Andrew Sullivan recently had his readers ask questions of Maggie Gallagher, the anti-marriage equality activist. One of the questions she was asked was this: “In states where same-sex couples have been allowed to marry, what harm has been brought to individuals or society at large?” This was her answer:
I think we’re in the early stages of seeing my primary concern, which is a transformation of the public understanding of marriage and the separation of it from its roots in the natural family…Gay marriage is not just adding a couple of people onto an existing institution. It requires re-norming the whole institution and making it serve new purposes, instead of its classic purpose across time and culture and history, which is to bring together male and female so children have a mom and a dad.
And yet Gallagher would never even think to suggest that infertile people not be allowed to marry, or older couples who are past child-bearing age. Rob Tisinai points out the obvious:
In other words, same-sex marriage will obscure the purpose of marriage. She hits this theme a lot, and I’ve previously pointed out the problems that arise when you talk about thepurpose of marriage. So now let me hit something else — let me point out that her answer suggests this isn’t about marriage at all. It’s about gays.
See, in 2009 over 110,000 women aged 55 and older got married. That accounted for 5.1% of all marriages that year. The birth rate of women in this group is so small that the Census Bureau and the CDC don’t even report it. For these women, “the” purpose of marriage is not procreation, not about bringing together moms and dads. And by the way, when women in this group do conceive, it’s generally through an egg donor, so even that is contrary to Maggie’s repugnant, repetitive rhetoric about marriage uniting children with “their own mother and father” (that is, repugnant to adoptive parents, at least, who apparently cannot count their children as “their own”).
Now, that 5.1% figure is a bit higher than the 4.1% of adults willing to tell the government they’re gay or bisexual (which itself is different from the fraction who actually are gay or bisexual, but we’re concerned here with people willing to go on the record, as marriage requires).
So this is what Maggie needs to resolve: We’ve got two groups, both of whom wish to marry, neither of whom can conceive on their own. According to Maggie that’s a bad combination. Yet she’s willing to let them marry as long as they’re not same-sex couples. At this point it takes some real tap dancing to avoid the idea that it’s really just all about gays.
Of course it is. Because her argument isn’t really an argument at all, it’s a pretext. It’s an example of special pleading, which is a very common logical fallacy that one must employ when they are not free to express the real reason for their position.