Some critics of same-sex marriage argue that the purpose of marriage is to provide institutional support for childrearing and that lesbian and gay couples, who (like infertile heterosexual couples) cannot biologically produce children by way of each other, would have no need of this institutional support. But the truth is that, according to the 2000 Census, 96 percent of U.S. counties–no matter how remote, no matter how conservative–have at least one same-sex couple with a child. However one may feel about this, it’s happening now–and if the legal institution of marriage is good for the children of heterosexual parents, why should the children of lesbian and gay couples be punished by their government simply because of the sexual orientation of their parents?
But in the final analysis, the single best reason to legalize same-sex marriage is not because it’s benign, or because it is inevitable, or because it is what our legal history demands of us, or because it is more conducive to family life. It is because legalizing same-sex marriage is the kind thing to do.
I am constantly amazed at what lesbian and gay couples tell me about the friendships they have with social conservatives have very traditional ideas of what a relationship should be, but who nevertheless treat them with great kindness, generosity, and warmth. Likewise, nearly every conservative critic of same-sex marriage will happily admit that they have close lesbian and gay friends whom they care deeply about.