Stephen Green takes Stanley Kurtz to task for his opposition to gay marriage on the grounds that it undermines the culture.

While I support gay marriage, largely for the reasons Stephen and his first commenter Seth lays out, I don’t have a major problem with Kurtz’ argument.

It’s one thing for society to say that homosexuals have a right to, well, be homosexual. It’s another for it to place its imprimatur on the relationship and say, “We endorse this and put it on par with heterosexual marriage.” Marriage, especially with the current easy divorce laws, is really nothing more than a social stamp on a union. It also conveys certain advantages in terms of taxation (although not always), property rights, and the like. But we grant those priviledges because we as a society have decided that we want to promote the institution. The main rational basis for which is the protection of children. Given that the vast majority–although a shrinking one–of society believes homosexual relations are repugnant, I don’t think they have to give it a ringing endorsement.

So, why do I support it? While I’m not enthusiastic about the idea, I think the argument for homosexual marriage is ultimately the same as for heterosexual marriage: monogamy is better than promiscuity. Not that monogamy isn’t possible without marriage or guaranteed by it. But it does seem more likely. While homosexuals, presumably, aren’t going to have a spate of out-of-wedlock pregnancies from their promiscuity, they are spreading disease. (Also true of promiscuous heterosexuals, although not at the same rate–and heterosexuals can get married under current law.)

So, on libertarian and practical grounds, I think government should get out of the way and legislate on a rational basis. But the conservative argument here isn’t just outdated nonsense, either.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jen says:

    I’m getting ready to shoot of my mouth before looking for stats to back up my point, but I’m doing it anyway.

    I don’t think that promiscuous homosexuals are spreading disease more than promiscuous heterosexuals. I heard recently that hetero STD rates are climbing again as a new generation of kids exploring sex are not using condoms.

    Also there are insidious diseases that heteros pass on to each other that never manifest to icky symptoms but still cause irreparable damage – mostly PID (pelvic inflammatory disease, I think) in women, which causes infertility and has no outward symptoms. As a matter of fact, most women don’t realize they have it until they try to conceive and when unsuccessful go to their doctor who will then check for it.

    I could go on. But I won’t for now.

  2. jen says:

    Dang, hit that POST button instead of the PREVIEW button.

    Ah well…

  3. James Joyner says:

    I was mainly thinking in terms of AIDS, although you make a point.

  4. Tiger says:

    I am always wondering where you find statistics for any of this. Unless there are scientific controls, most statistics come from surveys and polls. I equate such to eye-witness testimony. People see and believe what they want to see and believe or say what they want you to believe.

    As a good libertarian, government needs to keep their noses out of adult’s private affairs. Monogamy is monogamy. Homosexuality is one of the surest forms of birth control that can be combined with sexual activity among more than one individual. If they went to a sales tax instead of the oppressive income taxation, people would be taxed on the the basis of their spending and we could dispense with all these stupid credits and crap, and those at the bottom of the rung might actually be able to pay rent and buy food.

  5. James Joyner says:


    While I’m with you on sales vs. income tax, the people at the bottom of the rung currently MAKE money off the tax code, especially if they have kids.

    And marriage is BY DEFINITION the government putting its imprimatur on a union. Unless you just want to privatize marriage, which would be fine by me, but it would lose whatever little meaning it has now.

  6. John Lemon says:

    The big benefit of gay marriage is that it may help to reduce health insurance costs. The tendency to extend health benefits to unmarried partners opens the door for lots of mischief. With a legal contract — marriage — binding the two people together, they are less likely to engage in insurance fraud.

  7. John Lemon says:

    “fraud” may have been too strong of word above…rather it should be that marriage reduces incentives to “game the system.” It will also reduce monitoring costs for insurance benefits.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Or get “married” so as to scam the insurance company?

  9. jen says:

    I realize you’re talking about the legalities here, but there’s a rather large segment of our society who get married because it’s the right thing to do from a moral perspective. They’re not thinking of the law, taxes, credits, etc. They are two people who have decided to commit their lives together in HOLY matrimony. It’s a sacrament, a covenant, not just a contract.

    *steps on the soapbox*

    And I knew you were primarily referring to AIDS, but people (kids especially) have somehow forgotten that there are many other STDs that are equally dangerous. Sure there are medications to be had for most of them and people don’t die from them anymore. But they are rarely completely cured, they can still be transmitted even when being treated, and they can be deadly if left untreated. Then as I said above, the sterility factor – no one’s asking why there are so many more infertile couples these days. I think (and I’m not a doctor or scientist) it can be directly correlated to the Sexual Revolution, The Pill, and a-symptomatic STDs.

    *steps off the soapbox*

  10. Alex Knapp says:

    “But the conservative argument here isn’t just outdated nonsense, either.”

    Yes, it is. 😉

  11. John Lemon says:

    People will get “married” to get the insurance benefits, but given the legal commitment of a marriage contract and the financial difficulties in getting a divorce, will help to reduce some of the nonsense that goes on with the current “partner”-based insurance. One thing I find interesting about economics is how marginally small changes in an individual’s cost can have a large impact on social costs in the aggregate.

  12. James Joyner says:


    I’m just discussing the utilitarian argument from the standpoint of trying to figure out a logical reason for banning/not banning gay marriage. In one sense, marriage is a religious exercise moreseo than a secular one, but it does confer secular benefits because the state recognizes it.

  13. jen says:

    James, I knew that, just had to throw it in the “clinical” mix of the discussion. When marriage is reduced to the legalities it bothers me because it’s more than just a legal contract. It’s also a recognition of “traditional” morality. Gay marriage is not legal (yet) because of that traditional view of the marriage relationship – which is based primarily on Biblical standards.

    There’s a reason why gay relationships have never been “mainstream” before now – for many millenia homosexuality was considered wrong, immoral. It’s only been in the last 30-40 years that society has become “enlightened” to tolerate what many still believe to be immoral.

    And I know I’ve taken another tangential road. But no one’s bringing this up and it’s at the heart of why gay marriage laws haven’t been passed.

  14. James Joyner says:


    Yep–I agree with all that and, further, would say it’s really only been the last 10 years or so that homosexuality has been widely accepted. Indeed, I made a lot of those arguments when the Santorum thing broke.

  15. Ellen says:

    i believe that God gives us all a box for His proctection and anytime you leave the box of a man and woman in a married relationship He no longer offers safety; whether its a man having an affair, a woman and woman together, or two kids in the backseat of a car, there are consequences for the way one acts and sin is all the same. No one is born homosexual, they give into unnatural desires that they cannot supress. I do not hate people who have alternative lifestyles because I have no right to, in fact I love them even more. I have always been taught by Christ that you should hate the sin, love the sinner, and no matter what I do He will take me back when I repent. Its just something to think about.