After a rush of great comments on the original "I want to know" post, I thought I'd start a new one to continue the discussion. I want to do so by directly addressing those comments as best I can, so I'll post the argument and then respond.
Original Anon: in response to "it was legalized in Canada and the sky hasn't fallen in," states that people are being criminally "prosecuted for hate speech for publicly stating their objections to gay marriage and homosexuality in general."
My Response: If that's true, it's horrific. But it's not the fault of gay marriage, it's the fault of intolerance of free speech. In fact, with our First Amendment here in the US, one would have to assume that wouldn't happen here. Which means that on two counts it fails as an argument against gay marriage.
Original Anon: the next claim is that in Europe and Canada "same-sex marriage has continued those nations' long slide to fewer
marriages of any sort, fewer births in general, more out-of-wedlock
births when there are any, and an approaching demographic winter than
threatens their economic and social survival."
My Response: Eloquently put, but I simply don't understand how same-sex marriage be responsible for fewer people being married? Other than your opinion, how can that claim be substantiated? It's not even logical: more marriages = fewer marriages? Likewise, how can same-sex marriage cause more out-of-wedlock births? Seriously, I don't see the connection. These sound like conclusions restated as data and I'm not getting it.
Original Anon: "marriage as an institution has been weakened by the sexual revolution,
no-fault divorce, etc.--so how does same-sex marriage improve that
situation? That's like trying to fix a car with one flat tire by taking
the air out of another tire to make both sides "even.""
My Response: I'd say it improves the situation by having more people who love each other get married. Maybe it'll lead to more divorces as an overall number, but also more marriages and maybe even a decline in the divorce rate. We can't know that right now, so again any conclusions are based on ideology not data.
Original Anon: the remainder of the argument seems to be that " Marriage and the resulting biological nuclear family have been the basic building blocks of Western civilization for ages" and more govt intrusion (which you see as allowing gay marriage) will prevent a return to limited govt.
My Response: First, I don't see how allowing gay marriage will prevent any sort of return to small government. The argument as stated is so vague and conclusory I have a hard time following it. Second, having the govt allow some marriages and not others (i.e. take an active hand in who can and can't marry) requires a bigger govt than one saying, "Okay, gay and straight people can marry." Honestly, this appears to be the old "If gays can marry, the world will go to hell" argument.
Todd: Welcome! You argue that we legislate morality all the time and people should do so based on their conscience. As you put it: "Bottom Line: I think people of faith should vote according to their
faith (whatever religion and whatever faith.) If one doesn't like
living in that community, he/she can either work to change it or move to
a different location."
My response: Your argument is, in my opinion, one of the most honest there is. It's based on your religious views and has grounding in something definite: the Bible. But here's the thing: people who believe what you do don't have to partake in gay marriage. And, glibness aside, you are forgetting something that I'm pretty sure you believe in: the Constitution of the United States. Specifically, the First Amendment. That's the one allowing you to practice your religion without interference from atheists or Buddhists or Muslims or... anyone else. But it's also the same one that allows other people to live by their moral codes and not to have to live by yours. Why do you get to impose your religion on other people if they can't on you? Explain that. Bottom line for me: even if most religious people in the US are Christians, this is NOT a nation for Christians alone. The Constitution makes that very clear. If Hindu legislators tried to pass laws banning beef, or Jewish legislators to ban bacon, I'm pretty sure you would be one of the first to hold up the Constitution as a defense. As you should. :)
You also say that we legislate morality all the time. Well, yes, we do when there is a reason: we don't allow murder, theft, assault - because those things are immoral, maybe, but mostly because there are actual harms associated with them. Relatedly, I would point out that your reasoning is somewhat conclusory: homosexuality isn't inherently harmful (still no one has shown me how gay marriage would harm other people) but it is to you because your God says so. You are saying "we can ban it because it's immoral," and I'm trying to get someone to who me how it's immoral, other than a book I don't believe in saying so. Put another way, a lot of people don't believe it to be immoral, so to say "We legislate morality all the time" doesn't answer the question for me.
Not securely anchored: "Why don't these same arguments in favor of gay marriage apply to polygamy? That's an honest question."
