A Response to the Response
I think you make some good points, Ari. However, I think that you're discounting the importance that many people place on marriage as an institution. There are also several points that I think separate this issue from civil rights.
First is this: What makes a person gay? Can anyone answer that? I haven't seen definitive evidence that it's genetic, nor have I seen definitive evidence that it's environmental. Some people consider it to be a lifestyle. I've heard and read of several people who were married, had kids, ect. ect. who one day discovered that they were gay. What changed? Some groups are of the mind that sexuality can be changed one way or another, and supposedly have the evidence to back their theories. Has there been a study that was able to point out with unerring accuracy what makes a person gay? I haven't seen it.
Compare that to a black person. Black people don't change the color of their skin halfway through their life. It's simply pigment in their skin; genetics. More to the point, the reason for their skin color isn't in question, and it's obviously out of their control. A white person will always be white, and Michael Jackson aside, a black person will always be black.
So discriminating against a person for something they cannot control, and that they have no say in what so ever, is obviously bad. Hell, I was born in California, but people don't hold that against me. I couldn't control it.
But what do you say about something like homosexuality? We can't even figure out the whys or wheres of homosexuality and/or homosexual behavior, and yet we're supposed to compare it to skin color and civil rights? I can't buy that.
And before you say "Well, it's still discrimination, and so it's bad" let me remind you that people discriminate against behavior all the time. I discriminate against pedophilia. If I had a chance, I would VIOLENTLY discriminate against pedophilia. I discriminate against junkies at work all day long. I discriminate against polygamy, because I find that behavior abnormal. I discriminate against people who break the law, because I don't want to be around criminals. It doesn't matter if they're not breaking the law right now, it's still a behavior. And until I see proof one way or the other that homosexuality is firmly based on genetics, I have to conclude that at least a large chunk of homosexuality is behavior based.
As for marriage being a privilege: Marriage was started long before the modern interpretation of "rights" and "privileges" came into existence. If marriage was relatively new, this argument could be made, I suppose. But you are dealing with an institution that has been defined over centuries that is intrinsically woven into our society. You cannot just up and change the definition of what marriage is without changing the society that marriage is a part of. Marriage as a part of society pre-dates just about every historical resource we have. It is far more than a simple privilege. And even in all the historical deviations of marriage, one factor remains constant - the opposite sexes. Granted, in some cases there's more than one of either sex, but marriage has always had a male and a female. We are now being asked to change that based on the opinions and desires of a minority of the society. Again, until I see some proof that homosexual behavior is outside of a person's control, (i.e. genetic) I have to believe that it IS within a person's sphere of control, at least in some small part.
So what America is being told to do is change a major part of society to fit into a small segment of the populations opinion of what is right and wrong.
I haven't even gone into what marriage is supposed to be for. But lets look at many of the reasons people say they want to get married: Legal rights, such as inheritance, advocacy, what have you. Benefits, be they medical coverage or insurance. In short, the rights and benefits conferred on a married couple by the government.
These are all legal connotations that could easily be given by the government without causing half of the country to crap purple twinkies. In fact, before this whole brouhaha hit the country, half of the people in America were FOR civil unions, giving gay couples all the rights and responsibilities that married couples have. Hell, my girlfriend is covered under my life insurance, and we're not married. We own land in Idaho jointly. All it took was a simple legal document. One hour from a lawyer, and inheritance of that land is taken care of. Should I die, my girlfriend inherits the land, and vice versa. So I have a hard time believing that gay couples simply want the rights that hetro couples have, when those legal rights can be conferred without government intervention. If gay couples wanted the rights and responsibilities that hetro couples have, they could have simply changed the laws regarding civil unions, and been done with it. There would have been some rumblings from the Religious Right, but it would have amounted to squat. Nobody of any real importance takes idiots like Fred Phelps seriously.
As an aside, I've called bullshit on the "gay marriage as civil rights issue" a little while ago. The same areas that are throwing weddings for gay couples won't let me carry a gun in that area. So to them gay marriage is a right, but my constitutionally protected right to bear arms doesn't exist? Nope, sorry, I call bullshit.
OK, back on track. Proceeding with the fact that gay couples could have changed the laws regarding civil unions to include their desire for legal status, what am I to make of the fact that they have bypassed the legislative process entirely? Gay couples can have the legal status that they desire, without ever resorting to government or judicial intervention. It's simply done a different way. My girlfriend and I have done it, and we don't even have a civil union. Hell, we don't have a common law marriage, and yet we have the legal status normally conferred by marriage in reference to property ownership, inheritance, and benefits. I could put her on my health insurance if I so desired. I could put YOU on my health insurance, Ari. That's not the government policy, it's the health plan. All done without some judge sitting on a bench making a decree of "This will be so". It takes an hour of a lawyer's time, which is much less effort and money than a wedding could ever be.
So it's plain to me that gay couples could get the legal status that marriage confers, but that's not what they want. They want the ACCEPTANCE of marriage. If this were about legal status, it could have been taken care of. If this was about inheritance policy, it could have been dealt with. If this were about who goes on who's insurance, it could have been fixed. But more and more, I firmly believe that this is about acceptance, not legal status.
In short, gay couples want to force everyone in America to accept their lifestyle, be it against a person's morals or not.
And I'm sorry, but I'm not going to accept that.