12 August, 2015

How to argue against marriage equality

There is clear momentum in favour of allowing same-sex marriage. There is also clear opposition to it from certain sectors, including the prime minister, and their arguments are becoming more and more bizarre.

If you’re opposed, that’s your prerogative, but if you want to be taken seriously, then you’ll have to make sure your argument is coherent and consistent. Otherwise, you’re just going to sound silly. So allow me to help. Let’s look at some of the angles and some of their shortcomings so that you can avoid the intellectual jiggery pokery and legalistic argle bargle, and put your case in a way that cannot be denied.

It’s against my religion.
Fair enough. But there are a lot of things that are against a lot of religions that are still perfectly legal. Some of these things include, but are not limited to,

Eating pork; eating beef; eating shellfish; eating meat on particular days; eating meat that hasn’t been killed a particular way; eating meat at all; mixing meat and dairy in any way, shape or form; eating at all at particular times; consuming alcohol; consuming caffeine; not consuming cannabis; shaving; cutting your hair; contraception; masturbation; divorce; having sex outside of marriage; having sex other than for the purpose of procreation; having sex at all; exposing certain parts of the body; not cleaning your bottom a certain way after going to the toilet; working on particular days; wearing makeup; using electricity; photography; charging interest; blood transfusions.

No-one in their right mind would expect the law to ban any of these things, even if they do have a moral, ethical or religious objection to them. I’m not even going to bother mentioning the separation of church and state. If your religion objects to homosexuality and/or same-sex marriage, there’s a good chance it also objects to one or more of the things mentioned above. You may even enjoy a few of them. So you can’t expect the government to legislate against one thing your religion forbids unless you expect the government to legislate against everything your religion forbids. It makes you look like a hypocrite.

But it says so in the Bible.
No it doesn’t. The Bible doesn’t say anything about who can marry who, but before we get to the part I think you’re alluding to, let me ask you something:

What are you wearing?
No, I’m not trying to make a pass at you; it’s a serious question. What are you wearing?

I ask, because the book of the Bible that is usually quoted as forbidding homosexuality, also specifically forbids wearing a garment made of two different types of fibre. Ever worn a poly/cotton shirt? A wool blend coat? Got any elastic in your underwear? Not a fibre, I grant you, but you can’t be too careful, especially since other translations call it materials. If so, then I’m afraid you’re with the Sodomites. That’s okay though, because it’s not illegal.

If we’re going to follow Leviticus, we have to follow all of it if we are to avoid accusations of cherry-picking and opportunism.

It’s not government’s place to redefine marriage.
Oh, but it is! The only way you can say it’s not government’s role to RE-define marriage is to also say it’s not government’s place to define marriage in the first place. That’s a fair enough position, but that would mean completely deregulating marriage. That would make it a free-for-all and anyone could marry whoever they liked. Is that what you want? I get the feeling it isn’t.

Defining things is what government does. Possession isn’t nine tenths of the law, definition is. Pretty much all law is about definitions of things like murder, rape (hint: marriage doesn’t negate it) and citizenship, to name but three, and the government has already considered tinkering with the definition of the latter without any public consultation.

And don’t forget that the current definition of marriage has only been in place since 2004 when the Howard government chose to define marriage as being between a man and a woman as a tactic to ward off the possibility of same sex marriage. Were we worried about that act of redefining?

I believe in traditional marriage.
Good for you, sunshine! What tradition?
You see, some would consider traditional marriage as being where the bride and groom are chosen for each other by their parents. There are many proud and ancient cultures that originally defined marriage as being between a man and as many women as he could afford. Is that the traditional form of marriage you believe in, or do you favour the fact that marriage was redefined to be monogamous?

If we are to avoid charges of bigotry, then we shouldn’t present traditional marriage as being merely our tradition.

It defiles the sanctity of marriage.
So you’re cool with Larry King being on wife number 8, starlets’ marriages that are literally shorter than the reception hangover, and the existence of television programs like Farmer Wants a Wife and Married at First Sight, but two people who have loved each other for years or even decades but happen to have the same shaped genitalia getting married is a bridge too far?

I’m sorry, that’s unworthy. Maybe you’re against all those other things too, but are you lobbying the government to make them illegal? Yes, that would be a bit extreme, wouldn’t it?

Children deserve both a mother and a father.
I don’t think any reasonable person would disagree with that. You do realise it’s a complete non-sequitur, though?

In case you’ve been living under a rock all your life – and if you make that argument, then I’m forced to assume you have – marriage doesn’t equal children and children don’t equal marriage.

It would be nice if every child had a mother and a father but millions don’t for a multitude of legitimate reasons. People’s lives change, people die and sometimes, people have to flee an abusive partner for their own safety and, get this, to protect their children.

If we allow same sex marriage, what’s to stop men marrying goats, women marrying horses and sheep marrying tractors?
Seriously? Did you really just ask that? How old are you?

Notwithstanding the laws of physics, marriage is a contract between consenting adults. As you are probably aware, there are certain places where the “adult” bit is optional and there’s a lot of wiggle room in “consenting,” but I think we all agree that those kinds of marriages should be redefined at the earliest possible opportunity.

So if, and I stress IF, the goat or horse or sheep or whatever is of legal age for a farm animal and is able to express a desire to be joined in marriage with a human of any gender, and if you claim to believe in freedom of the individual, then why should anyone else care? Let them be happy with each other.

Seriously though, how old are you? That’s just embarrassing.

Alright! I admit it! I just don’t like homosexuals. They gross me out. I believe everyone else should be like me and I can’t stand anyone who isn’t like me being happy about it.
Congratulations. You’ve come up with an honest and intellectually consistent argument against same-sex marriage.

It is not the government’s role to make you feel comfortable with your beliefs.

As mentioned earlier, there are many things that certain people don’t like or disagree with that are still legal. Likewise, there are many things that people do like which are illegal, for varying reasons. We can debate whether it’s right or wrong that these things are legal or illegal but the argument has to be a bit stronger than “I don’t like it.” I don’t like football but who am I to begrudge others enjoying it?

Not everyone is always going to be happy with every law. That’s why we regularly look at them and often redefine them to make sure they reflect the will of the people and community standards. Like those who favour legalising heroin, cockfighting or, get this, polygamy, if your views on a subject don’t align with those of the majority of citizens and their elected representatives, then that’s just too bad. It’s an ancient and sacred tradition we have called democracy.

Don’t worry though. You’ll probably live.

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