The author begins by claiming that the fight for same-sex marriage is really about gaining for homosexuality
complete social acceptance and the sense of normalcy that follows thereof. While that’s not completely true with regards to the marriage debate, it is a central aim of the gay rights movement overall, and I’m willing to defend this aim.
The author then goes onto argue why extending gays equal treatment would be a bad thing.
He talks about how gays change the meaning of sex, but he overstates these changes. The only real change to the purposes of sex is that it can’t function for procreation—but the vast majority of straight sex (99%?) is already non-procreative, nor is it clear, secularly, why we need more babies.
He claims that allowing gay marriage forces us to accept open marriages that don’t last until death. But civil marriage is already “as long as both shall love” not “as long as both shall live”, and it can already be open if it wants to (which a small number of straight marriages are). So neither of these concerns are gay issues per se. The only sense in which this argument even pertains to gay marriage is the fact that gay couples are more likely to have open relationships—but using this as reasoning to block gay marriage for all, whether monogamous or not, is misplaced; any case for a moral requirement of monogamy must be made separately and then apply to all couples.
Regardless, the percentage of gays that want open relationships will probably decline as homosexuality becomes more accepted—the more normal being gay is treated, the more normal gays’ behavior will become. This has already begun to happen with other stats that get thrown around about the gay community (e.g. on its drug use, depression, or sexual promiscuity), and it makes sense. There is a lingering expectation of sexual infidelity in the gay community, but that is going away. The vast majority of gay people my age that I know, for instance, believe in the monogamous ideal. And many older couples feel similarly. Take a look at this video: the couple in it certainly isn’t morally perfect, but they’re a typical gay couple trying earnestly to navigate this stuff and, after some infidelity, they’ve been monogamous for the last 12 years and are raising a family together.
Then, he goes on to talk about gay parenting. There are two distinct cases here: adoption and surrogacy.
With adoption, there’s really no issue: the child doesn’t have the option of a happy life with his/her biological parents, and the gay couple is doing a wonderful thing by taking them out of the foster care system and into a loving home (as guaranteed by the civil workers who closely monitor all adopted children for the first few years). When two, non-biological parents are guaranteed, leaving the sex of the parents as the only variable—as is the case for adopted children—studies have shown that there’s no difference between gay and straight parents. The author points to criticisms of these studies, but those criticisms don’t produce any contradictory conclusions; at best, they lower the confidence we can invest in the current conclusions.
With surrogacy, things get more complicated because the commodification of reproduction arises, and the child may have questions about their biological parents. But here again the author’s argument is misplaced. Perhaps their is a moral case for laws against, or restrictions on, surrogacy, but these laws would apply equally to gay and straight couples, and are totally independent of same-sex marriage.
The author than tries to strengthen his claims against same-sex parenting by citing a letter from the American College of Pediatricians claiming that children raised in same-sex households
are more likely to experience sexual confusion, practice homosexual behavior, and engage in sexual experimentation.
The first thing to note about this statement is that the American College of Pediatricians is a small group not representative of mainstream science, and that their views seem heavily influenced by religion—the group describes themselves as having
Judeo-Christian, traditional valuesand holding as a core belief that life begins at conception. So, as they’re making a secular, empirical claim about gay parents, I think it’s fair to view their conclusions with a healthy dose of skepticism, though I do plan to read the studies they cite when I have time.
More importantly, these differences are presumably self-reported (how else would the study know the whether a youth has questioned their sexuality or engaged in homosexual behavior or sexual experimentation?), and we’d probably expect to find more youths admitting to these behaviors in gay households, where such behaviors might have less stigma. So these differences, if the studies are otherwise credible, may be attributable to more-honest reporting by the children of gay parents rahtn than an actual difference in behavior. And I can’t imagine that the studies would’ve taken this into account, because the ACP—in the very next sentence of their letter—demonstrates their fundamental misunderstanding by implying that homosexuality is the cause of the higher rates of mental health issues and substance abuse seen within the gay community; in fact, as is well documented, these statistics are a result of the discrimination the gay community has faced and aren’t caused by homosexuality itself.
