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Is same-sex marriage (SSM) a bad idea?

Reasons #8 to 14 why SSMs
are undesirable, with rebuttals

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Arguments 4 to 7 are located in a separate essay

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8. Homosexual activity is a capital offense in the Bible:

Assertion: There are at least a half-dozen references to homosexuality scattered throughout the Bible. All are negative. Leviticus 20:13 states that "The penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties. They have brought it upon themselves." (Living Bible):  The New Living Translation says: "The penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties. They have committed a detestable act, and are guilty of a capital offense." How can we allow gays and lesbians to marry if the Bible calls on them to be executed?

Rebuttal:

bullet Those are accurate quotations from two of the more popular English translations of the Bible. However, they are also excellent examples of how translators allow their own personal prejudices to affect their judgment. The Living Bible and New Living Translation refer to homosexuals -- i.e. to male gays and lesbians. But the original Hebrew refers only to two men having sex. Lesbians do not appear in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament). So, based on this passage, there would be no objection to two lesbians marrying.
bullet There are many similar verses in Leviticus which describe the Mosaic Code and use the Hebrew word "to'ebah" to condemn certain behaviors: sharing a meal with a person of another religion, eating shrimp or lobster, getting a tattoo, wearing a cotton and polyester shirt, planting a mixture of grass seeds in your front lawn, etc. None of these behavior are still considered "ritually impure" today. The passage may well be null and void.
bullet There is a lack of consensus on the meaning of the verse. Some believe that it prohibits two men from having sex on a woman's bed, but not in other locations.
bullet This passage is interpreted by many mainline and liberal theologians as referring only to ritual sex between two men in a Pagan temple.
bullet A denomination which interprets this passage as condemning all sexual acts between two men could certainly use it as a justification to refuse to marry a same-sex male couple. But the U.S. and Canada are not theocracies. What the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), Torah, Qur'an, or any other holy book says about homosexuality is immaterial when government create legislation on marriage. The Constitutions must be adhered to.
bullet More information about the Bible and same-sex behavior is available.

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9. Almost everyone agrees that homosexuality is immoral:

Assertion: The vast majority of the faith groups in North America -- over 1,500 strong -- condemn homosexual behavior as a serious sin, hated by God. We cannot reward such behavior by allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

Rebuttal:

bullet While it is true that conservative religious groups condemn homosexual behavior, refuse to conduct union or marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, and refuse to ordain active homosexuals to the clergy, this is not true of all faith groups. In fact liberal groups such as the Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, American Humanist Association, American Atheists, etc. promote equal rights for persons and couples of all sexual orientations. Many mainline churches are actively debating their stand on these matters.
bullet Neither the United States nor Canada is a theocracy. Thus legislation cannot be based on a particular religious faith's concept of morality and correctness, or their belief in what their God expects. The recent, 2003-JUN-26, decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Lawrence v. Texas case implied that the state has no business in making laws that enforce religious concepts of morality by restricting private, consensual sexual behavior by adults. That ruling may indicate that laws giving special privileges to opposite-sex couples may be unconstitutional.
bullet The State of Hawaii's "Report of the Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law" studied this issue and wrote: "Under our constitutional government the fact that some religions or churches condemn same-gender marriages does not mean that those religious beliefs can be imposed on others. Our separation of church and state prevents religious enforcement through state institutions, such as the Department of Health. Furthermore, the Constitution prohibits any religious group from having to perform the marriage of a couple that is not recognized by that religion."

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10. Same sex marriage would be a radical change to society:

Assertion: When same-sex marriages were considered in Hawaii, a conservative Christian organization, Hawaii's Future Today (HFT), filed a brief with the court in opposition. They said, in part, that same-sex marriage would introduce "a radical reform in the basic institution of marriage, jettisoning long-recognized cultural values and drastically redefining the fundamental structure of our society..." They stated that the government has a compelling interest in "the historical and time-honored protection of traditional marriage as the fundamental structure in Hawaiian society that advances basic societal goals and values." 6