My Response: And a good one. I start from the perspective that no one (despite me whining on and on about doing so) has shown any actual harm associated with gay marriage that doesn't exist with heterosexual marriage. Divorce, family violence, excessive nagging... I have seen nothing to support a different between gay and straight marriage on these issues.
But that's not so with polygamy. Historically, there have been many instances where polygamy has been the cause of very real harm. I point to one example, Warren Jeffs, who last year was convicted of multiple sexual assaults and
incest-related felony counts. This case illustrates "how polygamy is inherently
conducive to power imbalances, sexual subjugation, and other abuses that
do not inherently exist in the case of same-sex marriage." Read this article, it's where the quotation comes from.
The bottom line for me is that there is a rational basis to keep polygamy illegal, but none whatsoever to outlaw gay marriage. I would add, in fact, that if marriage is a civil right, by denying homosexuals the right to marry we're depriving a lot more people of their rights than by denying polygamists, who are much fewer in number.
Jason: I'll take your position para by para. First you say: "I'm an atheist, so religious arguments don't sway me. However, I can't
help but notice that many of the same arguments were used during the
debate over no-fault divorce. And that has been absolutely disastrous
for marriage and society. It does affect children. It's even a good
predictor of poverty. And it's inherited. Once children grow up with no
model of marriage, it's hard for them to re-enter the institution
My response: Another atheist, good. :) I will start by saying I don't really know what you mean by "many of the same arguments were used during the
debate over no-fault divorce" and so I can't accept it as a premise. I believe gay people are being discriminated against right now and with no rational basis. I don't get the no-fault divorce comparison. Which arguments are the same?
I would also take issue with the conclusion that no-fault divorce has been "disastrous for marriage and society." My marriage hasn't been affected by it, nor anyone else's that I know. Except a couple of people who got divorced and are now happy. You last sentence is important: "Once children grow up with no
model of marriage, it's hard for them to re-enter the institution
successfully." That may be true, I can certainly see the logic in it. But tell me this: how does denying people the right to marry help? How does precluding two people who love each other from forming a loving marriage help? Don't you want kids to see such a marriage exist? Or is it your assumption that all gay people will just divorce? If so, that seems like an unfair and unjustified conclusion.
Jason: "That's part of the reason why gay marriage probably won't impact the
institution much: it's already had a nuclear bomb dropped on it. Even if
it is bad for the institution, there's really not much left to destroy.
And since gays are a small minority, there's a limit to the influence
they can have. However, given that example of unintended consequences,
should we really be in a hurry to try to modify the institution yet
again? Can we at least slow down and think about this"
My Response: See, now you're saying it won't make a difference. I agree! And should we be in a hurry? I think so. If we are denying people the right to get married, a right afforded others, then yes, we should get a move on and decide. Do you really think it's not been thought about and debated a great deal already? We both know that it has, and still I haven't seen one single non-religious reason to keep gay marriage illegal. Seriously, what more do you want to think about? What other information are you expecting to come to light to help us decide?
Jason: "The relationship between sexes - how we bind them together, how we
resolve their differences, how we protect their interests, and how we
pass those skills on to the next generation - is one of the most
important in any society and time. There is an ideal, and while by
definition no ideal is ever fully realized, it would be a mistake to
discard ideals entirely. Society has an interest in making parents work
things out for the sake of the children, and it may have an interest in
promoting male-female marriages as a better model for children to see
than same-sex marriages."
My Response: This appears to me an eloquent variation of, "the best model for kids is the perfectly harmonious male-female marriage." You may be right. But if it's a justification for denying people the right to marry, I'm guessing the number of weddings this year would fall to zero. There is simply no perfect marriage because people are imperfect. Ergo, there is never going to be a "perfect" marriage. Therefore, either you use this argument to prevent everyone from getting married (or having kids) or you accept it's not a good argument against gay marriage. It's also not a good argument because some people don't get married to have kids.
Thanks to everyone for posting their opinions and arguments. I hope that I've addressed them, and in a respectful way. I continue to hope this is a discussion we can have on an intelligent and reasoned level and I'm grateful to those who took up my challenge and added to the conversation here. I may not agree with you, but I do want to hear from you, I promise!