It's been almost impossible to get away from talking about same sex marriage over the last week. The discussion has flooded Facebook walls, profile pictures, Twitter feeds, television commercials, blogs, papers, every major news outlet, and even family dinner tables. For the second time in a year, we've got a (pair of) Supreme Court case(s) that are more highly publicized than a new season of The Bachelor (the other was Obamacare).
It's rare that I see an argument against same sex marriage that is coherent, logical, and charitable. Most are guilty of at least one major pitfall. All of these pitfalls undermine their position, and actually end up creating advocacy for same sex marriage. There is an objective way to present the position, but it requires steadfast adherence to logic--and, likely, positions that most conservatives are unwilling to tend. Finally, most are unable to address the role the government plays when considering the actions (not characteristics) of individuals.
1. The individual uses an objective statement, but can't tackle comparisons/objections based on other circumstances that violate the statement. This is largely a result of an inconsistent philosophy addressed later.
2. The individual uses relative truths. Nothing is held to be objective, or self-evident. Generally, relativists arguing against each other merely leads to a frustrating stalemate--because no matter what is said, it is merely opinion. Relativism is always doomed to failure when opposing same sex marriage--you just sound mean and unreasonable.
3. Instead of attempting to use logic, the individual resorts to name calling, ignoring their dissenters, and repeating themselves to no avail. Instead of bridging gaps, the individuals burns bridges, destroys roads, and sometimes launches nukes at the other side. Without charity (the virtue associated with love), we are nothing.
Objectively Presenting Marriage
In order to present an objective viewpoint concerning marriage that can be followed and supported using natural law, you must first define marriage. As often pointed out (usually to show that marriage doesn't belong to Christians), marriage existed long before any texts for Judaic religions. It was codified in Hammurabi's code. No scholar or historian doubts that the social institution of marriage existed prior to this codification. Marriage is deeply ingrained in the nature of humans--it is a natural response to existence and survival of our species. What has marriage traditionally been understood to mean?
1. The lifelong union of a man and woman for the benefit of their children that is ordered toward unity and procreation. Limiting either of these goals, limits your ability to defend traditional marriage--it's likely impossible.
Stop right here. Most people have already messed up. How does the person you are speaking with define marriage? You need to find out. Many people in society today view marriage as, "a public declaration of affection between (two) people that have romantic feelings for one another." If you don't agree about what marriage "is", then you've got to at least understand each other's frame of reference. Once you do, you can explore them.
After that's established, you need to ask them to examine how their definition applies to 2 basic situations. This, generally, is capable of demonstrating the theoretical differences between the two positions.
A. Unions involving more than two people.
If "marriage" is defined in the second sense, there's no rational objection to allowing multiple individuals to marry. Can more than two people have a public declaration of their romantic feelings for one another? Are those feelings somehow less than those of a homosexual couple? What is different about the situation same sex advocates want and that of a polyamorous situation? As far as I--and most others--can see, there's no logical reason to deny one and allow the other.
B. Unions involving related individuals
If two people are cousins (or siblings) and want to be married, what is stopping them under the second definition? Doesn't stopping them violate their equal right to happiness and choice of life partner/sexual partner? In principle, there is little difference. One might object to the offspring produced--however, marriage has nothing to do with offspring if same sex couples are allowed to marry. Children are only part of the traditional definition.
If nothing else, press for a definition of marriage that can consistently limit other applications. There's not one capable of doing it.
How 99.9% of Opponents to Same Sex Marriage Already Botched Their Case
A. Advocacy and Use of Contraceptives
Yup, you're reading this correctly. If you advocate/use contraceptives, you've likely created self-defeating logic. Sex is no longer fulfilling both of its purposes. Sex between a man and woman naturally unites them as one and also generates a possibility for procreation. When you remove the second as a possibility, sex becomes no more than an act which unites two people. It's easy to slip that into the second definition above. Same sex couples can easily participate in sex that is only oriented towards uniting individuals. However, they cannot participate in a sexual act that causes reproduction (barring entry of a third party). I'll go ahead and say it, contraceptives are the #1 reason that same sex marriage and abortion are viable options in the United States. Both are logical ends after its widespread use.
