McCardle McArdle guestblogger has a well-expressed version of “the conservative case for gay marriage”.
Here’s the gist of it, though the whole post is worth reading:
An 8-year-old goes to play at the house of his friend, who is raised by two lesbian women. The environment is a loving one. So this playmate, whose straight parents are married, is going to absorb one of two possible norms.
1) My friend lives in a happy home. His parents are married. When people grow up and love each other, and want to have kids and a happy home, they get married. (I hope I get married one day.)
2) My friend lives in a happy home. His parents aren’t married. When people grow up and love each other, and want to have kids and a happy home, sometimes they get married like my parents. Other times they don’t get married, like my friend’s parents. (One day I may get married and have kids, but maybe I’ll just have kids and live with the person I love.)
This is a good argument. But consider its implications. Replace “lesbian women” or “gay men” with “polygamous parents” or “polyamorous commune” or “single parent by choice” and this argument works just as well. If Johnny likes his little playmate Alpha Clone and enjoys going over to play with him at the house of his parent Daddy Alpha we must say that Daddy Alpha is married to himself or Johnny might grow up thinking that not getting married and having kids is OK.
Consider also that too many households these days consist of unmarried, straight parents. Needless to say, these households are not uniformly mean and hostile places for neighbor kids who come over to play. So by the logic of this argument, we should not allow our children to play over at their homes lest they grow up to become illegitimate parents themselves. Similarly, even if gay or polygamous etc. households are institutionally recognized as marriages, by the logic of this argument we still should not let our kids play with the children of these arrangments if we don’t want our children to grow up thinking that these kinds of arrangments are morally acceptable.
Now if parents are careful about what households they let their kids play in I have no problem with that. But maybe parents would do better to let their kids play while teaching them morals and good goals that are strong enough to survive meeting nice people who do immoral things or have settled for lesser goals.