Feb. 12 is National Freedom to Marry Day.
For many gay couples, marriage used to seem an impossibility. But the latest portent of change is a recent bill introduced in Montana’s legislature to legalize same-sex marriages.
It was only in 1995, after all, that our legislature debated making gays register with the state like sex offenders.
The Montana thaw follows Vermont’s approval of civil unions in 2000. Since then, hundreds of couples have exchanged vows, and Western Civilization has not crumbled.
Fortunately, prejudice is starting to. Polls show 75 percent of Americans think gay marriages will eventually be legal. About a third want it to happen, a third don’t and another third don’t care. (Among college students, three in five think gays should be able to wed.)
The claims against gay marriage are easy to rebut.
Claim 1: “Marriage has always been the way it is; you can’t change it just to fit the times.”
Rebuttal: Gay marriage is perfectly in keeping with the evolving nature of the institution. Once blacks couldn’t marry whites, Jews couldn’t marry Christians and wives were property of husbands. Such features changed as notions of equality did.
Claim 2: “Homosexuality is immoral; the Bible condemns it.”
Rebuttal: In the Bible, the book of Leviticus does say gays should be killed. But the Bible would also have us kill women who have premarital sex and men who masturbate, and it forbids tattoos, working on Sunday, eating shrimp and playing with pigskin (in other words, football). With good reason, America is a democracy not a theocracy.
Claim 3: “Gay marriage doesn’t lead to children, the purpose of marriage.”
Rebuttal: Wrong on both counts. States give marriage licenses to straight couples who don’t or can’t procreate. And like many straight couples, gays raise children thanks to adoption or sperm donors.
Claim 4: “If gays marry, next people will want to marry horses or children.”
Rebuttal: The equine argument is a Montana favorite, as it was for foes of interracial marriage. But marriage, gay or straight, is a contract between two consenting human adults. Nobody proposes changing this.
Claim 5: “Gay sex is disgusting.”
Rebuttal: So are, to many people, some “straight” sex acts. It’s not the state’s job to intrude in the bedrooms of consenting adults.
Claim 6: “You can’t force a church to marry gays.”
Rebuttal: True, but irrelevant. Gays are asking for state-issued licenses. Religions will remain as free to ban gay weddings as they are to ban women ministers.
Claim 7: “Why do gays need to marry anyway?”
Rebuttal: Many basic rights and protections are conferred by marriage, like the rights to visit a hospitalized partner, receive family health benefits and inherit a partner’s property.