At the press conference today, President Obama, asked about same-sex marriage, responded:
With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, I’ve spoken about this recently. As I’ve said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about. At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think — and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.
Obama’s right — from the perspective of out same-sex couples in the US today, it’s not enough. As long as lesbian and gay people are free but not equal, they and their allies will be agitating for equality.
Which makes me wonder: How do the opponents of same-sex marriage hope this debate will end?
Here’s how I hope the debate will end:
Eventually, as the most anti-SSM demographic dies off and as each new generation is more pro-SSM than the previous generation, SSM will become part of marriage norms throughout the United States. State by state, SSM will be legalized, until sometime around when it’s legal in 30 or 35 states the Supreme Court will end the issue once and for all and SSM will be legal everywhere in the USA.
And as the sky fails to fall — as people do not start marrying their dogs/siblings/parents/whatever, as heterosexuals don’t give up on marriage, and as the words “father” and “mother’ aren’t outlawed, and so on — the arguments against SSM will cease to be mainstream.
Those folks who were against SSM out of a sincere but mistaken desire to protect marriage will give up on opposing SSM; there are plenty of other marriage related issues to take up their time, after all. (Truthfully, they’ll be relieved to not have to argue about SSM anymore). Those folks who were against SSM because, in their hearts, they just plain didn’t like lesbian and gay people will become irrelevant to mainstream debate.
In other words, it’ll be a lot like the “should homosexuality be legal” debate from the 1980s — once the issue is settled in favor of freedom and equality, it’ll cease being a mainstream controversy.
Fifty years from now, it’ll seem very strange that this issue was once a big deal, and we’ll all be angry at each other over whatever the big issue will be then (equality for clones? Illegal space alien immigration?).
So that’s how I hope the debate concludes, and except for the bit about space aliens and clones, it’s fairly realistic.
But what realistic end are the folks opposed to SSM hoping for?
Do they think lesbian, gay and bi people are going to go away? Accept permanent second-class status for their families? Do they hope, like Robert George, that all homosexuals will choose to be celibate, or find happiness in heterosexual marriages? None of those outcomes seem even remotely plausible to me.
But what are they hoping will happen?