Op-Ed

Legalizing same-sex marriage isn’t divorcing history

Peter Jones Dela Cruz writes about the same old arguments used against LGBT people and their relationships. For him, there is a need to learn from history that fallacies cannot be used to infringe on the inherent rights and control the lives of a minority.

This is a response to the opinion of Ms. Angela Alvarez. Even if I wrote this a while back, and while it’s kind of late to post it, I think the message of this still rings true.

On my first post about Angela Alvarez’s reaction to same-sex marriage, I mentioned that she was probably too young to talk about this issue. But I figured that there are much older people who give the same arguments as she did. So, her age has probably nothing to do with her opinion. However, I have to point out that her arguments are not new. They are the same old arguments that have been debunked so many times.

From Angela Alvarez

Let’s start with the misrepresentation of the marriage equality advocacy. I think she’s right about the “marriage is not all about love” part. It’s just partly about love. Yes, love does play a huge role in this advocacy and is, indeed, a good part of the story, but it’s just part of the story. The other part has to do with state recognition and the rights and privileges that come with state-sanctioned unions. This “other part” is about upholding the dignity of same-sex couples, getting state recognition, owning properties together, having next-of-kin privileges, adopting a child together, etc.

Also, marriage isn’t about any kind of love we can think of. It’s about mutual love between two adult human beings in a committed relationship. What she wasn’t right about was comparing love between two men or two women to, for instance, that love of a pet owner to his pet. Here, she made a fallacy called equivocation. Those are different forms of love. Hence, the comparison is faulty.

This equivocation lends itself into a slippery slope argument that doesn’t die. It assumes that same-sex marriage will encourage people to marry their dogs or marry kids or marry two or more partners. I think marriage traditionalists imagine a sort of ladder. Heterosexual partnerships occupy the top rung. Beneath this rung are homosexual partnerships. And then you have polygamy, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality. Marriage equality critics have this paranoia that when you move the limits of marriage laws a step below the conventional, it will lead to moving the limits further down. That sounds logical at face value, but it has a few problems.

  1. Homosexual relationships are not inferior to heterosexual relationships. Opposite-sex love is no different from same-sex love. There is no logical or scientific argument that supports the conservative stand on the matter of marriage. There is no moving down the ladder in this case.
  2. Supposing for purposes of argument we say, all right, same-sex partnerships are inferior to opposite-sex partnerships, it still doesn’t follow that sanctioning such partnerships will lead to sanctioning of bestiality or pedophilia. When women gained voting rights, after years of being considered inferior to men, voting rights were not extended to children or dogs. When African-Americans gained civil rights after being considered inferior to white Americans, civil rights were not extended to chimpanzees. Of course, now it’s silly to think women are inferior to men or African-Americans are inferior to white Americans.
  3. The argument ignores important differences between same-sex relationships and pedophilia, incest, or bestiality. One can’t get married to a child because children are too young to give considerable consent. One can’t get married to a dog because dogs can’t sign on a marriage certificate or read what it says, let alone understand why it’s getting married.
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Regarding polygamy/polyamory and incest, I couldn’t decide on these things on my own. There are certain cultures that allow these things. But I will maintain that same-sex marriage, incest, and polygamy are three different issues. They are independent of each other and therefore should be discussed independently. Same-sex marriage should be discussed in its own right, not under the influence of issues that are not related to it. If people want to lobby polygamy, it’s their right. Let us listen to their advocacy and let’s decide whether it is wrong or not. Besides, many cultures even within our country allow polygyny, effectively rendering the one-man-and-one-woman-union-only-ever argument inconsistent even within our diverse society.

That marriage is only between a man and a woman through the church is a traditional and religious argument and is the very reason why same-sex marriage advocates want marriage redefined. Many societies around the world have shifted from the traditional man-woman definition to simply a union of two adults (unrelated by blood). But that’s not the point. The points are as follows:

  1. Same-sex marriage advocates are not after churches. We understand churches will keep their traditional hold on marriage. We know that. We are asking the state. Philippine legislation does not adhere to religious doctrines. The law is secular. Section 6 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines states that the separation of Church and State is inviolable. Section 5 of Article III, on the other hand, states that no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
  2. Marriage is not for procreation. It is for legal and social recognition of unions. The state is not interested in whether you make kids or not. If it were, it would not have allowed old and sterile couples to marry. We don’t need marriage for procreation, and procreation isn’t a requirement for marriage, but merely an option.
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The adoption argument is not an argument against same-sex marriage per se but an argument against adoption by same-sex couples. President Aquino made the same fallacy when he talked about SSM. You cannot say that SSM is wrong because it leads to adoption, and gay couples do not make good parents; so they are not allowed to adopt, so they shouldn’t get married. Aside from being plain ridiculous, this is a very bad argument for the following reasons:

  1. SSM doesn’t always lead to adoption, in the same way that not all conventional marriages lead to having kids, born or adopted.
  2. Gay/lesbian couples can make good parents. Studies have shown that kids raised by gay/lesbian couples fare just as fine as those raised by straight parents.
  3. The parents’ ability to rear children doesn’t depend on their sexual orientations.

In Ms. Alvarez’s criticism of the SCOTUS ruling, there was an unclear statement about same-sex marriage encouraging more homosexuals. Did she mean encourage kids to go gay? It doesn’t work that way. Being gay isn’t learned or imitated. You don’t go gay because you’re parents are gay, in the same way that you don’t necessarily go straight because your parents are straight; otherwise, there would have been no gay kid today. Sexual orientation doesn’t work that way.

That gay couples shouldn’t get married because they might raise HIV/STI cases is a cruel argument. We have a problem when we want to stop gay and lesbian couples from getting married because of high likelihood of sexually transmissible infections. This argument is absurd because of the following reasons:

  1. It assumes that all/most gay and lesbian couples engage in unsafe sexual practices and that all/most straight couples do not.
  2. It assumes that same-sex marriage encourages such unsafe sexual practices.
  3. It confuses marriage with sexual practices.
  4. It implies that people with predisposition to certain diseases cannot get married.
  5. It assumes that sexually transmitted infections are contracted via gay/lesbian sex alone.
  6. It assumes that same-sex marriage/unions and safe sex are mutually exclusive.
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We have to be careful when making an appeal to consequences. Something is not necessarily wrong because we think it leads to our assumed consequences.

This is not divorcing history. This is learning from history that fallacies cannot be used to infringe on the inherent rights and control the lives of a minority.

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