Fortunately, none of these arguments could survive the academic scrutiny of a marginally sober third-grader. In the best light, they’re just hollow platitudes. In the worst, they’re vile, desperate lies. And if you ever get caught in a conversation with a discrimination parrot—or if you want to defend marriage equality in an angry blog post or a letter to the editor—feel free to steal the simple refutations below with complete impunity.
Gay marriage will destroy the sanctity of straight marriage
Wrong. Britney Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage destroys the sanctity of straight marriage. Rush Limbaugh’s three temporary marriages destroy the sanctity of straight marriage. John McCain dating and proposing to his second wife while still married to his disfigured first wife destroys the sanctity of straight marriage.
We can’t redefine marriage
• The concept of “redefining marriage” is a linguistic distraction designed to pull the spotlight away from the underlying hatred behind “traditional marriage” propaganda. Giving gay people equal access to the rights and protections of marriage will not change the definition of marriage. Nothing about gay marriage alters heterosexual marriage. The definition of marriage between heterosexuals will remain exactly the same.
• If we hadn’t redefined marriage in the 1960s, Barack Obama would still be a bastard in the 19 states that wouldn’t allow the interracial marriage of his parents when he was born.
• Ronald Reagan, the divorced patron saint of the modern conservative theocracy, redefined marriage into something temporary and easily revocable in 1969 when as governor of California he signed the Family Law Act, leading the United States into an era of no-fault divorce.
• Other historical “redefinitions” of marriage involve the transition of marriage from a business relationship between families to a property relationship between a man and his wife and then to a relationship based on relative equality between a man and a woman.
Marriage is the foundation of society
One could argue that the true foundation of society is a successful public health policy. Or a working economy. Or an equitable system of education. Whether marriage—specifically heterosexual-only marriage as this argument goes—is also some kind of "foundation" depends on a broad range of definitions of foundation. In any case, this argument is little more than a hollow platitude designed to sound meaningful when other arguments against equality implode for lack of substance.
Homosexuality is not natural
Wrong. Since it occurs randomly in nature across all species without any identifiable outside influence, homosexuality is completely natural. Religion, on the other hand, is created entirely by the human imagination. Which makes it, by definition, unnatural.
Americans think gay people are gross
Americans think obese parents, pregnant teenagers and Newt Gingrich are gross. And they’re allowed to marry as often as they want.
Gay marriage teaches children it’s OK to be gay
Exactly. Just as organized religion teaches children it’s OK to embrace the supernatural over the real. And there are no laws against that.
I shouldn’t be forced to explain gay marriage to my kids
An unwillingness to expose children to the diversity outside their family is no justification for denying adults equal access to financial and legal protections for their own families.
Marriage is designed to produce children
No it’s not.
• Straight marriage laws carry no reproduction requirements.
• If they did, infertile or menopausal people wouldn’t be allowed to marry.
Children deserve a mother and a father
That's how they're usually made, yes. But since marriage is not contingent on producing children—and vice versa—this argument is just an emotional-heartstrings-flavored distraction deployed to change the subject when other anti-equality arguments are exposed for their implausibility and desperation.
Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to men marrying dogs
No it won’t. And anyone who makes this imbecilic argument is not emotionally or intellectually fit to participate in any conversation that affects public policy.
If we allow men to marry men …
The slippery slope argument uses wild conjecture in place of reason and fact, making it the last vestige of the intellectually desperate. Since it’s based on nothing but imagination, the arguments can go in an infinite number of directions. And these arguments are easily trumped: If we allow people to vote on gay marriages, we’ll have to allow people to vote on marriages between adulterers and divorcees. If we allow Christian mythology to influence our laws, we’ll have to allow Wiccan theology to influence our laws as well. If we follow Christian mandates on marriage, we’ll also have to follow Christian mandates on adultery, divorce and the subjugation of women.
The institution of marriage is under attack by gay people
No it’s not. Gay people want to emulate marriage. The only people attacking the institution of marriage are the people currently allowed to be married: heterosexuals who divorce or commit acts of domestic abuse and adultery.
