Gay marriage - I still don't get it.

Maybe this is because I never, ever plan to get married, no matter what the circumstances, but I’ve never understood why the “right” to marry is such an issue. (Watch this thread get fired off into GD.)

I mean, I know anti-hate crime legislation exists in many places, but there’s parents who disown their own children, housing and job discrimination, censorship of all kinds, and rampant psychological abuse on behalf of family, clergy and local society - just read some of the coming-out stories in this thread. Is the “right” to marry really so important that it precedes or supersedes living in a safe and orderly society?

And there’s the other part of my confusion: is marriage a right? I always looked at it as more of a privilege: not everyone does it and most churches have a pretty extensive screening process to weed out couples who are getting married for frivolous reasons. In some places, JPs will even rake engaged couples for a while before stamping their license. I’m sorry, but I never saw marriage as an inalienable right.

Well, a lot of people wouldn’t give a crap about marriage these days if it weren’t for the fact that there are economical and legal advantages to being married. Some people like the extra “validation”. Other people just want to prove their dedication to their SO. And still others just want an excuse to throw a big, lavish party, get lots of presents, and eat plenty of cake (hey, if I were to ever get married, that last one would be MY excuse! :D).

Not every one is going to do it, but not everyone votes either.

As long as society uses it as a benchmark for a relationship, its a right to all people in relationships. what individual religions do is thier business. However it happens it has legal backing for a relationship and shoudl be applied equally to all relationships who want to jump through the hoops.

Does it supercede living in a safe and orderly society? No, but it is part of it. Yes, first the violence needs to stop. But that is no reason to not aim for actual equality of respect. Teh right to marry is part of that.

I suspect the proponents of gay marriage would argue that “a safe orderly society” and gay marriage are not mutually exclusive, that marriage confers certain legal and economic advantages on its participants, and that the denial of those advantages is invidious and irrational discrimination.

Moreover, while marriage may not be an absolute right, the complaint is about the denial of equal treatment under the law. Owning or driving a BMW is not a right, either - but if we passed a law saying that only men, and not women, could own and drive BMWs, women would have a quite legitimate complaint. They aren’t asking to be given BMWs, but for the right to be viewed equally under the law.

On the other hand, we do prohibit a certain class of people from driving BMWs - and all cars: those with multiple DWI convictions who have lost their licenses. In this case, the “class” of people is not suspect, and it has a rational relationship to a legitimate government objective.

So the question becomes: does marriage fall enough within governmental interest that the government should regulate it, and, if so, how? Does the government have a legitimate interest in limiting marriage to man-and-wife?

There are points to be made on either side of this discussion. But it’s most certainly not resolved by observing that there is no “right” to get married.

  • Rick

Actually, I’ll be the jerk and note that there are actually no good points to be made for the anti-gay-marriage side. Oh, sure, there are personal moral issues and certain religions are uptight about it, but there is not one good legal point to be made against gay marriage.

I recall the Chicago Tribune, when they came out in support of gay marriage, noted there is a relatively simple way of looking at this. Marriage is, legally, a binding contract between two persons in the United States. Under federal and the vast majority of state laws, it is illegal to block a contract due to the gender of one of the signees. It’s really just an extension of the striking down of the various silly miscenegation laws, saying that different skin colored people could not marry. If the persons wishing to be married are adults in their right mind, free and clear of any other marriage, there is no legal reason they shouldn’t be afforded the full benefit and protection of the law that any other married couple enjoys.

To expand upon the legal benefits briefly mentioned above… legally a “spouse” has rights that a girlfriend, boyfriend, main squeeze, or housemate does not have. Imagine your lover contracts a terrible disease or has an awful accident and only “family” are allowed to visit the hospital. Or make medical decisions. You, despite considering yourself the life partner of your lover, despite intimately knowing him/her and being in the best position to offer comfort or guide doctors in the wishes of that person, are not allowed to play that role because you are “just” a girlfriend/boyfriend.

Or imagine your lover dies intestate. Will you, as his/her live-in lover, be the beneficiary of anything? Will the law allow you certain rights as the surviving spouse? No.

It also means that you are at the mercy of employers who may or may not choose to offer benefits to same-sex partners. If you were legally married, you’d get the same benefits as every other married person at any employer.

For these reasons, being able to get married is an important “right.”

I’ve always believed that gays should be allowed to marry. They’re given all the rest of the rights that everyone else in this country ha. They can drive, drink, vote, and hold political office. Why the hell shouldn’t they be allowed to marry?

Gay people make the same comittments that straight people do. They fall in love, and decide that this is the person that they’ve always wanted. The ONE that makes them happy, complete, and fulfilled. I can see no valid reason why gays shouldn’t be able to make it legal.


Marriage is actually a contract between three parties: the two people getting married and the state in which they marry.

