February 7th, 2005
|__green_eyes__||09:09 pm - Gay Rights and Gay Marriage|
I find this site extremely useful.
Scott Bidstrup is a free-lance writer who has been active in political issues and in the gay rights movement, specializing in youth and marriage rights issues, since coming out as a gay man in 1994. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Brigham Young University (1971) and is a retired microwave communications and satellite earth station transmission engineer, born in the United States, but currently living (in exile) in Costa Rica.
His essays, including this one, have been frequently reprinted in magazines and in book form in essay anthologies, and this particular essay, the most widely reprinted, is often used in formal logic and critical thinking classes, both at high-school and college level, as a study text. The web site which the author maintains (of which this essay is a part) is one of the oldest and most popular personal web sites on the Internet. It "went live" in early 1995, and over the years since it has become quite popular among gay youth and their parents, as well as intellectual and political readers of the web; the site currently gets about 150,000 page-reads per month in total.
Here is the this particular essay though it is under the cut in full incase someday the link breaks.
Typing in just www.bidstrup.com will take you to the archive of his essays.
Here is the essay in full:
Ask just about anyone. They'll all tell you they're in favor of equal rights for homosexuals. Just name the situation, and ask. They'll all say, yes, gays should have the same rights in housing, jobs, public accomodations, and should have equal access to government benefits, equal protection of the law, etcetera, etcetera.
Then you get to gay marriage.
And that's when all this talk of equality stops dead cold.
More than half of all people in the United States oppose gay marriage, even though three fourths are otherwise supportive of gay rights. This means that many of the same people who are even passionately in favor of gay rights oppose gays on this one issue.
Why all the passion?
It's because there is a lot of misunderstanding about what homosexuality really is, as well as the erroneous assumption that gay people enjoy the same civil rights protections as everyone else. There are also a lot of stereotypes about gay relationships, and even a great deal of misunderstanding of what marriage itself is all about and what its purpose is.
The purpose of this essay, then, is to clear up a few of these misunderstandings and discuss some of facts surrounding gay relationships and marriage, gay and straight.
First, let's discuss what gay relationships are really all about. The stereotype has it that gays are promiscuous, unable to form lasting relationships, and the relationships that do form are shallow and uncommitted. And gays do have such relationships!
But the important fact to note is that just like in straight society, where such relationships also exist, they are a small minority, and exist primarily among the very young. Indeed, one of the most frequent complaints of older gay men is that it is almost impossible to find quality single men to get into a relationship with, because they're already all 'taken!'
If you attend any gay event, such as a Pride festival or a PFLAG convention, you'll find this to be true. As gays age and mature, just like their straight cohorts, they begin to appreciate and find their way into long-term committed relationships.
The values that such gay couples exhibit in their daily lives are often indistinguishable from those of their straight neighbors. They're loyal to their mates, are monogamous, devoted partners. They value and participate in family life, are committed to making their neighborhoods and communities safer and better places to live, and honor and abide by the law. Many make valuable contributions to their communities, serving on school boards, volunteering in community charities, and trying to be good citizens. In doing so, they take full advantage of their relationship to make not only their own lives better, but those of their neighbors as well.
A benefit to heterosexual society of gay marriage is the fact that the commitment of a marriage means the participants are discouraged from promiscous sex. This has the advantage of slowing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, which know no sexual orientation and are equal opportunity destroyers.
These benefits of gay marriage have changed the attitudes of the majority of people in Denmark and other countries where various forms of gay marriage have been legal for years. Polling results now show that most people there now recognize that the benefits far outweigh the trivial costs, and that far from threatening heterosexual marriage, gay marriage has actually strenghtened it.
So, having established the value of gay marriage, why are people so opposed to it?
Many of the reasons offered for opposing gay marriage are based on the assumption that gays have a choice in who they can feel attracted to, and the reality is quite different. Many people actually believe that gays could simply choose to be heterosexual if they wished. But the reality is that very few do have a choice -- any more than very few heterosexuals could choose which sex to find themselves attracted to.
Additionally, many people continue to believe the propaganda from right-wing religious organizations that homosexuality is about nothing but sex, considering it to be merely a sexual perversion. The reality is that homosexuality is multidimensional, and is much more about love and affection than it is about sex. And this is what gay relationships are based on -- mutual attraction, love and affection. Sex, in a committed gay relationship, is merely a means of expressing that love, just the same as it is for heterosexuals. Being gay is much more profound than simply a sexual relationship; being gay is part of that person's core indentity, and goes right the very center of his being. It's like being black in a society of whites, or a blonde European in a nation of black-haired Asians. Yes, being gay is just that profound to the person who is. This is something that few heterosexuals can understand unless they are part of a minority themselves.
