The Cultural Argument Against Gay Marriage

Of all the arguments against gay marriage, the religious liberties argument, the reductio absurdum argument, the better safe than sorry argument, and others, the one people have the most difficulty understanding, atleast from my experience in discussing it, is the cultural argument against gay marriage, yet it is one of the ones I find most persuasive. So here I try to give a better explanation of what I see as the cultural argument against gay marriage.

It starts with the assumption that laws shape peoples cultural mores and beliefs. It does not have to be consciously, many times it is subconsciously. Abortion is more acceptable, for example, because it is legal. Making it legal, to alot of people, gives it a stamp of approval, a cultural acceptance. The cultural argument states that if gay marriage is legalized, because gay unions are inherently unable to produce children, it will send a cultural signal that marriage and children are not tied together.

This is how Maggie Gallagher explains it:

The argument is that extending marriage to include same-sex couples would not just give rights to a small subset of the population, but would radically transform what marriage is. So long as only opposite-sex couples can marry, the thinking goes, marriage is linked to procreation; if same-sex couples can marry, too, then marriage is transformed into something else entirely. Adding same-sex marriage would ruin the old institution and create a new one, and the new institution would not longer retain a focus on having and raising children. Viewed in that light, same sex marriage is a threat to society: by redefining the institution, it will kill off its most important feature…

Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need fathers as well as mothers. That’s the heart of marriage as a universal human institution.

Please note: Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage’s existence as a public (and yes legal) institution. People who don’t have children can still really be married (just as people who aren’t married can and do have babies).

But if sex between men and women did not make babies, then marriage would not be a universal human institution, or a legal status in America.

In other words, people raised in a society where gay marriage is legal will view marriage differently than people raised in a society where gay marriage is banned. The former will see the link between marriage and procreation weak at best, whereas the latter will see a stronger connection between procreation and marriage (Btw, preliminary data suggests this is already happening, see here).

This is especially troubling when you consider what this cultural change would do to areas where marriage is already in a precarious position.  Poor inner city neighborhoods, for example, will see a weakening of their already weak cultural mores regarding marriage and if there is one thing they need less of, it is that.

This is what Heather Mac Donald writing at the SecularRight blog referred to, though few understood her connection,  when she blogged this:

The biggest social problem in the U.S. today is the crime and academic achievement gap between blacks and whites…One overpowering cause of black social failure is the breakdown of marriage in the black community. Nationally, the black illegitimacy rate is 71%; in some inner city areas, it is closer to 90%. When boys grow up without any expectation that they will have to marry the mother of their children, they fail to learn the most basic lesson of personal responsibility. A community without the marriage norm is teetering on the edge of civilizational collapse, if it has not already fallen into the abyss. Fatherless black boys, who themselves experience no pressure to become marriageable mates as they grow up, end up joining gangs, dropping out of school, and embracing a “street” lifestyle in the absence of any male authority in the home.

If the black illegitimacy rate were not nearly three times the rate of whites’, I would have few qualms about gay marriage. Or if someone can guarantee that widespread gay marriage would not further erode the expectation among blacks that marriage is the proper context for raising children, I would also not worry. But no one can make that guarantee.

In other words, gay marriage is a social experiment with an institution that has been around in every culture at almost every time period for as long as recorded history can go back, where the costs of the social experiment are borne mostly by those at the bottom of the economic ladder. This helps explain why so many of the black community, especially the inner city black community(and minority community in general), is adamantly opposed to gay marriage – gay marriage primarily hurts them!

I grant that this argument is not powerful enough to ban gay marriage – it’s ultimately a cost/benefit analysis. There may very well be scenarios where gay marriage, seen as a right issue, may outweigh the costs of further marriage breakdown in the inner cities of the United States. My point here is not to give the complete argument against gay marriage, only to show that there are trade-offs involved. Very real and important ones.

