The thing that drives me nuts the most about the same-sex marriage debate is the fact that so many of its proponents insist on equating “opposed to same-sex marriage” with “homophobic” or “anti-homosexual”. These are radically different concepts. Islamic leaders who think homosexuals should be executed? Those are anti-homosexual views. However, calling someone a “homophobe” simply because they oppose same-sex marriage is lazy thinking that is generally a symptom of not having a logical argument to make.
Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of anti-homosexual people out there. Far more than the number of racists, despite attempts by the Left to assign that status to anyone who disagrees with Obama on anything. That said, it is quite possible to be against same-sex marriage for perfectly logical and non-bigoted reasons**.
Personally, there is only one group of people whose sexual orientation I give one-tenth of one crap about, and that would be women I am interested in dating. Obviously, if I am going to date a female, she has to be heterosexual. Otherwise, it is completely irrelevant to me. I would like to think that this is the goal of most homosexuals: to simply be treated like everyone else, especially in aspects of life where their sexual orientation is irrelevant.
That said, there is one statement of fact that must be made: Same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are different.
I’d hope the reaction of most people to that statement would be, “Duh. Of course, they’re different.” However, there are some who cannot read that without thinking that I am automatically assigning an inferior status to the former with that statement.
A brief digression: In geometry, if one plots points along a vector and labels the origin to be zero, then each other point plotted can be given a value relative to its distance from the origin. So if I pick two points along the vector, one can interpret one point as being “greater than” another based on its distance from the origin.
However, if we start graphing with a second dimension, the ability to determine value changes. If I plot the points (x,y) = (3,4) and (x,y) = (4,3) on a standard two-dimensional grid, these sorts of relations make no sense. Both points are the same distance from the origin (0,0), but are they equal? No. They’re different points. One’s x component is greater, the other’s y component is greater, but there is no way to judge one point as being “greater than” the other.
The point of this digression is that the inference of the inferiority of one type of coupling based on the observation that they are different is very much one-dimensional thinking.***
Two questions follow from this: “Why are they different?” and “Is that difference relevant to the concept of marriage?”
The answer to the first question is simple: The primary difference between a same-sex couple and an opposite-sex couple is that the latter can procreate and have a natural family. To people like me who are against same-sex marriage, this means that the answer to the second question is, “Yes,” because we believe this ability to be very special and very important. While a same-sex couple can adopt a child, this isn’t really any different from a single person adopting a child; it requires no union of any kind to do that. Actually creating a child that is part you and part your partner is special, and unfortunately for the homosexuals, they were not granted that ability by our creator.
That being said, I personally do not see this distinction as a reason to deny same-sex couples the same sorts of legal rights that married couples enjoy. The legal aspects of marriage such as insurance coverage and hospital visitation rights and the like are perfectly applicable to a same-sex couple, and this is why I support the concept of a “civil union” or a “domestic partnership” or whatever term you wish to use.
So why not just call it “marriage”, you ask?
Time for another digression: Let’s say that you recently decided to become a vegetarian, but you are at a barbecue and the host (who is unaware of your recent conversion) asks if you want a cheeseburger****. You reply, “Sure, I’ll have a cheeseburger, but it will have to be without the meat.” If you do that, then you aren’t having a cheeseburger; you are having a cheese sandwich. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a cheese sandwich, of course, but you’re missing a rather vital ingredient if you want to call it a “cheeseburger”. Being a vegetarian means you can’t have a cheeseburger, and calling a cheese sandwich a “cheeseburger” doesn’t make it one. Likewise, the societal construct of marriage (as opposed to the legal construct) is simply not relevant in the context of a same-sex relationship, and as a result, people like me don’t believe that such a union should be called “marriage”, because it is missing a very important component.
Same-sex marriage advocates may disagree with the importance of the ability to procreate, but this distinction we make does not come from hate. As I like to say, “It’s not bigotry; it’s just biology.” I (and many others like me) want same-sex couples to have the legal rights that apply to them, but we don’t want the term “marriage” to be redefined just because it doesn’t happen to fit their biological abilities.
If you read the above and disagree with my opinion, that’s perfectly OK. If you read the above and declare me to be a “homophobe”…well, then you’re an idiot and I can’t help you. Sorry. (Sometimes you just have to call it like it is.) :-)
* — Frankly, I’ve never liked the term “homophobe”, because it is misrepresentative. The term implies fear of homosexuals as opposed to prejudice against them, but those who coined the term wanted that equivalence, incorrect though it may be. It’s very clever on their part, but incorrect. As a result, I reject the term and will not use it when “anti-homosexual” is the correct term. (As a note, I updated this based on a comment from a reader at Redstate, where I cross-posted this. I originally merely protested the term, but I agreed with the suggestion that I should reject it entirely, and have updated the post based on that suggestion.)
** — Polling relative to same-sex marriage has always been generally flawed in that it only offers two options. I would like to see the results of a poll that asked whether people were either: a) against same-sex unions entirely, b) for same-sex marriage, or c) for same-sex unions but against calling them “marriage”. That would be more useful in the discussion.
*** — This is much the same problem that the feminists ran into, which is why feminism hit a wall and has regressed to a fringe movement over the years: People recognize deep down that men and women are different, and trying to make them equal doesn’t work, yet the feminists can’t grasp that this doesn’t mean that we see women as inferior.
**** — Yes, I know that in light of current developments, a chicken sandwich reference may have been apropos, but the cheeseburger/cheese sandwich analogy just worked better. :-)