In 2004, President George W. Bush made a speech in which he demanded a constitutional amendment defending the institution of marriage. Bush’s decree called for a protection of marriage, and went on to define marriage as being a union exclusively between a man and woman. This definition was specifically geared towards excluding the gay community. In the elections that followed that November, eleven states followed Bush’s lead, and passed bills banning gay marriage.
Aside from the insultingly biased and loaded language used in Bush’s speech, his arguments, along with most arguments disallowing gays basic civil liberties granted to straight individuals, are unsound and discriminatory. I believe these arguments hold no legal merit, and should be discounted in the debate over extending equal rights and privileges to the gay community.
Defining a marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman without further explanation seems dogmatic and arbitrary. Without citing some reason a marriage should constitute the union of only a man and a woman, the definition is as valid as one claiming a marriage is a union between a man and a man, a woman and a woman, or even woman and a sheep. Clearly, there should be some property about a union between a man and a woman not shared by a gay couple that justifies Bush’s definition.
There is nothing about a union between a man and a woman that cannot be shared by a homosexual couple except the act of reproduction solely within the union. But to cite the inability to reproduce solely within the union as justification banning gay marriage is inconsistent. Not all married men and women can, or do, have children.
What if one or both members of a marriage were not physically able to reproduce? Certainly, we would not deny such men and women the privilege of marriage. Should we deny marriage to all couples that cannot or will not have children? Clearly the ability to create children solely within the marriage is not a property that justifies the exclusivity of male to female marriages.
There is a strong parallel to be drawn between the treatment of the homosexual community and the treatment of other oppressed minorities, such as the female and Black communities of the early to mid-20th century. The institutionalized oppression each group experienced was due to properties that are irrelevant when considering extending civil liberties.
Suppose we were to change the definition of marriage to read, “a marriage is as a union between a black man and a black woman.” The moral outrage would be massive, as the definition is arbitrary, needlessly exclusive, and racist. Nothing about race or ethnicity should have anything to do with marriage.
Today’s society has accepted this point. The same is true of sexual preference. It is sad that while racist motivations are taboo, homophobic motivations, which are morally identical, are acceptable enough for the president to promote.
A popular objection to the claim homosexuality and race or gender are morally identical is one that states race and sexual orientation are not analogous. The objection is homosexuality is a choice, while race is a property one is born with, outside of a person’s control.
To defeat this objection, first I suggest homosexuality is in fact not a choice. There is compelling anecdotal evidence and some debatable empirical evidence supporting this point. However, even if we grant for the opposition that the individual determines sexual orientation, the point remains moot.
Even if being gay is a choice, it should be a choice that, like a person’s choice in religion or clothing, does not determine a person’s civil liberties.
Additionally, there is an argument against allowing gays the privilege of marriage which appeals to the “tradition” of marriage.
It is true that traditionally in Western society marriages have existed exclusively as a union between a man and a woman. This, however, is nothing more than an excuse to further extend an unfair practice. The homosexual community might have the same marriage traditions had their privilege to marry been allowed. The extension of tradition has often been used as a tool for maintaining unfair and oppressive practices. Again, I refer to the parallel of racism.
The United States had a “tradition” of slavery before 1865. Imagine if President Lincoln opposed the Thirteenth Amendment, because slavery was such a rich part of traditional Southern society.
Interestingly enough, if we appeal to tradition at all, it should be an appeal to the tradition the United States has had since the beginning of the 1900s in allowing more and more citizens equal legal rights by acknowledging the irrelevance of certain “traditions,