Contradictions

A gay friend writes:

In November, when we vote for the president, there will be a ballot initiative in California in which we will be able to vote on whether or not to amend the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. I think it’s ironic that on the same ballot I will be able to vote for the first black president of the United States, which represents an expansion of civil rights, as well as a ban on same-sex marriage, which represents a contraction of civil rights. Nonetheless, it is heartening to know that for at least 20 weeks I will be an equal resident in California.

I don’t quite agree that having a black presidential candidate represents “an expansion of civil rights” (that right has been present for decades, though the social fabric to make it a practical reality has not been), but I see what he’s saying, and it does underline the “two steps forward, one step back” pattern of social progress.

By the way, if anyone reading this can posit a rational (i.e. non-religious) argument against gay marriage, please post it here — I’d love to hear it.

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31 Replies to “Contradictions”

  1. My argument: Marriage is a terrible idea, gay or straight. :)

    But I’m also for personal freedom, so I feel that everyone should be able to have the same potential to ruin their lives…

    My ideal scenario would involve decoupling the social benefits currently afforded by the government to married couples from the term and concept of marriage. The “gay marriage” problem is only a problem because we allowed the religious concept of marriage to be afforded civil benefits and recognition. Churches should hand out marriages as they please, but the civil benefits of marriages should be transferred to something like a Civil Union. Remove the civil benefits and suddenly the term ‘marriage’ has no legal standing and is solely a religious concept.

    I recognize, however, that the chance of my dream scenario happening is almost nil, so my “fallback” position is that gay couples should have all the same rights as hetero couples…

  2. Churches should hand out marriages as they please, but the civil benefits of marriages should be transferred to

    You guys should learn from France – a marriage is only valid if done @ the townhall – churches are not allowed to do mariage if they don’t have a proof of the civil act first.

  3. Ludovic – Sean is saying the opposite: That town hall should have no business performing marriages at all. The argument – and its one that makes a lot of sense to me – is that it is NOT in the state’s interest to promote marriage. It’s a lot of headache/hassle for no benefit. IOTW marriage is a spiritual thing, not a legal thing. It belongs in the churches or in the hands of other groups, not in the hands of the state. That would be a logical situation, and then we wouldn’t be having all this fuss about whether gay marriage should be legal or not, since no marriage would be “legal.”

  4. Scott to achieve the meanigfulness you don’t need anything spiritual. Mariage is “just” a contract – why not just sign it in a legal place like townhall.

  5. I see it very differently. The legal contract adds little meaning to a marriage. All of the meaning in a marriage is spiritual. Townhall can only provide a legal contract, which means little to nothing in the human dimension.

    The point here is that, assuming the state is going to be involved in the marriage business for a long time to come, it needs to be fair about it. In an ideal world, the state would butt out of what is essentially a personal/spiritual matter. But that ideal world isn’t going to happen, so the state at least needs to stop discriminating.

  6. In a way, I think my position is a lot like Sean’s. The civil benefits of marriage should apply to “Civil Unions” of any consenting adults, gay or straight.

    Let the various religious groups define “Holy Matrimony” as they wish. If the One, True, Bible-Believin’ Baptist Church down the street wants to limit it to straight, white, fertile, conservative couples – so be it. But if my (so-called) liberal Episcopal parish wants to offer this to gay/lesbian couples, then they should keep their fsck-ing noses out of our business, and we’ll keep ours out of their’s ;)

  7. If all the meaning in a marriage is spiritual, what happens when a man walks out on his wife and 6 kids? Of course the legal contract has meaning.

  8. Ah, RB – That’s a different definition of “meaning” than I had in mind. It’s a good point, but I would answer by saying that the state would still have an interest in maintaining existing laws about deadbeat dads. In other words, the question of marriage isn’t necessarily relevant to the question of whether people are responsible for their children. The latter, I think would still benefit from enforcing legislation.

