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Bad Arguments against Marriage Equality

According to Pew Forum, a whopping 94% of those opposed to marriage equality do so with religion as their top influence on that view. Which isn’t really surprising considering the non-religious arguments that are out there. It’s telling that the most common secular response you’re likely to get is the statements that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” which is just restating the position in a different way.

Other secular arguments are frankly worse. Consider Christian radio host Janet Mefferd’s argument:

Whether the homosexual activists like it or not, and I know this isn’t politically correct to say this, but not everybody wants to see that. I know that that’s offensive to the activist crowd, they want us all to see it, they want us all to approve of it, they want us all to call it blessed and okay and rejoice and have parties and throw confetti in the air over this whole thing. But the fact of the matter is it’s a moral issue. You will always have Christians who will disagree with this and why should the rights of the activists trump the rights of Christians?

So … Christian’s have the right not to see gay married couples? You’re really going to make that argument? That one doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

But you might suggest that this is nutpicking, and you’d probably be right. So let’s look at Paul Clement, an influential right wing lawyer tasked with defending opposition to gay marriage before the Supreme Court. Clement must have tremendous resources to draw from, yet he comes up with this:

Marriage should be limited to unions of a man and a woman because they alone can “produce unplanned and unintended offspring,” opponents of gay marriage have told the Supreme Court.

By contrast, when same-sex couples decide to have children, “substantial advance planning is required,” said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for House Republicans.

So in Clement’s argument, marriage is essentially a safety net given to straight couples because they might come down with a bad case of babies. Since homosexuals cannot accidentally get pregnant outside of bizarre circumstances and bad slash fics, they don’t need this particular safety measure.

I’m hoping this is a result of a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to legal argument. If Clement thinks that this is convincing, then the marriage opposition has already scraped the bottom of the barrel, and are now looking under the barrel for ideas.

  • drax

    This article fails to consider who is on the supreme court. Unfortunately there could very well be five justices who are convinced by these terrible arguments. We did get citizens united afterall.

    • Gex

      Worse, there are 6 Catholics. And given that most of the money that drove the entire movement came from the Catholic Church, that is not a comforting fact.

      • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

        To be fair, in the United States there’s being a Catholic and being Catholic. Lots of people consider themselves Catholic by birth or culture, but don’t give a toss what the church has to say. A couple of the justices seem to fit that mold, though really it is still frightening and somewhat unseemly that 2/3s of the highest court in a secular nation are ostensibly members of a particularly conservative and authoritarian religion. How can they possibly pretend to retain objectivity in matters that the church holds a strong position on?

        • kessy_athena

          I really don’t see how being Catholic is any different from any other flavor of Christianity in this instance. For example, haven’t the Baptists put forth just as much crazy crap on social issues as the Catholics? It doesn’t mean that all Baptists agree with it any more then it does that all Catholics do.

          • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

            The difference is that Catholics are all *supposed* to believe precisely the same thing. They have a centralised authority in the figure of one solitary person telling them what to think, but the US is notorious among the Catholic church specifically for ‘Catholics’ living there to not give a toss what the Vatican says. It’s a bit different from various Baptist congregations not quite singing from the same hymn sheet – it’s a much broader cultural issue that being ‘Catholic’ in the United States does not necessarily translate to being ‘Catholic’ by the measure of the church in Rome.

            • kessy_athena

              Well, isn’t what all christians are “supposed” to believe the origin of the entire No True Scotsman thing? I really don’t think the Vatican has had the political power to do things like change the rulings of a high court for a long time. Maybe in another place at another time there’d be a legitimate concern about the Pope exercising inappropriate influence like that, but not in the US today. Frankly, I’d be much more worried about a Justice who was associated with one of the really fundamentalist evangelical protestant churches then a garden variety Catholic.

    • spookiewon

      I disagree. While there are five very conservative justices, SCOTUS judges tend to be concerned with how history will portray them. I don’t think all five will want to go down on the wrong side of history, and looking at what’s happening at the state level, opposing marriage equality will be the wrong side of history. I believe that this spring we’ll see DOMA overturned, along with (arguably more importantly) California’s Prop 8.