B. Accepting Divorce as a Viable Solution to Marital Issues
Most divorces in America occur because one, or both, of the parents are inwardly focused and not focused on their children. Many marriages end in divorce before they have children (a result of contraception). If there aren't children, and if we aren't focusing on the children when making our decisions--we aren't fulfilling what traditional marriage upholds.
C. Believing Sex outside of Marriage is Okay, but Same Sex Marriage isn't
This one is more rare, but it happens. If part of marriage involves sex, and part of sex uniquely unites (bet Ron Burgandy practices that alliteration) individuals, then sex outside of marriage violates your principle. An adherence to this practice, or apathy towards its occurrence results in changing the definition of marriage.
Roles and Capabilities of the United States Government
The 3 P's
The United States is capable of doing 3 things with any action. It can promote, permit, or prohibit. Generally, actions that are beneficial to the welfare of people are promoted. Actions that are not beneficial, or would violate an individual right if prohibited are permitted. Actions that damage the welfare of society are prohibited, unless such prohibition violates a fundamental right found in the Constitution.
Currently, heterosexual sex is promoted through marriage and homosexual sex is permitted. I want to reiterate that--permitted. Both groups can have sex whenever and wherever (read privately) they want. Both can get married. Only heterosexual couples receive benefits from the government for doing so. The difference between their wedding ceremony (in most states) is that they are given a piece of paper entitling them to various benefits.
The benefits are given to promote longevity of relations that may create children. The government promotes heterosexual marriage because those marriages often lead to children, and children are better raised in households where a mother and father are present. There is a much lower risk of growing up in poverty, being exposed to abusive relationships, committing suicide, and depression. Children are only a result of sexual relations between a man and woman. To encourage longevity in the sexual relationship of a man and woman, the state offers benefits associated with taxes, transfer of assets in life and death, and several other minor benefits. The same characteristics are not associated with homosexual sex, so they are not--and should not be--promoted by the government.
It's all about the Children
In natural law and under the current role of the United States government, the emphasis is on the children. They are the ones that benefit from the current arrangement. By shifting the focus from children, to the people in a relationship, we've already drifted away from the reason we recognize marriage. The people being married aren't the point of government recognition--the welfare of their posterity is.
All of that said, Justice Kennedy (the man likely deciding the case creating all the noise) made some interesting statements during oral arguments today. He believes all of this is what actually makes the case compelling, "there is an immediate legal injury … and that’s the voice of these children [of same-sex parents].… They want their parents to have full recognition and full status.” The irony of this is, most proponents of same-sex marriage scoff at the idea that children have anything to do with marriage--and it might be the very thing that provides legal standing to address the issue. Make no mistake, Kennedy realizes that, "We have five years of information [about same-sex marriage] to weigh against 2000 years of history". It seems likely to me that the court will punt the issue and make no decision at all. It may wait for more evidence regarding the results of same sex couples parenting children to examine the implication. (Of course, my prediction to Obamacare was also horribly wrong.)
If anything changes, the traditional definition of marriage will likely be construed in this way: The lifelong union of a man and woman for the benefit of their children is ordered toward unity and child rearing. This is slightly different than the first definition presented by the individual claiming the natural law. It still does not prevent the slope into polyamorous relationships, relationships between siblings, or relationships between vastly different ages (past the age of reason). If the ruling comes out that way, many states will begin changing the way their laws work with these other situations. It is the only logical consequence.
How to Change This Result
1. Immediately stop using and advocating for contraceptives.
2. Begin taking measures to drastically reduce the number of divorces.
3. Lift sex up to be an act limited to marriage.
If you aren't doing these things, you've already begun redefining marriage--how can you blame same sex couples for attempting to do the same? If you can't defend the position, or if your theory is inconsistent, you shouldn't try to defend it. It does more damage than good. Sometimes there is wisdom in silence.