Discredited, Invalid Arguments Against Full Marriage Equality
...And My Answers to Them
Almost always, bigots trying to justify their prejudice in denying full marriage equality use a few standard arguments that have already been discredited, invalidated, and do not stand up in court. Often, they are very much like the arguments that were used to prevent interracial couples from marrying.
Please feel free to cite this page and the argument number when dealing with those who want to deny full marriage equality. I plan to do that to save myself a lot of time.
Used Against Any Freedom to Marry
1. “It is disgusting.” Also known as the “ick” or “eww” factor, this explains why the person using the argument would not want to enter into the type marriage or have the kind sex they want banned, but their own personal disgust is not a justification for preventing other people from doing something those other people want to do. Don’t want to have a same-sex marriage? Don’t have one. Some people are disgusted by the idea of heterosexual sex, or their parents having sex, but obviously this is not a justification to ban those things. Some people find prejudice and bigotry, a lack of marriage equality, disgusting.
2. “It goes against tradition.” So did the abolition of slavery. In reality, interracial marriages, same-sex marriages, polygamous* marriages, and consanguineous marriages** are nothing new. Some of these were entered into by prominent religious leaders and historical royalty. Regardless, a tradition of inequality is not a justification for continuing to deny equality.
3. “Not a lot of people want to do it” or “I don’t want to do it.” The second one is much like #1 above. The first is not a justification for keeping something illegal. If anything, it is a reason laws against these relationships are wasteful and unnecessary. But we don’t deny minorities rights based on majority vote.
4. “My religion is against it.” Again, if you don’t want to have a same-sex or consanguineous marriage? Don’t have one. But we should all have the freedom of religion and in places like the US, we have separation of church and state, so this can’t be a justification for denying marriage equality.
5. “It's not natural." Actually, yes, it is. But even if it wasn't, people are allowed artificial things all of the time.
6. “This will hurt children.” There is no evidence of this and numerous studies show that the only harm is from prejudice and a lack of marriage equality. Marriage is not about children as we don’t require people to reproduce, even when they get married, and we allow those who are unable or unwilling to reproduce to marry. Most people do not believe sex or marriage is only for reproduction. Most sex does not result in a birth.
Many people claim it is better to raise children within marriage. How can we deny that benefit to the children being raised by people currently denied their right to marry?
Where does this knowing what is best for the children of other people stop? Should single parents lose custody? Should we compel pregnant women to get a specific kind of prenatal care?
7. “What’s next?” “Where do we draw the line?” Freedom for consenting adults. Who has a problem with that?
Used Against Polygamous* and Consanguineous** Marriage
Same-sex marriage is still banned in some places, but it is only a matter of time before most of those places catch up with the 21st century. The arguments above have recently failed to justify bans on same-sex marriage just as they failed to justify bans on interracial marriage, and neither they, nor the arguments below, justify banning any marriage (or sex) involving consenting adults.
8. “It isn’t the same thing as same-sex marriage.” Some same-sex marriages are polygamous and/or consanguineous. A man should not only be able to marry another man, but two or more other men or his brother. Strictly speaking, whether a marriage is same-sex or heterosexual is a different category than whether it is monogamous or polygamous; or exogamous, endogamous, or consanguineous. Some heterosexual marriages are monogamous, some are polygamous. Some same-sex marriages are monogamous, some are polygamous. Bisexuals may be in monogamous marriages or polygamous marriages. Some monogamous marriages are consanguineous, some aren’t. That monogamous/polygamous and exogamous/endogamous/consanguineous are different categories from heterosexual/same-sex is not a justification to deny the freedom to marry to consenting adults, or deny them marriage equality.
Something does not have to be immutable, like sexual orientation, to be legal. However, there are people (especially with Genetic Sexual Attraction) who are in consanguineous relationships who would swear to you that they couldn’t love anyone as much as they love their partner(s). There are people who are obviously unable to be monogamous, to the point of being willing to suffer loss of job, loss of reputation, loss of wealth, and figurative and literal loss of life.
That these other categories are not the same thing as same-sex marriage does not explain why there are laws against them.
