After listening to the oral arguments presented in the Proposition 8 case in the U.S. Supreme Court today, one can't help but marvel at the intricacies of the legal debate. But what's really going on, in a nutshell? Here's a look into the heart of the arguments.
1. The Procreation Argument:
In a nutshell: Raising children in same-sex partnerships is a social experiment with data points that don't go back very long.
What we say: Not very different from the argument made in 1967 when interracial marriage was being debated. When they said, Well, the social science is still uncertain about how biracial children will fare in this world, and so you ought to apply rational basis scrutiny and wait."
Or, as Justice Kagan pointed out, to audible laughter in the courtroom, should couples over the age of 55, be denied the right to marry?
2. The Slippery Slope Argument
In a nutshell: "If marriage is a fundamental right, what state restrictions could ever exist?" In other words, if we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we'll be allowing people to marry several people, their parents, their cars and even monkeys.
What we say: Seriously?! (Or: *Don't make me snap my fingers in a Z formation, hip rotation, head circulation, elbow, elbow, fist, fist*)
But Theodore Olson (the pro-gay marriage side) had a more articulate response: Polygamy is based on conduct, while sexual orientation is based on identity.
The logical fallacy here doesn't need too much explanation, mostly because it is called the Slippery Slope Fallacy!
(Actually, on second thoughts, I might want to marry my iPhone 5.)
3. The "It's happening too fast" argument
In a nutshell: "This whole gay marriage shmarriage you speak of, it's only four years old, even in Massachusetts."
What we say: Try explaining this argument to the five-year-old with two mommies who lives in California.
Sure, it's happening too fast, and faster than things used to happen. It took us a few thousand years to get from carrier pigeons to the telephone, about a 100 from that to the slipper-sized cellphone and about 10 from that to the iPhone. Get with the program! (Pssst: It's a good thing that we as a species have evolved so we can do social change faster.)
4. The "But what about the other states" argument
In a nutshell: "... Look, a State that does nothing for gay couples hurts them much more than a State that does something." So, why are we including only the eight states that do have civil unions in this debate today?
What we say: Of course it hurts more! And that's why we have our eyes on you (the Supreme Court) again tomorrow for DOMA.