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Who Are These Old-Fashioned Straights So Eager to Ditch Marriage?

Rob Tisinai

December 7th, 2012

Will marriage equality wreck people’s conception of marriage and destroy society? Our opponents think so. They put the idea in their legal arguments, and I recently mocked Nevada Judge Robert Jones for allowing the possibility in his ruling against us. For the sake of reasoned discourse, though, we ought to take this seriously for a moment and see if it makes any sense.

Judge Jones argued:

Should that institution be expanded to include same-sex couples with the state’s imprimatur, it is conceivable that a meaningful percentage of heterosexual persons would cease to value the civil institution as highly as they previously had and hence enter into it less frequently, opting for purely private ceremonies, if any, whether religious or secular, but in any case without civil sanction, because they no longer wish to be associated with the civil institution as redefined, leading to an increased percentage of out-of-wedlock children, single-parent families, difficulties in property disputes after the dissolution of what amount to common law marriages in a state where such marriages are not recognized, or other unforeseen consequences.

Sounds ridiculous to me, but Jones seems to think plausibility is irrelevant. He also wrote:

The question is whether the State has any conceivable basis, even speculatively, to believe that spouses or prospective spouses might feel this way, for whatever reason…

But that’s not quite right. He references the court case Jackson v Abercrombie to support this notion that any conceivable speculative harm is sufficient for his ruling, but here’s what Jackson says:

 Under rational basis review, the state is not required to show that allowing same-sex couples to marry will discourage, through changing societal norms, opposite-sex couples from marrying. Rather, the standard is whether the legislature could rationally speculate that it might.

I added the emphasis. The speculation needs to be rational. In other words, while I could conceivably speculate that marriage equality will rip a hole in the space-time continuum, allowing armed bunnies from another universe to cross over and prevent straights from marrying, that wouldn’t be rational speculation.

So let’s see how rational Judge Jone’ is being. Let’s profile these hypothetical  people for whom marriage equality would so devalue the civil institution that they would opt out of it.

First, obviously,  they can’t be supporters of same-sex marriage. By definition, these folks won’t have a harsh, life-changing reaction against the passage of marriage equality. The same goes for people who don’t much care about same-sex marriage, pro or con.

That leaves us with the opponents of marriage equality. But do they all fall into Judge Jones’ speculative group? Certainly not.

Think about the larger, more popular, more influential anti-gay churches. They have little incentive to offer “purely private” religious ceremonies “without civil sanction” — if only becaue doing so reduce their secular authority and power, something churches are often loathe to do.

Less cynically, the more thoughtful of these churches would recognize the dangers (helpfully listed by Judge Jones) of “out-of-wedlock children, single-parent families, difficulties in property disputes after the dissolution of what amount to common law marriages” and thus they’d follow their moral obligation to guide congregants away from those dangers and into civil marriage.

Actually, this is also is true for those who put forth non-religious reasons for opposing marriage equality. This same litany of dangers would lead the Maggie Gallaghers and Jennifer Roeback Morses of the world, along with their followers, to marry and to counsel marriage for others.

Who do we have left? Just a virulently anti-gay fringe  too irrational to recognize the benefits of civil marriage. But wait — we needn’t even worry about them. After all, we’ve altered marriage laws before:  It’s now easy to divorce and just as easy to remarry. So we can split our irrational, anti-gay fringe into two groups:

  1. Those who have previously devalued civil marriage and withdrawn from the institution because it no longer matches their religious criteria. But we’ve already lost those folks, so marriage equality will have little impact on them.
  2. Those who have shown no inclination to abandon civil marriage just because it doesn’t pass their religious smell test. Marriage equality will have little impact on them, either.

And that’s it. We’ve eliminated pretty much the entire population from concern. We don’t have to worry about any of the following and their reaction to the passage of same-sex marriage:

  • Supporters of marriage equality
  • Those who don’t care either way about marriage equality
  • Those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds
  • Those who oppose same-sex marriage on non-religious grounds but rationally understand the benefits of civil marriage
  • Irrational opponents of same-sex marriage who have already abandoned civil marriage
  • Irrational opponents of same-sex marriage who haven’t already abandoned civil marriage

I suppose, even after all this, you can find a tiny, tiny segment of the population who will ditch civil marriage if two guys or two gals can get hitched. But will they be a “meaningful percentage” of the population? Rational thinking says no.

