Monday, January 04, 2010

Equality, Special Rights, and Gay Marriage

Today, let's take a brief look at a favorite conservative argument against gay marriage: that allowing same-sex marriage would result in special rights for the LGBT community.

The gist of the argument is this: Everybody already has the same marriage rights. After all, gay people and straight people alike can marry people of the opposite sex. Allowing same-sex marriage, then, would grant special rights to homosexuals. We'd have MORE rights than straight people and that's just not fair.

This argument might make some sense if same-sex marriage would be permitted only within the queer community. However, I have yet to see any proposed legislation that would prohibit straight people from marrying same-sex partners.

Thus, just as gays are free now to marry someone of the opposite sex, straights would be just as free to marry someone of the same sex. Same-sex marriage, then, would not implicate special rights for anyone. On the contrary, it would expand the rights of everyone.

Conservatives might well counter-argue that the right to marry someone of the same sex means nothing to them, because they have no interest in forming such a union.

We get that. In fact, that's exactly our point. The right to marry someone of the opposite sex means nothing to us, either. You can't make one argument without addressing the other.

Still, when you come right down to it, conservatives are correct in identifying same-sex marriage as a special-rights issue, because it is: it's about the special rights of those in power to deny fundamental constitutional rights to a particular minority. It's the special right to discriminate against a select demographic.

And that, I think, is just about as American as Joe McCarthy.

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