The Arguments Against Gay Marriage
Well, of course there are a lot of reasons being offered these days for opposing gay marriage, and they are usually variations on a few well-established themes. Interestingly, a court in Hawaii has recently heard them all. And it found, after due deliberation, that they didn't hold water.
Here's a summary:
Marriage is an institution between one man and one woman. Well, that's the most often heard argument, one even codified in a recently passed U.S. federal law. Yet it is easily the weakest. Who says what marriage is and by whom it is to be defined? The married? The marriable? Isn't that kind of like allowing a banker to decide who is going to own the money in stored in his vaults? It seems to me that justice demands that if the straight community cannot show a compelling reason to deny the institution of marriage to gay people, it shouldn't be denied. And such simple, nebulous declarations, with no real moral argument behind them, are hardly compelling reasons. They're really more like an expression of prejudice than any kind of a real argument. The concept of not denying people their rights unless you can show a compelling reason to deny them is the very basis of the American ideal of human rights.
Same-sex couples aren't the optimum environment in which to raise children. That's an interesting one, in light of who society does allow to get married and bring children into their marriage. Check it out: murderers, convicted felons of all sorts, even known child molesters are all allowed to freely marry and procreate, and do so every day, with hardly a second thought, much less a protest, by these same critics. So if children are truly the priority here, why is this allowed? The fact is that many gay couples raise children, adopted and occasionally their own from failed attempts at heterosexual marriages. Lots and lots of scientific studies have shown that the outcomes of the children raised in the homes of gay and lesbian couples are just as good as those of straight couples. The differences have been shown again and again to be insignificant. Psychologists tell us that what makes the difference is the love and commitment of the parents, not their gender. The studies are very clear about that. And gay people are as capable of loving children as fully as anyone else.
Gay relationships are immoral. Says who? The Bible? Somehow, I always thought that freedom of religion implied the right to freedom from religion as well. The Bible has absolutely no standing in American law, as was made clear by the intent of the First Amendment (and as was very explicitly stated by the founding fathers in their first treaty, the Treaty of Tripoli, in 1791) and because it doesn't, no one has the right to impose rules anyone else simply because of something they percieve to be a moral injunction mandated by the Bible. Not all world religions have a problem with homosexuality; many sects of Buddhism, for example, celebrate gay relationships freely and would like to have the authority to make them legal marriages. In that sense, their religious freedom is being infringed. If one believes in religious freedom, the recognition that opposition to gay marriage is based on religious arguments is reason enough to discount this argument.
Marriages are for procreation and ensuring the continuation of the species. The proponents of this argument are really hard pressed to explain, if that's the case, why infertile couples are allowed to marry. I, for one, would love to be there when the proponent of such an argument is to explain to his post-menopausal mother or impotent father that since they cannot procreate, they must now surrender their wedding rings and sleep in separate bedrooms. That would be fun to watch! Again, such an argument fails to persuade based on the kinds of marriages society does allow routinely, without even a second thought, and why it really allows them - marriage is about love, sharing and commitment; procreation is, when it comes right down to it, in reality a purely secondary function.
The proponents of the procreation and continuation-of-the-species argument are going to have a really hard time persuading me that the human species is in any real danger of dying out anytime soon through lack of reproductive success.
If ten percent of all the human race that is gay were to suddenly, totally refrain from procreation, I think it is safe to say that the world would probably be significantly better off. One of the world's most serious problems is overpopulation and the increasing anarchy and human misery that is resulting from it. Seems to me that gays would be doing the world a really big favor by not bringing more hungry mouths into a world that is already critically overburdened ecologically by the sheer number of humans it must support. So what is the useful purpose to be served in mindlessly encouraging yet more human reproduction?
Same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage. Well, that one's contradictory right on the face of it. Threaten marriage? By allowing people to marry? That doesn't sound very logical to me. If you allow gay people to marry each other, you no longer encourage them to marry people to whom they feel little attraction, with whom they most often cannot relate adequately sexually, bringing innocent children into already critically stressed marriages. By allowing gay marriage, you would reduce the number of opposite-sex marriages that end up in the divorce courts. If it is the stability of the institution of heterosexual marriage that worries you, then consider that no one would require you or anyone else to participate in a gay marriage. You would still have freedom of choice, of choosing which kind of marriage to participate in -- something more than what you have now. And speaking of divorce -- to argue that the institution of marriage is worth preserving at the cost of requiring involuntary participants to remain in it is a better argument for reforming divorce laws than proscribing gay marriage.