That was a nice thought experiment. However, if someone claimed that marriage equality will lead people to stop getting married, I wouldn’t haul out this argument right away. I’d merely take a rational tone with a rational smile and ask the rational question:

“Can you describe these people for me?”

Comments

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Neon Genesis
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

The real question is why does it matter if couples decide to have their marriages sanctioned by the state or not? This is what freedom is all about. The freedom to choose whether to be married or not. But apparently the Religious Right doesn’t believe in freedom and not only do they want to ban gays from getting married, they want to force all straight couples to be married too even if they don’t want to.

Neil
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

I’d argue that marriage inequality would prove a bigger turn off to straight couples marrying than allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Marriage equality is a latter stage of the societal sort through brought about by legalising homosexuality. Anti-gay discrimination will become more offensive over time, particularly to younger generations.

In France, where civil unions are available to all but marriage has been restricted to opposite sex couples, straight couples now opting for the Pacte civil de solidarité in larger numbers than for “traditional” marriage.

It’s ironic that the very people claiming to defend marriage are effectively arguing for the institution to be bound to a pseudo-traditional definition that will ultimately undermine its status as being outmoded and stuffy.

Ben In Oakland
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

Another way to think about it is this. What kind of people would abandon the sacred insitution of marriage,God’s holy plan for humanity, the cornerstone of civilization, the legitimizer of love, faith, and family, if Ben and Paul, or even Rob and Will, get married?

Why, that would be people who so despise gay people, are so disgusted by gay people, who think of us as so much lesser human beibngs than they are that they would abandon God’s plan and the cornerstone of civilization — rahter htan allow our filthy sodomitical hands on it.

Doesn’t that remind you just a little bit of someone standing outside a state university, ax handle in grubby paw, screaming “Segregation now! Segregation forever!” Maybe it reminds you a little of the lady in “The Help” who had to have a separate bathroom in her home for her maid, lest those big black cooties get on the toilet seat and give her the heebie-jeebies, or jazz, or something. Or maybe it reminds you of “those people” who had to be cleansed from pure German society, or bure serbian society, or pure hutu society, or pure magyar society?

Do you know what we call those people? We call them bigots,.

And since when did bigotry become a basis for good public policy in a democratic soicety?

Neon Genesis
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

Among the nations that do have lower birth rates, the reason why the birth rates are decreasing is because couples are marrying later because they want to work first and actually have a life before they settle down and have kids. The reason has absolutely nothing to do with gays.

Ben In Oakland
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

Neon, the gays have verything to do with everything. That’s how we cause civilizations to fallm doncha know?

Nero has sex with the handsome centurion, and the next thing you know, the huns are invading.

Timothy Kincaid
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

I find it interesting that we can identify and document heterosexual couples who have chosen not to marry until gay couples may do so. They are not theoretical, speculative, or the objects of some logic game.

However, there has not – to my knowledge – been one single solitary heterosexual couple on the planet who has been identified and documented to refuse legal recognition for their marriage due to same-sex couples being granted rights.

And yet, as absurd as it seems to us, perhaps Judge Jones is more willing to accept the notion of ‘religious ceremony only with no legal rights’ marriage. There is, after all, one community that does exactly that. And Jones is much more likely to be aware of their existence than the rest of us.

CPT_Doom
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

Another related question – why would same-sex marriages be the catalyst for conservatives to abandon the institution of marriage when so many heterosexual relationships that fail to meet their definition of marriage nonetheless are considered marriages by the state? What is worse about Bob & Larry getting hitched in a world where Newt & Calista, Maggie G & her 2nd baby daddy and the Menendez brothers & their prison pen pals are all considered married?

Steve
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

It’s really obvious that Jones let his Mormon faith influence his decision in its entirety. He is a Mormon bishop with a BYU degree and shouldn’t be a judge in the first place. This shows why.

The judge in the Hawaii case was a Mormon too I think.

Neon Genesis
December 7th, 2012 | LINK

“However, there has not – to my knowledge – been one single solitary heterosexual couple on the planet who has been identified and documented to refuse legal recognition for their marriage due to same-sex couples being granted rights.”

Maybe Marcus Bachmann will come out if gay marriage is legalized?

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