I normally confine my writings to economics, but the issue of gay marriage demonstrates such a flagrant disregard for marginal analysis (weighing trade-offs which is the heart of all economic thought) that it is worthy of address from the perspective of an economist. I have never been so moved from ambivalence to support for an idea, not by the idea's proponents, but by its opponents. It is the irrational, judgemental, theocratic, appeal to tradition rooted in Leviticus, logically bankrupt arguments such as "man on child, man on dog" (someone was asleep during contracts) that has literally repelled me towards supporting marriage equality.
Whatever compelling state interest, or rational basis the state has in getting involved in hetero marriage, namely stability, monogamy, and public recordation of property rights, also applies to gay marriage, and the benefits can be conferred to one, without costing the other. In other words, you can improve some without making anyone else any worse off. Marginalism, utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham and Vilfredo Pareto would approve. Quite simply, if you believe the institution of marriage makes the world a better place, then by universally accepted logic, denying it to homosexual couples makes the world a worse place.
If traditionalists were truly serious about protecting the sanctity of marriage, they would oppose no-fault divorce laws rather than this. Newt Gingrich, or any number of high profile Hollywood fly-by-night marriages have done more to erode the sanctity of marriage, than two men, or two women getting the equal application of publicly recorded contracts ever will.
Some traditionalists, seeing the passage of marriage equality as almost certain in Maryland, have chosen to dig their heels in on the word "marriage." Essentially, allow civil unions, but reserve the word marriage for only men and women, and question why homosexuals so want the word "marriage."
I hold the exact opposite view:
Why are traditionalists so opposed to allowing gays to use the word marriage?
The only explanation I can come up with is that they are clinging to the last shred of being able to disavow homosexuality. They want their society to go on the record as saying those who were born with a certain orientation, the minority orientation, are somehow less dignified than those who were born with the majority orientation. This is classic majoritarian suppression of individual rights, and exactly what the Equal Protection Clause covers.
Traditionalist arguments also center on the breeder role of marriage. Would anyone who advances this argument dare say that women past the age of menopause should not be able to get married, or that there should be a deadline to adopt (no mind the difficulty and expense in doing so) before one's marriage is automatically nullified by the state?
Traditionalists have claimed that roommates will be able to claim pension and insurance benefits. Regarding pension fraud, insurance fraud, or any other type of fraud that could stem from a fraudulent marriage, those opportunities already exist among hetero people. Is there any reason to believe gay people would be more prone to committing fraud?
Traditionalists see marriage as a fragile balloon. They see conferring marriage benefits to gays as essentially a pin prick to that balloon. Everything else is premised on this threat assumption. But that is a flawed assumption that never offers anything but appeal to tradition, appeal to authority, or circular reasoning as support.
In short, traditionalists' assessment of marriage is unreasonably high, and to believe that society would break down without a state-sponsored blessing of certain relationships is really a degree of statism. Also, traditionalists' threat assumption of expanding the breadth of that state-sponsored blessing are fabricated out of their own narrow mindedness. Traditionalists who rally in front of state houses over this, as if it somehow restricted, or infringed on their rights, are reinforcing every negative stereotype there is about religious fundamentalism and the hard right.
This is about the majority group casting judgement on the minority group and nothing else. The recent 9th Circuit ruling sums up the entire issue:
The measure "serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples,"-Judge Stephen Reinhardt