Best Answers to Anti-Marriage Equality Arguments I’ve Seen

Zack Ford of the Center for American Progress has what is probably the best set of answers to the arguments against marriage equality I’ve ever seen compiled in one place. He put it together in response to the new book by Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, which attempts, and fails, to make a coherent non-religious case against same-sex marriage. He starts with Anderson’s claims about the purpose of marriage:

“Government promotes marriage to make men and women responsible to each other and to any children they might have,” he writes, clarifying that the stability of the spousal relationship is only important for the sake of the children’s well-being. He later explicitly admits that the state’s “only reason for its recognition of marriage” is “the responsible procreation and care of children.” In sum, “Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.”

Anderson thus tasks himself with convincing the reader that the traditional wedding vows — “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” as Roman Catholics like Anderson recite — get marriage wrong. These vows espouse a distinct and familiar vision of marriage that encompasses sexual intimacy (“to have and to hold”), perpetuity (“from this day forward,” “until death do us part”), mutual financial obligation (“for richer, for poorer”), and an obligation to serve as caregivers for one another (“in sickness and in health”). He rejects this vision because it doesn’t mention caring for children, which is the only purpose of marriage in his framework. It is in making that case that he indeed gets “twisted up in knots,” and the contradictions — and rejections of same-sex couples — become apparent.

The Anderson-Girgis-George definition of what marriage should be dictates monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence, but at no point does Anderson explain how same-sex couples are less likely to achieve all three, except to assert, “Those norms are based on sexual complementarity.” He makes the point that same-sex relationships have been found to be less stable in some studies, but ignores the context that society is just beginning to recover from a history of anti-gay stigma, plus the fact that it only just lifted the ban on the very institution that he says promotes that stability.

Instead, Anderson relies on slippery slope warnings about polyamory, “monogamish” and open relationships, and short-termed “wedlease” marriages to show the deterioration of his marriage ideal. Of course, none of those are uniquely relevant to the issue of same-sex marriage. They may indeed be growing in popularity, and there may even be legal questions to consider in the future concerning these other kinds of relationships, but they are entirely different issues not informed by sexual orientation.

Exactly. There are far more polyamorous and open straight marriages than gay ones, for the simple fact that there are hundreds of thousands of times more of the former than the latter. This has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

Parenting arguments also expose one of Anderson’s most obvious contradictions. When discussing the impact of divorce, he highlights research that shows that divorce does damage to children that no other experience — not even committed stepparents — can fully remedy. “It’s not just about two incomes or the attention of two people,” he explains. “As a general rule, divorce and remarriage provides a setting that is little better for children than divorce alone. Even when you get a second income and second parent back in the family through remarriage, children tend to be no better off than if the divorced parent had not remarried.” With that context in mind, Anderson proceeds to completely ignore the role divorce played in all of the studies and narratives he uses to claim negative outcomes for the children of same-sex couples.

He lauds, for example, the research of Mark Regnerus, Douglas Allen, and Donald Paul Sullins, all of whom produced studies purporting negative outcomes of same-sex parenting, outcomes only derived by conflating the experiences of children whose parents’ divorced or by not controlling for family structure in the first place. He dismisses most of the studies that actually address committed same-sex families as being too small and rejects four studies that meet his standard, accusing them of having coding and interpretative errors. Incidentally, all four contradicted his narrative against same-sex parenting.

Anderson also props up the stories of Robert Oscar Lopez, Katy Faust, and the other now-adult “poster children” who claim to have had negative experiences with same-sex parenting, even though divorce was a part of every single one of their narratives. It is the only time he acknowledges the children of same-sex couples, ignoring the hundreds of thousands of children that are having completely typical and loving upbringings. As far as Anderson is concerned, the experience of children raised by same-sex couples can only be described by data and anecdotes about children impacted by divorce, because, of course, that’s the only way he can portray their experiences as negative.

That has always been the problem with the endless claims about studies showing children do better in two-parent families, that they are always comparing them to single-parent families that were formed as a result of divorce. They never compare them to committed gay couples raising children because all of the studies that have done so disprove their argument. Divorce is the real problem, statistically, when it comes to the best outcomes for children, and up to this point divorces have been exclusively heterosexual, so you certainly can’t blame that one on gay people.

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  • raven

    Government promotes marriage to make men and women responsible to each other and to any children they might have,” he writes, clarifying that the stability of the spousal relationship is only important for the sake of the children’s well-being.

    He’s lost it in the first sentence. This is just wrong.

    People marry for a variety of reasons. And having children is only one of them.

    Many marriages have no children for either choice or necessity. To take one example, your spouse dies. You then marry someone else later in life. At the age where having more children isn’t all that appealing and in any case, more or less impossible due to biology.

  • donkensler

    Anti-marriage types love to focus on the divorces that happen because one spouse is gay and divorces to follow his or her nature and blame those on homosexuality. Of course, those situations are arguments against forcing people into straight marriages in the first place.

