Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Good of Society

I read a USA Today "Opposing View" editorial yesterday. In it, the Vice President for Policy at the Family Research Center, Peter Brigg, made the statement, "Society gives benefits to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society." Apparently, homosexual unions cannot provide those same benefits to society, so they shouldn't get the benefits of marriage in return.
So what benefits does heterosexual marriage provide to society? Mr. Sprigg mentioned two - procreation, and providing children with both a mother and a father. Obviously, that's a bit idealized - many heterosexual couples fail at one or both of those, but for the sake of discussion, I'll grant the point. I can think of other benefits, though. A married couple tends to live a more conservative, stable life. (That's conservative in terms of not drinking and partying as much, not in terms of, say, voting a straight Republican ticket.) A married couple is immune to sexually-transmitted disease, as long as neither of the is cheating. A married couple uses less resources than a non-married couple - they only need one house or apartment instead of two, for example. I can't come up with anything else offhand, though - any ideas, anyone? Post a comment.

So let's look at these - in reverse order for my own narrative purposes. Obviously, a homosexual couple living together provides the same reduction in resource usage as a married couple. Or, for that matter, a heterosexual couple living together, but I suspect that Mr. Sprigg wouldn't be much happier about them than he is about gay couples.

Sexually transmitted diseases - certainly a curse that has fallen unequally on homosexuals. But a stable homosexual couple is just as immune to AIDS and such as any married couple.
A more stable life - I hate to use stereotypes, but anecdotally, gay people (especially men) tend to date a lot, party a lot, go clubbing a lot, and so on. I feel sure there are many committed gay couples that maintain that lifestyle, at least for awhile, but sooner or later - just like a hetero couple - they settle down and stay home.

Now for the two Mr. Sprigg felt were most important. Married couples provide their children with both a mother and a father. I have to mention it again, this is an idealized view - according to these statistics, about a third of children see their parents divorce before they hit 18, and as many as half of them see a second marriage fail. But, again looking at the idealized picture, a gay couple provides most of the same benefits to their children as a hetero couple. Two parental points of view, a "backup" in case one parent dies, twice as many people to take them to soccer practice and watch their school plays, and so on. I have to admit, they don't get the benefit of learning from parents of both genders. I don't know how much difference that makes, though, as every study I've heard about indicates that children of gay couples are no more likely to be gay than children of straight couples. Besides, the children can find role models of the other gender at school or other activities - and good gay parents will make sure that happens.

Of course, gay couples cannot procreate, cannot provide the next generation to continue our society. Well, that turns out to be only half-true - a lesbian couple can easily have children thanks to sperm donors, either anonymously, or by choosing a male friend to help. Even if we don't count that, many more children do we need? Are homosexual couples not having children really going to drop the birthrate, especially since they won't be having children even if they CAN'T marry?

Oh, and one more point - a gay male couple can't have their own children, but they can adopt. They can take one of the thousands of unwanted children from those oh-so-moral hetero couples, give it a loving, stable home, and raise it to be a useful and happy member of the next generation. I'd say that counts as a benefit to society.

So, Mr. Sprigg - got any more excuses for your prejudice and intolerance? Giving gay couples the right to marry does nothing to reduce the rights and privileges of straight marriages. And I have never heard an argument against gay marriage that doesn't boil down to "Eww! It violates MY religion, so YOU can't do it!" Last time I checked, the Constitution said that's not a good enough reason to prevent it.

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