Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Down to Brass Tacks

There's been a lot of grumbling here of late about "Gay marriage." I've written before about the total lack of justifiable reasons for denying gays a right to marry, and I'll probably write a lot more.

Opposition to same sex marriage comes down to it not feeling "right" or "moral" to people who are not gay, and probably don't know anyone who is.

On a baser, more direct and probably more truthful level, it comes down to not liking gay people. At the end of the day, that's the sum total of it. Protecting the "sanctity of marriage" is a laughable excuse, rendered impotent by our current divorce rates, spousal abuse figures, and adultery polls. If it's the sanctity we're worried about, it's heterosexuals that should be denied the right to marry. We keep fucking it up.

But, at the very least, people are starting to admit that their hate for the gay lifestyle is what's really driving this particular pain train. Their other objections haven't worked, so they've retreated into stubborn bigotry.

From Red

Repugnant By: On Lawn

I'm tired of people with thier flat little smiles assuming there is some primitive reaction going on to social change. I'm tired of people assuming that same-sex "marriage" is just the next rung in the ladder to civil libertarian social bliss.

Here's how I see it...

Thinking of civil rights conjures up pictures that are often run in popular media. These pictures are framed in the context of a larger social celebration or struggle. The celebration is one that the picture invites everyone to participate in. The struggle is against people who in that context are simply party-poopers. The picture is of two people of the same gender in full wedding regalia.

They look longingly into each other's eyes as if to say, "I love you so much, I'm willing to make the state fund our forgery of marriage and enforce its acceptance on everyone else". Though the romance is laudable, there is an immediate sense of offense to one's values. This isn't like the bigoted offense of seeing a person of a different race move into the neighborhood, as it is often portrayed by same-sex marriage advocates. It is easier to celebrate the love of two people. But here there is offense because depending on how much one values the ideals of equal gender participation one might see something very precious and dear being imitated and mocked. Whether that mockery is intentional or circumstantial, it may be best described as the offense a black-man who may have seeing old vodvillian actors who pretended to be black by painting their face with shoe-polish and saying "Mammie, Mammie" to the laughter of the crowd. Surely bringing the offense to the crowd would make one in that day and age a party-pooper also.
(emphasis mine)

So, Gay marriage = performing in black face.
And "On Lawn" and others who oppose gay marriage apparently = black people.

"On Lawn's" post is offensive on a lot of levels, but what I'd like to emphasize is the way in which the desire for people to join their property, their families, their rights and their lives in a life-long commitment is seen as taunting mockery. In black face, no less.

At day's end, this post is the argument against gay marriage. All that other stuff is window-dressing. At it's core, the argument goes like this:

You are different. Different people are not allowed in our country club.

And that's an argument I think we're all familiar with.

(link courtesy of alicublog)


At 5:10 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

To be clear, I believe gays should be able to marry for more reasons than I can speak to here; however, I think this post adopts two poor forms of argumentation, that frankly aren't necessary:

1) Defaming the Motive (i.e., arguing the "true" reason for opposing gay marriage is "not liking gay people") - This is generally the most base form of argumentation. You don't like the argument, or agree with it, so you impugn the motives of those who disagree. The problem with it that it's easy to allege and impossible to defend. A valid argument should be able to stand on its own, without impugning the motives of those on the other side.

2) Attacking the "Strawman" This once again is the easiest thing to do. Take the side you disagree with. Then take the dumbest person you can find (i.e., the strawman), and knock down the argument with ease. Once again, for a valid argument, you should be able to take the strongest argument from the side you disagree with and knock it down in short order. Then see if your argument withstands scrutiny. Truth is found in such ways.

Once again, to be clear, I agree with you. So let's find the strongest argument against gay marriage and knock that down. I promise we can do it together.

At 6:29 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

That's a lot of words.

I'd love to get into my "poor forms of argumentation" but its been a long day and I'm tired.

So, I'll just answer your question, and let my Defaming and Strawman-ing stand.

The strongest argument against gay marriage?
How about, "it's an abomination in the eyes of the Lord" (ie: God doesn't like gay people)?

Can't think of one stronger, or more difficult to knock down, then that one.

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

No, I mean, like a good argument. One you think might have merit. Not strong from an almighty perspective.

At 11:37 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Well, in terms of merit, I don't think there IS one.

If you want to argue that heterosexual marriage is "healthier," psychologically speaking, I'll appreciate your point of view, but point out data that shows no difference between the "healthiness" of a gay home vs. a straight one.

If you want to argue that marriage between a man and a woman has more validity because a man and woman can procreate, I'd ask why men and women who can't procreate are allowed to marry. I'd also point out that, wonderful as makin' babies may be, we're popping out an awful lot of them, so we're not in danger of any sort of baby shortage.

