Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fighting the good fight or blowing hot air? (paca)

Somehow I let myself get drawn into a debate on gay marriage today and yesterday. As all such blog debates go, I persuaded no one. However, I do think I sharpened my arguments a good bit in the attempt. Pretty much everyone who reads this blog knows my point of view here, but it might be interesting nonetheless. My reasoning gets sharper as I go. If you don't want to read all my detailed reasoning, you might find my moral appeal at the end of interest. Participating in this debate reminds me that I should tackle tough issues more often here on the blog, as writing is where I get to really focus and see what I believe.

The debate:

This is from The Moderate Voice political blog (see link on right) where one of the co-bloggers posted about "the bigotry vote" where, as he sees it, when the Republicans are having a hard time, they always like to pull out the favorite boogieman to get the base pumped up, namely gay people. Most commenters agreed. Then one commenter, who is quoted below, argued that you didn't have to be a bigot to disagree with same sex marriage. That was my jumping off point. I put in bogus names for the commenters, but there are several people going. When people quote each other, it's in italics.

Blogger 1:
So everyone who opposes gay marriage is a bigot?

That would include not only the religious right, but the majority of the American public. I'm an agnostic, and while gay marriage is hardly the most serious issue out there and while I have no doubt that it isn't going to destroy society if we allow it, I still think the onus is on gay marriage supporters to answer why religious people who do oppose gay marriage should have to subsidize it in the way they would straight marriage in the private workplace.

Frankly, I think employers shouldn't be hampered with any sort of anti-discrimination legislation, be it on grounds of sex, race, religion, or sexual preference. I believe that if a group is offended by an employer's hiring or benefits practices, they and their supporters should simply boycott the business. Few mainstream businesses would dare offend a potenial target demographic. Those few who would, however, should be free to do so. Hooter's should not have to hire men and religious people should not have to provide benefits to homosexuals who marry.

It is (or, at least, was) a free country, after all.
9.26.2006 11:10pm

Is it possible to have a stance that forbids gay marriage that isn't based on bigotry? Probably. If you believe that the state should not perform legal marriages at all, then that would probably work. So no legal marriage for any one. That would be a non-bigoted opinion. Perhaps if there was some sort of scientific verifiable evidence that gay married couples caused harm to others. Of course, there is no such evidence, just a lot of trumped up evidence) and it's hard to imagine what such evidence would look like. It would have to say that gay couples living together doesn't cause any harm, but as soon as they marry, it does. That would be really weird.

To address your bigger point, if an opinion is bigoted, it remains bigoted no matter how many people believe it. If there is a God, then there is a God whether or not 5% of the people believe in such an entity or 95%. The stats on support for gay marriage seem to move with the polls and the exact question asked, but there is no doubt that some substantial percentage of Americans oppose it. But that doesn't change whether or not the belief is right or wrong. The vast majority of Americans opposed interracial marriage until fairly recently. They were always wrong even when all their friends agreed.

I take bigotry to be a belief about a certain group that has no basis in fact. The reason that most people oppose gay marriage is that they believe certain things about gay couples or their effect on society that have no basis in fact.
9.27.2006 12:30am

Blogger 2 (mail):
Yes, Blogger 1, they pretty much are. Why bother denying it? I believe it was Senator Hatch who during the Senate debate on the proposed Constitutional amendment just acted shocked that someone might think that a majority of Americans might be bigoted. This could only be shocking to someone who has completely forgotten their American history. Huge numbers of Americans have at one time or another been prejudiced towards the Irish, Italians, Jews, Catholics, blacks, Native Americans and Chinese. Now it is still acceptable to be bigoted against homosexuals because after all the Bible says it is. Ask anyone who knows the history of those groups how free America was for them at one time or another.
9.27.2006 12:31am

Blogger 1:
I take bigotry to be a belief about a certain group that has no basis in fact. The reason that most people oppose gay marriage is that they believe certain things about gay couples or their effect on society that have no basis in fact.

Well, I don't believe it will have a substantial effect one way or another. However, I'm a conservative and I err on the side of caution and don't care to open the flood gates to a continuous "redefiniton" of marriage in the future. I can almost guarantee you that other groups will eventually argue that since we've redefined marriage once, we can do it again. By itself, it is of little importance, but nowhere in history has the institution of marriage ever been considered to encompass homosexual couples and I see no compelling reason to start now.