Marriage is traditionally a heterosexual institution. This is morally the weakest argument. Slavery was also a traditional institution, based on traditions that went back to the very beginnings of human history - further back, even, than marriage as we know it. But by the 19th century, humanity had generally recognized the evils of that institution, and has since made a serious effort to abolish it. Why not recognize the truth -- that there is no moral ground on which to support the tradition of marriage as a strictly heterosexual institution, and remove the restriction?
Same-sex marriage is an untried social experiment. The American critics of same-sex marriage betray their provincialism with this argument. The fact is that a form of gay marriage has been legal in Denmark since 1989 (full marriage rights except for adoption rights and church weddings, and a proposal now exists in the Danish parliament to allow both of those rights as well), and most of the rest of Scandinavia from not long after. Full marriage rights have existed in many Dutch cities for several years, and it was recently made legal nationwide, including the word "marriage" to describe it. In other words, we have a long-running "experiment" to examine for its results -- which have uniformly been positive. Opposition to the Danish law was led by the clergy (much the same as in the States). A survey conducted at the time revealed that 72 percent of Danish clergy were opposed to the law. It was passed anyway, and the change in the attitude of the clergy there has been dramatic -- a survey conducted in 1995 indicated that 89 percent of the Danish clergy now admit that the law is a good one and has had many beneficial effects, including a reduction in suicide, a reduction in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and in promiscuity and infidelity among gays. Far from leading to the "destruction of Western civilization" as some critics (including the Southern Baptist, Mormon and Catholic churches among others) have warned, the result of the "experiment" has actually been civilizing and strengthening, not just to the institution of marriage, but to society as a whole. So perhaps we should accept the fact that someone else has already done the "experiment" and accept the results as positive. The fact that many churches are not willing to accept this evidence says more about the churches than it does about gay marriage.
Same-sex marriage would start us down a "slippery slope" towards legalized incest, bestial marriage, polygamy and all kinds of other horrible consequences. A classic example of the reductio ad absurdum fallacy, it is calculated to create fear in the mind of anyone hearing the argument. It is, of course, absolutely without any merit based on experience. If the argument were true, wouldn't that have already happened in countries where forms of legalized gay marriage already exist? Wouldn't they have 'slid' towards legalized incest and bestial marriage? The reality is that a form of gay marriage has been legal in Scandinavian countries for over many years, and no such legalization has happened, nor has there been a clamor for it. It's a classic scare tactic - making the end scenario so scary and so horrible that the first step should never be taken. Such are the tactics of the fear and hatemongers.
If concern over the "slippery slope" were the real motive behind this argument, the advocate of this line of reasoning would be equally vocal about the fact that today, even as you read this, convicted murderers, child molesters, known pedophiles, drug pushers, pimps, black market arms dealers, etc., are quite free to marry, and are doing so. Where's the outrage? Of course there isn't any, and that lack of outrage betrays their real motives. This is an anti-gay issue and not a pro marriage issue.
Granting gays the right to marry is a "special" right. Since ninety percent of the population already have the right to marry the informed, consenting adult of their choice, and would even consider that right a fundamental, constitutionally protected right, since when does extending it to the remaining ten percent constitute a "special" right to that remaining ten percent? As Justice Kennedy observed in his opinion overturning Colorado's infamous Amendment 2 (Roemer vs. Evans), many gay and lesbian Americans are, under current law, denied civil rights protections that others either don't need or assume that everyone else along with themselves, already have. The problem with all that special rights talk is that it proceeds from that very assumption, that because of all the civil rights laws in this country that everyone is already equal, so therefore any rights gay people are being granted must therefore be special. That is most assuredly not the case, especially regarding marriage and all the legal protections that go along with it.
Sodomy should be illegal and was until very recently. Ah, the ol' sodomy law argument! Why was sodomy illegal in so many states for so long? Because conservative religionists (at whose behest those laws were enacted in the first place) historically blocked or vigorously resisted attempts to repeal them in every state, and were horrified when the U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the ones that remained.
