A Utilitarian Perspective on Gay Marriage

There are many contexts in which the left normally fails to make the arguments for its views that I find most compelling. Gay marriage is an example. The left typically (but not always) argues that homosexuals should be able to marry each other because disallowing them to do so is unfair. They then proceed to call the opposition homophobes or bigots.

The fact of the matter is that homosexuals do, by definition, differ from heterosexuals. To Christians (I’m not one), this difference is important according to God. For secularists, the rampant rates of substance abuse and non monogamous sex, which inturn fuels rampant rates of mentall illness and STDS, are going to be a pretty big problem too. Given this, I don’t think screaming moral indignation at anyone who has an aversion to the normalization of homosexuality is very compelling.

A better argument, in my view, is that marriage leads to measurable positive outcomes for heterosexual and homosexual couples. In fact, these benefits help to undue some of the problematic behavior seen in the homosexual community.  As a result, legalizing homosexual marriage will improve societies physical and psychological health and lessen the gap in these areas between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Some people will be uncomfortable with this at first, but eventually it will be normalized and thus, in the long run, the benefits outweigh the costs.

I was reminded of this line of argumentation by some new researching showing, as has been shown in the past, that marriage is predictive of physical and psychological health in homosexual couples:

“Researchers found that, in general, participants in a relationship, whether married or in a long-term partnership, showed better health outcomes than those who were single. But those who were married fared even better, both socially and financially, than couples in unmarried, long-term partnerships.

Single LGBT adults were more likely to have a disability; to report lower physical, psychological, social and environmental quality of life; and to have experienced the death of a partner, especially among men.”

Other research has provided some longitudinal support for this claim as well:

“A Massachusetts study done the year after legalization of same-sex civil marriages in that state demonstrated a 13 percent drop in health care visits and a 14 percent reduction in health care costs among gay men.”

Of course, two studies are far from proof, but given what we know about how marriage impacts straight couples, and other evidence available on homosexual marriage, I think it is fair to conclude that marriage probably improves mental and physical health among homosexuals. In part, it probably does this via encouraging monogamy. Thus, if you find the hedonistic behavior prevalent among homosexuals, and the associated costs of such behavior, to be problematic then you should probably consider supporting gay marriage.

I find this line of reasoning far more compelling than claims about fairness. Granted, I may not be the average person the left tries to convince, but I suspect that there are several bad reasons for which the left does not make these sorts of arguments.

First, this line of argument acknowledges that marriage is a positive social force. Many liberals like to contend that marriage is a socially neutral force or, in the case of the far left, an oppressive one. Second, while not necessarily the case, this argument might be taken to imply that the homosexual community has problems with physical and mental health which has remedies other than yelling at bigots and forcing Christians to bake them cakes.

Second, this argument might be taken to imply that the homosexual community has problems with physical and mental health which have remedies other than yelling at bigots and forcing Christians to bake them cakes.

How the right would respond to this sort of argument would probably depend heavily on how religious they were.

On the religious right, opposition to homosexuality is rooted in scripture. From that perspective, this data is probably irrelevant. On the secular right, opposition to homosexuality is normally founded in concerns about how degenerate the homosexual community is, and so this data would seem to be very relevant.

I suspect, but do not know, that homosexual’s degeneracy is amplified massively by them feeling alienated from mainstream society and, as a result, forming a counterculture that is rooted in hedonism. If they were not so alienated from society in the first place, they might not feel the need to form such a counter culture and would, therefore, feel pressured to follow the norms of mainstream society. As a result, they could be less hedonistic than they are now, though plausibly still more hedonistic that then average heterosexual. Such a change might also lessen their tendency to form an identity centered around their sexuality and to engage sexual identity politics.

If all this speculation is true, homosexuality will probably matter a lot less in politics a few decades from now. Pew polling shows that most young republicans favor gay marriage, so, presumably, future generations of homosexuals won’t feel very alienated from mainstream culture, and gay marriage almost certainly won’t be an issue.


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