After all, what arguments are gays or lesbians introducing that could not be equally applied to polygamists, for example?
9.27.2006 11:14am

Blogger 3:

After all, what arguments are gays or lesbians introducing that could not be equally applied to polygamists, for example?

Blogger 1, simple. Two consenting adults. Beyond that, all I'll say on the topic is that I believe state controlled legal marriage has resulted in government getting too involved in religious ceremonies. Let the church take care of the marriage issue as it sees fit and have government allow some form of legal contract (along the lines of a civil union) for granting legal rights and protections to any two consenting adults.
9.27.2006 11:34am

Blogger 4 (mail):

After all, what arguments are gays or lesbians introducing that could not be equally applied to polygamists, for example?

Very good question. From a purely sexual standpoint, all the acts involved, if between consenting adults, are legal (at least, in some states).

I view marriage as a legal issue. Judges and religous representatives can perform legal marriages in this country. It involves taxes, health care, inheritance. In those aspects, I see no reason to deny the gay couple the title of marriage.

On the social scale, separate is not equal. Giving one type of couple a "marriage" and another type of couple a "civil union" sends everyone the message "Group A is better than Group B."

If we, as a society, accept gay couples, (I see no good reason we shouldn't), it seems unreasonable to deny them marriage.

So, back to the question.

After all, what arguments are gays or lesbians introducing that could not be equally applied to polygamists, for example?

The only difference is that society is more accepting of gay couples than they are of polygamy, at this point in time. It's utterly arbitrary.
9.27.2006 12:36pm

Blogger 4 again (mail):
Well, and polygamy is illegal...but I was trying to avoid the (il)legal issue since gay marriage is illegal in some states.
9.27.2006 12:52pm
pacatrue (www):
I disagree with Bogger 4 that the difference between polygamy and gay marriage is completely arbitrary. As Vlogger 3 already said, the difference is as obvious as counting: two people vs. more than two people. Done. Same as the bestiality argument against same sex marriage. Adult person versus sheep. That slippery slope just isn't that slippery. Remember any two people can live together right now.

Also, you will not find any single definition of marriage in the history of the world. Some marriages in various societies have been about a single man and woman being legally joined in which the man is the dominant power; some have been a single man and woman where the woman was the dominant power (this is rarer, but we don't have to look too far off to find such a group; A lot of African-American families, especially during slavery, revolved around a stable woman who owned the home and transient men who came and went either by choice or not; there are many other matriarchical societies as well.) Some societies have endorsed patriarchical polygamy, and some have gone for the matriarchical version. I can't remember the group right now, but there's an Indian society where traditionally the Aunt is in charge in a very confusing way. The reason this is relevant is because marriage is very often a legal institution about property and ownership, and in each of these societies, the ownership arrangement was therefore very different.

Moreover, we can toss out that it is always clear exactly what marriage is. Frequently in history a church has only recognized its marriages as true marriages; sometimes whenever two people sleep together, they are declared married on penalty of death or exile; sometimes marriage is only about legal ownership and has nothing to do with love or religion; sometimes a marriage is just when two people move in together and the elder shakes a stick at their hut for a minute.

There is no single religius, legal, or social institution that has existed through-out the world that can be called marriage. So instead of trying to divine truth from history, we should look at marriage as it is defined in the U.S. today.

In the U.S. today, marriage has four components, at least.

1) Personal - two people wish to dedicate themselves to each other. I don't want the government deciding who gets to love who.

2) Social - it's a declaration of union to family and friends and society at large. Again, I don't want government getting involved in this. If my mom wants to hate me, because the girl I like isn't to her liking, that's our family business. If I wanted to marry a man and my mom thinks he's great, that's also famly business, and not the government's. (To make those examples clear, I am male.) Friends and family should be free to adore or reject a couple without government interference.

3) It's a religious institution. Again, I definitely don't want government telling a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple what their religious views of marriage should be. Some Christian churches currently marry gay people; many don't. I think that's the churches' business. Since my sister-in-law's Catholic church couldn't or wouldn't marry my brother to her, since he's not Catholic, I assume that church could refuse to marry my sister to her as well.

