Don’t boil marriage down to legal issues

What strikes me most about Gregory DuBoff’s editorial is that it entirely misses the point (“U.S. marriage laws perform crucial function,” 3/22). He writes in response to Aaron Margolis’ defense of the morality of gay marriage (“Love trumps politics in ongoing marriage debate,” 3/21), calling him “typically far-left” and “unproductive.” In two short paragraphs, DuBoff, who calls for a more honest debate on gay marriage, misconstrues both the content and the point of Margolis’ editorial, which was not a defense of the legalization of gay marriage, but of its morality. The debate for legalization is quite another one, and to criticize a moral discussion as impractical seems to me very unfair.

The discussion has transiåtioned to politics, however, so I feel compelled to address the political issues and their practical ramifications. DuBoff’s main point here is that appealing to civil rights is not a good enough argument for the allowance of gay marriage. This is true: If everyone felt that gay marriage were a civil right, then no one would have a problem legalizing it. The disagreement lies in whether gay marriage really is a civil right or not, which makes this a clear question of civil rights, contrary to DuBoff’s statement.

DuBoff also makes a mistake in saying that the government must only legalize what is in society’s best interest. The principle of republican freedom is that the citizen has the right to do whatever the government does not prohibit, and whatever is prohibited must be so forbidden for a reason. The difference is subtle, but places the burden on the side of prohibition rather than legalization.

The actual arguments against legalization — at least those I have heard to date — fail to convince me that gay marriage is a great enough evil to be prohibited. Most rely on the fact that marriage is a basic institution of society, and not to be messed with. To this I retort that tradition is not a good enough reason to keep something, especially when it negatively affects a substantial portion of the population. Slavery and servitude were time-honored traditions themselves, and today are entirely abhorred by society.

Others argue that marriage is meant to produce children, which is biologically impossible for homosexuals. While true, the rearing of children is a vastly more important purpose for marriage than their mere production. Society does not need more children, but more committed parents. So far, I remain unconvinced that homosexuals make worse parents than heterosexuals.

Moreover, marriage is also about the relationship between the spouses. This is where DuBoff’s assertion that polygamy and gay marriage are on the same slate falls apart. Gay marriage, like conventional marriage, is a loving relationship between two people, and is a kind of relationship that is impossible with any number greater than two. Marriage is a commitment where two people pledge their lives to each other, and there is a very good reason for this number to remain two, whereas there is no compelling reason for this to be limited to a man and a woman. As for DuBoff’s statistics calling into question the commitment of homosexuals in relationships, I contend that, even if it is true, this is not a trend limited to homosexuals, considering, for example, the astonishingly high divorce rate in conventional marriages.

I must ask, then, what crucial function is it that these laws perform? DuBoff seems to think there is one, but other than maintaining the illegality of polygamy, he fails to provide any examples. He calls for a more honest and robust debate, but I see little of one in his article.

Certainly opposition is not to be dismissed as homophobic, but the truth is, the vast majority of opposition is not reasonable. Many say that it is against the natural order of things; but the term “natural” is vague at best, and this argument is little better than saying, “It’s just wrong.” This sort of opposition with no foundation I call homophobia. The other great reason for opposing gay marriage is morality. This is a particularly hard case to argue, which is why I feel that Peter Johnston has so much trouble conducting this discussion with anyone who favors gay marriage (“Gay marriage question begs resolution,” 3/20). I find it hard to consider gay marriage immoral by any standard other than religious dogma, and it is hard to get around a categorical statement in a holy text; it is a discussion that is usually doomed from the start if the contenders have opposing views.

I wholeheartedly agree with DuBoff that we must have a more honest and robust debate. Unfortunately, so many people on both sides of the debate are so inflamed by this issue that concessions are unlikely to be made on either side. And sadly, I profess that I am now either preaching to the choir or talking to a brick wall.



Caio Camargo is a freshman in Timothy Dwight College. He is a staff photographer for the News.

Comments