13 Responses to “The Cultural Argument Against Gay Marriage”


  • I’m not at all convinced by this argument. It sounds like:

    “Marriage is generally good (ok, I’m fine with that), but it’s falling apart as an institution (ok, that’s mostly true), and if we allow more people to get married it will fall apart even faster! (huh? Where did that come from?)

    You make an excellent case that marriage is already falling apart (without gay marriage), maybe it would be best to focus our efforts on the reasons why that is happening now?

    And then there’s this:

    This helps explain why so many of the black community, especially the inner city black community(and minority community in general), is adamantly opposed to gay marriage – gay marriage primarily hurts them!

    Nope. Sorry, not buying that one. This may be news to you, but some people, and some cultures, are simply still prejudiced against gays. It’s shocking news, I know.

    You’re trying to make the case that black communities are failing because they are unable to grasp the importance of marriage, while simultaneously arguing that blacks oppose homosexual marriage because they have such a keen grasp on the importance of marriage. That’s some serious contortion.

  • Of course I dont think that is the main reason why they are against it…it’s a hodgepodge of reasons, some of it cultural, some of it intellectual, and some of it prejudice.

    It would be like a vote against polygamy – some people would vote against it for cultural reasons, some for intellectual reasons, and some out of pure prejudice – but most people would vote against it based on a mix of all of the above, even though they do so instinctively, and cant always explain why it makes them feel so.

    Regarding the definition of marriage, I’d say it this way:

    “Marriage is generally good, but it’s falling apart as an institution, and if we allow [unions inherently unable to produce children]to get married it will [change the cultural more of marriage and] fall apart even faster!”

    Were not just adding “more people to get married”, were fundamentally changing the meaning of marriage from one centered around children, to one just involving love – a fundamental change, that is sure to ripple through society in years to come.

  • HP,

    I think this argument persists among Conservatives for several reasons; 1) it is superficially (yet sufficiently) rooted in tradition, 2) it is superficially consistent with current religious dogma, 3) it results in a desired conclusion not from homophobia, but some veiled objective reasoning, 4) it wraps itself in some faux-concern for a minority group for political purposes.

    This argument fails because, 1) your logical link between children and marriage is an insufficient justification for other groups of people whom have similar circumstances to same sex couples, ie. post-menopausal women or women with a variety of medical conditions that are quite common in nature, men who also have a variety of medical conditions that prevent them from having children, etc. If there is a logical link between marriage and children, why not support pre-marriage fertility tests? Its a simple technological hurdle that would, in your view, strengthen the bond between marriage and children. Yet, I don’t think you would support that, 2) The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), defines marriage as an institution created by God that has the following objectives/characteristics:
    a. To form a community of life and love (nos. 1603 CCC)
    b. To bringing children into the world, caring for them and raising them as members in Communion with the Catholic Church (nos. 1604 CCC)
    c. The union is unbreakable (nos. 1605 CCC)

    In addition to this, the CCC does not view sex only as a procreative act. In CCC paragraphs 2369, 2351 and 2366, sex between spouses is also described to have a “unitive” purpose. To strengthen the bond between spouses. This is how Catholics get around your problematic connection between sex between heterosexual couples who cannot procreate and procreation.