4) It's a legal institution. Here government is involved, by definition (Of course, they could get out of the marriage business all together, and I respect that opinion, though I haven't thought much about the pros and cons.) When you are talking about a legal institution, you have to talk about legal equality. For most of the history of this country, there have been some basic legal rights that have been restricted from various groups - the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to enter contracts. Legal marriage is simply a contract that two people are allowed to establish and nothing more mysterious. All of these basic legal rights have been withheld from various people based usually on gender or race. Women for instance could not vote for about 150 years. But eventually America does seem to decide that every one who is an adult should be allowed to have the same basic legal rights as everyone else - or at least gender and race should not be factors that are used to restrict access to these rights.

In the case of same sex marriage, it is exactly gender which is being used to restrict people from entering a marriage contract. It is not sexual orientation really. A gay man can go marry any woman he wants today. A lesbian can marry any man she chooses. But two men are not allowed to enter into a marriage contract exactly because they are men. Remember we are only talking about legal contracts here, which is all the government should be involved in. Adults should be allowed to enter any legal arrangement they wish (that doesn't remove rights they cannot abdicate; for instance, you cannot choose to enter slavery) and their gender should not be a barrier to this.

In many ways this debate reminds me of the Taiwan / China debate. In that debate, Taiwan is already a sovereign nation, independent of China. But if Taiwan ever says out loud the obvious fact to all - that they are independent - China is going to bomb the hell out of them. We kind of have that here among many both proponents and opponents of same sex marriage. The couple can already live together. They can already perform a ceremony dedicating themselves to one another before their family and friends. There are already some churches which will marry the two partners. But if anyone recognizes reality, instead of sweeping it under the rug ... well, that's just crazy!

OK, that was long. Sorry. And I edited, because there is more to say!
9.27.2006 2:50pm
Blogger 1:
Blogger 3,

Blogger 1, simple. Two consenting adults

That is like saying marriage is simple: one man and one woman joined together in matrimony. Simple. Hardly a convincing argument. Furthermore, polygamy actually has more a historical claim than gay marriage does.

If you don't allow polygamy, aren't you just discriminating against people who's religious or cultural beliefs may allow for more "complex" family structures? Many people might be happier in a polygamic relationship? Why are you trying to prevent poeple from being happy? Don't you care about people's happiness?

Aren't you just being bigoted?
9.27.2006 3:09pm

pacatrue (www):
The reason that two people versus three people makes a difference, Blogger 1, is because we are not talking about happiness, we are talking about law. There is already a law on the books which says two adult people can enter a legal contract called marriage which has certain rights and responsibilities. When you refuse to allow two men to enter this contract, you are not applying the law equally to all citizens. There is no legal contract in existence today which allows marriage between three people, and so the law applies equally to all. In short, the laws against polygamy apply to all Americans; the law against same sex marriage applies only to some Americans.
9.27.2006 4:35pm
Blogger 1:
The law against same sex marriage applies to all marriages also. No American can marry a partner of the same sex in vicinities where same sex marriage is not recognized.

If you argue that not all people desire a same sex marriage, then laws against polygamy are similarly selective: not all people desire polygamy, either.

You may be getting somewhere though, clarify your position and keep arguing....
9.27.2006 5:44pm
pacatrue (www):
LOL, Blogger 1, I'm glad (seriously) that we seem to be attempting to talk with each other, so I will try again.

1) Think of marriage as a legal contract, because I don't want government in any part of marriage other than the legal side of it. As an example of contracts in general, perhaps I want to buy your house and you want to sell it to me. It is something we both agree to and now we want to sign the relevant legal paperwork. In the U.S., anyone is (now) allowed to sign such a contract. It doesn't matter if I am a man, a woman, black, white, etc. As long as we are adults and legally able to make our own decisions, then we can sign this contract. If we wanted to do this and a judge stopped us saying that we could not sign the contract because I was left-handed, then we could appeal and fight the judgement based on the idea that being left-handed is not a legitimate reason for two people to be forbidden by law to sell a house to each other. Even if our state passed a law forbidding people from selling houses to left-handed people, we could fight it on the grounds that such a law violates the basic principle of legal equality.

Now move it to marriage. Two adults wish to enter a legal contract that gives them rights about tax filing and hospital visitation and such. A judge now steps in and says that, no, you cannot sign this contract because you are men. And we say, what does that have to do with our ability to sign legal contracts? We are adults of sound mind. There is a contract between two adults that everyone else can sign, but the two of us can't, because of our gender, which is already forbidden to be used as a basis of legal discrimination.

To make the point more quickly. There is already a set contract of marriage between two people. Same sex marriage lets all American citizens sign this contract. There is no contract of marriage between three people. It would be inventing a new contract and is categorically different than letting all citizens sign the same contract.