Indeed, those laws were very rarely enforced (though it did happen), yet there was very stiff and angry opposition to their repeal. Why? Because they were a great tool for a homophobe to use as a basis for legalized discrimination. "Why should I rent an apartment to you, an unconvicted felon?" "I can't have an admitted criminal on my staff." "You're an unconvicted felon. I want you out of my restarurant and off my property." "I don't want you around my children. You're a sex offender!" These were very real, actual arguments that were used frequently as a basis for legalized discrimination, using largely unenforced sodomy laws. So even though this particular moral crusade of the religionists using the power of the police has ended, at least for now, the sodomy laws that made them possible are still being pushed, and pushed hard. Crass politicians, including even president George W. Bush, see votes in homophobia, and continue to push for sodomy law reinstatement as a means of securing those votes. And such laws, which have thoroughly discriminatory effects by intention, will likely will be advocated for as long as politicians see votes in allowing conservative religionists to impose their morality on others, regardless of the violence this does to the intent of the Bill of Rights.
Heterosexuals would never stand for such intrusion into their private sex lives, of course, but the homophobes among them seem to see nothing wrong in using the power of the state to enforce their prejudices. State court systems, however, long ago began to see the violation of the Fourth Amendment in such laws, and nearly as many state sodomy laws were overturned as unconstitutional by state supreme courts as were repealed by state legislatures, before the recent U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence vs. Texas decision which very pointedly overturned all that remained.
Gay marriage would mean forcing businesses to provide benefits to same-sex couples on the same basis as opposite-sex couples. While this may or may not be true (based primarily on state labor laws), the reality is that many businesses already do offer these benefits to gay couples, and for sound business reasons. And experience has shown that when they do, the effect on their costs for offering these benefits is minimal - very rarely does the cost of benefits offered to gay couples cause the business' benefits costs to rise by more than 1.5%. This trivial cost is usually far more than offset by the fact that the company is seen as being progressive for having offered these benefits - making its stock much more attractive to socially progressive mutual funds and rights-conscious pension funds and individual investors, and thus increasing upwards pressure on its price. This is why so many corporations, including most of the Fortune 500, already offer these benefits without being required to do so - it's just good business sense.
Gay marriage would force churches to marry gay couples when they have a moral objection to doing so. This argument, usually advanced by churches that oppose gay marriage, is simply not true. There is nothing in any marriage law, existing or proposed, anywhere in the United States, that does or would have the effect of requiring any church to marry any couple they do not wish to marry. Churches already can refuse any couple they wish, and for any reason that suits them, which many often do, and that would not change. Some churches continue to refuse to marry interracial couples, others interreligious couples, and a few refuse couples with large age disparities and for numerous other reasons. Gay marriage would not change any church's right to refuse to sanctify any marriage entirely as they wish - it would simply offer churches the opportunity to legally marry gay couples if they wish, as some have expressed the desire to do - the freedom of religion would actually be expanded, not contracted.
The real reasons people oppose gay marriage
So far, we've examined the reasons everyone talks about for opposing gay marriage. Now, let's examine now the real reasons, deep down inside, that people oppose it, hate it, even fear it:
Just not comfortable with the idea. The fact the people aren't comfortable with the idea stems primarily from the fact that for many years, society has promoted the idea that a marriage between members of the same sex is ludicrous, mainly because of the objections raised above. But if those objections don't make sense, neither does the idea that gay marriage is necessarily ludicrous. Societies have long recognized that allowing civil rights to certain groups may offend some, and at times, even the majority. But that is why constitutional government was established -- to ensure that powerless, unpopular minorities are still protected from the tyranny of the majority. Simple discomfort with a proposal is no reasonable basis for not allowing it - how many Southern whites were once uncomfortable with allowing blacks to ride in the front of the bus, or allowing black children to attend the same schools as their own, or drink at the same drinking fountain? Half a century ago, those ideas were just as unthinkable - yet nowadays, hardly anybody sees them as a problem, seeing the fears as nothing more than racism, pure and simple.
It offends everything religion stands for. Whose religion? Many mainstream Christian denominations, to be sure, and definitely most branches of Islam and Orthodox Judaism, but outside those, most religions are unopposed to gay marriage, and many actually favor it. When the Mormon church arrogantly claimed to represent all religions in the Baehr vs. Lewin trial in Hawaii, the principal Buddhist sect in that state made it very clear that the Mormon church didn't represent them, and made it very clear that they support the right of gay couples to marry. That particular Buddhist sect claims many more members in Hawaii than does the Mormon church. In a society that claims to offer religious freedom, the use of the power of the state to enforce private religious sensibilities is an affront to all who would claim the right to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience.
