I believe it is perfectly acceptable for civil marriage ceremonies to be performed for same sex couples, but state and federal governments should not sanction or license them as "married".
The United States Supreme Court has taken up two issues: the constitutionality of the California ban on same sex marriage, and the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act. I don’t know whether there’s a single position taken by conservatives, but I’ll give mine as soon as I’ve drawn a key distinction.
Gay/lesbian folks may dislike my opinions, but I’m trying to be honest and objective here. The majority of people are against the idea of “gay marriage”, as judged by referendums in several states. A small minority is trying to impose an unacceptable change on the majority. While there are numerous estimates of the percentage of gays and lesbians in the population of the United States, and no one knows exact figures, one study says it’s probably around 4 per cent, although in San Francisco it could be as much as 15 per cent.
When we talk about “gay marriage” there are really two possibilities: the civil ceremony, and the state marriage license. The civil ceremony may be performed by a priest or rabbi, or a justice of the peace. After that, the happy couple can proudly proclaim to the world, “we’re married!” That is essentially permissible now, and in most cases shouldn’t require much if any new legislation. I’m for it. Have at it, gays. You can flip a coin to decide which of you is the husband and which is the wife. Or, you can both be husbands or wives. The civil ceremony, if not done by state license, is entirely symbolic.
On the other hand, the state and federal governments should have nothing to do with gay marriage. They should not issue licenses, or confer marriage benefits on two men, or two women, or two men and a woman, or a woman and a dog, or any other combination of creatures or objects.
There are religious, historical, and cultural reasons why a union between a man and a woman, living together, should be treated in a special way. There are no such reasons favoring same sex unions.
A man and woman partnership is recognized in scriptures and was instituted in the Roman era if not before by the church. It’s mostly the same whether you’re Jew, Christian, or Muslim (although Muslims are a bit different – multiple wives are acceptable (maximum 4.)) Muslims may also have temporary marriages. Your marriage expires on xx/xx/xxxx. Interesting idea.
The government (state) requires licenses for marriage, but confers benefits: in effect, the state confers a standard contract covering inheritance and divorce, pension benefits, lower taxes, and immunity when one of the spouses is prosecuted. Most of these benefits are given because the man and woman traditionally have different roles, and the woman needs protection in the general case, since she gives up a lot to be a home maker and a child bearer and mother. Thus, on the death of one spouse, all property passes to the other; in divorce, alimony and child support may be granted; social security has benefits to married couples; tax breaks are given to couples filing jointly; and one spouse doesn’t have to testify against the other.
Homosexuals are now accepted in our society by most people. Some societies (Islamic) may put them to death if discovered; ours does not. Almost no one minds two men or two women living together, and if they do, no one now cares whether they have sex or not. Nothing stops them from forming partnerships to own property and provide for its disposition if one dies. This can be done in civil law. Nothing stops them from setting rules for splitting property and providing continued support after they separate. This can be done in civil law.
If one spouse in a same sex union makes all the money, he or she can claim the other as a dependent, so at least in that respect, a tax break may be given. Perhaps the only thing gay couples can’t otherwise arrange is the right to not testify against the other.
Most marriage benefits, even the institution of marriage itself, come about because of the need to protect children. Children need a stable family, and a same sex marriage isn’t ideal for children. (Nor is a single parent marriage, especially when there are two or more children and only one parent.)
Two men can’t create children – they can only adopt or retain a child from a previous union. Two women can, but only through the assistance of some man. I don’t believe same sex couples should be allowed to adopt. Women are more naturally caring, so perhaps two women can raise a child somewhat normally if one is the mother. I would never trust a child to two gay men.
To close this discussion, I believe that gay couples should be allowed to have marriage ceremonies, not sponsored or controlled by government, but the government should completely ignore gay unions, extending no benefits whatever.
Progressives are never satisfied. If government officially recognizes same sex marriage, they’ll go after plural unions next: two men and a woman, a man and two women, three men, three women, and perhaps even a hundred or more. If I love my dogs, perhaps I’ll someday be able to marry them and pay less taxes if we file a joint return.
The 4 per cent should not be able to dominate the 96 per cent. If same sex couples somehow bully the majority into granting the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples, they will only have gained a few advantages they don’t already have. In doing so, they may create a great deal of resentment which may hurt their overall status. They are messing with a very basic tradition. That’s my opinion, for whatever it’s worth.