Based on the comments and letters so far, it seems unlikely that anyone is about to change a position on gay marriage based on religious arguments. Gay marriage proponents point to the scripture that Jesus loves everyone, correctly assume that includes gays, and end their analysis. Gay marriage opponents agree that Jesus loves everyone, but take the further stop of noticing that he didn’t love or encourage certain behaviors of the people he loves, and that gay activity is consistently condemned in the Bible.
Talking about equality is essentially meaningless in the context of gay marriage, because equality is such a moveable standard that it is no standard at all. Before 1860, many people thought we had equality, though millions of Americans were slaves. Before the 1920s, many people thought we had equality, though women didn’t have the vote and lacked other civil rights. Now some are saying that if gays can’t marry other gays, they are denied equality; this would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
If we assert that gays must be able to marry so they will have equality, there is absolutely no consistent way to say that those already married can’t embrace polygamy, pedophiles can’t marry young children, or animal lovers can’t marry their sheep.
It should be noted that before the gay marriage bill was passed, gays were not forbidden to marry. As long as they found someone of the other sex to marry, there was no problem. I personally know two men who found their wives in bed with other women; obviously those gay women had married, and no doubt many gay men have been married to women. If a gay complained that he or she wasn’t free to marry someone of his or her own gender, which was his or her first choice, I would reply that my first choice was to marry Marilyn Monroe, but that didn’t work out, either.
The most useful approach to questions about gay marriage has to come from the social sciences. Marriage has been a relationship between a man and a woman for thousands of years, in almost every society in the world including those we consider barbaric. One of its main purposes has been to provide a stable home for the raising of children, so the society will perpetuate itself. It obviously falls short of ideal in many ways, but over many centuries it has been, most of the time, a relationship between one man and one woman. Never until recently has it included two people of the same gender.
Over the last few decades, all sorts of family relationships have been tested and measured. Just about every study has shown that children who grow up in a family with a man and woman married to each other have the best chance of success in life — they drink less and use drugs less and avoid teen pregnancies and get better grades and stay out of criminal trouble. Part of the reason for their greater success may be the stability, part may be that they have the chance to see how the genders should interact and learn their gender roles. It is well established that despite their valiant efforts, no single parent can teach a child all the things about gender relationships that would improve their lives in many ways. Children of single parents have demonstrably more problems in life than those of married husband and wife.
If a single man or woman can’t teach their children the things that contribute to success, it seems doubtful that having two men or two women would improve things significantly. How can two women teach a boy to be a father? How can two men teach a girl to be a mother?
Proponents of gay marriage may say that successful people have been raised by single parents, and that is obviously true. However, having a parent of only one gender is like going to the plate in baseball with two strikes already called against you. It is still possible to hit a home run, but the odds are a lot worse than if the child has parents of both genders.
Gay marriage would overturn centuries of experience in family relationships. It is a radical experiment with the lives of our children, with no rational basis for thinking it will be an improvement. If it remains in effect, millions of children will be raised by parents of only one gender, who can’t possibly teach the nuances of behavior that have kept our societies going for centuries. The risks of gay marriage to society as a whole far outweigh the benefits to gays individually.
Lawrence E. Merrill is a lawyer in Bangor.