2) I really don't see the connection between same sex marriage and polygamy. The argument is supposed to be that if the government cannot forbid two men to marry, then they cannot forbid anyone to marry anything at anytime. Somehow this can seem to make sense, since I once bought it myself, but it doesn't.

To make the point, I will take another example. Let's say that there was a long tradition that blonde-haired people cannot marry brown-haired people. One day (most frequently after meeting a lot of people with different hair color that they like just fine), some people in such a society begin to say things like, "that's unfair; people of any hair color should be able to legally marry whomever they wish."

Upon hearing this, however, a bunch of people stand up and say, "Look, I have no problem with blondes and brunettes being in love, and it's really not a big deal to me if they do marry, but, you know, as a matter of legal principle, this scares me. The government has to have the legal right to forbid this, because if they don't then the next thing you know my daughter will have seven husbands or my cousin will be able to marry a sheep."

And people just stare because the speaker seems crazy. What does allowing people of different hair color to marry have to do with polygamy and bestiality? Nothing. The slope isn't slippery. And so, what I am arguing here is that the same thing is true with same sex marriage. There is no greater connection between some guy I know marrying his boyfriend and polygamy as there is a connection between that guy marrying his girlfriend and polygamy. Polygamy has nothing to do with same sex marriage.

We move no closer to polygamy due to a gay marriage than we do due to an interracial marriage. Two separate issues.

3) I re-read your comment and perhaps this is another way to express my different view. You mention that same sex marriage is already forbidden for everyone, and, therefore, there is legal equality. But it is not clear there are two legal institutions, one of which is hetero marriage and another which is gay marriage. Instead there is just marriage. It's a contract that allows you to file taxes jointly, inherity property, and visit your dying loved one in the hospital among other things. Since there is just one institution, and we are forbidding certain people to participate in it, then the law is not treating its citizens equally. It's kind of like the right to vote. In the 19th century, women were not allowed to vote. It's not because there was a separate male voting legal right and a separate female voting legal right, and both laws applied equally to men and women. Instead, there was just one legal thing - voting - and people of a certain sex were not allowed to participate in it. Same thing going on with marriage.
9.27.2006 8:15pm

Blogger 1:
There is already a set contract of marriage between two people.

To more be more specific: there is a set contract between one man and one woman. Any man and any woman in this country can engage in that contract. Two men cannot, two women cannot, and two women and one man cannot. No man is forbidden from marrying any woman and no woman is forbidden from marrying any man. Every citizen can conceivably engage in such a contract

The problem with your argument in support of gay marriage as opposed to polygamy is that you continuously appeal to a more traditional definition of marriage as being of two people to justify allowing gays to marry, but not allowing polygamy. The problem is that the traditional definition of marriage is between one man and one woman. You are attempting to rewrite this traditional definition while simultaneously appealing to it to justify preventing polygamy. I'm telling you, without a solid reason to rewrite the definition of marriage, you are opening up a can of worms.

You might still have an argument, but I think you need to find a different tact than the strictly contractual one. The contractual argument is very arbitrary. The traditional definition of marriage has advantages in that it has been a hallmark of western civilization for many centuries. Overall, it has worked well. Gay marriage doesn't have the weight of tradition behind it and extending marriage rights to gays opens up the whole definition of marriage to being rewritten at will. Traditional marriage has tradition behind, gay marriage doesn't and by the time we find out whether or not there are serious problems with having tinkered with this instutition, we will likely be too late to reverse it.

My problem is that I know how these things tend to work out in the end. Gay marriage reminds me of what is occurring in New York: a few years ago we were all assured by the anti-smoking advocates that banning smoking here, there, and everywhere, would not lead down the road to banning other harmful things like fast food. That would be ridiculous. The Nanny State would never go so far. Now trans-fats are under attack in New York. Where will it stop? Who knows? The genie of Nanny Government has been unleashed. Government interference has been elevated to an entirely new level as a result of the anti-smoking crusaders' successes. If you think that gay marriage cannot potentially lead to polygamy, I ask you to consider the fact that even 15-20 years ago, most people would have considered the idea of gays marrying to be unthinkable and absurd. "It could never happen," they would say. Here we are.
9.27.2006 11:09pm

OK, let's try a different tact. Can you tell me why allowing a white man and a black woman to marry, which was illegal in many places for years and years, does not open the door to polygamy, while allowing one man to marry another man does?

