One of the most frequently offered arguments by proponents of same-sex marriage is that it is not gays wanting to marry a member of the same sex that threatens the institution of marriage, it is the high divorce rate among heterosexuals.
One reason this argument is so often made is that it appeals to the religious as well as the secular, to conservatives as well as liberals.
This is too bad, because the argument is a meaningless non sequitur.
First, while divorce ends a given marriage, it does not threaten marriage as an institution. Of course, many marriages fail and end in divorce -- while some other marriages fail and do not end in divorce -- but why does this threaten marriage as an institution?
To understand the foolishness of the argument "divorce threatens marriage," let's apply this principle to other areas of life. Let's begin with parenthood. It is undeniable that vast numbers of people fail -- and have always failed -- as parents.
Yet, no one argues that the many parents who fail to raise good children threaten the institution of parenthood. Why, then, do marriages that fail threaten the institution of marriage?
Likewise, few people are calling for the redefinition of parenthood because parents so often fail to raise good children. Why, then, redefine marriage because many marriages fail?
When we think of parents failing, we think of ways to improve parenting, and we discourage people from becoming parents before they are ready. Why, then, don't we do the same regarding divorce -- think of ways to improve marriages and discourage people from marrying before they are ready? Why must we radically redefine it? That redefinition is what threatens marriage.
There is a second reason the divorce-rate-threatens-marriage argument is disingenuous: If gays marry, they will divorce at least as often as heterosexuals do. That is why the divorce issue is entirely unrelated to the question of whether we should redefine marriage. The only reason the argument is even offered is because gullible people will buy it. The gullible include well-intentioned centrist Americans who think, "Hey, that's a good point. Straights sure haven't done such a great job with marriage; why not let gays have a crack at it?" And the gullible include well-intentioned religious Americans whose loathing of divorce overwhelms their critical thinking.