The Same-Sex Marriage Debate: Who Has the Burden of Proof?

Jason Dulle

On the issue of same-sex marriage Christian apologists often feel the need to amass a good amount of arguments against same-sex marriage and for heterosexual marriage. While I believe we ought to formulate those arguments, tactically speaking that is not where we should start the public debate. To start with a defense of traditional marriage assumes that we carry the burden of proof when we do not.

The burden of proof does not lie with Christians and those who favor traditional marriage; the burden of proof lies on those who wish to change 5,000 years of human civilization. They must make their case as to why we should open up the institution of marriage to same-sex couples. The burden of proof is on the homosexuals.

The typical arguments they offer are love, equality, and freedom.


"Homosexuals should be able to marry if they love one another."

This assumes marriage is about love. Who said that? Marriage neither brings love, nor secures it. Marriage is about families, and families are about children. Homosexuals can love one another without being married just as cohabiting heterosexuals can love one another without being married. Marriage does not add to that love.


"It's discriminatory for the government to treat same-sex couples differently from heterosexual couples."

Discrimination occurs when two equal parties are not being treated equally. While "discrimination" has a negative connotation, discrimination can be a good thing. We incarcerate murderers and reward law-abiding citizens with freedom. That's discrimination, but the discrimination is justified because there is a relevant difference between the two parties: one is a danger to society while the other is not.

Is there any relevant difference between same-sex and heterosexual couples that would justify treating the two relationships differently? Yes. Heterosexual couples can, and same-sex couples cannot procreate. The government-which sanctions civil marriage-sanctions it because they are interested in children. Only heterosexual couples have the ability to produce children. Relationship that do not produce children need not be treated the same as those that do, particularly when the very reason government formally recognizes the institution of marriage is due to their interest in children.

While the love homosexuals feel for each other may be equal to the love heterosexuals feel for each other, the government is not concerned about promoting and sanctioning romantic love. The government is interested in children.


"Homosexuals don't have the liberty to do what they want: marry"

The institution of marriage is not about freedom, nor does it confer freedom (it confers obligations and responsibilities). Marriage is about society putting their stamp of approval on a particular kind of relationship because it is in society's best interest to do so.

Homosexuals are demanding the right to marry, not because their freedom to have loving, committed relationships with someone of the same sex is being denied them, but because they are seeking approval, respect, and social acceptance. Homosexuals are free to engage in same-sex relationships, but society is just as free to withhold their approval from such relationships.


The arguments typically offered in support of same-sex marriage are insufficient, and thus homosexuals have not met their burden of proof. If the burden of proof has not been met there is no reason to change the institution of marriage to accommodate the unprincipled desires of a minority.

I leave you with some wise words from Ben Shapiro:

[S]ame-sex marriage proponents assume that a right to same-sex marriage exists, placing the burden of proof on traditionalists to deny that right. Forcing tradition to shoulder the burden of proof reverses logic. Tradition is the working wisdom of experience. The new should have to overcome the presumptive efficiency, economy and rightfulness of tradition in order to prevail. Change should always have to prove itself-after all, change has never been tried.

This is not to say that tradition should always prevail. Sometimes change will meet its burden of proof: anti-slavery advocates, anti-segregation advocates and anti-sexism advocates made their cases strongly and forcefully, overcoming the weak arguments for tradition. But constant social experimentation-perpetual change justified only by empty assumptions about the infallibility of the New-discards experience in favor of untested theory.

An immature society asks, "Why shouldn't we?" assuming the past is antiquated. A mature society sees the proven value of the old and the possible value of the new, asking, "Why should we?" Sometimes change should be undertaken; sometimes not. This is only right: Some change is progress, while some change is decay. We can only tell progress from decay by asking change to make its case-to meet its burden of proof.
[Ben Shapiro, "The Most Important Political Trick in the Book"; available from; Internet; accessed 26 July 2007.]


Related Articles:

Homosexuality and the Bible
"I Now Pronounce You Man and Man?": An Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage
What is the Definition of the "Definition" of Marriage?
Marriage by Any Other Name is Still Marriage
Arguing Against Homosexuality: A Response to Challenges From a University of California Professor
Dialogue With a Homosexual
What Single-Parenting Can Tell Us About Same-Sex Parenting
Arguing Against Homosexuality

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