      As to the catholic justices, I was raised in a town that was 80% catholic, so I know a lot of catholics, including most of my family, and the vast majority of catholics I know support marriage equality. The few that do not are more notable than those that do. I find that catholics are really no different from other religious people: they pick and choose from the prescribed teachings to suit their own internal morality.

    • Sven

      While I expect Scalia, Thomas, and possibly Alito to be swayed by these poor arguments, Roberts and Kennedy seem to be smart enough to reject them. Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor are almost certainly going to support equality.

      • Sven

        I further note that in Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v Texas (the case where Texas’ anti-”sodomy” law was struck down), Scalia complains that due to the majority’s opinion, there would no longer be a justification to ban same-sex marriage. “Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry,” he writes.

      • kessy_athena

        Don’t count your justices before they’ve opined. Remember how shocked everyone was that Roberts was the fifth vote to uphold Obamacare? The justices can and do surprise us all. Sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not so much.

    • Michael

      I really cannot see how Citizens United v FEC is remotely comparable. That case had actual arguments presented.

      • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

        Corporations are people is about as good an argument as only heterosexual couples can accidentally get pregnant.

        • kessy_athena

          Or that money is speech.

        • Michael

          The Citizens United ruling had nothing to do with corporate personhood; that is a complete misconception. Also, corporate personhood does not imply that corporations are actually people, only that, as collections of people, they should be subject to CERTAIN laws and entitled to certain privileges that actual persons are. Primarily it’s about limiting liability.

          I don’t side with Citizens United, but you can’t claim a ruling was bad without knowing anything about it.

          • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

            I do know about it, and while ‘corporations are people’ is a simplistic maxim derived from it, the ruling really made zero sense and its advocates in court proffered arguments of no greater merit than the ones in the OP. To claim they are not *remotely* comparable implies that it is ludicrous to even consider Citizens United to be flawed.

            • Michael

              To claim they are not *remotely* comparable implies that it is ludicrous to even consider Citizens United to be flawed.

              WHAT? They are not remotely comparable because it is ludicrous not to consider these “bad arguments against marriage equality” flawed. Please show me the arguments presented in Citizens United v. FEC that were as bad as this.

  • Troutbane

    I have noticed that secular arguments against gay marriage are much better suited to making divorce illegal, which is something very few anti-gay marriage people seem to want to propose.

  • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

    I don’t consider either of those arguments to be secular. Meffred is simply arguing for a theocracy using special pleading, all hinged on the idea that Christianity deserves to be listened to more than anything else. Clement’s argument only makes sense if you take the position that it is a moral imperative for married couples to produce offspring and raise children, as if marriage has no purpose in providing mutual emotional and material support between the adults in the equation – a theological position rooted in the bible and Christian tradition.

    In all honesty I have only come across one secular argument against homosexuality in general. There have been numerous pretenders, but those advocating them cannot help but let their faith-fueled homophobia slip out under the slightest scrutiny. And the one I have heard is just ludicrous: if homosexuality were to be left unchecked, potentially everybody could become gay, then there would be no way to propagate the species. I guess for a gay woman, the body has ways of shutting that whole reproductive thing down? Homosexuals have never, ever, ever become a biological parent, right?

    I find it hard to even imagine a secular argument against gay marriage. We all know exactly where our society got its idea that gay people should be treated as second class citizens, and it wasn’t a science textbook.

  • Kenneth

    For more than a decade, I have challenged the anti-SSM crowd to produce even one credible evidence-based secular argument. I’m still waiting.

  • http://piecesofreligion.wordpress.com Rachael

    There is no secular argument for someone to oppose gay marriage. The base of the argument will always be religious. Did they ever stop to think that maybe I don’t want to see their straight relationships played out in public either? It has nothing to do with PDA. Gay parents DO have to plan for their kid, that usually means they are more stable and ready to handle one. It also means they wanted their child. I am unsure how having unplanned children is a good thing in our society where welfare and unemployment is rampant.


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