Gregory Gadow, organizer of Washington state’s Defense of Marriage Alliance (WA-DOMA), has been making some big splashes lately. He is attempting to get 250,000 signatures to put an initiative on the ballot next November.
The initiative is a response to the 2006 state Supreme Court upholding Anderson v. King County; the ruling reads: “The State contends that procreation is a legitimate government interest justifying the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples.”
In essence, heterosexuals can marry because they can have children; homosexuals cannot marry because they cannot have kids.
Gadow’s initiative would add a qualifier to the state’s legal definition of marriage, to reflect the court’s ruling: “Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female who have each attained the age of eighteen years, who are capable of having children with one another.”
It would require couples acknowledge they know of no reason why they could not conceive children before being granted a marriage license, and would require couples have at least one child within three years of being married. Couples that fail to do so would have their marriages automatically annulled.
The first response of those I have discussed this issue with is, “Well that’s not very fair to straight people.” After a second, the initiative’s purpose hits them.
“Oh, maybe we’re not being fair to homosexuals.”
Perhaps I have misinterpreted our founding documents, but I believe, as far as fundamental freedoms go, we should all be equal.
However, I had not much looked at the other side of the issue. What are the arguments against same-sex marriage, and how solid are they?
Obviously some arguments are based in religion. I considered them but was not especially convinced; I found there to be too much cherry-picking with Bible-based arguments. Either the Bible is the direct word of God and the arguments against homosexuality are justified (but then, so too is slavery,) or it isn’t and there is no good reason to use it as a moral compass. But you cannot pick and choose from something that is absolute; it either all is, or it all isn’t.
The first non-religious argument is that homosexuality is unnatural. All of our orifices serve certain functions and it is wrong to use them for other functions. This argument seems to have some validity, except it makes oral sex unnatural as well. That seems a shame.
The second argument is about health. Gay men are at greater risk for contracting and spreading HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, particularly when they engage in unprotected sex. That seems fair.
But the health of heterosexuals has been challenged lately, in no small part because of abstinence-only health programs. According to CBS, our government has spent nearly $1 billion on abstinence education since 2000. In 2007, any state receiving abstinence education funds must teach only abstinence to people up to age 29; our government is hoping to make a generation of 30-year-old virgins.
These abstinence-only education programs, which do not permit discussing the merits of condoms (which are 99 percent effective when used correctly), have led to large swaths of young people taking “virginity pledges.” Sounds nice, but a 2005 study conducted by Yale and Columbia Universities found that the pledges, on average, delay first-time sexual intercourse just eighteen months. And pledgers are one-third less likely to use protection.
The study found 88 percent of pledgers had premarital sex; 13 percent engaged in oral or anal sex, compared to 2 percent of non-pledgers.
So, the argument about health is not exclusive to homosexuals; young people, too, are facing serious health issues stemming from their sexual activity.
The last point is the exact argument the Washington Supreme Court made: The purpose of marriage is to foster families, and that necessitates procreation to ensure another generation. It seems like a poor reason to exclude homosexuals from marriage; they cannot reproduce, married or otherwise. The argument makes sense if seeking to prevent homosexuality, but not same-sex marriage.
Most people would say Mr. Gadow’s initiative is unfair, but homosexuals would say the same thing about policies against them. The government should apply its reasoning and policies to all, with benevolence toward all and malice towards none.
Ryan Speaker is a senior history major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.