In Defense of Marriage

E-mail from various people asking me what I think about the anti-gay marriage amendment being batted back in the Senate: Well, obviously, I’m very pleased about it. Any day a bunch of politically opportunist homophobes get stuffed back into their holes — and on a procedural note, meaning they didn’t even get the showboating vote they wanted for their base — is a good day indeed.

My understanding is that now they’ll try to get the amendment passed in the House, although from a practical point of view I’m not entirely sure what the point of that is, since if the Senate’s already killed it, it doesn’t matter what the House does with it. This is more of a “stand and be counted” thing. Which is fine with me; I prefer to have my intolerant twits well-marked, and a House vote will certainly do that. And of course, I hear tell that the Senate will take up the amendment again, one day, in the future, presumably when the US voters elect 67 senators who hate those girly men and butchy gals enough to permanently relegate them to second-class status and/or think so little of the US Constitution that they’re ready to amend it to take away people’s rights. Let’s just say I’m not exactly staying up nights with worry.

Be that as it may, I will tell you the one thing that really gets me about the homophobes pushing the anti-gay marriage amendment and other such nonsense: They act as if there isn’t already same-sex marriage in the US. Well, there is: To date, thousands of men and women have legally married members of the same sex, and every day more same-sex couples are added to that number. Theoretically, anyone in the US could marry someone of the same sex, so long as they were willing to take up residence in Massachusetts. Heck, you don’t even have to be gay to marry someone of the same sex, which I think is a suitable slap-in-the-face point of fact for all those dim-bulb morality hair-splitters who proffered the absolutely insipid “Gays and lesbians can get married, just to people of the opposite sex” argument.

Call me a stickler for details here, but so far I’ve heard nothing about what happens to all the thousands of legally married same-sex couples out there, should an anti-gay marriage amendment pick up steam and be in real danger of being added to the Constitution. Are these people’s marriages voided, and expunged from the records? Or are the current marriages allowed to exist, and grandfathered in? Either way, it looks horrible for the people trying to pass the such an amendment. In the former case, you’re asking people to willingly destroy other people’s perfectly legal marriages, and in the latter case you are creating an obvious contradiction, in that if same-sex marriage is such a terrible threat and clear and present danger to the state of matrimony, how can any be allowed to exist? One exposes those who vote for the amendment as cruel; the other exposes them as hypocrites.

And this is why it’s utterly essential for people who support an anti-gay marriage amendment to pretend same-sex marriage hasn’t happened — that it’s still something that can be discussed on theoretical grounds. Because as soon as you start making it clear to people that what you’re asking them to do is tear apart marriages that already exist — thousands of marriages — I expect you’re going to hit a huge wall of resistance. And why? Oh, well, here’s the irony: Because people respect marriage. They respect the commitment it represents. They respect what wanting to be married says about the people in the couple.

And, not at all trivially, they understand that when you say a legally married couple can be ripped apart by an act of government, then any legally married couple can be. At this point in time, there is no legal difference between saying that a same-sex couple can’t be married, and that couples where the individuals are of differing races can’t be married. None. Or individuals of differing religions, or of any other differentiating bit of trivia one would care to name.

So it’s pretty simple: If you actually want to defend marriage, you have defend all the legal marriages, and that includes the ones with two men in them, and the ones with two women. Otherwise you’re explicitly saying that the government has the right to void any marriage of any couple, so long as two-thirds of the House, Senate and states go along. Who wants to be the first to sign up for that?

I can understand why the anti-gay marriage crowd doesn’t want to bring up the fact that same-sex marriages already legally exist, but I am frankly flummoxed as to why people who support same-sex marriage never seem to make much of the fact. Damn it, people, you’re playing the homophobes’ game, and you really need to stop it. Every time some bigoted twit gets up and vomits out the talking point about “activist judges” and the sanctity of marriage, someone needs to get up and ask him if he’s really saying he’s ready to break up those thousands of same-sex marriages that already exist, and if so, how that makes him any better than those “activist judges.”

Legally-married same-sex couples should be walking the halls of the House offices, asking those lawmakers itchin’ to make a little political hay at the expense of the homos why they’re in such a rush to break up a marriage. Every time someone says, as President Bush did, that “What they do in the privacy of their house, consenting adults should be able to do,” we should ask what marriage has ever only been about what people do in the privacy of their own home. Every airy utterance about the value of marriage from these people should be answered with the grounded reality of a same-sex married couple affirming the value of their marriage.

These marriages aren’t theoretical. They’re not open to debate. They exist. To be opposed to them is to be opposed to marriage. I don’t know why people opposed to the anti-gay marriage amendment and other such nonsense aren’t doing more to point out that very obvious fact.

Fact is, there is no such thing as “same-sex marriage.” There’s just “marriage,” in which any one adult can marry any other adult. Thousands of people are married to another person of the same sex, and their marriages are as legal as mine. More get married every day. You can like them, you can not like them. But they exist, they’re legal, and to that extent they’re no different than my own — and deserving of the same respect as my own. If you’re married, they’re no different than yours — and deserving of the same respect.

I’m not inclined to break up a marriage. Are you?

5 Comments on “In Defense of Marriage”

  1. Gay Marriage — John Scalzi says it perfectly once again…

    WHATEVER: In Defense of Marriage John Scalzi points out that the debate over gay marriage is about something that already exists, and notes: So it’s pretty simple: If you actually want to defend marriage, you have defend all the legal

  2. FMA roundup

    The defeat of the Federal Marriage Amendment has led to some awfully good writing. Fred Clark from the Slacktivist, a left-wing Christian, approaches the question “Why do some Christians hate gays but love bacon?” It’s a beautiful thi…

  3. Forced divorce?

    John Scalzi points out that ending same-sex marriage means breaking up existing, legal same-sex marriages.

    Of course, so many of those “pro-family” lawmakers have damaged and broken their own marriages that

  4. While homophobia is a factor, another is the simple overloading of the term ‘marriage’ to mean both a secular and a religious institution. Thousands of years of history have demonstrated that one can’t argue with religion. Not even stupid misinterpretions or mistranslations of religious text. The problem here is not that gays need to be married under deity-of-choice, but that they need to be married to receive various civil benefits and rights.

    The solution is desperately easy: abolish all civil marriages. Let everyone so interested do a civil union to receive civil benefits. And let those with religious conviction get married in a church in a nice private ceremony without State recognition.

    More at

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