Marriage (of the mixed-sex variety) has been recognized as a fundamental right under the Constitution in a line of cases dating back to the 1940s. Skinner v. State of Oklahoma. Ex Rel. Williamson 316 U.S. 535 (1942), Zablocki v. Redhail 434 U.S. 374 (1878), Turner v. Safley 482 U.S. 78 (1987). The Court has found the right to marry fundamental under both an equal protection and a due process analysis, and has expressly stated (in Turner) that procreation is not required to make marriage fundamental. SCOTUS has never taken up a same-sex marriage case of which I’m aware. Eventually it will have to, and under the current court I’m less than sanguine about the chances of a ruling in favor of SSM. I think you’d have to get Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas off the court and replace them with justices who aren’t so blatantly prejudiced against homosexuals for there to be any chance.


Actually, we’re not. For one, SCOTUS has ruled that homosexuals do not have a right to privacy under the federal Constitution. Bowers v. Hardwick 478 U.S. 186 (1986). There has been some debate that Romer v. Evans 517 U.S. 620 (1996) overturns Bowers but it has not been expressly stated in a majority opinion.

From the General Accounting Office of the United States Government, here’s a list of 1049 federal laws classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor, compiled specifically to help understand the impact of the Defense of Marriage act.

It’s not an easy read, or a short one. But it’s the best summary I’ve seen of what the ruckus is all about.

I’m bumping this upstairs to Great Debates.

While marriage was originally a religious form of sanction for a specific type of relationship, the fact that government has confered specific legal and economic privileges upon it should remove all church control over its allocation. Separation of church and state (in the USA) requires that there be absolutely no discriminatory aspect in recognizing a legitimate state of marriage (as opposed to sham INS weddings, etc.). It is only the continuing interference of the religious right with proper administration of the constitution that allows this to continue. The current administration’s willing participation in this interference and its specific promotion of Christian religious agendas is discriminatory, fundamentally treasonous and an utter violation of the constitution’s intrinsically polytheistic nature.

As I see it, the government should not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation with regard to privileges as well as to rights. That is to say, even if marriage were considered a privelege, it would be wrong to grant that privelege to heterosexuals alone.

Also, I wouldn’t characterize Bowers v. Hardwick as saying that homosexuals do not have a right to privacy, as it would not permit the police to search a homosexual’s bank records with any greater ease than a heterosexual’s. I’m not sure how I would sum it up succinctly, though the word “odious” does sspring to mind. The dissenting opinion by Blackmun is worth reading, though.

**Bricker wrote:

So the question becomes: does marriage fall enough within governmental interest that the government should regulate it, and, if so, how?**

The government has long since decided it has the right to regulate this issue. It also has a long history of regulating marriage, as in when Utah joined the Union and when the various miscenegation laws were struck down. Since the government (on both the federal and state level) grants certain legal and economic benefits purely because two people are married, I think the answer is a definite YES.

Does the government have a legitimate interest in limiting marriage to man-and-wife?

I would love to hear the pro arguments on this point but WITHOUT an appeal to religious authority.


I think many people out there would say that being free to marry is part of living in a safe and orderly society.


Are you just trying to sneak a marriage debate into the OP? My memory might be a bit foggy but haven’t you posted your beef against marriage in the past? But to answer your questions I’d say marriage was a right based partly on religious reasons. Just because not everyone does it makes no difference.

If a JP triyed to rake me over the coals I’d go find a new one. And we know you don’t like marriage.


I think they should be allowed to marry. I don’t think anyone can provide a scientific or non-religious reason why being gay is wrong, and therefore being in a gay marriage is wrong.

I definitely agree with all the legal advantages of marriage; legal & medical power of attorney, joint property, tax & medical benefits, etc. There’s also something to be said for what it means to make that type of commitment, though, even if it’s purely “symbolic” to others. You know, the whole cake, caterer, rings, printed invitations, family & friends gathered together thing. I’ve been to “unions” of friends which were incredibly moving. Pledging your love to each other in front of everyone you care about is a powerful thing. I think that all couples should have the opportunity to do that if they so choose.

I sometimes jokingly say. Gay people want to be allowed in church and to get married. Why do they want to take part in our worst institutions?

Note: This is a joke.

Don’t worry, Genseric, I have my own variation of the joke: “Gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry… and neither should anyone else.”

I’m not saying it’s a valid argument, but I think there is some concern that if same-sex marriages were allowed, some platonic friends and/or roommates would marry for the financial and legal benefits. Of course, there are people who do this now, I used to date a girl who married a Pakistani friend of hers so he could stay in the U.S.

Fraud is always a concern in just about anything, and arguably fraud may be more likely if same-sex marriages were legal. However, there is already a time-tested template we can use to determine whether a putative same-sex marriage is legitimate or not - common-law marriage.

Common-law marriages are recognizes in several states, and there are strict criteria that have to be met before a man and woman who have not gotten a marriage license are recognized as husband and wife. I don’t recall all of the criteria, but two that stick in my mind are:

“Holding out” as a married couple - the couple refer to themselves as spouses, may take the other’s name, etc.;

“Intertwining” - the couple’s lives are intertwined; that is, they act as a couple. The most important evidence of this in intertwining of finances - shared bank accounts, etc.

The common-law marriage system has worked for centuries, and could easily be adapted to same-sex marriages. I recognize that applying these criteria to same-sex marriages makes gay couples go through an extra hoop that opposite-sex couples don’t have to, but I think it is a relatively minor compromise for a greater result.