  9. See, the thing is if you take out religion then you’re basically saying it’s up to people’s current opinions about what marriage should be. So what do you take as the standard? The number of people opposing/advocating for something?

    By that standard there’s no way that any sort of gay marriage initiative would ever fly. It’s a top-down decision all the way. (Ask the man in the street anywhere in the world and you’ll get a pretty universal reaction of disgust to gays). If you say it’s because it’s the right thing regardless of how many people oppose it, then logically there’s no difference between you and a Christian or Hindu who considers it wrong and an abomination. They take their cues from an absolute authority and you take yours from…?

  10. That’s why although there is separation of church and state, since every legislator represents the will of his people who to varying extents will base their opinions on their personal religious beliefs you’ll end up with laws that reflect the broad popular consensus on many issues. So you don’t have to ban gay marriage because the Bible says so, but because that’s what the citizenry demands.

    Anyway I find it strange why there’s such a desire to allow marriage for gays when a good part of that lifestyle is the opposite of marriage anyway. Didn’t the rebels from the 60’s want to live and procreate together without being bound by marriage. So this reverse-revolution coming from the gays just seems very very odd.

  11. Anyway I find it strange why there’s such a desire to allow marriage for gays when a good part of that lifestyle is the opposite of marriage anyway.

    Oh puhleeese. Could we spread the unsubstantiated stereotyping on a bit thicker here ? (/sarcasm)

    Uninformed blathering about “that lifestyle” is the modern-day version of the garbage I heard in the South during the 1960’s about how all blacks were “lazy & shiftless” or how Jews would cheat you & steal you blind if you didn’t watch ’em.

  12. David, so how would you decide what should or shouldn’t be within the bounds of a marriage? Say people propose marriage between a man and a giraffe, should that be recognized? Why or why not? On what basis would you make that decision?

  13. RB:

    That’s an asinine argument. Marriage is a contract, and last I checked, adult humans are the only people who qualify for that.

  14. By the way, if anyone reading this can posit a rational (i.e. non-religious) argument against gay marriage, please post it here — I’d love to hear it

    I’m against gay marriage because it will just lead to people getting married as a cover for their heterosexuality.

  15. Alright, how about a marriage between one adult man and three adult women? Would you oppose it? And why or why not

  16. I thought we were talking about gay marriage ? Why are you trying to distract us with other, unrelated issues ? Is it that you have no reason-based arguments to oppose it ? (and also, methinks someone doesn’t understand the concept of “fallacy”)

    So Scot, how does it feel to have a a gen-u-ine right winger trolling on your blog ? ;)

  17. David: you still haven’t answered. If you think it’s unrelated then either you’re convinced of the rightness of gay marriage regardless, or you realize you have no logical leg to stand on and choose to pretend it’s a distraction.

    It’s not a fallacy at all. And nor am I a right-winger, not by a million miles

  18. RB – What business is it of the state’s if four consensual adults want to marry? It causes no harm, and doesn’t affect anyone in any way. Just like gay marriage. Total non-issue. Of *course* it should be legal. Or, rather, should be none of the state’s business.

    Only when people need to be protected from one another’s actions should the law be involved.

  19. Scott, thanks for replying, ok now we’re getting somewhere.

    So from your reply, if they’re adults i.e. able to make reasonable decisions on their own, and you perceive their actions don’t affect (harm) others then you’d be ok with it, and don’t think the state has any business in it.

    The next question is, what about marriage between a man and his adult son? Would that be ok, and why or why not?

  20. RB, there are good reasons for incest laws — preventing deformity and genetic mutation protects society.

    But phrasing it as “father and son” rather than “mother and son” changes the game, since that’s not a child-raising scenario. So you raise an interesting point. I guess I’d have to say that should be a legal move. It creeps me out to think about it, but I can’t see any harm to society that it would pose whatsoever.

  21. RB,

    All of your questions thus far involve investigation of morality. More specifically, what you are tacitly saying is, “I consider this behavior immoral. Do you? If not, why not?” This is why you ask about incest, and not “an older man and a younger man.” You’re running little litmus tests. This is all about you about determining if readers here will share your morality. Where they draw lines compared to your own.