Marriage is a sacred institution. This is, of course, related to the motive above. But it is really subtly different. It's based on the assumption that the state has the responsibility to "sanctify" marriages - a fundamentally religious idea. Here we're dealing with people trying to enforce their religious doctrines on someone else, but by doing it through weakening the separation of church and state, by undermining the Bill of Rights. Not that there's anything new about this, of course. But the attempt itself runs against the grain of everything the First Amendment stands for - one does not truly have freedom of religion if one does not have the right to freedom from religion as well. It would seem to me that anyone who feels that the sanctity of their marriage is threatened by a gay couple down the street having the right to marry, is mighty insecure about their religion and their marriage anyway.
Gay sex is unnatural. This argument, often encoded in the very name of sodomy statutes ("crime against nature"), betrays a considerable ignorance of behavior in the animal kingdom. The fact is that among the approximately 1500 animal species whose behavior has been extensively studied, homosexual behavior in animals has been described in at least 450 of those species. It runs the gamut, too, ranging from occasional displays of affection to life-long pair bonding including sex and even adopting and raising orphans, going so far as the rejection by force of potential heterosexual partners, even when in heat. The reality is that it is so common that it begs an explanation, and sociobiologists have proposed a wide variety of explanations to account for it. The fact that it is so common also means that it clearly has evolutionary significance, which applies as much to humans as it does to other animal species.
Making love to another man betrays everything that is masculine. Well, I've known (and dated) plenty of very masculine gay men in my day, including champion bull-riding rodeo cowboys and a Hell's Angel biker type, who, if you suggested he is a limp-wristed fairy, would likely rip your head off and hand it to you. There was a long-honored tradition of gay relationships among the tough and macho cowboys of the Old West, and many diaries still exist detailing their loving and tender relationships out on the range, and the many sacrifices they made for each other. Plenty of masculine, respected movies stars are gay - indeed, Rock Hudson was considered the very archtype of a masculine man. Came as quite a shock to a lot of macho-men to find out he was gay! So what's wrong with all these kinds of men expressing love for each other? Why is that so horrible about it? A society that devalues love devalues that upon which civilized society itself is based - love and commitment.
The core fear here is the fear of rape and a loss of control or status as a masculine man. This is instinctual and goes right to the core of our being as primates. If you examine what happens in many animal species, especially displays of dominance in other primate species, dominance displays often have sexual overtones. When, for example, in many species of primates, a subordinate male is faced with aggression by a dominant male, the dominant male will bite the subordinate, causing him to squeal in pain, drop the food or the female and present his rump. This is an act of submission, and it is saying to the whole troupe that the subordinate is just that - subordinate.
This happens in humans just as it does in other primates. It is the cause of homosexual rape in prisons. Homosexual intercourse in prisons is not an act of sex as much as it is an expression of dominance and a means of control. Nearly all of the men who aggressively rape other men in a prison setting actually revert to (often promiscuous) heterosexual sex once they're on the outside.
So is this something straight men should fear from gay men? Well, you can relax, all you straight guys. You've nothing to worry about. The vast majority of gay men prefer sex in the same emotional setting most of you do - as a part of the expression of mutual love, affection and commitment. We're not out to rape you or force you into a subordinate position. The majority of gay men don't want sex with you because we're looking for the same thing in a sexual relationship that you look for - the love and affection of a devoted partner. Since we're not likely to get that from you, you're not desirable to us and you have nothing to fear from us. The small minority of us (and it's a very small minority - less than 3%) who do enjoy sex with straight men understand your fears and are not going to have sex with you unless it's clearly and completely understood on both sides to be on a peer-to-peer basis and your requirement for full and complete consent and need for discretion is honored.
The thought of gay sex is repulsive. Well, it will come as some surprise to a lot of heterosexuals to find out that, to a lot of gays, the thought of heterosexual sex is repulsive! But does that mean the discomfort of some gays to heterosexual couples should be a reason to deny heterosexuals the right to marry? I don't think so, even though the thought of a man kissing a woman is rather repulsive to many homosexuals! Well then, why should it work just one way? Besides, the same sexual practices that gays engage in are often engaged in by heterosexual couples anyway - prompting the ever-popular gay T-shirt: "SO-DO-MY -- SO DO MY neighbors, SO DO MY friends."
