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10 Really Bad Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage

Debunking the American Family Association's NoGayMarriage.com Platform

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The American Family Association, a right-wing advocacy group, has published a list of ten arguments against same-sex marriage. Ostensibly a summary of James Dobson's Marriage Under Fire, the arguments make a very loose case against same-sex marriage based almost entirely on slippery slopes and out-of-context quotations from the Good Book.

The inclination of many of my readers will be to get angry at the AFA. Please don't. They're actually doing the world a favor by putting these frequently whispered but seldom spoken arguments out in plain view, where they can be unpacked and dismantled.

Argument #1: That same-sex marriage would destroy the institution of marriage.

Miniature grooms wedding cake topper
Anthony-Masterson/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Point by point:
  • The Scandinavian studies to which the article presumably refers are the work of right-wing author Stanley Kurtz, who attempted to prove that same-sex marriage decreased the rate of heterosexual marriage in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This work has been discredited; see the last paragraph on this page for a summary explaining why.
  • The often-quoted reference from Romans 1:29-32 omits the following verse, Romans 2:1, which reads "Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things."
  • No credible study has ever found that children are negatively impacted by being raised in a lesbian or gay household.

Argument #2: That if same-sex marriage is legalized, polygamy will follow.

Even if this concern had a rational basis, a simpler solution to this problem would be to propose a constitutional amendment banning polygamy--which would be easily ratified--rather than fooling around with an anti-gay constitutional amendment that only one-third of Americans support.

Argument #3: That same-sex marriage would make heterosexual divorces too easy.

No, seriously. The article actually describes this as an "even greater objective of the homosexual movement" than the legalization of same-sex marriage proper. The article makes no real attempt to explain why this would happen, or how this would happen, but presumably one is expected to accept the statement at face value without giving any real thought to it.

Argument #4: That same-sex marriage would require schools to teach tolerance.

People who support same-sex marriage also tend to support tolerance education in public schools, but the former isn't essential to the latter. Just ask Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who vetoed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and signed a bill enacting a gay-friendly public school tolerance curriculum in the same month.

Argument #5: That same-sex married couples would be able to adopt.

Again, this does not require same-sex marriage. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oregon all specifically permit joint same-sex adoption, and most other states do not specifically prohibit it.

Argument #6: That foster parents would be required to pass sensitivity training.

I'm not clear on what possible relationship this would have with same-sex marriage. Again, some states may require such training and some states may not, but the presence or absence of legalized same-sex marriage has nothing to do with the issue.

Argument #7: That Social Security can't afford to pay for same-sex couples.

In argument #1, the AFA article criticized the low marriage rate. But in order for Social Security to be an issue, lesbian and gay Americans would have to remain single altogether rather than becoming heterosexual. The Religious Right's vision of millions of lesbians and gay Americans converting to heterosexuality and marrying members of the opposite sex would have to be written off entirely in order to produce any economic benefit based on denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

And any such benefit would be small-scale anyway. If 4% of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian or gay and half of lesbians and gay men get married, then that's only a 2% increase in the national marriage rate. That won't make or break Social Security.

Argument #8: That legal U.S. same-sex marriage would encourage its spread.

This is the only argument on the list that doesn't strain credulity. Legal same-sex marriage in the United States probably would encourage other nations to also legalize same-sex marriage. But Canada was really ahead of the curve on this one, and will probably be given most of the credit by historians.

Argument #9: That same-sex marriage would make evangelism more difficult.

And just what sort of evangelism are we talking about here, exactly?

In any event, I find it remarkable that any contemporary Christian would see a social policy they don't like as an obstacle to evangelism. A little less than two millennia ago, Christians were actually being executed by the Roman Empire, and surviving texts do not indicate that they saw this as an impediment to evangelism. Why would a change in marriage law, one that does not even directly impact heterosexual couples, somehow destroy evangelism when several generations of Roman emperors could not?

Argument #10: That same-sex marriage would bring about divine retribution.

Again, a little perspective is in order. More than 3,000 children die every day of malaria; during the 1990s, an estimated 100 million children died of starvation; AIDS is sweeping the Global South; and the issue that will bring profound divine retribution is a change in marriage law?

I also have to question any theology that portrays God as some sort of violent, capricious bogeyman who must be supplicated, like the malevolent spirits of animist traditions, by sacrifices and incantations. The first generation of Christians welcomed the idea of divine intervention with the word "maranatha": "Come, Lord Jesus." There is no trace of that message, so central to the earliest Christian teachings, in this AFA article.
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