In the discussions surrounding same-sex marriage, it has struck me how difficult it is to get a handle on what secular culture “believes.” Like any large group, beliefs within a group are anything but monolithic. There are inconsistencies in beliefs among members of the same set. Below are a few of the beliefs one cannot consistently hold in addition to believing in the legitimacy of same-sex marriage.
If one believes in the legitimacy of same-sex marriage:
- One cannot consistently believe in the illegitimacy of heterosexual marriage.
- One cannot consistently believe that marriage is simply “a legal piece of paper” with no further significance.
- One cannot consistently believe that someone’s sexual orientation does not matter. In this debate, it undeniably matters.
- One cannot consistently believe that someone’s sexual orientation is only a private matter. Part of what is being advocated by same-sex marriage supporters involves a public display of one’s orientation.
- One cannot consistently be against “tradition” in every case. There is no empirical, perceivable difference between a same-sex couple living together and a same-sex couple who are married and living together. There must be some acknowledged meaning behind the traditional ceremony, vows, etc.
- One cannot consistently deny legitimacy, on the same grounds, to multiple-partner marriage. If loving feelings toward someone is both the necessary and sufficient condition for marriage, nothing inherent in the definition prohibits the possibility that loving feelings can be directed toward more than one person.
- One cannot consistently deny that divorce is more significant than a non-marital breakup. If the institution of marriage is more meaningful than mere dating or co-habitation, the severing of that institution must have significance beyond mere legal implications.
Though the current debate keeps getting framed in terms of “rights,” the underlying beliefs regarding the integrity of marriage as an institution (on both sides) reveal some tangled assumptions.