What Gay Marriage Means

| Thu Aug. 20, 2009 4:05 PM EDT

When Steve Chapman asked same-sex marriage opponent Maggie Gallagher to offer a few "simple, concrete predictions" about what would happen if SSM were legalized, she "politely declined."  However, now that Chapman has gotten the ball rolling, she's taken to The Corner to offer a few "preliminary predictions about the short-term effects of SSM":

  1. In gay-marriage states, a large minority people committed to traditional notions of marriage will feel afraid to speak up for their views, lest they be punished in some way.
  2. Public schools will teach about gay marriage.
  3. Parents in public schools who object to gay marriage being taught to their children will be told with increasing public firmness that they don't belong in public schools and their views will not be accomodated in any way. 
  4. Religous institutions will face new legal threats (especially soft litigation threats) that will cause some to close, or modify their missions, to avoid clashing with the government's official views of marriage (which will include the view that opponents are akin to racists for failing to see same-sex couples as married).
  5. Support for the idea "the ideal for a child is a married mother and father" will decline.

Of these, #4 strikes me as almost certainly mistaken.  Interracial marriage bans were struck down more than 40 years ago, but so far as I know, churches are still legally free to marry whomever they wish without interference from the government.  I expect the same will be true as same-sex marriage bans are overturned.

Gallagher's other objections are more plausible, but what's striking about them is how self-referential they are.  The balance of her list all boils down to about the same thing: if social attitudes become more tolerant toward SSM, then.....social attitudes will become more tolerant toward SSM.  Which is hard to argue with.  I don't think anyone will be "punished" for opposing SSM, but it's almost certainly true that as SSM becomes more widely accepted, people who remain unreconciled will feel somewhat socially marginalized — something that happens anytime there's social change of any sort.

Widespread acceptance of gay marriage, then, will result in widespread acceptance of gay marriage.  Aside from that, though, Gallagher doesn't really predict any concrete harm to society.  So what's the problem?

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