    With the exception of 1604 CCC, gay-marriage is perfectly consistent with the CCC and not logically indistinguishable from heterosexual couples who cannot procreate. Given technology and legal formalities, homosexual couples can just as easily “cheat” nature as heterosexual couples who are incapable of having children, 3) Conservatives (I am using capital C here on purpose ) tie marriage to procreation for no rational reason but to define homosexuals out of marriage. Given fallacy #1 above, it would be more logical to tie marriage to something that can encompass those heterosexual groups whom you would approve of marriage, but do not possess your requirement of procreation. For instance, there is no reason love cannot be your logical purpose for marriage. To me, however, love may still be argued to be insufficient. Instead, I propose that security is the reason for marriage. Beyond children, marriage is a bond that secures both parties certain social, legal and economic benefits. Without the security that comes from marriage, children are superfluous to the bond of marriage. People have children when married not because they are married, but because their position as a married couple is sufficiently secured for raising children. Having children between couples who are not married is discouraged precisely because of the insecurity it presents to the woman and the children. Historically, marriage has always been about economic, social and legal security, but not always children. Security is the reason older folks get married. It is the reason sterile heterosexual people get married, and it is the reason homosexual couples want to get married. Sure, love is part of it, but security is the reason all couples get married. Your procreation prerequisite is insufficient, and merely self-serving, 4) the anti-homosexual marriage argument wrapped in altruistic purposes for blacks borders on hilarious. Still, it should be addressed. Given the high illegitimacy rate of blacks, it makes no logical sense to discourage marriage between any couple. Instead, it makes more sense to encourage marriage and promote a culture of marriage, yes, even among gays. Does it make sense to promote college enrollment among blacks by discouraging it among gays? If its so important, why shouldn’t gays be required to participate as citizens of this country? Indeed, that would make more sense, but only if you care more about marriage and less about who is allowed to participate in the institution.

    I’m too tied to write any more.

  • Whats with all this Catholic quoting? I wasn’t making a religious argument but a nature one – same sex unions are not comparable to infertile couples, it’s a jump in “kind”, not a jump in degree. It would be like arguing that a dog that has the inability to bark is the same thing as a cat that has the inability to bark. A dog that does not bark still has a nature that tends towards barking, a cat that cannot bark is by its nature something completely different. Yes, gay couples can do many of the things a heterosexual couple can, but a heterosexual union can do everything a gay couple can plus one more – inherently produce children, which makes the two fundamentally different.

    I am not arguing that marriages sole reason is marriage – I am arguing that the two are linked. Gay marriage completely severs that link.

    You imply that the cultural argument against gay marriage is insincere, that it hides ones “true” objectives – I am guessing you would say homophobia or religious intolerance – but really it is perfectly consistent with other cultural arguments, ones that have proven correct throughout the ages.

    Megan McArdle, who now works for the Atlantic Magazine, while ultimately a supporter of gay marriage, recognizes the cultural danger it poses, she writes:

    Social conservatives of a more moderate stripe are essentially saying that marriage is an ancient institution, which has been carefully selected for throughout human history. It is a bedrock of our society; if it is destroyed, we will all be much worse off. (See what happened to the inner cities between 1960 and 1990 if you do not believe this.) For some reason, marriage always and everywhere, in every culture we know about, is between a man and a woman; this seems to be an important feature of the institution. We should not go mucking around and changing this extremely important institution, because if we make a bad change, the institution will fall apart.

    To which, again, the other side replies “That’s ridiculous! I would never change my willingness to get married based on whether or not gay people were getting married!”

    Now, economists hear this sort of argument all the time. “That’s ridiculous! I would never start working fewer hours because my taxes went up!” This ignores the fact that you may not be the marginal case. The marginal case may be some consultant who just can’t justify sacrificing valuable leisure for a new project when he’s only making 60 cents on the dollar. The result will nonetheless be the same: less economic activity. Similarly, you–highly educated, firmly socialised, upper middle class you–may not be the marginal marriage candidate; it may be some high school dropout in Tuscaloosa. That doesn’t mean that the institution of marriage won’t be weakened in America just the same.

    The limits of your imagination are not the limits of reality. Every government programme that libertarians have argued against has been defended at its inception with exactly this argument.

    When the income tax was initially being debated, there was a suggestion to put in a mandatory cap; I believe the level was 10 percent.

    Don’t be ridiculous, the Senator’s colleagues told him. Americans would never allow an income tax rate as high as ten percent. They would revolt! It is an outrage to even suggest it!

    Many actually fought the cap on the grounds that it would encourage taxes to grow too high, towards the cap. The American people, they asserted, could be well counted on to keep income taxes in the range of a few percentage points.

    Oops.

