So.... I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as it's a subject near and dear to my heart. Also, recent legal happenings in Massachusetts and California have broadened the capacity of GLBT Americans to be legally bound to their same-sex partners. My question is this: if one is willing to put aside the causes of religious imperative and maintaining the status quo merely for its own sake, what sound argument remains for denying marriage rights to same sex-couples?
I first posed this question to a professor of mine at UCLA about three years ago, and his answer, uncharacteristically brief, was "None". Since then, I think I've asked the question scores of times, and most every time, the answer is as succinct and immediate as the one given me by my learned professor.
I have heard the suggestion that, due to the spread of STDs, regulating the sexual behavior of homosexuals is a public health issue. While that seems on its face a rather discriminatory idea, whispering as it does that gay sex is far more dirty and diseased than other varieties, I can accept the notion that sexual behavior, like many others, falls under the umbrella of public health concerns. What I can not understand is the insinuation that denying gay couples the ability to civilly solidify their monogamous relationships will somehow contribute to the improved health of the gay community or society as a whole. It stands to reason that reinforcing monogamous relationships of any sort could actually improve our public health scenario.
My assessment of a most common argument, namely that denying equal marriage is a valid means of protecting the family, is rather similar. Whose family, exactly, is protected by the civil instability of another family? This argument cannibalizes itself in the same fashion; one can easily deduce that denying equal marriage not only fails to protect the institution of family, but actively weakens it. This is particularly true when one considers a fact that equal marriage opponents would prefer to ignore - there are already hundreds of thousands of such families in existence whose ranks include children.
There are so many other arguments I could include here, but I won't because most of them are alarmist or irrational, like the notion that the government would force a religious official to perform a marriage against his or her will. So what else is there? What reasonable obstacle? We have a group of human beings clamoring for equality on several fronts, not just the front of marriage, and a Constitution designed to protect them. The arguments of religious or moral imperative and maintaining the status quo have no legal weight. So what is it precisely that prevents Americans, who tend to lay claim to the ideal of granting mankind "to each his own", from embracing the notion of same-sex civil marriage? Distaste? Awkwardness? Stubbornness?
I do not have the answer to this question, any more than I have gleaned the answer to the first. My elders assure me that the status quo may be slow to change with regard to civil rights, but that it will eventually change. In the meantime, I suppose it's up to us to continue asking these questions and to be grateful for every increment of progress.