I am guessing you will say that is because men have always been allowed to marry women, and so interracial marriage follows in that tradition. However, here it seems you are slicing and dicing history to tell the story you need it to tell. White men and black women could not marry once, and when that was determined to be a violation of legal rights, marriage was redefined so that it was more fair to all. But, it seems, under your view as I understand it, that that wasn't a real redefining of marriage, since gender is more important than race. Isn't that just ignoring all the redefinitions that have happened through-out history in order for this one possible redefinition to be completely different?

Of course, I am putting words in your mouth. So, if you accept the challenge, I want to know why a decision to let people of different ethnicities marry doesn't open a door to losing all control of marriage, while marrying people of the same gender does.
9.27.2006 11:33pm

One more thought that might be useful is that it seems the case of anti-smoking legislation is the exact opposite of what's going on with same sex marriage. Namely, with smoking laws, the government was passing laws preventing citizens from acting of their own free will (rightly or wrongly). In the case of same sex marriage, the courts are saying that the goverment cannot prevent people from acting of their own will. One is a government law imposing on citizens' freedom. The other is a court saying that the government cannot impose on its citizens' freedom. Surely, that is a non-arbitrary difference.
9.27.2006 11:44pm
Blogger 1:
OK, let's try a different tact. Can you tell me why allowing a white man and a black woman to marry, which was illegal in many places for years and years, does not open the door to polygamy, while allowing one man to marry another man does?

Well, in part, because miscegnation and similar laws are very artificial. They did not exist throughout most of history. I'm not even certain if they existed in every single state in this country at any time. (They certain varied, from state to state, as to exactly what races were prevented from marrying what others. In some states in Indians were prevented from marrying whites, in others just whites and blacks.) Furthermore, race is clearly a more fluid category than sexual orientation, especially when it comes to marriage. Preventing all instances of gay marriage is clearly a lot easier than preventing all instances of miscegnation and racial intermarriage. Miscegnation laws and laws preventing interracial marriage lack a large measure of enforceability when compared to laws preventing gay marriage.

Namely, with smoking laws, the government was passing laws preventing citizens from acting of their own free will (rightly or wrongly).

Yes, but it all depends on your perspective. The loss of freedom of the individual is the gain for the government. Gay marriage has not fared well with the American public when offered in the form of a referendum. Where gay marriage has prevailed, it has been by it being dictated to the people by government officials. The government is granting itself the right to define appropriate health habits and the right to define marriage on behalf of a particular section of society. Christian employers who may not agree with gay marriage will be forced, by the government, to extend benefits to homosexuals even if they don't approve of homosexuality or, otherwise, drop benefits altogether. The power of that employer has been restricted by the government.
9.28.2006 12:20am

Blogger 4 (mail):
Do we live in a country with mob rule, or in a country that attempts to represent democratic rule without subjecting the minority?

It's an interesting philosophical question.
9.28.2006 12:36am

Well, I follow your argument, Blogger1, but I am not sure it is historically accurate, really. In truth, marriage is an extremely fluid institution and the only way we can make it seem unified is by picking and choosing what's important about marriage. I.e., if we decide beforehand that we will only count certain things as real marriage, then lo and behold, only those things are found in our historical analysis of marriage. If instead we let history speak for itself, then we see people's idea of marriage and its importance changing continuously through-out time. Since that is the case, I think we should look to the here and now.

I'm probably going to move on at this point, but I do want to make one more argument. This one is not a philosphical question or a discussion of legal equality and the like. It's a moral and emotional appeal. You and I, assuming you are straight, have the luxury right now of sitting back and debating these issues from our arm chairs. If I am hit by a car tomorrow, my wife can come see me in the hospital with almost no paperwork, just by saying she's my wife. If I were to die in that hospital, she and my son will inherit the little money I have with relatively little trouble. No one would try to take our child from her.

But there are a lot of American citizens out there for whom this is not the case - right now. If 5% of Americans are gay, that means roughly 12 and a half million Americans do not have such simple legal rights. In this example of a car wreck where I am dying, if I had a male partner and had been the biological parent of our child, someone might try to take our child away from him. Perhaps my partner would not be allowed to see me in the hospital, while my parents sat around the death bed. Can you imagine if your wife of 20 years were dying and you were not allowed to be with her unless your father-in-law said so? That would be intolerable. After death, perhaps my partner would not be able to inherit the money I have and would lose the home. I am sure there are ways to set up special contracts so that this does not happen, but two people should not have to fight for such basic rights. They should be virtually automatic - if not for basic decency, then for the social reason that we are supposed to support families, not try to destroy them.