    Another example is welfare. To sketch a brief history of welfare, it emerged in the nineteenth century as “Widows and orphans pensions”, which were paid by the state to destitute families whose breadwinner had passed away. They were often not available to blacks; they were never available to unwed mothers…

    Now, in the late fifties, a debate began over whether to extend benefits to the unmarried. It was unfair to stigmatise unwed mothers. Why shouldn’t they be able to avail themselves of the benefits available to other citizens? The brutal societal prejudice against illegitimacy was old fashioned, bigoted, irrational.

    But if you give unmarried mothers money, said the critics, you will get more unmarried mothers.

    Ridiculous, said the proponents of the change. Being an unmarried mother is a brutal, thankless task. What kind of idiot would have a baby out of wedlock just because the state was willing to give her paltry welfare benefits?

    People do all sorts of idiotic things, said the critics. If you pay for something, you usually get more of it.

    C’mon said the activists. That’s just silly. I just can’t imagine anyone deciding to get pregnant out of wedlock simply because there are welfare benefits available.

    Oooops.

    Of course, change didn’t happen overnight. But the marginal cases did have children out of wedlock, which made it more acceptable for the next marginal case to do so. Meanwhile, women who wanted to get married essentially found themselves in competition for young men with women who were willing to have sex, and bear children, without forcing the men to take any responsibility. This is a pretty attractive proposition for most young men. So despite the fact that the sixties brought us the biggest advance in birth control ever, illegitimacy exploded. In the early 1960s, a black illegitimacy rate of roughly 25 percent caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to write a tract warning of a crisis in “the negro family” (a tract for which he was eviscerated by many of those selfsame activists.)

    By 1990, that rate was over 70 percent. This, despite the fact that the inner city, where the illegitimacy problem was biggest, only accounts for a fraction of the black population.

    Marriage matters. It is better for the kids; it is better for the adults raising those kids; and it is better for the childless people in the communities where those kids and adults live. Marriage reduces poverty, improves kids outcomes in all measurable ways, makes men live longer and both spouses happier. Marriage, it turns out, is an incredibly important institution. It also turns out to be a lot more fragile than we thought back then. It looked, to those extremely smart and well-meaning welfare reformers, practically unshakeable; the idea that it could be undone by something as simple as enabling women to have children without husbands, seemed ludicrous. Its cultural underpinnings were far too firm. Why would a woman choose such a hard road? It seemed self-evident that the only unwed mothers claiming benefits would be the ones pushed there by terrible circumstance.

    This argument is compelling and logical. I would never become an unwed welfare mother, even if benefits were a great deal higher than they are now. It seems crazy to even suggest that one would bear a child out of wedlock for $567 a month. Indeed, to this day, I find the reformist side much more persuasive than the conservative side, except for one thing, which is that the conservatives turned out to be right. In fact, they turned out to be even more right than they suspected; they were predicting upticks in illegitimacy that were much more modest than what actually occurred–they expected marriage rates to suffer, not collapse.

    How did people go so badly wrong? Well, to start with, they fell into the basic fallacy that economists are so well acquainted with: they thought about themselves instead of the marginal case. For another, they completely failed to realise that each additional illegitimate birth would, in effect, slightly destigmatise the next one.

    She goes on to give several more examples of where the marginal case turned out to be, generations later, the normal case. I would quote more but its a really long post. If you want to really understand the cultural argument against gay marriage, I strongly recommend reading the post in full, it can be found here (she also gives other more relevant cultural examples, again, highly recommended).

    One last thing, as a personal point of advice, since you can’t read the minds of others, you should refrain from trying to interpret what they “really mean” – its usually always better to take them at their word. From personal experience, I’ve found that it’s usually unnecessary to the point one is making and more often than not (as in this case) its just plain wrong (it’s similar to libertarians who claim environmentalists are really just out to increase the size of government – they really don’t care about the environment).