If you want to argue that children of gay parents will be picked on/harrassed/made fun of because of their family situation, I'd say that I see no difference between that and the children of the first "accepted" interracial marriages. That it is an unfortunate fact of life that bigots exist, but that they would tease a child regardless. Whether of gay parents, born with a funny walk, or a racial mixture, kids get teased.

Eliminate those arguments, and I see gay marriage opponents as being armed with only two options:
1. It's wrong because God says its wrong.
2. It's wrong because my gut tells me it's wrong.

Maybe I don't understand what you mean, but you'll illuminate me, I'm sure.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

I read a great article about this very issue here:

(Okay so I wrote it too.)

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

I think that the whole, "God says it's wrong, so it's wrong," is a red herring. We all know God says a lot of things are wrong (if one take's God's "word" as from the Bible or other related religious texts). Slavery is arguably sanctioned in the Bible, and we clearly think that's wrong.

However, there are issues worth discussing, regarding gay marriage, that are not merely the result of latent bigotry.

It appears from your posts and seemingly from your thoughts that marriage is an individual right. That each of us have a personal right to marry each other. And therefore, it violates fundamental notions of fairness and equality to give some people that right, and deprive it to others when there is seemingly no good reason to do so.

But let's assume, for the purposes of argument, that government recognition of a quasi-religious union between two people, is more than just an individual right. Which I think is a fair argument. What then, is the purpose of marriage? Or at least, the government recognition of the same? And how does the religious aspects of it (which seem to separate some of the discussion from lets say, civil unions) impact how we define a marriage between people?

And let's say we've been defining marriage as between a man and a woman for about five thousand years. Should then unelected judges defy the will of the people as codified in State laws in changing that definition with the proverbial stroke of a pen? And should the people of Nebraska (no offense to the 'Huskers) be forced to recognize a gay marriage performed in San Fransisco by the city's mayor when the people of Nebraska on the whole do not want to recognize that right?

Those are some of among the many conversations that people are having regarding gay marriage that have absolutely nothing to do with disliking gay people.

For my part, I think that the benefits of providing a right to marry equally across all sexual orientations far outweigh the potential hazards and costs of providing such a right. But I would not be so bold as to assume that those who would disagree are merely doing so out of some personal animus toward gay people, although clearly some of them are.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

So what culture has been defining marriage as anything for five thousand years? Do all cultures define marriage identically?

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Oh and in regards to this:

"Slavery is arguably sanctioned in the Bible, and we clearly think that's wrong."

slavery as it's defined in the OT is in no way like the slavery that we praciced.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

To answer your points one at a time, Captain:

1) Do all cultures identify marriage identically? No. Of course not. But until the last several decades, marriage has been almost universally defined as between a man and a woman, right or wrong. I find it hard to believe that the point has to be explicitly made, or that it can be reasonably argued otherwise.

2) That may perhaps be right [Bible slavery is different from relatively modern slavery], but it did not prevent those who sought to protect slavery from invoking its practice (however modified) in the Bible. Which actually reinforces my point that the justification of the Bible as present day law is a red herring.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Universally only if you mean in mainstream America. If you appeal to "tradition" then you also have to deal with incest, polygamy, arranged marriages, and underage marriages.

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

And I agree that no politicians should be pointing to the Bible for how we should make laws in this country.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Universal by mainstream America? I assume that's a joke.

Virtually every continent and every culture has defined, for several millenia, a marriage as between a man and a woman. Before the 1900's, I would be surprised if more than 2% (if that many) of cultures provided for same-sex marriages.

And once again, you prove my point with bringing up "incest, polygamy, arranged marriages, and underage marriages." None of those are universal across cultures by way of marriage by any imagination, at least for the last 2,000 years.

Which is not to say, "it's traditional, so let's just stick with it..." It's only to say that the sole impetus for an aversion to gay marriage may not necessarily be bigotry.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Let's say that we've been defining black people as mentally inferior and generally less important than white people. We've been doing this since the founding of the country, and we've decided, via the law, that black people are actually property, and not people.

Should the government then defy the will of the people and bring the National Guard in to forcibly desegregate school districts, when the people of those districts clearly oppose the effort?

After all, if it's the "will of the people" that we treat a race of people differently than ourselves, why should it be challenged?

I say it should be challenged because rights belong to everyone, or they belong to no one. You don't secure rights from governmental interference because of the many. You secure them for the few.

Arguing that because a thing has always been one way does not make that way right. And arguing that marriage has been the same for 5,000 years is wrong.

Marriage, as an institution, has constantly and sometimes violently shifted in purpose and definition. Traditionally, women have functioned in marriage as property, with marriage acting as a conduit for the transfer of goods or property. Women were allowed to be beaten or raped within the bonds of matrimony. That's traditional.