    And it’s perfectly fine for you to draw lines in *your* life based on your moral judgments. Having the government do the same in cases where society is not harmed is quite another thing entirely.

    Having a government dictate morality based on religious principals has been tried recently. The Taliban springs to mind.

    Is that what you want for the US? Or are such things palatable as long as it’s YOUR religion in charge?

  22. mnep wrote, “More specifically, what you are tacitly saying is, “I consider this behavior immoral. Do you? If not, why not?” “

    Exactly. And trying to frame the discussion in this manner is the same sort of fallacious reasoning that gives rise to tactics like asking “Have you stopped beating your wife ? Answer yes or no.”

  23. 1. The trouble with “marriage as a contract” is that there’s no consideration ( the ring? dubious ).

    2. From comment made at dmiessler.com

    I used to live in The Netherlands and here’s a sight i saw, weighted towards the summer and late spring.

    Old-style fancy cars ( Duisenberg, Rolls ) with paper adornments is parked on the sidewalk. A happy couple exits the door, both in beautiful rainment: he in gray top-hat ( occasionally with tails ) or suit; she, in a lovely white gown, or a fashionable dress. Their families cheer them as they enter the car and drive off.

    Now, to your point, the building they exited? The Raadhuis, the city hall.

    Subsequently the bridal couple were welcomed to take the civic license and have a ceremony performed at their church, but that was not the state’s business.

    Another parallel may also be seen in the difference between the King’s Courts and the Ecclesiastical courts in Plantagenet–Tudor span of English history. Ultimately the amicable divide prevailed: the state could deprive you of liberty or lucre, but could not damn you; the ecclesiastical courts could damn you, but couldn’t imprison or fine you ( unless you bought into their flim-flam and lent them that authority, not unlike a dominatrix, curiously ).

  24. @mneptok: Your first paragraph is interesting speculation, but totally off (why so defensive?) about my line of reasoning or empathetic appeals to amorphous readers. But your statement “Having the government do the same in cases where society is not harmed is quite another thing entirely” brings us very neatly to my next question for…

    …Scott: In #22 when I said “if they’re adults i.e. able to make reasonable decisions on their own, and you perceive their actions don’t affect (harm) others then you’d be ok with it, and don’t think the state has any business in it.”

    Going back to the second point, a) what is your definition of “harm” to society? b) Would you be against something if it benefits you personally in the short-term and long-term, as well as anybody you care for. However it’ll cause great pain/ loss of life/ mental retardation to 5000 people in Montana, but there will be no repercussions to you at all. Why or why not?

  25. a) what is your definition of “harm” to society?

    Fair question. One could write a book on that topic, and I’m sure many philosophers have. I’d have to say that “harm” would encompass physical damage, economic loss, endangerment of health and well-being. Pretty much a common-sense definition.

    b) Would you be against something if it benefits you personally in the short-term and long-term, as well as anybody you care for. However it’ll cause great pain/ loss of life/ mental retardation to 5000 people in Montana, but there will be no repercussions to you at all. Why or why not?

    Of course I’d be against that something! What do you mean “why or why not?” Anyone who would be in favor of it could not be considered an ethical person, so I don’t follow the thrust of the question.

  26. Scott, thank you for always being civil! For b) I mean exactly that, why or why not?

    Or from your statement, is it an accurate inference that it’s not the the stick’s removal that motivates you (no repercussions in this world) rather it’s the carrot that causes you to refrain from the beneficial to you/harmful-to-society action? If so, what is ethics? Why would you try to be an ethical person in the absence of negative repercussions to being unethical?

  27. RB, I don’t think ethics is as simple as a carrot/stick proposition. For me, it’s not about avoiding harm to myself or providing benefit for myself. It’s about first preventing harm for the largest number of people, and second about providing benefit for the largest number of people.

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