  • your use of welfare to argue against gay marriage is confusing and irrelevant, particularly since gays are far less likely to depend on welfare. You often appropriate meaning to “liberal” judges based not on what they say but what they mean, ie. your assessment of today’s ruling on prop 8 (on Facebook) is case in point. Although they came out against Prop 8, you attributed it to some ulterior motive on not harming the gay marriage movement. Leo Strauss.. a conservative… often discussed true meaning behind words. I do take you at your word, but when it makes no sense, alternative motivations must be assessed. Your logical exercise comparing dogs not able to bark and cats unable to bark, also makes no sense. You are talking about two different animals. Gays and heteros are the same animal. I assume you agree, though your use different animals, cats and dogs, to compare gay humans and hetero humans may suggest otherwise. I am taking your advice here and taking you at your word. ;-) Barking also is important only if barking is a prerequisite for being defined as a dog, just as procreation (even among those who can’t procreate, but are heterosexual) is your arbitrary prerequisite for marriage. The connection between marriage and happiness, longevity, poverty, successful child-rearing, etc. are evident. That you would deny these obvious benefits to folks who happen to be gay remain mysterious.

  • Oh, lookey here. Ted Olson, conservative extraordinaire, comes out against Prop 8 in federal court.

    “I personally think it is time that we as a nation get past distinguishing people on the basis of sexual orientation, and that a grave injustice is being done to people by making these distinctions,” Olson told me Tuesday night.”

    Olson is not gay. His wife was in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. He talked to her via cellphone as the hijacking occurred.

  • Were speaking past each other. A couple of clarifications:

    First, using the cat and dog analogy was not meant to imply that heterosexual and homosexual were two different animals. It was meant to imply that when discussing marriage, an infertile heterosexual couple is very different than an “infertile” homosexual couple. An infertile heterosexual couple is like a dog that cannot bark whereas an infertile homosexual couple is like a cat that cannot bark. Its a different in “kind”, not a difference in degree. Though an infertile heterosexual couple may not be able to produce children, by its very nature – namely, one man and one woman – it has the inherent ability to produce children. Just as a particular dog may not be able to bark, by its very nature – namely, that its a dog – it has the inherent ability to bark. Not so with homosexual unions, by the very nature of the union – namely, two people of the same sex – it has no ability to produce children, just as a cat has no ability to bark. That is all I was trying to get at. In other words, a heterosexual infertile union does not necessarily break the link between children and marriage, whereas a homosexual union (its redundant to say “infertile” homosexual union) does. This is why you had to go back and redefine what marriage meant. You had to specifically go back and give marriage a definition that weeds out the link to procreation – a definition, I might add, that may be what marriage is now being seen as (precisely my worry, btw), but was not seen as such historically.

    Second, I was using the welfare example to show, in a parallel example, how these sweeping policy changes can affect the marginal case, and eventually turn out to affect, generations later, the normal case. Seeing that you thought I was arguing that gay couples use welfare, I can see you completely missed my point. Let me reiterate: policy changes, as in the case of welfare, divorce laws, establishment of the income tax, and many many others, have traditionally affected the marginal cases first and only later trickled through the whole culture. What you may think of as an innocent change in policy, when looked at from how it can affect marginal cases (and in this case, its clear marginal cases are poor inner city black communities), it may give you a very different story. And so that is the side of gay marriage I am bringing up here. Its cultural impact on an area already suffering from past policy changes that weakened marriage (that, btw, everybody predicted would not have happened with those reforms as well).

    Third, I am not arguing that this is the argument that disproves gay marriage. I am just trying to get you to see that there is a trade-off, however small you may think it is. In fact, the author of the post I linked to above, while seeing the trade-off, and the very important side of it, nevertheless thinks that gay marriage is worth pursuing. Of course I still disagree with her, but she is miles ahead of those who see no trade-off at all.

    Lastly, regarding what I “really mean”: I don’t know who you have had gay marriage discussions with in the past, maybe it was people who did not care about the reasons behind it and just had a hatred for homosexuals. Maybe it was of the religious kind. Maybe it was of the closed minded kind. I dont know. But I can assure you that I am none of the above. I find the cultural argument and other arguments truly persuasive in their own right without any ulterior motives. If my qualms there could be solved, I would have no cultural problem with allowing gay marriage. Maybe my arguments are stupid, maybe I am too stupid to understand the proponent of gay marriage arguments, I don’t know, but I can assure you that they are sincere.