I’m defending marriage against a catastrophic threat
No you’re not. If you truly want to “defend” marriage, define it as a bond between one man who’s never committed adultery or been divorced and one woman who’s never committed adultery or been divorced. Adultery and divorce are the only real, measurable threats to marriage. Advocate for anything less and you’re just campaigning to hate gay people.
Marriage should be decided by the states
No it shouldn’t.
• Speed limits should be decided by the states. Sales taxes should be decided by the states. School calendars should be decided by the states. People’s relationships, legal protections and tax benefits shouldn’t change when they drive across state lines.
• Allowing marriages to exist and dissolve as couples cross state lines is at best illogical and at worst viciously hateful. If individual states were free to ban marriage between divorced people (as the Bible says), a staggering majority of voters and “pro-marriage” lawmakers—especially the legions of divorced ones—would be deafening in their assertion that marriage equality is NOT a state issue.
Marriage should be decided by voters
No it shouldn’t. Individual marriages should be decided only by the two people entering into them.
Gay people don't deserve special rights
Equality is not a special right. Calling it a "special right" is an ugly distraction tactic designed at best to pull focus from the underlying hatred behind anti-marriage-equality arguments and at worst to mislead and inflame the passions of gullible, low-information voters.
We should just agree to disagree
People “agree to disagree” about frivolous things like music or sports teams or religious beliefs. The active denial of legal equality is not frivolous; it has real consequences for real families. Either you’re for marriage equality or you’re against equality. There’s no room for friendly disagreement in the equation.
No offense, but I don’t think gay people should marry
Believing that one class of people does not deserve equal protections under the law is extremely offensive. Especially when there is no logical, rational or even plausible reason for your belief.
I don’t hate gay people—I just believe marriage should be between a man and a woman
Denying people equality for nothing more compelling than “belief” is a form of hate. If you work to marginalize gay people, it doesn’t matter whether you act out of malice or selective interpretation of religious dogma. Either way, you are endorsing a system designed to hurt people.
Defending marriage is not hate
Wrong. Calling hate "defending marriage" is the most vile, cowardly, deliberately misleading form of hate.
I don’t believe in the homosexual lifestyle
Good. Because there is no such thing as a universal homosexual lifestyle, just like there is no universal heterosexual lifestyle or Christian lifestyle or atheist lifestyle. The “lifestyle” argument is nothing more than a gross overgeneralization built on the implication that gay people are all whores, and it’s used to demonize us in an attempt to justify denying us legal equality.
Marriage is a religious institution
No it’s not.
• Marriage licenses and marriage certificates are issued by governments, not churches.
• If it were, we wouldn’t allow atheists to get married.
• If it were, we wouldn’t allow people to get married by a justice of the peace. Or a ship’s captain. Or an Elvis impersonator.
The Bible says ...
The Christian Bible says exactly nothing about marriage between same-sex couples. But it has plenty to say about virginity, adultery and divorce as they pertain to heterosexual marriage. Here is a tiny sample of incontrovertibly unambiguous quotes:
- “Thou shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:13-15
- “Anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:33
Gay marriage is not compatible with religious belief
Gay marriage may not be compatible with selective interpretations of some religious traditions. But that has nothing to do with marriage equality. People are certainly free to embrace any religious beliefs they choose. But those beliefs apply only to their believers, and they end the moment they begin to hurt people who choose not to embrace religious theories. An elective belief in a trendy mythology does not give anyone moral authority to deny basic equalities to other people.
Homosexuality is a sin
Only to those who choose to believe in religious dogma. And religious dogma—especially when it’s used to victimize an entire class of people—is not appropriate in a discussion of legal equality.
Churches shouldn’t be forced to perform marriages they don’t approve of
They won’t. Churches have always been free to refuse to marry anybody for any reason they dream up: divorce, adultery, religion, race, gender … even basic family snobbery. On top of that, most marriage equality legislation to date includes language specifically permitting churches to continue to engage in this discrimination.
Being forced to accept gay marriages is a form of discrimination
No it’s not. This meaningless argument is simply a distraction tactic designed to make bigots look like victims.
Domestic partnership is the same thing as marriage for gay people
No it’s not. Many rights bestowed on straight married people by institutions ranging from the IRS to insurance companies to private employers are denied to gay people in domestic partnerships. Marriage by any other name is simply not marriage.