The Conservative Logic of Gay Marriage
If you feel queezy about homosexuality, my sympathy. We have all been raised in a culture that identifies homosexuality as a defect if not a sin. It would be dishonest if we were to pretend that we can escape our socialization but we can rely on reason for reflection.
On occasion of New Hampshire domestic partnership law, let me share a short syllogism about the conservative point of view.
People who have sex ought to be married.
Gay people will have sex.
Therefore gay people ought to be married.
Of course, most “conservatives” believe nothing of the sort. Relying on the assertion that marriage ought to be limited to one man and one woman, conservatives typically reject gay marriage and its functional equivalent civil union. If put on the spot with respect to gay marriage, many conservatives will argue that marriage is a shelter for raising children.
On the other hand, I have yet to encounter a conservative who would argue that government should annul the marriages of infertile couples. More to the point, conservatives do not even advocate annulment for couples that refuse to have children. And the most conservative individuals will actually insist that you ought to be married before having sex even if people are relying on birth control.
Hence the conservative concept of marriage is actually not about children but about sex. Of course, children and sex connected but they are not the same thing.
Personally, I sympathize with the conservative point of view. Precisely because sex is at the root of human nature, it challenges us beyond the confines of procreation. The promises and problems of passion present themselves even in the absence of pregnancy.
Like every human being, gay people are born with the sex drive. The sex drive is a constitutive aspect of human nature. If one subscribes to conservative morality then one can exclude gay people from marriage only if one denies their humanity.
That is a price too high to pay. No one is safe in a society that can deny someone else’s humanity. If the powerful can deny humanity to others today, our humanity might be at stake tomorrow. More importantly, denying someone else’s humanity, however banal or well-meaning, is a monstrous thing to do and squanders our own humanity.
It’s better to acknowledge each other’s humanity. When we do, logic compels us to accept gay marriage.
Virtue does not come easy. It requires an effort. As conservatives, we have to make an effort to apply our principles evenly to all human beings. While reason cannot undo our socialization, it can bridle the prejudice that we have had to inherit. In the process, logic recovers our humanity.