    With that said, I strongly encourage you to read the post by Megan McArdle here. Remember, she is, ultimately, a supporter of gay marriage, so dont have your “homophobe” sensors on…just try to understand her point in and of itself. She explains it much better than I did.

  • I’ve read McArdle’s long quote above and also HP’s comments, and I’m still waiting for someone to explain coherently, precisely why and how gay marriage would supposedly weaken the institution of marriage.

    HP claims that marriages incapable of producing children (which he then defines, confusingly, as only the gay ones) would cause further deterioration. Ok, that’s an interesting hypothesis. Is there any evidence to back it up? Is there a historical precedent? Anything?

    McArdle, meanwhile, points out that ridiculous sounding arguments such as this one can sometimes, in some cases, actually turn out to be correct. Fine. That is true. But does she mean that we would, therefore, be best served to accept at face value every ridiculous argument? I certainly hope not.

    And, finally, here’s my hypothesis:
    The institution of marriage is failing primarily due to 1) an increase in divorce rates, and 2) an unwillingness to accept family responsibilities. The first of these is due to a number of things, principally financial stress. The second is a cultural phenomenon related to an unhealthy obsession with personal gratification at the expense of all else.

    I can back up my hypothesis with a huge amount of evidence.

    Now, I don’t really have a horse in the gay marriage race. I’m not gay. I do, however, have a horse in the “success of marriage” race. I think it’s very important to see children grow up with parents (gay or heterosexual). So, here are some things (off the top of my head) that I think are about sixty-seven million times more important than combating gay marriage:

    1) Finding ways to decrease drug incarceration rates for black males.
    2) Nasty increases in divorce rates and single-parenthood due to foreign wars.
    3) Glorification of destructive lifestyles in music videos.
    4) Stopping family-splitting deportations of undocumented immigrants.

    And the list goes on.

  • LaurenceB,

    First, thanks for reading the article!

    You ask, Ok, that’s an interesting hypothesis. Is there any evidence to back it up? Is there a historical precedent? Anything?

    Well, gay marriage is too recent. Your question would be like asking, “okay, welfare for single mothers has been put into affect, now, only say 5 years later, is there any evidence to back up the claim that it weakens the family”? Yet now, 30+ years after it was changed to be given to unwed mothers, its almost universally agreed upon (atleast by economists) that welfare gave the wrong incentives to single mothers – it did contribute significantly to the broken homes we see in the poor inner cities. The same can be said of weaker divorce laws. Stuff like this takes time. It first shows its ugly head in the marginal case then with time sweeps through the culture at large.

    With that said, there is some very preliminary data that substantiates my side of the argument, see here. But its too soon to even take that “study” at face value.

    With that said, I agree with you on the rest of your concerns as well, with the exception of “about sixty-seven million times more important than combating gay marriage”; gay marriage strikes at the heart of the definition of marriage, and being that how you view marriage is probably more important than the other problems on your list, one can bet that it carries more weight.

  • After reading your last comment, and especially after following the link you provided, I’ve come to the realization that we probably have a fundamental difference of opinion on a very fundamental question.

    Unless I’m mistaken, you believe that if it is demonstrated that society becomes more accepting of gay marriage as it becomes more prevalent, than that will prove the theory that homosexual marriage did indeed threaten the institution of marriage – just as you claimed it would. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but am I right about this?

    It goes without saying that I would disagree with that. In fact, it seems like a classic case of circular logic to me.

  • you believe that if it is demonstrated that society becomes more accepting of gay marriage as it becomes more prevalent, than that will prove the theory that homosexual marriage did indeed threaten the institution of marriage – just as you claimed it would.