Most importantly, if this is the only argument that can be made against accepting gay people, then it falls prey to circular reasoning, i.e. it says: “We shouldn’t accept gays only because that might make more kids explore their sexuality/practice homosexuality” which just begs the question: “Why are those things bad if there’s nothing independently wrong with being homosexual?”.
The author then states that a gay couple
cannot credibly teach their heterosexual son or daughter how to understand their sexuality or experience it in a manner consistent with their design. Neither can they model how their children should relate to the opposite sex in courtship, dating and marriage.This point is put forward without evidence, as though it’s total common sense. But what does it actually even mean?
The first part of the quote—that gay couples
cannot credibly teach their heterosexual son or daughter how to understand their sexuality…—seems to be implying, in short, that the children of gay couples won’t understand what it means to be attracted to the opposite sex. But this is ridiculous: the vast majority of the people this child will see and interact with (in the neighboorhood, at school, on TV, etc.) will be straight and, once the child him/herself starts feeling attracted to the opposite sex, the idea that (s)he wont “get it,” simply because his/her parents are gay, is ridiculous.
The second part of the quote—that gay parents can’t
model how their children should relate to the opposite sex in courtship, dating and marriage—also, at the very least, requires more explanation. Gay parents can certainly model the basics of a relationship: how to live with a partner, how to compromise and communicate in a relationship, how to express affection, etc. So what things are specific to heterosexual relationships that gay parents are missing? Are we talking about things like who should pay the bill on a date? (And, if so, is not learning these things really bad?) Please explain…
Finally, he claims that heterosexual relationships last longer so, in marriage, the children of gay couples would be more subject to divorce and the myriad problems which go along with it. The problem is that he provides no good evidence for this claim. He links to a Family Research Council study which claims that 66% of first-time heterosexual marriages last at-least ten years, while only 15% of same-sex couples have been with their current partner as long.
But this comparison is so obviously flawed.
- First of all, it used the current length of the same-sex couples’ relationships, but all of those relationships were still continuing, so their final length (i.e. length at the time the relationship ended) would be longer, by definition, than the length reported. For the straight marriages, meanwhile, the study looked at data from the ’80’s, so all these relationships had already run their course.
- Second, comparing current relationships to marriages is ridiculous—only the strongest relationships end in marriage, so this comparison is looking at the strongest of straight relationships and comparing them to average gay relationships (i.e. whatever relationship the gay person happened to be in at the time of the study).
The use of data here is so blantantly intellectually dishonest, to the point of slandering gay couples.
Silencing Criticism and Religious Objection
The author notes first that some organizations have been forced to change their policies to accomodate homosexuals/homosexuality, against their religious convictions. He doesn’t provide specific links, so I don’t know the details and can’t comment on whether individual rulings were fair. I’ll add two general things though:
First, unlimited religious freedom ends (like all freedom) when it begins to affect other people. So anyone is free to believe what they want, they’re just not always free to act on said belief when the lawmaker determines that action to have deleterious effects for others. And I think you want it that way: imagine a religion that believes firmly in human sacrifice to the gods; I doubt you'd want its followers to be allowed to kill you, or perhaps even other members of their own religion.
Secondly, in many of these cases I suspect that the government was offering something to the other party (e.g. tax money or subsidies to the businesses or foster children to the parents), and the other party was free not to partake if it didn’t like the terms. Because the third parties were consenting, the goverment has very little obligation this to offer terms that preserve their freedoms, and has even stronger grounds for making policies that maximize social good. So while one can debate, secularly, the social merits of these policies, the right for the government to make them seems pretty well grounded.
But those are just general rules. To really address this point I”d need more description of the exact cases.
Finally, the author says that hate speech laws silence critics of homosexuality. But all one has to do is look around to see that this is absurd: these laws exist yet critics of homosexuality are still very free to speak out. The article I’m responding to is an obvious example of such speech, and even very prominent figures (e.g. Mike Huckabee) continue to criticize homosexuality in the prescense of these laws. The reason is simple: criticism is not the same as hate speech, which is defined very narrowly in the US. Hate speech aims to incite violence; criticism aims to raise legitimate objections and get to the truth. The latter will always be welcome.