31 arguments against gay marriage (and why they’re all wrong)
In rallying in opposition to marriage reform, religious campaigners claim that their arguments are grounded in reason and common sense. But take a closer look and you'll spot the homophobia, says Jason Wakefield
I am a gay man who, when arguing for gay marriage, has been called “lesser”, “unnatural”, “deviant” and “sinful”. In these arguments the love I have for my fiancé has been belittled as just “sex” or only “friendship”. I have been told my natural urges are a choice. I have been told I do not deserve equal rights. I have even been told I am going to hell. Furthermore, I have been told it is offensive to brand such remarks “bigoted”, and that I am the bully.
I do not believe all opponents of gay marriage are hateful. Some have just not been exposed to the right arguments, and so I will demonstrate here that each anti-gay marriage argument ultimately serves to oppress or imply the lesser status of the minority of which I am a part. In rallying against the introduction of equal marriage, religious campaigners have frequently stressed that their objections are not driven by homophobia, and have deployed numerous arguments to demonstrate this. To the untrained ear these arguments sound like they may have grounding in reason, but on closer inspection reveal themselves as homophobic.
What follows is a handy guide to spotting, and refuting, these arguments
Type A: The Insidiously Homophobic Arguments
1. “We need to protect marriage.”
The word “protect” implies that gay people are a threat to the institution of marriage. To imply that including same-sex couples within the definition of marriage will somehow be detrimental or even destructive for the institution is to suggest gay people must be inherently poisonous. It also implies a nefarious gay mafia that is out to wreck marriage for straight people. Naturally if such a mafia existed I would be bound by a code of honour to deny its existence. However, it doesn’t exist.
2. “We must preserve traditional marriage.”
Given that marriage has always changed to suit the culture of the time and place, I would refrain from ever calling it “traditional”. If marriage was truly traditional, interracial couples would not be allowed to wed, one could marry a child, ceremonies would be arranged by parents to share familial wealth and the Church of England would still be under the authority of the Pope.
3. “Marriage is a sacred institution.”
The word “sacred” suggests marriage is a solely religious institution. The Office for National Statistics shows how civil, non-religious marriage made up 68 per cent of all marriages in the UK during 2010. Let us not forget matrimony existed long before Jehovah was even a word you weren’t allowed to say.
4. “Marriage has always been a bond between one man and one woman.”
This declaration ignores the legally married gay couples in Canada, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Belgium, Netherlands, and South Africa. It conveniently forgets the 48 countries where polygamy is still practised. It also omits from history the married gay couples of ancient China and Rome, Mormon polygamy, and the ancient Egyptians who could marry their sisters. The assertion is obviously false.
5. “Gay marriage will confuse gender roles.”
This hinges on the idea that gender roles are or should be fixed, as dictated by scripture, most often cited for the sake of healthy child development. The love and care homosexual couples routinely provide children are, it would seem, irrelevant. Perhaps it would help to reiterate that gay people are not confused about gender, they are just gay. It is the churches who are deeply confused about gender and sexuality. I would ask them to stop focusing on my genitals, and start paying attention to my humanity.
6. “Gay marriage will confuse the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, or ‘mother and ‘father’.”
Another form of the previous argument. It is not hard but I’ll say it slowly just in case … married men will refer to themselves … as “husbands”, and married women will refer to themselves … as “wives”. Male parents will be “fathers” and female parents will both be “mothers”. Not so confusing really.
7. “Gay people cannot have children and so should not be allowed to marry.”
The Archbishop of York John Sentamu used a barely disguised version of this argument in a piece for the Guardian when he referred to “the complementary nature of men and women”. He is insinuating, of course, that homosexual relationships are not complementary by nature because they cannot produce offspring, and therefore they are unnatural and undeserving of the word “marriage”.
May I refer him to the elderly or infertile straight couples who cannot produce children? If a complementary relationship hinges on procreative sex, are these relationships unnatural? Should they be allowed to marry?
8. “But studies have shown heterosexual parents are better for children.”
No, they have not. Dozens of studies have shown gay people to be entirely capable of raising children. While it is true that many reputable studies have shown two-parent families tend to be most beneficial, the gender of the parents has never been shown to matter.
