Barry Deutsch wrote a guest post over at Family Scholars Blog in which he talks about the most common argument he heard against same-sex marriage while cold-calling Oregon residents and asking them to support marriage equality. It’s well worth reading, as was his approach to continuing the conversation with these people.
At the beginning of his post, he describes one of the arguments against marriage equality that he roll-played with a fellow volunteer, but never actually heard while making his calls:
I explained that I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with gay sex or gay relationships per se., but that I was concerned with how changing the definition of marriage would alter the country’s already fragile marriage culture. If there’s no longer a special status set aside for generative relationships, how will we continue to say that every child needs and deserves a father and a mother?
While I’m not surprised that Barry did not hear this from the average person he called, this argument is commonly forwarded by professional equality opponents like the folks at the National Organization for Marriage. Indeed, it’s basis of their attempts to repackage themselves as “marriage defenders.” The problem is, it’s an argument that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
At its most basic, the argument is based on the assumption that heterosexual people’s ability to keep their marriages intact hinges upon what gay people do. To put it more succinctly, if a little harshly, the founding premise is that other people are responsible for heterosexual’s couples morality or lack thereof. The very idea that allowing two men or two women will suddenly cause heterosexual people to decide that their own relationships matter — and make no mistake, the above and similar statements are implying exactly that — suggests that heterosexual people aren’t taking their relationships very seriously to begin with.
If — and I think this is a rather huge if — heterosexual people are not taking their relationships seriously to the point that it has become a problem, then allow me to suggest that this is not the fault of QUILTBAG people, nor should the burden of changing that state of affairs or prevent it from worsening. That is the sole responsibility of the heterosexual people in question. To make this the burden of QUILTBAG individuals is unreasonable and unjust.
Furthermore, robbing heterosexuals of the responsibility for their own choices — which is ultimately what this approach does — is unjust towards heterosexual people. To suggest that heterosexual people do not have the integrity or ability to treat their own relationships with care is to suggest that they are severely lacking in moral fiber. It is an insult, and the suggestion that such people should be allowed to continue with such a deficiency is injurious on top of that. One often gets what one expects out of people, so if anti-equality advocates wish heterosexual people to treat marriage more seriously, they should be addressing heterosexual people, telling them, “We expect better from you.” They should quit scapegoating QUILTBAG people.