The primary area where I believe Greg has gone wrong in the role of the federal government and marriage equality is that he has defined marriage equality as an issue of morality rather than as one of liberty. His primary premise is that government should not have a place in determining morality. It is because I agree with him that I support marriage equality. In fact, it is in the status quo, where homosexuals are denied marriage equality, that the government is mandating morality.
Greg begins his response by claiming that "it is not the place of institutions of the federal government to prescribe laws regarding individual morality." The question is not whether or not the government has a role in mandating morality, but whether or not the government ought to recognize multiple moral systems. I agree with Greg that "the government is not the arbiter of morality," and so I stand against definitions of marriage as being between a man and a woman and disagree with the Defense of Marriage Act. These constitute a government arbitration of morality.
If the court were to strike down Proposition 8, it would not be a mandate that everyone be forced to believe that homosexual marriages are valid, moral, or correct. It is not a judgment of morality, but rather a declaration that all, regardless of their moral beliefs on the issue, are equal before the law, as guaranteed in the 5th and 14th amendments to the constitution.
Greg argues that "ANY type of marriage amendment or Congressional law regarding the definition of marriage would be legally odious" (emphasis added.) And so my question is this: by that same declaration, are not amendment and acts that define marriage as being between a man and a woman then legally odious? Recognition of same-sex marriages forces no one to redefine their individual definitions or beliefs concerning marriage. It has nothing to do with the arbitration of morality. In recognizing same-sex marriage, no one is forced to do anything immoral. It merely opens up room for differing views on morality, which ought to be conducive to a society in which, as Greg claims, "the government is not the arbiter of morality."
After some explaining, Greg says that "to a certain degree, marriage is sanctioned and regulated by the legal system, and rightly so." Here he is completely denying his former claim that government should have no place in arbitrating morality, because while equal recognition of same-sex marriages by the state inhibits no one from acting on their moral beliefs, denying or banning same-sex marriage recognition by the state denies the rights and benefits associated with marriage on moral grounds. If you are going to make the argument that government ought not to arbitrate on morality, then the libertarian conclusion that the state should have no role whatsoever in either heterosexual or homosexual marriage seems much more logically consistent than the conclusion that marriage "rightly" "sanctioned and regulated" "to a certain degree."
In his explanation of why marriage is regulated, Greg explains that "equality of protection and guarantee of individual rights does not entitle every individual to all legal statuses, protections, and titles possibly enjoyed by an individual or other social unit." I absolutely agree. Equality of protection does not guarantee all possible legal statuses to everyone. This point, however, is moot as it is a complete red herring. No one is arguing that all possible political statuses should be granted to everyone. And so the question is not general, but specific: why is it that recognized status of marriage and its entailed rights and protections granted only to heterosexual and not to homosexual couples (of course not covering here the perhaps more important question of what gives the state the right to grant statuses, privileges, and protections in the first place). Greg's specific argument is that the current legal definition of marriage is a contract between a man and a woman (which seems to me to be a legal moral mandate of the sort we ought to oppose).
Greg gives three reasons as to why this legal definition ought to endure, all of which are either irrelevant to the question at hand or in direct contradiction to his own premises. The three reasons he provides are "the propagation of the species, correct socialization of children, and morality promoted via families..." The first point, as to the propagation of the species, is completely irrelevant to the question at hand. The legalization of same-sex marriage will have no impact on the propagation of the species, because homosexual individuals will continue to be homosexual either way, and heterosexual unions will continue either way. Marriage equality is simply the recognition of unions that are already taking place. This will not impact the propagation of the species. This point is completely irrelevant. Any degree of research will show that homosexual unions are not new and have existed throughout history, and yet the species continues to propagate. A much more persuasive argument is that economic development slows down the propagation of the species as families in developed countries have far fewer children than those in developing nations. If the continuation of the species is our concern, perhaps a more apt target would be modernization and economic growth, and not homosexual unions. As for the "correct socialization" of children, this argument presupposes that the government's role is to mandate what this correct socialization ought to be. The multiplicity of cultures and sub-cultures within the United States necessitates an argument already established at the beginning, when Greg so succinctly states that the "government is not the arbiter of morality." As for morality being promoted via families, I believe that the subject of children raised in families of same-sex couples deserves its own post, so lets put that to the side for now. Though I will say that it is unfair to call my argument, which is also backed up by research and studies, "naive and ultimately very weak." The only actual evidence he cited was the effects of divorce. Divorce is the exact opposite of same sex marriage, and so I don't quite see the relevance. I will address this in my next post.
Greg fundamentally misunderstands the issues at hand when he argues that "to suggest that the legal "title" of marriage is essential for the pursuit of happiness even when same sex couples are allowed to be together and enjoy equal rights and protection under the law is to have a rather shallow view of happiness." The argument at hand has very little to do with happiness and the supposedly "shallow views" thereof (this coming from a religious tradition that teaches marriage is necessity for eternal happiness), and more to do with justice, liberty, and equity.
My argument can be summarized succinctly: I agree that the role of the government is not to arbitrate morality, and so it ought to expand its recognition of different views of morality instead of only recognizing unions legitimized by one moral system.
The deep irony is that in arguing the government should not arbitrate on morality, those in opposition to marriage equality are actually upholding a moral arbitration.