With the oral arguments for what should be the last SCOTUS case about gay marriage complete, the LGBTQ community waits with bated breath to see if same-sex marriage will finally be universally legal within the U.S. Meanwhile, conservatives eager to stake out their positions for the 2016 election cycle have ramped up their objections, despite most court-watchers being fairly certain that the justices will disappoint them.
As the pitch of the argument over this issue has risen feverishly over the last 10 years, the arguments made by those who oppose gay marriage have gotten increasingly absurd. Within just the last few days, Iowa RNC Member Tamara Scott managed this brain-bender of an argument: that gay marriage is an affront to gender equality, which means feminists should oppose it. Scott believes that since liberals desire a gender balance in the legislature, they should also desire a gender balance in every marriage. Cue forehead slaps everywhere.
So, in celebration of the pending decision (and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s flawless takedowns), let’s review some of the worst-of-the-worst arguments against gay marriage.
1) Legalizing gay marriage is a slippery slope that leads to polygamy, incest, and people marrying their dogs
This could be described as the “classic” argument against same-sex marriage. It’s best exemplified by the the aptly named pamphlet “The Slippery Slope of Same-Sex Marriage” from ultra-conservative think tank the Family Research Council.
In the opening paragraphs, the FRC writes:
The Missouri man [who tried to marry his horse] and homosexual “marriage” proponents categorically reject the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Instead, the sole criterion for marriage becomes the presence of “love” and “mutual commitment.” But once marriage is no longer confined to a man and a woman, it is impossible to exclude virtually any relationship between two or more partners of either sex—even non-human “partners.”
Of course, it’s flat out ludicrous to claim that such a marriage would ever be possible, since marriage is a legal agreement that requires consent, which non-human animals are not legally able to provide.
After US Supremes give in to "gay marriage" which is defined by marrying the one you love, how long before animals or multiple wives R next?— KevinB57 Pro Life (@KbomzKevin) April 29, 2015
@nytimes Take heed SCOTUS if gay marriage OK then Bigamy Polygamy and Incest between "consenting adults" OK The can of worms is opened— michael tarpey (@futureworld104) May 4, 2015
It’s also quite amusing that the same people who purport to the defend traditional marriage claim same-sex marriage leads to polygamy, since traditional straight marriages have historically been grounded in polygamy throughout the world. Since there’s an actual history of heterosexual polygamous marriages in Western culture, it seems far more likely that, if we see a return to legalized polygamy, it will come from straight folks.
2) Homosexuality is unnatural
Here’s a claim made by hordes of frothy mouthed conservatives, from Kirk Cameron to Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann: Homosexuality is a wholly unnatural, aberrant concept. Huckabee once told the Associated Press, “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk,” whereas Cameron explained to Piers Morgan in an interview, “I think that it’s detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”
Homosexuality is both unnatural, morally repugnant & risky! Men who so homosex are 10 X more likely to have HIV! https://t.co/e5pt62eLY7— Ssempa = Gabriel Baaba Gwanga'Mujje (@martinssempa) May 3, 2015
It’s an argument that seems to try to base itself in science, which is particularly amusing considering the categorical rejection of science by the Right when it comes to global warming and evolution. The fact of the matter is that if you take the definition of natural as “occurring in nature,” then it turns out homosexuality is incredibly natural. Homosexual behavior has been recorded in over 1,500 different species across the animal kingdom, from fruit flies to primates.
There’s even some new research supporting the idea that homosexuality played an important part in human evolution by increasing social cohesion.
3) Marriage is about producing and rearing children, and gay couples can’t do that (See also: Gay couples will harm their children)
This has been one of the most common arguments put forth in legal proceedings about same-sex marriage, and it was cited again in many of the arguments made before the Supreme Court last week. The folks over the the conservative National Review Online summarized the position, saying:
An older view of marriage has steadily been losing ground to a newer one, and that process began long before the debate over same-sex couples. On the older understanding, society and, to a lesser extent, the government needed to shape sexual behavior—specifically, the type of sexual behavior that often gives rise to children—to promote the well-being of those children. On the newer understanding, marriage is primarily an emotional union of adults with an incidental connection to procreation and children.
Same-sex marriage opponents also remain committed to the idea that being raised by gay parents will somehow harm children, and even commissioned a study attempting to prove just that.
However, research has proved exactly the opposite. While there was no difference between children raised by same-sex parents and heterosexual couples in terms of “emotional behavior” and “physical functioning,” a study published by the University of Melbourne argued that “children from same-sex families scored about six percent higher on general health and family cohesion.” This means they were healthier and better adjusted overall.
And with options including sperm banks, egg donors, artificial insemination, IVF, and surrogacy now readily available, gay and lesbian couples are having children with relative frequency. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of married straight women are choosing not to have children, and no one is trying to deny their right to get hitched because of it.