Frankly, misgivings about corporate benefits pale in comparison to supporting families at their most vulnerable moments. These are real people - friends and family. Some of these people are so much wiser and stronger and smarter than myself. I have a few people in mind as I write this that I admire tremendously. Since we already have an institution - marriage - designed to support the union of two people, why not let all American citizens receive its benefits?

I think it is an insult to the millions of American citizens who are gay to even vote on such basic matters, as if showing people equal respect is something we get to grant and take away with the number of votes we have. This is family and supporting family that we are talking about. There is real harm being done now. It seems misguided to continue to do known damage to other people because of vague worries about the future that we cannot substantiate.
9.28.2006 3:01am

1 comment:

Killer Llama said...


That was well argued. If forced to pick a side, I would come down in favor of gay marriage. However, my position for some time now has been tempered by the same arguments put forward by blogger 1. Some general comments:

1) I think blogger 1, by the rationality of his arguments and the measured way in which they were delivered, has shown that it is possible to oppose gay marriage and not be bigotted. I imagine that most who do oppose are bigots, and those people cannot be reasoned with. They are evoking an emotional response, one that they have been conditioned to since childhood. Without some kind of personal experience to force them to shift their perspective, no amount of reason will reach them. But some folks, like blogger 1 here, are rational, and they can be reached, with the right argument. Also, I think you had the opportunity to win him over...

2) I think all of this talk of what is "traditional" is useful only to a point... I'm sure examples could be produced of just about any kind of marriage being sanctioned by some government somewhere in the world at some time in our history. So, yes, marriage is fluid. But we (Americans) are from the western tradition. And even if there are some examples of men marrying sheep in our past, the undisputable truth is that a western traditional marriage includes one man and one woman. Even if that hasn't always been the case, it is the case in America today. Let me give you an example to illustrate: the pledge of allegiance. Many people, in fact, I think the large majority, believe that "under god" is and always has been part of the pledge of allegiance. Suggesting that it be taken out is an attack to tradition, they argue. Those two words were only added to the pledge by congress in 1954, in a response to the "godless communists." But that fact doesn't change the current belief in America that saying "under god" is traditional. Similarly, even if prior to 2000 the whole world was marrying hamsters, today, the vast majority of everyone believes marriage = man + woman. When you use "tradition" as a point of argument, I think this has to be acknowledged.

3) I really like your division of marriage into 4 parts: personal, social, religious, and legal. That kind of logic is why I tend to favor the idea that the government get out of the marriage business all together. I think that the government, which has a duty to fair to all citizens, should pass "civil unions" between any two consenting adults that provide all legal benefits currently attached to marriage. Separately, let churches "marry" individuals as they choose.

4) I think the root of blogger 1's argument is stated here:

"However, I'm a conservative and I err on the side of caution and don't care to open the flood gates to a continuous "redefiniton" of marriage in the future. I can almost guarantee you that other groups will eventually argue that since we've redefined marriage once, we can do it again. By itself, it is of little importance, but nowhere in history has the institution of marriage ever been considered to encompass homosexual couples and I see no compelling reason to start now."

I think this is powerful. Given that marriage is traditionally between a man and woman, why change it now?

If you can provide evidence of harm that is occuring because of the ban on same-sex marriage, then rational people like blogger 1 here will have a reason to abandon tradition. The same thing happened with interracial marriage. People were being discrimnated against, harassed, even killed because they were marrying, even dating, interracially. The government, eventually, recognized that this was harmful to society and acted to change it, even though it was unorthodox at the time. You eventually got around to this... demonstrating harm... in your last post. You may have convinced him with it. The difficulty is that, as you said, 5% (only 5%) of Americans are gay. That means the harm that is being felt is being felt by a small minority of the public... not enough to spill over into the affairs of the rest of us, not enough for it to disrupt society as a whole.

So, because I'm all for fairness and equaliy, I would support gay marriage. More specifically, I support civil unions, as I said above. However, because of the reasons I state in point 4, I don't think that will ever really happen. Tradition says marriage is one man and one woman, and, for most of us, there's just no compelling reason to change.