Rebuttal:

bullet The essence of this argument is that because we have not allowed same-sex couples to marry in the past, that we should not allow them to marry in the future. If this logic were followed, slavery would still be practiced, men would be able to rape their wives with impunity, women would be prohibited from entering many professions, and non-virgin brides would be stoned to death today in North America.
bullet Author Andrew Sullivan wrote: "The introduction of gay marriage would not be some sort of leap in the dark, a massive societal risk. Homosexual marriages have always existed, in a variety of forms; they have just been euphemized. Increasingly they exist in every sense but the legal one. As it has become more acceptable for homosexuals to acknowledge their loves and commitments publicly, more and more have committed themselves to one another for life in full view of their families and friends. A law institutionalizing gay marriage would merely reinforce a healthy trend." 10
bullet As noted elsewhere on this website, significant changes to the institution of marriage have occurred in the past as injustices were overcome. Society survived. In fact, if we were to reinstate the laws of an earlier time, and reintroduce polygyny, ban marriage for African-Americans, and prohibit mixed race couples from marrying, there would be a wall of opposition from the public.
bullet Like all institutions, marriage must change and adapt to meet the needs and values of the society. In their 2003-JUN-10 ruling which allowed same-sex couples to marry, the Court of Appeal for Ontario stated that: "...to freeze the definition of marriage to whatever meaning it had in 1867 [the date of Canada's confederation] is contrary to this country’s jurisprudence of progressive constitutional interpretation....The task of expounding a constitution is crucially different from that of construing a statute. A statute defines present rights and obligations. It is easily enacted and as easily repealed. A constitution, by contrast, is drafted with an eye to the future. Its function is to provide a continuing framework for the legitimate exercise of governmental power and, when joined by a Bill or a Charter of Rights, for the unremitting protection of individual rights and liberties. Once enacted, its provisions cannot easily be repealed or amended. It must, therefore, be capable of growth and development over time to meet new social, political and historical realities often unimagined by its framers. The judiciary is the guardian of the constitution and must, in interpreting its provisions, bear these considerations in mind."

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11. The government has an interest in preserving the status quo:

Assertion: The government has a compelling interest to preserve the status quo in marriage -- to reserve it as a special privilege of opposite-sex couples and to deny it to same-sex couples. The brief by Hawaii's Future Today, also stated that the government has a compelling interest in "the historical and time-honored protection of traditional marriage as the fundamental structure in Hawaiian society that advances basic societal goals and values." 6

Rebuttal:

bullet The status quo in North America has shifted since 2003-JUN-10. On that date, a court in Ontario Canada declared that marriage licenses could be obtained by any adult couple -- same sex or opposite sex. So, in Ontario at lest, the status quo allows same-sex marriage. British Columbia followed suit on JUL-9.
bullet The report of the Hawaiian Sexual Orientation and the Law Committee stated that: "The Hawaii Supreme Court has found that denial of same-gender marriage was presumed to be a violation of equal protection of the law unless the State could show a 'compelling state interest' for such denial. The Commission finds that the various reasons advanced for denying same-gender marriages, including religious, moral and public health and safety, are similar to the Loving [v. Virginia] case and do not constitute a 'compelling state interest' and, as a matter of public policy, should not be used to deny equal rights under the law to same-gender couples." 7 The Loving case involved an interracial couple who pleaded guilty to the "crime" of marrying a person of another race and were sentenced to a one year jail sentence by a Virginia court.
bullet The ruling of the Court of Appeal for Ontario referred to the Attorney General of Canada's assertion "...that marriage relates to the capacities, needs and circumstances of opposite-sex couples. The concept of marriage - across time, societies and legal cultures - is that of an institution to facilitate, shelter and nurture the unique union of a man and woman who, together, have the possibility to bear children from their relationship and shelter them within it." The court rejected this argument for several reasons, including:
bullet Laws must always be viewed by the court from the perspective of the claimant. The existing marriage legislation clearly discriminated against the same-sex couples who brought the lawsuit.
bullet The government's duty is to justify a breach of human dignity, not to explain it or deny its existence. This the government failed to do.
bullet "Denying same-sex couples the right to marry perpetuates the...view...that same-sex couples are not capable of forming loving and lasting relationships, and thus same-sex relationships are not worthy of the same respect and recognition as opposite-sex relationships

The court concluded that: "Accordingly, in our view, the common law requirement that marriage be between persons of the opposite sex does not accord with the needs, capacities and circumstances of same-sex couples. This factor weighs in favour of a finding of discrimination."

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12. Giving preferential treatment to opposite-sex couples is justified:

Assertion: In the ruling of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, the Justices referred to an assertion by the Attorney General of Canada (AGC). He correctly pointed out that opposite-sex couples raise the vast majority of children. Thus the government is justified in giving preferential treatment to opposite-sex couples by allowing them to marry and granting them many financial benefits.

