each other…how, again…?
This is, plain and simple, either a stupid argument or a very evil one. McKay is arguing that if you deny homosexuals the right to marry, why then, they’ll finally straighten up and marry the opposite sex like they’re supposed to, dammit. Stupid, stupid argument, taking no account of the facts, but certainly acting as Mr. McKay’s wish fulfilment. It is clearly the existence of gay people at all that he is objecting to here, because in fact, he speaks as though they do not exist at all. They are not, and cannot be, any part of his “bridge between man and woman” argument. He has wiped them out of consideration altogether.
And he gives no reason why, when two men can marry each other, marriage cannot still be a “bridge” between some other, heterosexual, man and a woman. Why would men and women suddenly stop the interplay they now do, by way of marriage, if two guys down the street who they’ve never met have a similar interplay going on??
So back to McKay’s main complaint, stemming from that “interplay” he was talking about between men and women in marriage, which is apparently threatened by having the same “interplay” happening between two women or two men. The problem seems to be that in places where equal marriage has been introduced, he is right — heterosexuals seem to get married less. He cites his first example:
The Netherlands has had same sex marriage for the last five years. It should be noted that in the first three years of that bill, marriage declined among heterosexuals by 10% each and every year, and in the last year of 2004 it declined between 3% and 4%. There seem to be no other factors to explain this sudden drop in heterosexual attachment to the institution of marriage. Marriage is now dead in Denmark and 61% of children are born outside of marriage.
Two things. First: Denmark is a separate country from the Netherlands (and has not legalized equal marriage). So what is it doing here?? It’s irrelevant, unless he merely mis-spoke, which is a possibility.
Secondly: he hasn’t contrasted these statistics with the statistics for heterosexual marriage prior to legalizing equal marriage. Were the percentages steadily going up before legalization, and did a sudden turnaround? Were they going down, and this just continued that trend? He gives no context, no before-and-after, nothing. And what is that ten percent OF, by the way? Does he mean there were ten percent fewer marriages by number count, compared to number count in previous years? (E.g. 90 marriages that first year, compared to 100 the previous?) Perhaps there were fewer heterosexual individuals of marriageable age in the country to begin with, in those years, which would lower the numbers whether or not gay people got married. We don’t know, and McKay doesn’t give us that context. Or does he mean that of the eligible heterosexuals available to be married, 90 percent of them did get married that year, whereas 100 percent married the previous year? We don’t know, and he gives us no context.
His other example, Quebec, is somewhat bizarre:
Quebec has had a form of civil union for a number of years now. Fewer and fewer heterosexuals are marrying. Fifty-eight per cent of children in that province are now born outside of marriage. All evidence suggests that children born outside of marriage have poor socio-economic outcomes and require far greater intervention by the state to compensate for parenting shortfalls. The birth rate in Quebec is demographically not sustainable and its population is contracting as in the Scandinavian countries. Absent in immigration, the contraction would be catastrophic: few marriages, fewer children; fewer children, fewer marriages.
Um…it sounds like his big complaint about Quebec is that marriages are not acting as the baby-making machines he wants them to be. And he wants native Quebecers to sustain the population — not those damn immigrants. (“Oh, Mr. McKaaaay! Jacques Parizeau on line one…!”)
(Psst! By the way. This “diminishing population if not for immigrants” problem has existed for a while in Canada already — well before the very first province legalized same sex marriage. So don’t go blaming the hets’ lack of baby-making on the gays, please.)
McKay also ignores the fact that if children growing up with two married parents is what helps society be stable — two married gay parents can fill that bill just fine. What a lovely solution! But no — he wants heterosexual married parents, period. The children of gay parents DO. NOT. COUNT. And he will not allow gay relationships to be legalized so that their home can be as stable as any married heterosexual relationship. He assumes that there is an intrinsic difference in internal function, between a gay married relationship and a heterosexual mariage relationship.
Which there is not. Apart from — do I even need to repeat this? THE GENITALS. (*sigh* How monotonous this obsession is getting.)
But apart from all that, as I said, his main complaint appears to be that if gay people marry, heterosexuals apparently don’t want to, though he has far from proven this to begin with. Let us say, though, that he is right: If gay people marry, fewer heterosexuals want to.
My reply to this? “SO WHAT”?? This is gay people’s fault because…? And they should be denied equal rights therefore, because…?
If heterosexuals’ relationship to the very idea of marriage is so fragile that allowing more citizens to marry will blow their own commitment to marriage right out of the water — THAT IS THE HETEROSEXUALS’ PROBLEM. It is not gay people’s job to babysit them, or to sacrifice their own rights so the heterosexuals’ fragile and uncertain commitment to marriage can retain the illusion of being strong.
If some heterosexual people can look next door at the two men married to each other, and think, “Harumph! I think I won’t get married after all, then” this whiny, self-centered, foot-stomping, pick-up-your-toys-and-go-home attitude is something those heterosexuals need to grow out of, and they should stop getting their noses out of joint because someone else has joined what they seem to view as their elite little club.
I repeat: their immature attitude toward marriage is NOT THE HOMOSEXUALS’ PROBLEM. Gays and lesbians have no problem whatsoever in recognizing the supreme value of marriage. That’s why they want to get married; they know how important it is, or they’d be satisfied with mere “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships.” It is the heterosexuals who refuse to value it, and treat it like a toy that they’ll throw away if they’re forced to share.
There is no reason to deny this citizenship right to homosexuals, because the heterosexuals can’t grow up and view marriage in a mature way. Let the heterosexuals deal with their own problem attitudes, and stop blaming everyone else for it.