An Opponent Close to Home

While doing research for a project that I am working on, I have been sifting through the arguments from those opposing gay marriage, gay rights, gay parenting, etc. In this process, I have recently found one individual who is much closer to me in proximity than I thought because he came up as speaking against marriage reform in my home state of Maryland.

As I have mentioned before, same-sex marriage has been a hot topic recently in many states and my stomping grounds of Maryland is one of them. Peter Sprigg is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, a Christian organization based in DC that is a large opponent to marriage reform and other gay rights issues.

I would like to share this video of Sprigg speaking against marriage reform in Maryland to highlight some of his arguments and explain why I disagree with them. He actually uses my favorite tactic of citing arguments from the ‘other side’ and refuting them, but he must know that return fire is expected if this tactic is to be used.

Sprigg cites and ‘refutes’ several arguments for marriage reform but I would like to examine his first two here. The first is that the current definition of marriage deprives gays and lesbians of the fundamental right to marry. His response to this is that every citizen has access to the institution of marriage on the same exact terms and under the same restrictions. These restrictions keep any individual from marrying a child, a close blood relative, a person who is already married, or a person of the same sex. He argues that if we are to say that it is discrimination to limit one’s choice of marriage partner that indeed all of these restrictions could be seen in the same light.

Let me see if I understand him correctly. He is saying that if it is discrimination to say one cannot marry based on their chosen partner’s sex than it is too discrimination to say that one cannot marry a child, their brother/sister/etc., or someone who is already married. So it is the same to choose a partner of the same sex as it is to choose a five year old? That is his reasoning? I can understand that he is saying that there are limits on marriage for a reason and I agree that the rest of the restrictions do have reasons behind them that I support. Everyone would agree that it is wrong to marry a child because it would be inappropriate and unacceptable for a child to partake in the responsibilities and experiences that come with marriage like sexual relations and owning a home. It can also be agreed on both moral and biological reasons that marriage is not appropriate between close blood relatives, if not just for the simple fact that it is inappropriate to reproduce in that situation, on moral and genetic grounds, like it is between an adult and a child. And it is certainly agreed, by most American citizens at least, that marriage is binding and therefore one who is already married should not marry another individual.

I do not believe, however, that restricting one’s choice of marriage partner based on sex has good reason behind it. It may have before when the church was not separated from the state and even when the citizens did believe in this definition of marriage, but today is an entirely different ballpark. The citizens of today’s America have different opinions than when marriage was first defined and one of those growing opinions is that one should be able to choose a partner of the same sex. This is not in the same category as believing that one should be able to marry a child or their sister and so should not be discussed in the same way. These restrictions do not relate to one another and so should not be logically connected as Sprigg asserts that they should be.

Sprigg’s second argument that he chooses to refute is that banning same-sex marriage is like banning interracial marriage. To refute this argument, he cites the decision of Loving v. Virginia, not as saying that a person has unlimited rights to marry the person of their choice, but that the choice cannot be limited based on race, based on the special protection against racial discrimination in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. Sprigg argues that the advocates of same-sex marriage resemble those who banned interracial marriage, in that both sought to “burden the institution of marriage in pursuit of social goals that have nothing to do with the public purpose of marriage,” but one with the recognized unworthy goal of enforcing racial segregation and the other with the goal of “advancing the social acceptance and affirmation of homosexual conduct.” Sprigg goes on to say that we have yet to agree on whether or not that second goal is a worthy one, but that in the end it has nothing to do with the historical purpose of marriage of “responsible procreation and childbirth.”

In (a very small) part, I agree with Sprigg, in that the decision of Loving v. Virginia said only that the choice to marry cannot be limited based on race, not that it was unlimited. That is about as far I go with my agreement. Firstly, I think that again Sprigg is lumping together these arguments much like he did with the restrictions on marriage, and comparing them like apples and oranges. Sprigg is arguing that these two movements, the one in support of racial segregation and the other of same-sex marriage, have similar goals and that in that way they can be compared to one another. I disagree, mainly based on his proposed goal of those supporting same-sex marriage. He claims that these proponents are aiming to advance the social acceptance and affirmation of homosexual conduct. This is entirely wrong and I think it is obvious why. Same-sex couples are not looking to make homosexual conduct socially acceptable and affirmed by making same-sex marriage legally recognized. Rather, they are only wishing to be accepted as citizens who deserve the same rights and opportunities as any one else. It seems like Sprigg is saying that proponents for gay marriage want to force homosexuality on society and have it affirmed but that is not the case, because for one thing society already accepts homosexuality. Homosexuality is no longer something to hide and this movement is simply a group of citizens desiring the equality that our Constitution promises them. It’s not that we want homosexuality to be socially affirmed or instantiated like those who desired to support racial segregation. That was about a group looking at a minority and willing inequality on them. Supporting same-sex marriage is about the minority standing up and choosing equality, not defacing it.

This seems to be a long enough post, so I’ll save his other arguments for another time.

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About mshifrin

Fresh Bachelors in my hand, the world's an open book. Time to explore!
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