Well, this subject seems to have come up a lot for me lately, so I'm going to post on it. Same-sex marriage. So much for shying away from controversy on this blog...
Anyway, let me say again at the outset that I'm a supporter of civil unions. I think giving access to the same rights is a good thing and that equality is a worthy and important goal.
So why not also support same-sex marriage? Because I see a difference between heterosexual marriage (herein "traditional marriage" for sake of ease, not because I'm trying to make a point) and same-sex marriage. It's a big difference:
One of the chief purposes of marriage is procreation. Not just raising children (which same-sex couples can do just fine in my opinion (just as can single adults)) but also the creation of children. Quite simply, and obviously, this is a purpose that cannot be achieved by same-sex couples. Therefore, a same-sex marriage cannot fulfill all of the same purposes of marriage in the way that a traditional marriage can, and thus a reasonable (and arguably important) distinction can be made between the two.
The ready-made response of same-sex advocates is that there are also traditional marriages that do not achieve this purpose of marriage. This is a fair point to raise, but I feel there's an important response that has been largely unvoiced in the same-sex marriage debate: Traditional marriages without children frustrate one of the purpose of marriage by impediment (infertility or unwillingness), whereas same-sex marriages frustrate this purpose of marriage by definition.
As I wrote on Mike's blog, "I think the difference is pretty obvious, and it's relevant both philosophically and practically."
Philosophically: Human nature is oriented towards procreation. If it wasn't, we wouldn't be here. One of the functions of marriage is to serve this aspect of human nature (and I'd even argue monogamous relationships like marriage are human nature themselves, and that locating the procreative function inside of those relationships is also a part of human nature). Obviously same-sex marriage can't be oriented towards babymaking, so philosophically same-sex marriage has a different orientation than traditional marriage.
Practically: Allowing only fertile couples to marry requires a fertility test for traditional marriages before issuing licenses. Homosexual couples require no such test. We know they can't have kids, never could, never will, and there's no exception to the rule. So practically, if we want to encourage procreation as one of the purpose of marriage, it makes sense to draw the line at same-sex vs. traditional marriage.
So basically that leaves us with a pretty fair reason for drawing a distinction between same-sex unions and traditional unions. Is it going to be compelling for everyone? No. I'm sure there are those who would say both that we don't care about procreation within marriage and/or that allowing same-sex marriage is more important than drawing this distinction.
Personally, I think it's an important distinction, but I don't see any reason to deny same-sex couples any of the rights associated with marriage (unless there are rights attached only to procreation, but I can't think of any). That's why I support a dual marriage/civil union framework. It allows us to give everybody the same rights, while at the same time maintaining the important distinction between same-sex and traditional marriages.
And as I see it, that's pretty much the case against same-sex marriage.
And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found