The studies cited by actively homophobic organisations like the Coalition for Marriage were funded by anti-gay organisations, or have basic methodology flaws – for example, they would compare married straight couples with un-wed gay couples, or they would take a person who may have had a single curious experience with the same sex and define them as exclusively homosexual. Sometimes, the even more disingenuous will reference studies [PDF] which do not even acknowledge gay parents. Same-sex parents are simply presumed by biased researchers to be equivalent to single parents and step-parents, and therefore use the data interchangeably, which as anyone with an ounce of scientific literacy knows is not the way such studies work.
Arguments based on “traditional family” will always be insulting, not just to the healthy, well-adjusted children of gay couples, but to the children raised by single parents, step-parents, grandparents, godparents, foster parents, and siblings.
9. “No one has the right to redefine marriage.”
Tell that to Henry VIII. When marriage is a civil, legal institution of the state, the citizenship has a right to redefine marriage in accordance with established equality laws.
10. “The minority should not have the right to dictate to the majority.”
Asking to be included within marriage laws is certainly not equivalent to imposing gay marriage on the majority. No single straight person’s marriage will be affected by letting gay people marry.
Another form of the above argument is “Why should we bother changing the law just to cater to 4% of the population?” By this logic, what reason is there to provide any minority equal civil rights?
11. “Public opinion polls show most people are against gay marriage.”
A petition by the Coalition for Marriage claimed to have 600,000 signatures in opposition to gay marriage in the UK. It should come as no surprise that the directors of the organisation are religious and manipulation of the results was easy. A single person could submit their signature online multiple times providing they used different email addresses (which were not verified). Programs that allow for anonymity of IP addresses also enabled anyone around the world to add their signature.
The majority of UK polls demonstrate a majority in favour of gay marriage. These include a 2004 Gallup poll, a 2008 ICM Research poll, a 2009 Populus poll, a 2010 Angus Reid poll, a 2010 Scottish Social Attitudes survey, a 2011 Angus Reid Public Opinion survey, and a 2012 YouGov survey.
Even if most people were against gay marriage, which polls consistently show is not the case, majority will is no justification for the exclusion of a minority.
12. “Why is it so important for gay people to have marriage?”
For the same reason it is important to straight people. Our relationships are just as loving and valid as heterosexual relationships, but our current marriage laws suggest it is not. We are equally human and we should be treated by the law as such.
13. “Why do gay people have to get society’s approval?”
To turn the argument on its head, one simply has to ask why society feels the need to segregate our rights from those of heterosexuals. It has nothing to do with approval, and has everything to do with equality.
14. “There are two sides to the argument. Why can’t we compromise?”
Should women have compromised their right to vote? One does not compromise equal rights otherwise they are not equal rights.
15. “Gay people in the UK already have civil partnerships which provide all the same rights as marriage.”
Civil partnerships were born out of politicians pandering to homophobia. A step in the right direction, perhaps, but they are a separate form of recognition that reaffirmed society’s wish to keep homosexuals at arm’s length should we somehow “diminish” true marriage.
Type B: The Arguments That Don’t Even Bother to Hide Their Homophobia
While we must look closely to spot the homophobia inherent in some arguments against gay marriage, with others the prejudice is barely disguised at all.
16. “I am concerned about the impact gay marriage will have on society/schools.”
There is no concern here, only prejudice. We can conclude this because there is absolutely no evidence to suggest gay marriage will harm society. Have the 11 countries where gay marriage is legal crumbled yet? Ultimately the argument turns out to be hyperbolic nonsense designed to instil confusion, fear, and mistrust of gay people.
17. “Gay marriage is immoral.”
If there is something immoral about legally acknowledging the love between two consenting adults, it would help the argument to state precisely what that is. “God says so” is not an argument. And this article, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, is the real “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.
18. “Gay people should not be allowed to marry because they are more likely to be promiscuous.”
This claim is based on the degrading preconception that gay people do not feel true love and just have sex with as many people as possible. It is also beside the point - straight couples are not precluded from marriage on the basis they may be unfaithful, so why should gay people?