In the past 100 years, marriage has attained its present form. Historically speaking, that's a drop in the bucket. Yet, that's the model we're basing our definition of marriage off of. So, the argument that it's shaking the tradition tree seems disingenuous. We did that when we let women keep their last names, or stopped their husband's from raping them.

And if tradition is the concern, I have to ask why? Heterosexuals don't treat marriage as a sacred covenant. We don't respect it. Why do we care if others do or do not?

What harm does it cause to society?

And with that question, we're back where I started, which is that the "harm" appears to be the existence and the acceptance of gay people.

You keep saying that it may not just be bigotry, but where are the other reasons?

Whether or not you think "God thinks its wrong" is a red herring is, I think, beside the point. The fact is that a lot of people DO believe it, and that qualifies it as a motive or reason that should be taken under consideration. Especially because, as an argument, its unwinnable. Type "Gay Marriage God is Against" into google and take a look.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

"And once again, you prove my point with bringing up "incest, polygamy, arranged marriages, and underage marriages." None of those are universal across cultures by way of marriage by any imagination, at least for the last 2,000 years. "

Actually arranged marriages are very common across cultures and folks marrying cousins, brothers, uncles, was commone in Europe and in Biblical times. And it was common enough in this country for quite some time. Polygamy is broadly accepted in eastern cultures and there are certainly subcultures in America that still practice it.

So again I have to ask when you say something is "universally defined" as X what universe you're talking about? Is gay marriage common historically? I honestly don't know. In America it is common for marriage to only be between one adult male and one adult female, but that is a relatively recent phenomenon and is still not universally accepted to be the only form of marriage.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Actually, I think we're shifting the focal point of the debate.

Once again. To be clear. In case I was not:

I do not think that the fact that marriage has traditionally been defined as between a man and a woman means that it should not be available to gay people. I only think, once again, to be clear, that the inertia built up by such a tradition (as it has been so carelessly maligned here), may not merely be the result of bigotry.

I mean, why has it always been so? Why have we, for so long, tenaciously held onto the notion that a marriage should be between a man and a woman? Are all cultures so universally bigoted? Or perhaps, it is easier to believe, that marriages and families as a social construction, have formed in such ways for the very reason we would all expect. That is, on the whole, to help perpetuate the species by making more of us. It is also perhaps not surprising then, that the biggest statistical difference between men and women is that they generally (although not universally so) sexually prefer different genders. Which is to say, men generally like women, and women generally like men. Bigots all, perhaps. But I doubt either Codemorse or the Captain would agree with such a conclusion.

I can almost hear the retort. If we provide marriage merely to provide a means to create more children, why do we allow marriage for those who cannot procreate? That's fine as it goes, but it misses the point. Traditions and cultural institutions are not often created with the limited exception in mind.

And once again, to be clear, I do not think such a historical or evolutionary perspective should prevent society from endorsing gay marriage.

Which gets me to tradition. Frankly, I think we've been too dismissive of tradition as a foundation for a social structure.

Can we acknowledge that certain traditional behaviors are wrong, or dare I say, evil? Of course. But let's not be so quick to throw off the whole mantle of tradition merely because it has sometimes lead to poor results.

For example, in most religions (religion being one of the more "traditional" aspects of our existence), there is a rich tradition of philanthropy. Giving to the poor. For example, at temple every year, they pass around a basket to collect money to give to the less fortunate. And why? Because we've always done it. And it's a good thing to do anyway.

People protect tradition because it provides meaning for many. A shelter, so to speak, from the storm that is the cruel, brutish and short lives that we have inherited.

We, as the enlightened few that grew up watching "The Real World" that couldn't seem to pair up six young adults season after season without including a gay person, may be ready to shed a seemingly worthless tradition in favor of equality for all. And that's good. But I think we should just pause momentarily before we ascribe the basest motives to those who hold on to the more traditional notions of marriage.

Meanwhile, I'll agree that some people think gay marriage is wrong because "God says so." Although looking on google doesn't seem to prove anything but for the fact that there are a lot of crazy people on the internet. Plug in Bush + Hitler and see what you get. Bunch of loons. Don't see what good it does to take those jokers into account but for a laugh at their expense.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Well since marriage is traditionally a religious ceremony and not a civil one then who is asking anyone to give up thier religious tradition? The government has never said that we should make churches marry the gays, so they can do what they have always done and marry the straights.

My notion of marriage is very traditional. I would argue that most Americans (given the high divorce rate) have a very non-traditional view of marriage. Again the sole reason I can think of for people to stand in the way of civil unions of gay people is because they think they are better (more righteous, more normal, whatever) then the gay people.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Homosexuality is still seen by most average Joes as an aberrant behvior. And the Gay Pride rallies do nothing to help that image.


Post a Comment

<< Home