Our stance on gay marriage has been well documented in several podcasts (most recently episode 16). In our opinion, the argument is over. Gay marriage will be legal in the United States someday. The question before us is when? How long will we continue to have this fight? At what point will the public stand up and say “enough! This is over!”
Our hope is that it will be this year. Four states have marriage equality initiatives on the ballot this year.
The states of Maryland and Washington have initiatives seeking to overturn laws that already make gay marriage legal in their state.
In Maine there is an initiative to legalize gay marriage.
In Minnesota, there is an initiative to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, doubling up on a discriminatory law that already exists.
As atheists, the issue is obvious. Do we have the right to continue to discriminate against our fellow human beings on the basis of their sexual preference? The answer is so clearly no, we don’t understand why any other argument would be considered.
It isn’t that simple, though. So in the final day before we all have the chance to stem the tide of marriage discrimination in America, we’d like to look at the illogical arguments that seek to support institutional discrimination.
1) Gay Marriage is “against god’s will”
If we ignore the question of which god we are talking about, the fundamental issue is whether or not you have the right to force your religious beliefs on others. Even if you believe that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong, forcing others to follow your own version of morality is, in itself, immoral.
This is especially true when many people claim the same book (the bible) says so many different things about gay marriage. Given that a whole bunch of people who profess to be Christians can’t agree on what god thinks about gay marriage, it is wrong to presume that you must be correct regarding what god thinks on the topic.
You have no right to tell gay people that they must live by your rules for morality.
But let’s be fair. This is an atheist podcast. If you are reading this post and you still plan to vote against marriage equality, this isn’t the argument you are using.
2) Government Should Not Be Defining Marriage For Anyone
The idea that the government should not define marriage for anyone is a common argument we’ve heard from some libertarians. They believe they should vote against gay marriage because it will send a message that will, somehow, eventually lead to the government abolishing all laws that provide benefits to married couples.
Except that isn’t the message they will send. When a constitutional amendment is defining marriage, it is entering that definition into a legal document. Rather than sending a message that you think government should be less involved in marriage, you are sending the message that you think it should be more involved.
3) Marriage Equality Changes the Definition of “Marriage”
If we presume that “marriage” is defined as a social contract between a man and a woman, it can be fairly conceded that marriage equality changes that definition. It is not the first time that definition has been changed and it will not be the last.
However, if we presume that marriage is an institution that has been established to join two human beings together in a commitment of love and mutual support, there is absolutely no change required.
If you presume that the definition of marriage presumes a commitment to have children and propogate the species, you fail to recognize that the current definition allows people who are sterile, too old to have children, or are simply uninterested in having children the legal right to marry. If propogating the species is a prerequiste for being legally married, a great many people already fail that test.
4) This Is Not a Civil Rights Issue
Actually it is. A majority is being asked to determine what rights a minority will have. There is no way that you can argue it is anything but a civil rights issue. If you vote against marriage equality, you are effectively saying that you have the right to determine how other people choose to live their lives because they are different.
Different in a way that they cannot change, in a way they didn’t choose.
That is most definitely a civil rights issue.
5) If Gay Marriage Becomes Legal, Those Who Are Against Gay Marriage Are At Legal Risk
Well, if they discriminate against a couple based solely on their sexual preference, then you are correct. However, it is wrong to presume that would be the result of legalized gay marriage.
It would be the result of existing anti-discrimination laws.
6) I’m OK With Civil Unions But I Don’t Think Gay People Should Get “Married”
Ever hear of the phrase “separate but equal?” That is the kind of dichotomy you have when you call a gay union something different than a straight union.
Either everybody gets to get married or everybody enters into civil unions. Otherwise you are creating a separate class of citizen.
People who say they take issue with the actual word “marriage” being used in this instance need to understand that the word “marry” has meant to join two things together for a lot longer than it has meant “a man and a woman entering into a union.” You marry two ketchup bottles together. You marry two pieces of wood to make a joint. There’s no reason that two men or two women can’t be married if a man and a woman can.
The fact is, there are a great many arguments against gay marriage but every one of them is based on false assumptions. If gay people are allowed to marry, what will happen is that individuals who love each other will be given the same legal protections as everyone else.
Existing marriages will not end.
If you wish to raise your children to believe homosexuality is wrong, you will still be able to do that.
Churches that don’t want to allow gay marriages will not be forced to do so.
If you want gay people to go away, they won’t. They will still be there.
Voting for marriage equality will not change your life at all.
If there was ever a better reason to vote for marriage equality, it is that fundamental truth. If you are straight, gay marriage will not change your life at all. By voting to support gay marriage, you are engaging in the selfless act of recognizing that that happiness of others is as important as your own.
If you are reading this post and you are in a state that will be voting on marriage equality tomorrow, do the right thing. Vote to support the rights of those who have not been allowed to secure those rights for themselves.
Note: In Minnesota, a blank vote is counted as a “no.” If, for some reason, you can’t bring yourself to vote “no” but you believe voting “yes” is equally wrong, don’t vote on the issue.