19. “I love my best friend, my brother and my dog. That does not mean we should have the right to marry.”
Thank you for reducing the love I have for my long-term partner to friendship, incest or bestiality. May also take the form: “The state should not be blessing every sexual union.”Thank you, again, for reducing my long-term, loving relationship to just sex.
Type C: The Really Silly Homophobic Arguments
20. “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
Clearly not a Biology graduate.
21. “If everybody was gay, mankind would cease to exist.”
Ignoring the fact not everyone is gay, and also ignoring the fact gay people can and do have children through donors and surrogates, I actually quite enjoyed the apocalyptic images this argument conjured.
22. “Gay rights are fashionable right now.”
The Suffragettes famously marched together because they needed an excuse to compare clothing. Civil rights activists looked fabulous with hoses and guns turned on them. Nooses around gay Iranian necks are totally “in” right now. We are all mere lambs of our Queen Gaga.
People actually use this argument.
23. “The only people who want gay marriage are the liberal elites.”
If this was really true, how come hundreds of everyday gay people protest outside anti-gay marriage rallies? How come thousands of people voice their support for gay marriage in polls? I do not imagine there are many people who believe they deserve fewer rights or who desire to be second-class citizens.
24. “Gay people do not even want marriage.”
Yes, Ann Widdecombe, we do. We do not appreciate you mischaracterising what millions of us do and do not want, and squaring reality to fit your Catholic bigotry.
25. “Gay people can already get married – to people of the opposite gender.”
This is Michele Bachmann’s demented logic. Yes, gay people can already get married … to people of the opposite gender. No, they are not allowed to marry the people they actually love. This is not just bigotry, it’s also stupidity.
26. “There will be drastic consequences for society if we accept gay marriage.”
Person A: “Have you been to Canada lately? They have free health care, they play hockey, and they’re very peaceful and polite.”
Person B: “That sounds nice.”
Person A: “They have gay marriage too.”
Person B: “Sounds like Sodom and Gomorrah.”
27. “Gay marriage will cause the disestablishment of the church.”
Or to put it another way: “If you don’t stop all this silly talk, we will be forced to go away and leave you in peace.” Scary!
28. “Gay marriage will lead to polygamy/bestiality/paedophilia/etc.”
The truth is that the legalisation of gay marriage will lead to the legalisation of gay marriage. Dire warnings of slippery slopes are scaremongering. In the countries that have so far legalised same-sex marriage, courts have always rejected calls for the legalisation of polygamy.
29. “Gay marriage caused the end of the Roman Empire/September 11th/etc.”
The Roman Empire disintegrated as barbarians from the north overwhelmed them, forcing the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, to abdicate to the Germanic warlord Odoacer. This had nothing to do with homosexuality.
The attacks on the World Trade Center were orchestrated by Al-Qaeda, an extremist Muslim group that detests America. The gay mafia was not involved.
30. “You are too emotionally involved to make a rational argument.”
Of course I’m angry. Wouldn’t you be if you had to listen to arguments like these? I’m passionate about achieving equality and combating prejudice. But, as everyone should know, passion and reason are complementary.
31. “We are in an economic crisis, so we should not be wasting time on gay marriage.”
Is it too much to wish for politicians who can multi-task? And for leaders who don’t consider equality a luxury add on?
In an attempt to portray his campaign to “preserve traditional marriage” as reasoned and unprejudiced, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has argued that supporters of gay marriage shouldn’t resort to name-calling and accusations of bigotry. But then he is a homophobe and a bigot. There is not a single one of his arguments that does not imply the lesser state of homosexuals, or serve to justify the discrimination.
In fact the recent government proposals are only for the legalisation of civil same-sex marriage, and do not allow for ceremonies to be conducted on religious sites. It is an entirely secular proposal, yet Carey and various churches and church-goers are keen to make the civil rights of homosexuals their business. Given centuries of religious persecution of gay people it is entirely justified to call Lord Carey, the Coalition for Marriage, Christian Concern, and all other proactive opponents of gay marriage “bigots” and their arguments homophobic.