Monday, May 14, 2012

Same Sex Marriage: Understanding the Conservative Opposition

Saturday on Civil Discourse Now we discussed same sex marriage. Our guest, Republican attorney Jeff Cox, argued in favor of the legalization of same sex marriage while Republican Pike ward chairman Anthony Simons offered the opposing view.  I especially appreciate Simons coming on the show and tackling the topic, especially given the panel leaned in the other direction.  With all due defense to Simons, I do not understand my fellow conservatives' opposition to same sex marriage.

First of all, let me say I don't buy for a second the Libertarian position that government shouldn't be involved in sanctioning marriage. Marriage is a crucial building block of society and helps provide stability.  The notion that couples can just enter into detailed private "contracts" between each other in terms of property, child rearing, child support, etc. is utter fantasy.  Such an approach would unleash complex litigation that would profit only attorneys.  There is a reason why 50 out of 50 states sanction marriage.  Government is never going to get out of the business of sanctioning marriage.

It is sometimes argued that marriage is about procreation and raising children, and since same sex couples can't by themselves procreate, marriage should not be available to them.  Years after my father passed away, my mother met a wonderful man and married him.  She was long past child-bearing age and her children were all grown and gone from the nest.  Should she should have been able to get married?  After all, her reason for getting married - making a formal, legal commitment to a partner she wants to spend the rest of her life with - is exactly the same reason same sex couples want to get married.

The ability to get married encourages many individuals to seek out monogamous, lifetime commitments with other human beings.  Isn't that something we want to encourage among both heterosexuals and homosexuals? 

When individuals marry, they acquire certain rights with respect to each other, such as the right to take against a will, a right to hold property as joint tenants with rights of entirities and the right to make medical decisions as to a incapicated spouse.  Those rights are not available when you can't get married.

In preparation for the show, I talked to a representative of a group that supports traditional marriage, i.e. that marriage remain between a man and a woman.  He indicated that groups that support same sex marriage often don't support the institution of marriage at all.  Perhaps there is some of that, but I don't doubt the sincerity of most people who support same sex marriage.  I think most yearn for the same right to make the ultimate commitment to another human being.

On another ground, I think the representative had a better argument.  He talked about how same sex marriage would be the camel's nose under the tent, the slippery slope to switch metaphors, to government involving itself in religion, saying what practices are acceptable.  Many religions hold homosexual activity to be a sin,    Once same sex marriage becomes legal, are we going to demand that religious organizations provide employees who are in same sex marriages the same benefits as those employees who are in traditional marriages?  Are we going to revoke the tax favored status of religious institutions that don't recognize same sex marriages as valid?

That government would get involved in dictating to religions which beliefs are acceptable is not an abstract fear.  During the contraception debate we were treated time and time again with liberal commentators who said the Catholic Church needed to provide insurance coverage for contraception because for the Church's employees because, well, contraception is a good thing and besides most Catholics don't agree with the Church's position against artificial birth control.  (Let's forget the concept of religious freedom and the requirement under the Free Exercise Clause that government must accommodate religious beliefs and practices by making exceptions in the law.)  When I raised this concern on the panel, host Mark Small (who is a big fan of the Establishment Clause but who can't seem to find the Free Exercise Clause anywhere in the First Amendment) dismissed the contraception debate as something that could be addressed with socialism, i.e. a single payer health care system.  Of course, that misses my bigger point that those same liberals who had no problem imposing its view in contravention of the Church's religious beliefs regarding contraception, on the Church's own employees, might also use the legalization of same sex marriage to undermine religious beliefs.

At the end of the day, that slippery slope argument regarding intrusion on religious beliefs is a concern.  But on balance I do not think it is not enough to deny same sex couples the right to get married.


Indy Student said...

The UStream version seems to be missing a segment or two. Are they going to be uploaded to YouTube?

Kilroy said...

"Once same sex marriage becomes legal, are we going to demand that religious organizations provide employees who are in same sex marriages the same benefits as those employees who are in traditional marriages?" An interesting point that I hadn't really considered before, but then again, nothing would force a church that believed homosexuality was a sin would likely have such a sinner as an employee, and nothing would prevent a church from not hiring such individuals. But, yes, if they do agree to employ such a "sinner", they would have to provide the same family benefits as they provide to all other employees.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Kilroy, the constitution mandates that exceptions be provided to many laws when those laws are sought to be applied to religious groups.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I think Mark is trying to get it fixed.

marksmall2001 said...

Should/hope to be fixed tomorrow. This has been a big advance in tech and so there have been snafus. We are trying to do a lot with minimal capital.

varangianguard said...

The argument about the State dictating acceptable "religious" practices seems a non-starter. Too many people who pay lip service to "religion" dictate their own version of "acceptable practices to themselves as well.

The most insidious is that any admonitions to treat others as you might wish to be treated is most often left in the dust of self-rationalization.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I don't think it's a "nonstarter" at all. It's exactly what is going on.

It's hardly "lip service" that the Catholic Church is against artificial birth control. That dates back centires.

It's not up to government to dictate to religious groups which of their beliefs are acceptable.

varangianguard said...

By the same token, it is not up to religionists to dictate civil policy to those who don't follow that faith.

It is a two-sided coin. Your argument is valid for either point of view. Religionists don't "own" marriage, I'm thinking.