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Gay marriage: a Santorum-proof defense

January 7, 2012

I’m tired of this.

Rick Santorum and some college students have stoked the fires of the gay marriage debate, thanks to a fiery exchange during a campaign stop for the looming New Hampshire primaries.

In that exchange and the ensuing public discussion, the same worn-out and pointless arguments have been set forth to argue against gay marriage.  I’m usually one to see the different sides of an issue, but gay marriage is rapidly becoming a no-brainer issue to me.  (Which, come to think of it, is exactly why Santorum, of all people, should get it.)

Strangely enough, I used to be ambivalent and even slightly opposed to gay marriage.  Marriage, after all, is an institution and an arrangement with a specific cultural, religious, and literal definition.  Gay marriage was the proverbial square peg—why make it fit in that round hole?  (Please, no off-color extrapolations of the metaphor.  Thanks.)

But then I realized that it was about more than a dictionary definition, or even a cultural or religious one.

In my wildest fantasies, I dream of squashing all objections to gay marriage through a series of well-reasoned and indisputable observations.  In those fantasies, these are the points that I would raise:

  1. Religions are free to acknowledge and perform marriages as they wish.   If your religion refuses to acknowledge gay marriage, then that’s fine.  Religious institutions have the leeway to refuse to acknowledge any marriage that falls outside their parameters, whether by reason of divorce (lest we forget, the Bible speaks pretty harshly on divorce), the respective ages or spiritual states of either party, or, really, if for any reason, in its judgment, the union is not blessed by God.  They certainly have the right (and always have) to refuse to perform a ceremony.
  2. Marriage is a legal contract, and should be treated as such. Christians (or any other religious group) lost any right to dictate what marriage is and is not when it became part of our legal code; beyond the threshold of your building of worship, marriage becomes a contract.  Married couples receive tax breaks and legal consideration relative to each other that simply cannot be obtained any other way.  To refuse to allow any two people the right to enter into a legal contract for any reason is discrimination.  Period.
  3. Contracts have stipulations, but gender is not one of them.  The parties to a contract, it is true, must meet certain requirements.  They must be of age and be mentally competent, to name the two most common requirements.  Gender is not one of those stipulations (unless it’s a contract to participate in a beauty pageant, or something specialized like that).  However, if you really think about it, the restriction that gay marriage opponents seek to perpetuate is not gender itself—it’s gender relative to the gender of the other party.  That’s about as far-fetched a requirement for entering into a legal contract as I can think of.  What if you were told that you couldn’t sign a cell phone contract because you’re a male and the CEO of Verizon is also a male?
  4. Legal contract stipulations are what differentiate gay marriage from other “alternative domestic arrangements.”  This should put to rest the most specious and annoying objections to gay marriage, especially from the likes of Santorum, who paint gay marriage as a slippery slope toward observing marriages between multiple people and people and animals (and presumably, people and doorknobs and all sorts of downright creepy permutations that seem to fall all too easily off the tongues of certain rabid right-wingers).  It was, in fact, Santorum’s retread of this argument that sent me over the edge and into this little diatribe.

The sleight of hand at work here is the blurring of the social issue of acceptance of homosexuality on one hand and the legal/civil rights issues of gay marriage on the other.  To clarify, these are two different animals.  Santorum is working the social side of the issue for his talking points, but the dotted line of his social doctrine connects to legal implications (such as DOMA and the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage).  From a social perspective, I agree that we do open the door to all sorts of alternative lifestyles when we accept homosexuality.

However, that’s not the issue.  I’m not interested in Santorum’s social doctrines.  If he’s running for office, I’m concerned with how he enforces and upholds the Constitution and whether he’s planning on treating me fairly as an American citizen.

So let’s return to the issue.  It’s not up to the government or any of its representatives to judge various alternative lifestyles.  We are talking solely about who is legally allowed to enter into the contract of marriage.  There are plenty of reasons why there are, in fact, no slippery slopes in gay marriage.   Marriage to a child?  Minors can’t enter into contracts.  Marriage to a pigeon?  Animals can’t enter into contracts; further, the very act of bestiality cannot be shown to be consensual, and is therefore subject to animal abuse and animal cruelty laws.  Same for kids and child abuse laws, so there go two of your crutches, Mr. Santorum.

But then there’s polygamy.  Santorum’s strongest crutch, and a way to take a potshot at the gays and Mitt Romney with one swipe.  If we allow gays to marry, why can’t we further expand the definition to include marriages with three or four people?  Where do you stop?

That’s easy.  You stop at two.  And that’s not due to some moral mandate, either.  The concept of mutual exclusivity and reciprocity is implied in a great many contracts, and marriage is no exception.  For instance, when a spouse dies, the other spouse is charged with the debts, benefits, and legal decisions regarding the estate and any final arrangements.  What would happen, under legal polygamy, when there’s more than one spouse?  A coin toss?  Rights and responsibilities conferred by marriage, as they are written into our legal code, are reciprocal, and you can’t have reciprocity with more than two parties involved.  It isn’t mathematically possible.

To put the question in a more presidential context for Mr. Santorum, what if he was elected (God forbid) and then had to appoint a female VP because she was of the opposite sex?  Yes, I’m aware that we covered this in the loopy Verizon analogy above.   But let’s take it a step further.  Santorum would probably object to this restriction, saying he should have the right to appoint a male VP.  (That sounds kinda gay to me, but whatever floats his boat.)  And then, when faced with this objection, the Supreme Court respond to Santorum thusly: “So, what next?  Are you gonna ask to have TWO vice presidents?  Appoint your dog?  Your six-year-old granddaughter?  You’re killin’ us, here, Ricky!”

I hope it’s now abundantly clear how far off-topic this guy and his compadres are when they throw irrelevant questions back at the very clear and unambiguous question:

Why do you support the continued legal discrimination of gay Americans, who are not allowed to enter into the legal contract of marriage with the person of their choosing?

And Santorum is only one of the more outspoken politicians.  We should, in fact, pose this question to most of our elected officials, as our federal government (and most state governments) currently provides no protection from this form of discrimination.

 

 

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One Comment
  1. I wholeheartedly concur with your points. I might personally be oppossed to gay marriage on religious grounds, but what the goverment recognizes doesn’t effect my marriage, it’s a contract that bestows legal rights that should be available for all citizens.

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