In his column on gay marriage, Aaron Margolis — in a typically far-left, unproductive fashion — misconstrues the issue with his final assertion that “true love, no matter whom it’s between, is moral” (“Love trumps politics in ongoing marriage debate,” 3/21).
Before we fire up a fresh chorus of “Kumbaya,” let’s take a step back and analyze whether this statement is true. I love my mother and my dog deeply, but I don’t think the government should allow me to marry either. Nor do I think either case would be moral. (It is nice to know that I’d have Margolis’ blessing were I to pop the question, though.)
Margolis states that gay marriage is “society conferring the benefits of marriage on any two people who love each other deeply.” This does not, however, reflect the purpose of marriage. Conservatives argue that marriage, in its traditional composition, is a social institution fundamen tal to the welfare of society. Altering this institution, the argument goes, could negatively impact society. Whether you agree with this argument or not, it is certainly not based on misconceptions about homosexuals as Margolis attempts to spin it, but rather the societal ramifications of altering the institution of marriage.
Supporters of gay marriage are wrong to center the debate on civil rights. As a citizen, you do not have the right to marry whomever you wish, and the government does have the right to decide who can and cannot wed. Look at the example of polygamy. The argument for legalizing polygamy reads almost exactly the same as that for gay marriage. If traditional marriage is between one man and one woman, gay marriage activists would argue this is discriminatory based on gender, whereas advocates for polygamy would argue that it is discriminatory based on quantity. What gives the government the right to decide how many people I can be married to at any given time? The answer, of course, is the same authority that allows them to decide what gender combinations constitute a marriage.
The government has the right to decide which unions are beneficial to society and which are not. If supporters of gay marriage want to keep using the civil rights argument, they need either to support the legalization of polygamy or to clearly identify why gay marriage is a civil right while polygamy is not. To me, the civil rights argument is a losing battle for gay marriage, because people are rightfully fearful of the slippery slope created by declaring the government has no right to decide which groups are eligible for marriage.
Instead, gay marriage advocates would be better served by arguing that while the government does have the right to ban gay marriage, it is in society’s best interests to lift this ban. Contrary to far-left thought, which dismisses worries about the corrosive effects of gay marriage as homophobic, statistics reveal cause for concern. A study by two University of Vermont professors found only 34 percent of homosexual men in committed relationships and 50 percent of homosexual men in civil unions felt it was not acceptable to have sex outside of their primary relationship. While these statistics are obviously not conclusive, they suggest gay marriages might be less committed than traditional marriages. Whether less-committed relationships would have a harmful effect on society is another question entirely, but my point is that it is irresponsible and counterproductive to dismiss all opposition to gay marriage as homophobic. The topic must be debated more honestly and robustly.
While convincing people gay marriage is good for society might be an uphill battle — indeed, one that must be won amongst the people and not just among the activist judges circumventing the political process — in the long run, it will be more effective than arguing for rights that do not exist.
Gregory DuBoff is a sophomore in Saybrook College.