In the last decade, the debate on gay marriage and gay rights has dominated the agenda of international organizations and civil society movements. While same-sex marriage has been accepted and legalized in many countries, secular and religious arguments against gay unions continue to oppose the normalization of such practices.
Churches and religious leaders – Christians, Catholics, Muslims and Buddhists – have often condemned homosexuality and homosexual relations as sinful and inappropriate. For instance, the Catholic Church openly opposes gay marriages and, in a similar way, Islam views homosexuality as a sin that needs to be punished. As such, LGBTI persons continue to face threats and violence in many parts of the world.
However, while we often associate religious beliefs to an anti-gay perspective, the secular case against gay marriage is just as strong.
Secular arguments against gay marriage
While religious perspectives relate the sinful nature of gay-relationships to the commandments of the divinity, exponents of the secular case use rational and practical arguments to oppose same-sex marriage. In this perspective, gay marriage is opposed and condemned for the following reasons:
- The State has the right, the power and the duty to regulate marriage;
- Gay couples are not deprived of fundamental rights;
- Same-sex marriage is bad for children;
- Same-sex marriages are less likely to last;
- Same-sex couples cannot have children; and
- Same-sex couples may undermine the idea of sexual fidelity.
The state has the right, the power and the duty to regulate marriage
The State controls marriage in many ways. Not only does the government allow or prohibit same-sex marriages, but it also sets the rules for heterosexual marriages. For instance, most countries prohibit relations and marriages between siblings and closer blood relatives. While in the common perspective marrying a relative has become unthinkable and unacceptable, we often forget that there are legal provisions that prohibit it.
Indeed, same-sex relationships cannot be compared to the marriage with a relative; however, they are an example of the ways in which the State interferes in and regulates marriage. Furthermore, it has been argued that the State has the right and the duty to allow or deny the possibility of getting married because the act of marriage entails several benefits for the couple – benefits that can be quite costly for the State. For instance, in the United States, the woman (or the man) can be covered by the health insurance of the spouse and there are several tax exemptions and subsidies for married couples: the State invests in them as they are likely to have children.
Gay couples are not deprived of fundamental rights
Married couples enjoy several benefits:
- They have inheritance rights;
- They are allowed to visit the partner (spouse) in the hospital;
- They can share health insurance; and
- They can claim tax exemptions.
However, while some of the just mentioned benefits are only entitled to married couples, even non-married partners enjoy several rights. For instance, gay couples can write and sign a living will or designate their same-sex partner as heir or trustee. In the same way, same-sex couples can jointly buy a house or find legal ways to share their goods and properties.
As far as hospital visitation is concerned, indeed married couples and family members are allowed to visit their relatives even beyond the fixed visiting hours. Yet, why should we change the whole marriage system to allow LGBTI persons to visit their partners instead of simply changing hospitals’ regulations? The process needed to modify hospitals’ legislation is much easier and shorter than the one necessary to legalize and institutionalize gay marriage. As such, advocates of the secular perspective against gay marriage often argue that same-sex couples could enjoy more rights without necessarily having to legalize same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage is bad for children
Indeed, same-sex couples cannot have children but they can adopt babies or use in vitro fertilization or surrogate mothers (in the case of man-man couples). This means that it is not impossible for gay couples to have children. Yet, it is often argued that children raised by same-sex parents are most likely to experience sexual and gender disorders and that parenting by gay-couples has often proved inadequate. In fact, there is evidence that boys and girls need both a mother and a father:
- Fathers have a unique social, emotional and biological influence on their children;
- Mothers have the natural ability to provide emotional security to their children;
- Fathers have the possibility to teach to their sons how to treat and respect women, and to teach to their daughters how to resist sexual entreaties;
- Girls that grow up without a father are more likely to experience teen pregnancies or to have unhealthy relationship with boys and men;
- Gay couples are more likely to experience infidelity and are less likely to last – thus creating a conflictual and unsafe environment for children; and
- Children need both male and female models to have a proper development.
This does not necessarily mean that gay parents are bad parents, but they cannot provide their children with the emotional and physical support needed to integrate in a society made up of both sexes.
Same-sex couples cannot have children
Marriage and procreation have always been tightly connected. However, gay marriage advocates often argue that many regular couples do not have children, either because they do not want to or because they cannot. For instance, sterile couples or elderly couples may never be able to have kids, yet they are granted the right to get married.
However, the fact that the linkage between marriage and procreation is not as strong as it used to be is having dire consequences for the society as a whole. In fact, when the emotional fulfilment of the couple becomes the primary end, partners are more likely to abandon their responsibilities towards themselves, their offspring, and the society – thus creating a wide array of social pathologies. While gay marriage is not the cause of such change of mentality, legalizing it would exacerbate social pathologies and further isolate marriage from its original purpose.
Same-sex couples may undermine the idea of sexual fidelity
The evidence suggests that gay couples have the tendency to attach less importance to sexual fidelity within marriage. In fact, statistics have shown that almost 80% of man-woman couples consider sexual fidelity an important pillar of a functioning marriage whereas only 50% of gay couples share this perspective. While infidelity is not punishable by law – at least not in Western countries – it seriously undermines the stability of couples and – consequently – of the society as a whole. As families are the pillars of society, we need strong and stable couples to create a strong and effective society.
Therefore, advocates of the secular argument against gay marriage claim that same-sex couples do not meet the necessary requirements to be entrusted with duties, rights and responsibilities entitled to married couples.
Religious arguments have often been used to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriages and civil unions. In fact, religious leaders of different faiths condemn homosexual relations as sinful and against nature. However, there are also secular arguments that are often used to oppose same-sex relations. In a non-religious perspective, gay marriages are opposed because:
- The state has the power and the right to regulate marriage: governments prohibit relationships among close blood relatives and, in some countries, do not allow or strongly oppose marriages between different casts. Marriage is strongly regulated by and largely depends on the government.
- Gay couples are not deprived of fundamental rights: while gay marriage advocates often argue that same-sex couples are deprived of inheritance rights, hospital visitations and State benefits, in reality there are ways in which same-sex couples can benefit of the same rights without having to get married. For instance, they can write living wills, name the partner as trustee or heir, and can jointly buy a house;
- Same-sex marriage is bad for children: the evidence suggests that children need both male and female models. In fact, mothers have the unique ability to provide their children with emotional support and protection while fathers have a fundamental psychological, biological and social influence on their children:
- Same-sex couples cannot have children: while homosexual relations are not responsible for the weakened link between marriage and procreation, legalizing gay marriages would further exacerbate the pathologies of modern societies;
- Same-sex couples may undermine the idea of sexual fidelity: statistics show that gay couples attach less importance to sexual fidelity than heterosexual couples do. As families are the pillars of societies, we need strong, stable and balanced families to create inclusive, equal and functioning societies.