    No, that is not what I am worried about. This is what I am worried about:

    I have argued that over time gay marriage will weaken support for the idea that marriage really matters because children need a mom and dad.

    Massachusetts voters were also asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “All things being equal, it is better for children to be raised by their married mother and father.” Seventy-six percent of voters agreed (66 percent strongly) while 21 percent disagreed (13 percent strongly).

    A similar question was asked in a 2004 poll of Massachusetts residents. In 2004, 84 percent of Massachusetts residents agreed (33 percent strongly) and 16 percent disagreed (2 percent strongly). Thus, in the five years since gay marriage became a reality in Massachusetts, support for the idea that the ideal is a married mother and father dropped from 84 percent to 76 percent. The proportion who disagreed strongly increased nearly sevenfold, from 2 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2009. (emphasis added)

    There are two ways this question can be interpreted: there is your interpretation, meaning that people focused on the “mother and father” part, and because some are now more accepting of gay marriages in general, they now see the two as interchangeable…but then there is the interpretation that says that society increasingly sees a father and/or mother as expendable. A father father union or a mother mother union is just as acceptable as a union with a father and a mother – one of the parents are expendable.

    The order should be biological mother and father as ideal, biological mother with step father as secondary, biological father with step mother as a close third, gay unions as fourth, and single parenthood as dead last. Gay marriage changes that. It sends a message that a father is expendable.

    Though that cultural change is also important, one that I find equally or more troubling – yet one that was not addressed in the survey – is the weakened link between marriage and procreation. Specifically the cultural more that child rearing should be done under the confines of marriage. A better worded question would have been one that probed this link further. Maybe something like, “Do you agree with the statement that says, “children should be raised under the confines of marriage”…yes or no?” I would bet that the people who say yes would be a smaller percentage with each passing generation under gay marriage.

    Just to give my personal example, I got my at the time girlfriend pregnant while we were still dating. The pregnancy came as a surprise to both of us and we were not even living together at the time. In fact, we were living in different states. The news really shocked me and I felt immense pressure, part of me said “run” and another part said “man up”. I talked this over with my friends at the time – my middle class friends and other friends that I grew up with that overall share the same inner city culture prevalent in the ghetto. All of my middle class friends, almost on cue, said I should “man up” – do what is right and get married. They argued that it was better for the baby and the right thing for my girlfriend, and overall the responsible thing to do. However, my “ghetto” friends argued differently. It was almost like I was living in two different worlds. Marriage was never brought up by any of them; on the contrary, some stressed the benefit of not getting married – specifically, the costs savings from the fact that if my girlfriend is a “single mother”, she would qualify for significantly cheaper healthcare that would pay the costs of the pregnancy (when I showed distaste with this option, they responded with “well everybody does it”). I was honestly confused at the time. I never toyed with the idea of abandoning my unborn child, but marriage seemed too far in the other extreme. Though I am now solidly in the middle class and have absorbed much of the culture, I also have strong roots in the ghetto and being the child of single parents myself, it just didn’t seem obvious to me which way to go. My parents were not any help either – my father is the huge personal responsibility type who would push me to get married, and my mom (who I grew up with) is the relaxed “do whatever makes you happy” type, she was fine with me being an occasional presence in my childs life.

    My girlfriend quickly moved in and after many troubling nights thinking about it, I just decided to take it one day at a time – postpone my decision. However, after the first ultra sound and yet another conversation with a middle class friend of mine (specifically Stephen, the commenter above) I decided that marriage was the right thing to do. At that point I couldn’t careless about the loss of “freedom”, the risks of marriage itself and even the costs of the pregnancy – it just seemed like it was the right thing to do for my baby, my future wife, and for even myself.