9. “They’re abusive.” These types of relationships are not inherently abusive. Abusive people are the cause of abuse, not marriage. There are many heterosexual, monogamous, nonconsanguineous marriages in which someone is abused. We have several examples showing that outlawing consensual behavior correlates to an increase in problems as people try to avoid law enforcement and other authorities. Marriage equality will most certainly reduce abuse, as abuse victims can go to the authorities with much less fear. So the solution isn’t the status quo, it is in making the relationships official, and prosecuting abusers. Victims will be much more forthcoming.
Used Against Polygamous* Marriage
10. “Polygamy spreads sexually transmitted infections.” Unprotected sex with someone who is infected is how such infections may be transmitted. Twenty people could have group sex and a group marriage for fifty years and if none of them brings an infection into the marriage and they only have sex with each other, none of them will get a sexually transmitted infection. We do not deny people their freedom to marry based on which diseases they have. In most places, people can have sex with multiple partners anyway. Polyfidelity can be encouraged if polygamy is legalized, which would actually reduce disease transmission.
11. “It will be a legal/paperwork nightmare as our system is set up for couples.” That’s what the bigots said about same-sex marriage and the Americans With Disabilities Act and just about any civil rights laws. Of course it is easier for those who already have what they want to keep things as they are. But what about all of the people who are denied their rights?
12. “What about child custody and child support?” What about children from one night stands, donated sperm, surrogate mothers, affairs, brief flings, or supposedly monogamous marriage that's ending? What about children born to a woman whose husband wasn’t the man who impregnated her? All of these situations are entirely legal. A court decides custody disputes that aren’t resolved amicably.
13. “This will cause inheritance disputes.” This can’t be a reason for the continued denial of the freedom to marry. With today’s restriction of monogamy-only for marriage, we see inheritance disputes all of the time. Widows and widowers who were married only once get in fights with their own children, who may fight with each other. Then, in some cases, there are children born outside of that marriage. There’s divorce and remarriage with or without stepchildren or making more children, there are people who were never married who have kids, there are childless people whose inheritances are disputed, on and on it goes. If anything, legalizing polygamy would make it easier to sort out inheritance. There can be default rules in the law, and people can come up with their own documented, legal agreements.
14. “What about insurance/employment benefits?” There are many simple ways to deal with this. It is dealt with when an employee has more kids than the next, isn't it? It is not a good reason to deny the freedom to marry.
15. “This oppresses women.” Gender equality and the right to be unmarried or to divorce are necessary components of full marriage equality. Anti-equality people often point to polygyny in certain cultures, past and present, where women do not have equal rights. However, this is not proof that polygyny, much less the larger scope of polygyny, oppresses women. Women would be oppressed in those cultures with or without polygyny. If a woman wants to marry a man who has other wives rather than another man who is unmarried man, and the other wives agree, why deny her that choice? If a woman wants to marry two men, or a man and a woman, or two women, she should have that right, too. Some women enjoy polygamy, including polygyny, and they should have the right to consent to the marriage of their choosing.
16. “Some men will be left out as polygyny increases.” This is based on the assumption that in a culture with gender equality, polygyny would still be more plentiful than polyandry. Anti-equality people, based on this assumption, insist that this will result in unmarried men devolving into criminals.
The mistake here is assuming that the second, third, etc. wives in a polygynous marriage would have wanted one of those unmarried men rather than legally sharing the man they did marry, and that the unmarried men would in turn want to marry them. Some of those men may want to marry men, or not marry at all. Why not allow people to marry the person or people of their choice? Why try to force people to settle? Also, the system is not closed. There are billions of people in the world and more and more people are reaching the age and status of eligibility every second.
The study attempting to link polygny to criminal behavior in unmarried men is based in part on nineteenth century frontier America. Things have changed a little since then. And guess what? Married men commit crime, too. Most of the men in prison have been married, were married or had a girlfriend at the time they were convicted.
Maybe men in the hypothetical polygynous community who don’t get married are violent people. Is it better that they have a wife to beat instead of committing crimes on the street? I don’t want to be the one who tells a woman she can’t marry the man/men or woman/women she wants; rather, she has to marry a less desirable man so that he can take his aggression out on her.
The warnings that polygamy will result in an increase of violent gangs of unmarried men committing crimes falls flat when one considers the overwhelming data revealing both that 1) Men in the US are getting married for the first time later than ever, and 2) Crime rates in the US have decreased.
