Tomorrow in North Carolina, we go to the polls to vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment that would prevent the state or any business within the state from recognizing same sex marriage or even civil unions. Gay marriage is already illegal by statute. The amendment, say defenders, is to keep activist judges from imposing gay marriage on the state against the will of the people.
I'm going to be voting against the amendment. For me, it's mainly an issue of fundamental fairness. Marriage isn't just about procreation, it's also an important societal creation for helping people deal with finances as well as illness and death. I've personally experienced the turmoil of losing a beloved partner who I wasn't legally married to. Laura became ill with cancer when we were dating, and after that we were so focused on fighting the cancer that we never really stopped to make plans for the future. Her family was wonderful in giving me a say on most of the end of life decisions and the funeral arrangements, but there were still a few issues left dangling due to the fact that we were never legally married. I at least had the option, however unrealistic, of marrying Laura. Imagine being in a similar situation of losing a loved one and being told that the state was going to prevent you from forming a legal union. It just seems needlessly harmful, even spiteful, to withhold this legal sanction from someone simply because you find their partner to be of the wrong sex.
However, I find it unsatisfying to simply appeal to emotion to make a case for a matter of law. It's not that emotion has no role to play in law, but I'd prefer most laws be grounded in reason. So, here are some non-emotional arguments for how allowing gay marriage can benefit straight marriage.
1. As capitalism and evolution teach us, competition is good. Gay couples might have an incentive to build storybook marriages that other people envy. Just as people turn out in former dictatorships to vote at amazing rates, gay people long denied marriage might approach their unions with a special enthusiasm and dedication. This could provide an example for straight couples, who, let's face it, often seem a bit jaded with marriage. Maybe trying to live up to a gay standard could help lower the overall divorce rate of straight couples. This could keep more children in two parent households, which is a major force for fighting poverty.
2. As long as we're talking about economics, as someone who has been wedded in the last 12 months, I can testify that weddings and honeymoons are excellent economic stimulus. If we legalized gay marriage tomorrow, I bet the revenues generated from all the pent up demand for legal marriages could drive economic growth up a point or two. Wedded couples are also likely to go out and buy a house together. They save money together, have health insurance together, and are generally statistically less of a burden on society than single people. Gay marriage, in both the long and short term, would be good for straight people's wallets.
3. It would increase morality. Perhaps you disapprove of homosexuality. If so, do you also disapprove of sex before marriage for straight people? Do you think that sex should be between monogamous couples with the sanction of church and law? If you allow gay marriage, you are helping take a step away from the counter culture, anything-goes sexual morality that took hold in the sixties and seventies and is so ubiquitous today that no one bats an eye if two unmarried opposite sex people live together. Suddenly, you have homosexuals singing the praises of life-long, covenant monogamy. Since homosexuals are frequently drivers of popular cultural trends, marriage could suddenly be the cool, rebellious lifestyle that all young people aspire to. Again, straights win!
So, if you're thinking about voting for the amendment tomorrow, please take a few moments to reconsider. You might be standing in the way of better marriages for everyone.