What's the Harm with Gay Marriage?

Dear Greg,

Your views on gay marriage bother me. Shouldn’t consenting adults be allowed to do whatever they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone? What harm is there? I know you think there could be potential damage to society if we allow the traditional marriage to be threatened, but what is the threat? It won't have any impact on traditional marriages if gays are simply allowed to make that same commitment. If you think this will just lead to the slippery slope of other compromises on marriage, like condoning marriage to animals, this is unlikely because animals are unable themselves to consent to marriage.



Some quick comments on "gay" "marriage."

First, re: "What harm is there in letting people do what they want with their own lives?" you have made a common mistake in assuming this issue is about limiting the freedom of homosexuals. There is nothing that stops homosexuals from making lifelong commitments to each other. Gays already are allowed to make the same commitment. In fact, it’s done all the time. They already have the liberty to do what they want with their own lives. A marriage license, however, goes a step further than providing liberty. It doesn’t give liberty, it gives society's approval of that union, which homosexuals don't presently have. Homosexual marriage is not about what homosexuals are being forced by others not to do, but what society is being forced to do by homosexuals: approve. That's another issue entirely. See "When the Bride Is a Groom" on the STR web site for more development of this point.

Second, implicit in the act of altering the definition of marriage to include homosexuals is the acknowledgment that marriage isn't anything in particular, but can be defined and redefined as society likes. If marriage isn't any particular thing, then family isn't any particular thing either (this not only follows; it's an integral part of their argument). If we then concede that family isn't anything in particular, but is simply a convention, a social construct we invented and can alter at will, then this has direct ramifications for the future of the family as we know it. How can you say this isn't an impact? If this still is not clear, please read "What Marriage Is For," by Maggie Gallagher from The Weekly Standard. There's a link on our home page.

Finally, if marriage isn't anything in particular, but is merely defined by society in a way that the definition can change to meet changing conditions, then you cannot argue that "marriage" between humans and animals could never take place because animals can't consent (or can’t, as some people put it, enter into contracts). "Who are you to say" that a marriage is based on consent? "Who are you to impose" your own dogmatic definition of marriage upon others who don't happen to conform to your narrow views of morality? In other words, to quote you, "What harm is there in letting people do what they want with their own lives as long as they don't hurt anyone?"

If you respond, "But it's obvious that marriage is not the kind of thing that is for humans and animals," you are advancing my exact reasoning against homosexual marriage. You can't have it both ways. Sorry. That’s cheating. You might want to check out "You Can't Marry Your Canary" on the web site to get more detail on this.

It's also a bit stunning that your objection to humans marrying animals is grounded in the inability of animals to consent. Is this the best rejoinder you can offer? J.P. Moreland tells of a guy in Colorado, I think, who brought his horse to the courthouse to try to get a marriage license for the two of them. The clerk was flummoxed for a moment and finally turned him away because the horse wasn't 18 years old yet! I guess this was just another way of saying that the horse was under the age of consent.

My point is, I think there is a more obvious concern than mere consent. Marriage seems to be something in particular, not something we can twist any way we want. Obviously marriage isn’t for humans and animals and, just as obviously, it isn’t for members of the same sex.

Thanks for your challenge
Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl