The problem with the case against ‘gay marriage’ is that the definition of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman depends on a religious vision of social relations, which if not shared, leaves only the historical (temporal) argument. And the historical argument by itself carries little weight. There are all sorts of toxic institutions and practices which have been in place for a long time, say the proponents of gay marriage. Add to this the supremacy of the ‘rights’ paradigm and the rhetoric of voluntaristic freedom and you can see why this is becoming a lost battle.
However, to clear things up: (1) I am not pro gay-marriage (2) I don’t espouse defeatism or indifference – I think this is a battle worth fighting (3 – the content of my post) the arguments put forward don’t work ergo (4) we have to take a different angle – some strategy to ‘outnarrate’ the metanarrative that evelops the ‘gay marriage’ debate.
But conscious that this alternative strategy requires time, which we simply don’t have in the current context, I still think a political case can be mounted along the lines of Justice Samuel Alito’s argument in the current Obergefell v. Hodges case. (1) The idea is that gay marriage eviscerates the meaning of ‘marriage’ since down the line any adult consensual relationship (e.g. threesome, quadruple, cvintet) can ‘apply’ to be called a marriage and have bestowed upon it the rights attending the institution of marriage. Is this a form of the slippery slope argument? You bet, but in the absence of a principle that would discriminate meaningfully between the consenting relationship between a man and a man or a woman and a woman (i.e. gay marriage) and various permutations of consensual relationships (threesoms, quadruples, cvintets etc.) the slope is slippery indeed and one shouldnt hurry down.
(2) Secondly and following from my first point, I would argue we are not dealing here with a question of equal rights, ‘marriage equality’. Gays are not asking to be admitted to the institution of marriage, but are seeking its re-definition. Based on my initial point, this re-definition amounts to the effective dissolution of the institution of marriage. Having the right to marry is not the same as having a right to the state’s validation that each and every sexual relationship is marriage. “The pacifist has a right to join the army, but he does not have the right to insist that the army create a non-violent branch of the military for him to join.” (Kevin DeYoung)
(3) The legitimization of same-sex marriage will mean the de-legitimization of those who dare to disagree. By framing the whole discussion in terms of ‘rights’ and ‘equality’, those who disagree will be the ‘bigots’, those who ‘deny rights’, are ‘opposed to freedom’, perpetuate inequality etc. After gay marriage gains cultural ascendancy, as it inevitably will, those who disagree will have a very hard time in the public square. We will then see once more what ‘tolerance’ really means in the current climate: ‘I respect and tolerate you as long as you sign your name under our liberal, progressive agenda’. So my argument is that legalisation of ‘same sex marriage’ will be corrosive for freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. What we will have is a highly illiberal situation in which civil liberties will be trumping fundamental freedoms.