Steve Chapman writes an excellent opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune. While I excerpt key points, the whole article is worth reading, even if one must register at the Trib site (no charge).
Life is full of zero-sum games, where one person can’t win unless another loses. If I get the last piece of pie, you don’t. … The battle over gay marriage is as bitter as you would expect in a zero-sum game between two groups with incompatible desires. Conservatives want to preserve traditional marriage as the foundation of our society. Homosexuals want the legal recognition, rights and duties that go with matrimony. They can’t both get their way, can they?
Chapman argues, of course, that they can both get their way.
Of those who preach a zero-sum game, Chapman says:
The critics are badly confused. In truth, the flimsier version of marriage is already in place, the radical social experiment has become the norm …
The crucial change was the sexual revolution — which freed people to follow their own moral code on these matters without fear of punishment. The widespread availability of sex for both men and women removed one major motive for marrying and one major disadvantage of divorce. Both changes undoubtedly weakened the institution.
In 1972, almost half of Americans said they disapproved of premarital sex “always” or “almost always.” Today, 64 percent generally approve of it.
Chapman notes that gays are seeking to strengthen the obligations of marriage, not weaken them.
So when conservatives act as though gay marriage would be a radical change, they’re mistaken. The radical change is already a fact of life. Gays, like straights, are now free to frolic with whomever they choose, set up housekeeping with a partner, and even raise children together. They don’t have to get married to do any of these. Cohabitation is a flimsier version of marriage, and it didn’t happen because a legislature made it available.
What created the push for gay marriage is that many homosexuals, like most heterosexuals, aren’t willing to settle for the flimsier version, or for mere sexual liberty. They want all the obligations and prerogatives available to husbands and wives.
How can that be bad?… Gay marriage would encourage gays to accept a more — what’s the word? — conservative lifestyle. It would also strengthen families that already exist. …
Gay marriage isn’t a repudiation of the values conservatives prize. It’s an affirmation.
Another conservative/libertarian perspective. Cathy Young, a contributing editor to Reason magazine, says the legal arguments against gay marriage are weak.
I agree with these sentiments, however, at the same time I question whether governments should ever have gotten in the business of regulating and bureaucratizing marriage in the first place. Private local organizations, including but not limited to churches, may be better equipped than state agencies to recognize the values and commitment underpinning a couple’s relationship, and to certify whether a couple is well-prepared to raise kids.