This AP article recounts a revealing exchange between a California judge and a lawyer arguing that Prop 8 should be maintained:
“What is the harm to the procreation purpose you outlined of allowing same-sex couples to get married?” [Judge] Walker asked.
“My answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know,” Cooper answered.
Moments later, after assuring the judge his response did not mean Proposition 8 was doomed to be struck down, Cooper tried to clarify his position. The relevant question was not whether there is proof that same-sex unions jeopardize marriages between men and women, but whether “the state is entitled, when dealing with radical proposals to make changes to bedrock institutions such as this … to take a wait and see attitude,” he said.
Walker pressed on, asking again for specific “adverse consequences” that could follow expanding marriage to include same-sex couples. Cooper cited a study from the Netherlands, where gay marriage is legal, showing that straight couples were increasingly opting to become domestic partners instead of getting married.
“Has that been harmful to children in the Netherlands? What is the adverse effect?” Walker asked.
Cooper said he did not have the facts at hand.
“But it is not self-evident that there is no chance of any harm, and the people of California are entitled not to take the risk,” he said.
“Since when do Constitutional rights rest on the proof of no harm?” Walker parried, adding the First Amendment right to free speech protects activities that many find offensive, “but we tolerate those in a free society.”
This buttresses something I’ve thought for some time: that the “gay marriage will undermine traditional marriage” argument is just a headline with no body, no substance behind the talking point.
The judge also has the right attitude: that when it comes to rights, the question is not “is there any reason to grant this right?” but rather “is there any reason to deny it?” (except that in the case of Proposition 8, we’re talking about taking away an existing right).
As for the decline of marriage in the Netherlands, let’s assume for the sake of argument that it’s true: that the dropping marriage rate there is directly caused by a liberal zeitgeist that makes people less likely to want to get married, while simultaneously promoting the right of gays to get married should they so choose.
So. Fewer (straight) couples are getting married. Should they be compelled to do so? Obviously not. Presumably the couples in question aren’t being harmed, or else they’d get hitched. What about harm to the children, as judge Walker asked? If there is, the gay marriage opponents might have a case. Cooper couldn’t name any. And as long as the discussion over gay marriage has been going on, if there were anything to this argument, you’d think he or his clients would know.
In short, I have yet to hear an argument against gay marriage that doesn’t boil down to “I don’t like it”. I do sympathize with this, really. But come on, rectifying inequality has got to trump “I don’t like it”.