The concept of marriage is complex. I shall not try to cover all issues in this article. Indeed, a thorough
examination would require at least one very hefty bound volume.
While my focus, given the nature of the website, is upon gay marriage (or same-sex marriage, if you prefer), one
must look at the issue in the context of all marriage, homosexual and heterosexual. My approach in this piece will
be to examine some of the common misunderstandings propagated by the opponents of gay marriage. In some cases those
same people also oppose the less emotionally bound issue of domestic partnership.
Some opponents of same-sex marriage believe what they say in their arguments against it; others do not believe
it, but they say it anyway. The former are merely ignorant and must be taught. The latter are evil and must be
ignored. (You may wish to read our series on types of homophobia.)
Two Concepts Of Marriage
Marriage can be thought of as a religious institution and a political (secular) institution. Each concept is
governed by different definitions, requirements and sanctions. In an advanced society, one kind of marriage can
exist without the other. However, that existence does not have to be recognized in the other realm.
We can look at polygamy as an example of this distinction. Islam and some Morman groups accept men marrying
multiple women in the eyes of their respective religions. However, in Western political jurisdictions any wife
after the first is not recognized by the secular establishment (assuming the first marriage is still intact),
regardless of what the church’s tenets hold.
Many religions require that both members of the couple share the same faith in order for the marriage to be
recognized by the church. In the secular West, there is no such requirement.
Thus, many people are in marriages that do not carry the recognition of their particular church body. Others are
married in the eyes of their church, but not within the laws of the secular definition.
Misconceptions About The Impact Of Legalizing Gay Marriage
1. Churches will be required to perform what they believe to be sinful marriages: A church is not
now required to perform any marriage ceremony just because the secular laws permit the union. Nothing would
change. Indeed, as it currently stands in the United States, church weddings of same-sex unions are not
recognized even though they are approved by some (albeit a small minority of) church bodies.
2. Since the major purpose of marriage is to produce off-spring, there is no point in allowing gays to be
married: Actually, a more accurate statement would be that one purpose of marriage is to provide security for
children. Gay people are as capable of that task as their heterosexual counterparts. However, that is
far from the only purpose of marriage, which is why the secular society does not require a pledge that
married couples will care for children in order to be wed. The world does not have a shortage of children;
the world has a shortage of secure environments for children.
3. Gay unions will undermine existing, heterosexual marriages: Note that this argument is usually
presented as a stand alone, self evident truth. No one adequately explains how the existence of secular
recognition of gay marriages will threaten marriage. It is hard to argue against any tenet that is so
undefined. Is there really a fear that if same-sex marriages become legal, suddenly many people will choose
not to marry someone of the opposite sex? Are gay union ceremonies so hypnotic that everyone will want