Rebuttal:

bullet The court rejected the AGC's submission. They wrote: "The critical question to be asked...is whether opposite-sex couples are in a more disadvantaged position than same-sex couples....same-sex couples are a group who have experienced historical discrimination and disadvantages. There is no question that opposite-sex couples are the more advantaged group....In our view, any economic disadvantage that may arise from raising children is only one of many factors to be considered in the context of marriage. Persons do not marry solely for the purpose of raising children. Furthermore, since same-sex couples also raise children, it cannot be assumed that they do not share that economic disadvantage. Accordingly, if alleviating economic disadvantages for opposite-sex couples due to childrearing were to be considered an ameliorative purpose for the opposite-sex requirement in marriage, we would find the law to be underinclusive. The principle from Law that '[u]nderinclusive ameliorative legislation that excludes from its scope the members of a historically disadvantaged group will rarely escape the charge of discrimination' would be applicable."

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13: Marriage has always been between one man and one women:

Assertion: Every society down through history has defined marriage as between a man and a woman. We don't want to mess with an institution that has as old a heritage as marriage.

Rebuttal:

bullet This is a surprisingly widespread belief. But it is wrong. "Evidence from other cultures and other times demonstrates that same-sex marriages are neither unprecedented nor unnatural." In fact, they were widespread:
bullet "Same-sex unions in ancient Egypt were recognized as marriages."
bullet "Same-sex unions were an integral part of the cultures of classical Greece and republican Rome and imperial Rome..."
bullet Many African tribes have recognize lesbian marriages.
bullet Native Americans opened marriage to same-sex couples before the arrival of the Christian missionaries. 9
bullet The HFT report also implied that that marriage in Hawaii has always meant one man and one woman. Yet Aikane, close male societal and sexual relationships, were an accepted part of ancient Hawaiian culture, before the arrival of the Christian missionaries in the 19th century. 6
bullet The Hebrew Scriptures describe eight different family structures, of which only one is a one-man one-woman marriage. None of these were criticized in the biblical text.
bullet Mr. Justice Harry Laforme of the Ontario Superior Court wrote: "The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offence to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them. The result is they are denied the autonomy to choose whether they wish to marry. This in turn conveys the ominous message that they are unworthy of marriage.... 11

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14: Same-sex marriage is just plain disgusting.

Assertion: The thoughts of a man engaging in sex with another man makes my stomach heave and skin crawl. It is disgusting. I feel the same way about two lesbians having sex. Nobody in the world will respect our country if we allow this behavior to be institutionalized.

Rebuttal:

bullet The feelings of revulsion at same-sex behavior is widespread in our culture. That is because over 90% of the population is heterosexual. i.e. they are attracted to members of the opposite sex. A side-effect of heterosexual orientation is often an intense aversion to thoughts of same-sex behavior.
bullet But that is only part of the story. Revulsion at same-sex behavior is not an absolute response found universally throughout our culture. Persons with a homosexual orientation are sexually attracted to members of the same gender. Many have a strong aversion to the thoughts of opposite-sex behavior.
bullet Making a commitment to each other, deciding to live together, engaging in sexual behavior are very personal matters about which people differ greatly. It is important that we comprehend the diversity of people's sexuality.

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Additional arguments are located in a separate essay

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References:

  1. Ken Connor, "A final word..." Ken Connor, Family Research Council Washington Update, 2003-JUL-11.  Washington Post, 2001-SEP-4, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. Mentioned in a letter to the editor of First Things magazine, 1999-DEC, by reader Mark Peterson. Issue 98, Page 5.
  3. Anon, "Acceptance Of Homosexual Marriage," at:  http://www.freeessays.cc/
  4. "Courts Poised to Decide Lawsuits on Same-Sex Marriage," Human Rights Campaign, 2003, at: http://www.hrc.org/
  5. Roxanne Nelson, "Financing infertility," 1999-MAY-19, CNN.com, at: http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/
  6. Amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief by Hawaii's Future Today circa 1996-OCT. See our essay on the brief.
  7. The State of Hawaii's "Report of the Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law" is available at: http://www.state.hi.us/lrb/rpts95/sol/cpt4.html
  8. "Docket: C39172 and C39174, Between Hedy Halpern...." Court of Appeal for Ontario, 2003-JUN-10, at: http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/
  9. William Eskridge, "Case for same-sex marriage," Free Press, (1996), Page 5. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  10. Andrew Sullivan, "Virtually Normal," Alfred A. Knopf, (1995), Page 183.
  11. The judgment of the court, dated 2002-JUL 12, is reported at 60 O.R. (3d) 321.

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Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JUL-12
Latest update: 2003-JUL-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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