They might recruit. The fear of recruitment is baseless because it is based on a false premise - that gay people recruit straight people to become gay. We don't. We don't recruit because we know from our own experience that sexual orientation is inborn, and can't be changed. Indeed, the attempts by psychologists, counselors and religious therapy and support groups to change sexual orientation have all uniformly met with failure - the studies that have been done of these attempts at "therapeutic" intervention have never been shown to have any statistically significant results in the manner intended, and most have been shown to have emotionally damaging consequences. So the notion that someone can be changed from straight to gay is just as unlikely. Yet there remains that deep, dark fear that somehow, someone might get "recruited." And that baseless fear is often used by bigots to scare people into opposing gay rights in general, as well as gay marriage.
The core cause of this fear is the result of the fact that many homophobes, including most virulent, violent homophobes are themselves repressed sexually, often with same sex attractions. One of the recent studies done at the University of Georgia among convicted killers of gay men has shown that the overwhelmingly large percentage of them (more than 70%) exhibit sexual arousal when shown scenes of gay sex. The core fear, then, for the homophobe is that he himself might be gay, and might be forced to face that fact. The homophobia can be as internalized as it is externalized - bash the queer and you don't have to worry about being aroused by him.
The opposition to gay marriage stems ultimately from a deep-seated homophobia in American culture, borne out of religious prejudice. While many Americans do not realize that that homophobia exists to the extent that it does, it is a very real part of every gay person's life, just like racism is a very real part of every black person's life. It is there, it is pervasive, and it has far more serious consequences for American society than most Americans realize, not just for gay people, but for society in general.
Why This Is A Serious Civil Rights Issue
When gay people say that this is a civil rights issue, we are referring to matters of civil justice, which often can be quite serious - and can have life-damaging, even life-threatening consequences.
One of these is the fact that in most states, we cannot make medical decisions for our partners in an emergency. Instead, the hospitals are usually forced by state laws to go to the families who may have been estranged from us for decades, who are often hostile to us, and can and frequently do, totally ignore our wishes regarding the treatment of our partners. If a hostile family wishes to exclude us from the hospital room, they may legally do so in most states. It is even not uncommon for hostile families to make decisions based on their hostility -- with results consciously intended to be as inimical to the interests of the patient as possible! Is this fair?
Upon death, in many cases, even very carefully drawn wills and durable powers of attorney have proven to not be enough if a family wishes to challenge a will, overturn a custody decision, or exclude us from a funeral or deny us the right to visit a partner's hospital bed or grave. As survivors, estranged families can, in nearly all states, even sieze a real estate property that a gay couple may have been buying together for many years, quickly sell it at the largest possible loss, and stick the surviving partner with all the remaining mortgage obligations on a property that partner no longer owns, leaving him out on the street, penniless. There are hundreds of examples of this, even in many cases where the gay couple had been extremely careful to do everything right under current law, in a determined effort to protect their rights. Is this fair?
If our partners are arrested, we can be compelled to testify against them or provide evidence against them, which legally married couples are not forced to do. In court cases, a partner's testimony can be simply ruled irrelevant as heresay by a hostile judge, having no more weight in law than the testimony of a complete stranger. If a partner is jailed or imprisoned, visitation rights by the partner can, in most cases, can be denied on the whim of a hostile family and the cooperation of a homophobic judge, unrestrained by any law or precedent. Conjugal visits, a well-established right of heterosexual married couples in some settings, are simply not available to gay couples. Is this fair?
These are far from being just theoretical issues; they happen with surprising frequency. Almost any older gay couple can tell you numerous horror stories of friends and acquaintences who have been victimized in such ways. One couple I know uses the following line in the "sig" lines on their email: "...partners and lovers for 40 years, yet still strangers before the law." Why, as a supposedly advanced society, should we continue to tolerate this kind of injustice?
These are all civil rights issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with the ecclesiastical origins of marriage; they are matters that have become enshrined in state laws by legislation or court precedent over the years in many ways that exclude us from the rights that legally married couples enjoy and even consider their constitutional right. This is why we say it is very much a serious civil rights issue; it has nothing to do with who performs the ceremony, whether it is performed in a church or courthouse or the local country club, or whether an announcement about it is accepted for publication in the local newspaper.
As we have seen, the arguments against gay marriage don't hold up to close scrutiny. Neither the arguments traditionally raised nor the real feelings of the opponents make much sense when held up to the cold, harsh light of reason and logic.
So let's get on with it. Let's get over our aversion to what we oppose for silly, irrational reasons, based on ignorance, prejudice and faulty assumptions, and make ours a more just and honorable society, finally honoring that last phrase from the Pledge of Allegance: "With liberty and justice for all."
I hope it's useful. The arguments are incredibly intelligent.