  • ‘smee

    up to this point divorces have been exclusively heterosexual, so you certainly can’t blame that one on gay people.

    But most of those divorces are because the temptation of teh gay is too great to allow normal, fallible people anything but the slightest chance of staying together in a relationship. Of course people get divorced: The Gay keeps pushing their agenda into their faces showing what a wonderful time can be had if only people were more fabulous!

    /snark*

    *in case of brain damage

  • Donnie

    raven says

    July 27, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Government promotes marriage to make men and women responsible to each other and to any children they might have,” he writes, clarifying that the stability of the spousal relationship is only important for the sake of the children’s well-being.

    He’s lost it in the first sentence. This is just wrong.

    People marry for a variety of reasons. And having children is only one of them.

    I know! My marriage must not be a “real marriage” because my wife and I discussed our plans for having kids the night I proposed to her. We both decided that we were to old and wanted to retire on our terms. I guess that we need to get a divorce. Or, can we sue the U.S. government and/or the applicable State for issuing a marriage license to an childless couple? If the word might is the issue, then LGBT couples might have children as well. Is adoption the only option for heterosexual couples? Yes, if the asshats get their fascist desires passed.

    Essentially, I detest the The Anderson, Girgis, and George’s definition of what marriage should be, and they all can fuck the right off.

  • John Pieret

    As a general rule, divorce and remarriage provides a setting that is little better for children than divorce alone.

    So, basically, Anderson is arguing against divorce. So why isn’t he and the Heritage Foundation championing repeal of all laws permitting divorce? Oh, yeah! They’d be laughed off the public stage!

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    and up to this point divorces have been exclusively heterosexual, so you certainly can’t blame that one on gay people.

    Yes, but after this point The Gays can be blamed for that too, since they’re now ruining divorce like they ruined Marriage.

  • eric

    Divorce is the real problem, statistically, when it comes to the best outcomes for children

    Maybe. The real comparison we need to make is between children of divorced parents and children of we-don’t-love-each-other-but-stay-together-out-of-obligation parents. Because those are the two options the kid gets; they don’t get the option of living in a home were both biological parents love each other. I would not be surprised if children of divorcees did as well or better than children of loveless marriages.

    Unfortunately, that would be a very hard comparison to empirically assess, given that nobody is going to admit to being in the latter group, and the few that do might not be representative of the cohort anyway.

    Regardless, the entire conservative argument is a giant non-sequitur. They claim that X is a social good…therefore the government shouldn’t allow Y? How does that work?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    eric “Regardless, the entire conservative argument is a giant non-sequitur. They claim that X is a social good…therefore the government shouldn’t allow Y?”

    Because all the bitter Xs see how happy the Ys are. It’s like going to a restaurant and, after getting your low-cal, heart-smart salad, seeing that the person in the next booth got a steaming plate of sexy, tanned, muscular mansex.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    plus the fact that it only just lifted the ban on the very institution that he says promotes that stability.

    This, several thousand times over. I’ve never understood the people who say they support heterosexual marriage on the grounds that it contributes to the stability of relationships, and in nearly the same breath deny marriage to gay people on the grounds that their relationships aren’t stable enough.

  • cptdoom

    The “sexual complementary” argument is also based on an understanding of gender differences that is laughably reductive -the psychological equivalent of a “Fun With Dick and Jane” reader. The argument claims men rough house with their children and challenge them, while women do the nurturing and comforting. Apparently they think all men parent in exactly the same way, as do all women, with no variations. The argument is falsified just by observation. I’ve never seen two heterosexual couples that parent in exactly the same way.

  • Bruce

    Why aren’t people talking here about Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton? The essence is that the right wing now AGREES with Clinton that having a BJ is NOT “real” sex, which is what he didn’t lie about, 20 years ago. Although maybe it’s time to move on.

    But seriously, the essence of the whole essay is that governments should bless marriages only on the basis of PiV “normal” sexual relations, and that any sex that is not PIV doesn’t deserve the government focus and blessing that PIV deserves. Since PIV is the only real difference, it must be at the core of the bigots’ case. Thus, the homophobes view is essentially that Bill Clinton was right in saying that only PIV sex counts as sex.

    We would have some shred of intellectual respect for the bigots if they were consistent enough to admit this. But they never do.

    They know PIV is the only difference, so their arguments all come down to saying that the government should bless only PIV sex. To me, that view seems blatantly crazy. But I bet they would all say it openly if it would have let them win in the courts. They know they can’t win in the courts if they admit their bigotry is all due to their religious beliefs. So they have to stick with the crazy.

  • scienceavenger

    I don’t see how any of you can pay attention to this any more. The minute a critic of gay marriage says “children” I’m done letting them waste my time. It’s like arguing the existence of god with someone who insists you grant their premise that the Bible is inerrant, except at least there the conclusion follows from the premise.