17. “This will hurt children.” See #6. The study mentioned in #16 also said that children from polygynous families have "considerably lower" survival rates, but the data is from nineteenth century frontier areas and places in Africa where diseases and genocide are significant problems. The other claim is that adolescent boys are driven from polygynous societies, but there are many adolescent boys driven from their heterosexual monogamous homes because they are gay, or boys who run away for the sake of personal freedom, rather than deal with familial or peer pressure to adhere to certain rules and expectations. Or they can’t stand their “monogamous” parent’s new girlfriend or boyfriend.
Used Against Consanguineous** Marriage
18. “This will hurt children.” See #6. Some bigots try to justify their prejudice against consanguineous sex and marriage by being part-time eugenicists and saying that such relationships inevitably lead to “mutant” or “deformed” babies. This argument can be refuted on several fronts. 1. Some consanguineous relationships involve only people of the same gender. 2. Not all mixed-gender relationships birth biological children. 3. Most births to consanguineous parents do not produce children with significant birth defects or other genetic problems; while births to other parents do sometimes have birth defects. 4. We don’t prevent other people from marrying or deny them their reproductive rights based on increased odds of passing along a genetic problem or inherited disease. It is true that in general, children born to consanguineous parents have an increased chance of these problems than those born to nonconsanguineous parents, but the odds are still minimal. If a natural talent or gift runs in the family, the children will also be more likely to inherit and manifest that beneficial result as well. But there are increased odds of problems with births to older parents, too. There's no stigma assigned to that. These days, older women having children is actually especially celebrated, at least in the US. There is certainly no law against it.
Unless someone is willing to deny reproductive rights and medical privacy to others and force everyone to take genetic tests and bar carriers and the congenitally disabled and women over 35 from having children, then equal protection principles prevent this from being a justification to bar this freedom of association and freedom to marry.
Anyone concerned about these things should have genetic testing and counseling. People who are not close relatives can pass along health problems, too.
19. “It ruins, confuses, or distorts family relationships.” First of all, this does not apply to adoptees who reunite as adults, or people who resulted from gamete or embryo donation. They already have families.
People only say this about sex and marriage. They don’t say it about friendships, working together, or any number of additional relationship dimensions family members might have with each other, or at least this objection is not enshrined in law, as it is with laws that deny marriage equality. It is as if these people think sex and marriage are bad things and about doing bad things to the other person(s). Are those who oppose equality frustrated? Are they doing sex wrong?
Many people have many relationships that have more than one aspect. Some women say their sister is their best friend. Why can’t their sister be a wife, too? When someone gets married, nobody from the government asks if this will ruin their friendship, or their business, and it should not ask if it will ruin their fraternity, either.
Some people do also apply this to same-sex relationships. Friendships, these people say, become potential sexual relationships; it confuses relationships because men are supposed to be friends and not lovers, they say.
When people are functioning socially in their biological roles, sex would create an additional bond. For some who are not functioning socially in those roles (as is often the case when someone was adopted and raised by loving parents, and he later meets his birth mother), that bond may not exist in the first place.
20. “There is a power differential.” This applies least of all to siblings or cousins who are close in age, but even where the power differential exists, it is not a justification for denying this freedom to marry. There is a power differential in just about any relationship, sometimes an enormous power differential. One person is more emotionally needy than another. One earns more than the other. One is more educated than another. One has more friends and family than another. One has more life experience than another. On and on it goes. To question if consent is truly possible in these cases is insulting and demeaning. There are sober, functional, healthy adults who consent to consanguineous sex with an older relative. It shouldn’t be illegal or questioned, unless you would do the same to any intergenerational relationship between adults.
21. “There are so many people outside of your family. Go marry/have sex with one of them, instead. It creates friendships between families.” There are plenty of people within one’s own race, too, but that is no reason to ban interracial marriage. I have many friends outside of my family to whom I’m neither married nor married to a relative of theirs. On the other hand, don't we all know unrelated married couples who actually drive their relatives apart from each other? Let adults marry the consenting adult(s) of his or her choice.
*Polyamorous relationships that lead to marriage may take several forms that fall under “polygamy,” including group marriage, polygyny (one man, multiple women), and polyandry (one woman, multiple men).
**Marriage between close relatives.
Updated July 27, 2011 (#16)