    My worry with gay marriage is that that cultural more, the push to get married in order to have children or to get married when a child is on the way will be weakened. The person in my situation, when pushed to get married because a child is on the way, could easily respond “What does marriage have to do with children?” Why should one get married to procreate? Now granted, you could give the reasons Stephen raises above – that its for security and other tangential reasons. But those reasons are much weaker, IMHO, than the marriage is where procreation happens argument. The argument that states that the ideal situation for a child is a married biological father and mother. In the end, I believe that gay marriage will weaken these arguments and result in more children being born out of wedlock – atleast for marginal cases like myself. And with each child being born out of wedlock, in tandum with the changing culture presented by gay marriage, you will eventually have significantly higher unwed pregnancies for all.

  • OK. I’m glad you recognized, as I did, the weakness of the polling questions you linked to.

    Yours is a very compelling background story, by the way, and an admirable one in more ways than one. Thank you for having the courage to share it so openly.

    I will grant that I don’t claim to foresee the future, and your argument is not an unreasonable one by any means.

    That having been said, I continue to firmly believe that this issue is far less important than any of a host of other issues that currently strain family life.

    And I think I’ll just leave it at that.

  • Robert Sliwinski

    What I see here is an intellectual game of twister with players attempting to bend around some difficult and impolitic truths. Allow me to bring this discussion back to earth, as it were.

    First let’s call homosexuality what it is – an ugly deformity. It’s something that many of us, myself included, don’t like to see, contemplate, explain, or otherwise confront. It breeches gender roles, upsets expectations, muddles rank-and-file rules about respect and affection, and makes many of us instinctively uncomfortable. For those of us so affected, the sight of a severe open wound, a distorted accident victim, or a body riddled by degenerative disease are comparable experiences. We view homosexuality with a sense of horror, nausea, loathing, and sometimes contempt. Homophobia is a rather inadequate and intuitively inaccurate word we use to describe this internal experience. In this context, it’s no wonder why many people treat homosexuals with suspicion and prejudice, as wrong as this may be.

    Now I’ve come to two conclusions of late. The first is that homosexuality itself does not define the character of an individual either positively or negatively. The second is that homosexuality is largely immutable – neither chosen nor treatable in the vast majority of those so afflicted (yet). I do not call it an ILLNESS. I’ve heard nothing to suggest the condition is degenerative in any way. In fact, I’ve met several gay and lesbian couples who, while not exactly charming to me, did nonetheless lead respectable lives and two of which were raising children as part of their family arrangement. As such, I believe your arguments suggesting that gay marriage will weaken all marriages or change it fundamentally are implausible. Given the language you use to describe the topic in general, I’m more of the mind that you are driven simply by the feelings described above.

    Let’s face some hard facts. Homosexuality is ugly to many of us. It’s hard enough to behold it on an incidental basis. It smacks of insult and offense when we are “forced” to deal with it by those individuals and couples not inclined to hide their condition. It can seem over-the-top when we are asked to accept their presence without showing our reaction or discomfort. To have such couples approach the altar and demand the blessings and status of marriage upon their relationship may seem perverse in the extreme. Yet it is NOT.

    I find the earlier argument suggesting SECURITY as the value-basis for marriage more cogent than any other I’ve heard and I commend the individual for it. In that context, I find the arguments for gay marriage more convincing. As individuals, I believes gays and lesbians are far better off in stable, monogamous relationships and I believe that we, the community at-large, have an interest in encouraging that behavior among them. Also, I cannot forget that some gay couples will actually become parents and I believe that their children are better protected and served being raised by permanent spouses.

    Lastly, I’ve seen this and related debates regarding gays and lesbians, abortion, and race-relations over the last 40+ years and I know that very few untethered positions actually exist. In my experience with these issues, people judge first and then set their minds to looking for intellectual justifications. That is exactly what I believe you have done, HispanicPundit. The labored, unconvincing, and contrived arguments you present are clear signals of the motivation underneath. I sympathize with you. These topics are difficult and disgusting.

    As I’ve told you what I think of your position, I will now tell you mine. I believe that gay marriage should be permitted, encouraged, and honored where the couples are so deserving. I also believe that we, as a society, should regard the condition of homosexuality for what it is and move to research a cure in a respectful and objective manner, as we might for any other condition of deformity.

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