Is there really only one rational side in the marriage debate?

by Margaret Somerville, MercatorNet

Opponents of redefining marriage are being called discriminatory, bigots, homophobes and worse. Is this fair?

It’s hard for those who see legalizing same-sex marriage as a human rights and social triumph to comprehend why anyone would find the recent US Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, anything but good. And yet, some who are not homophobic and accept that same-sex relations are a matter of personal morality are concerned and saddened by this legal affirmation.

To understand how a person can be against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and yet against the current same-sex marriage bandwagon requires stepping back, for a moment, and listening to their reasons.

Extensive media coverage of the Windsor case, as has been true of the general debate, mainly supports the legal recognition of same-sex marriage and lays out the strong case made by its advocates. But valid arguments against its legalization also need to be reported.

And while some people who oppose same-sex marriage vilify homosexuals, the vast majority agree that stigmatization and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are horrible wrongs.

So the real issue is whether one can be against such wrongs and at the same time against legalizing same-sex marriage.

The case for same-sex marriage relies on a legal right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and the correlative right to be treated equally; and the emotional pull of the claim to be allowed to marry whomever you love. This right and claim were the heart of the majority judgment in the five to four decision by the United States Supreme Court to strike down provisions of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Those provisions had the effect of limiting access to spousal benefits under Federal law to opposite-sex married couples, which, given the facts of the case, many people saw as unfair and unjust.

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