4) Gay marriage will lead to more unwed mothers
This is a new argument that cropped up in the arguments made by Michigan Attorney General Mike Schuette’s hired hand as he defended his state’s gay marriage ban before the Supreme Court. Scheutte’s counsel claims that by moving away from traditional notions of marriage, more kids will be born outside of marriage:
The reason why there’s harm if you change the definition because, in people’s minds, if marriage and creating children don’t have anything to do with each other, then what do you expect? You expect more children outside of marriage. … If you delink marriage from creating children, you would expect to have more children created outside the bonds of marriage.
Despite the fact that gay and lesbian folks are having kids these days, the overwhelming majority of children are born to straight people, quite simply because the vast majority of people are straight. Even the highest estimates only place lesbian, gay, and bisexual people at about 3.5 percent of the population. To claim that this tiny minority is somehow responsible for the sweeping sea change in views about traditional families and marriage among young people is flattering but ridiculous.
The fact of the matter is that marriage and child-rearing were divorced decades ago, even before the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and ’70s. The University of Florida’s Alan Petigny argues that the boom in unwed mothers was a result of the mood of post-war America, when Petigny writes, “After 15 years of Depression and war, there was…a desire on the part of Americans to live in the moment and enjoy life, and they were accordingly less likely to defer to traditional restraints on their behavior.” According to Petigny, the rate of single mothers skyrocketed from 7.1 to 21.6 newborns per 1000 unwed mothers between the years of 1940 and 1960.
Thus, if there are more unwed mothers, it’s much more likely that it’s a natural result of wider cultural changes than the emergence of queer people in daily life.
5) Gay marriage will increase the abortion rate and lead to less people getting married overall
A group of supposed “marriage scholars” filed an Amicus Curiae brief with the Supreme Court supporting a continued ban on marriage. Attorney Gene Schaerr wrote a lengthy article for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, attempting to make this argument sound reasonable. He borrows heavily from notion that gay marriage somehow affects the dynamics straight marriage, stating:
In short, forcing states to convert the traditional gendered marriage institution into a genderless institution will very likely reduce man-woman marriages by undermining some of the norms that encourage heterosexual couples to marry, which will in turn increase the number of unmarried women and, hence, the number of children aborted.
There’s actually hard data to refute this claim. Even as the number of states with legalized gay marriage has steadily increased in the U.S.—while the number of straight people getting married has steadily decreased—the overall abortion rate in the U.S. has been in a steady decline for the last 30 years. In fact, abortion rates are currently at their lowest levels since the 1970s.
As James Peron further notes in a piece for Huffington Post, the states that fervently rejected gay marriage have been experiencing a decades long-decline in marriage rates:
For instance, using the Census data from 1990 to 2009 we see that marriage rates dropped just as dramatically, if not more so, in states that continue to reject marriage equality. In that time period, marriage rates in Arkansas dropped 30 percent, in Ohio they were down 26 percent, in Tennessee they dropped a whopping 46 percent, in Mississippi they declined 30 percent, and were down 22 percent in Louisiana and 25 percent in Texas.
Peron concludes: “The decline in marriage rates began long before gay couples won the right to marry anywhere. To pin that decline on them is scapegoating, pure and simple, and I suspect, an act of desperation.”
6) Gay marriage will bring about the end of United States
If you listen to the most fervent of gay marriage opponents, the U.S. is on the verge of collapse, and gay marriage is exactly the thing that’s going to push us over the edge (unless abortion does it first).
The Christian political organization Institute on the Constitution warns that gay marriage legalization will “bring God’s judgement on the nation.” Broadcaster Rick Wiles claims that the United States “will be brought to its knees [and] there will be pain and suffering at a level we’ve never seen in this country.”
In addition, the 700 Club‘s Pat Robertson tells us that God’s destruction is just around the corner. Lastly, Ben Carson, who just announced his bid for the Presidency in 2016, warned in his 2012 book that marriage equality will bring down America in a manner similar to the Roman Empire.
If the U.S. is indeed going to collapse because of gay marriage, you’d think Massachusetts would have suffered in the 11 years that they’ve had marriage equality. And if nationwide same-sex marriage truly is the sign of the imminent downfall of a wicked, hedonist society, perhaps we’d have seen the results of that in the Netherlands, where gay marriage has been legal everywhere within its borders for almost 15 years.
While the Netherlands has boasted a strong economic outlook and a better credit rating than the United States for the past decade and a half, economists actually estimate that same-sex marriage could provide a huge economic boost in the U.S. As the wedding industry is a $51 billion behemoth, analysts at NerdWallet estimate that same-sex marriage could generate $2.5 billion in economic revenue.
If it’s good for children, good for the economy, and good for the couples who have been waiting decades to have their relationships recognized, continuing to oppose marriage equality is just plain stupid. In the past 10 years, every argument against same-sex marriage has shown itself to be terrible and nonsensical, as marriage equality has swept the country.
When the Supreme Court rules next month, they are likely to agree.
Mari Brighe is a writer, educator, and proud science PhD dropout. Her writing focuses on queer and transgender life, feminism, science, and pop culture nonsense. Her work has also appeared on Autostraddle, Salon, and TransAdvocate.
Photo via DonkeyHotey/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)