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Monday, June 19, 2006

Gay Marriage

I had been meaning to start this months ago but have been sidetracked with work. One thing that bothers me about politics today is how black & white every issue has become. Either you're for abortion or against it, for the war or want to "cut & run", for gay marriage or against it, etc. These for and against are too simplistic for truly legitimate issues. The real beliefs, as with most, occur in the gray area not in the fringes. So while we argue at the fringes we're missing the common ground. And so as to not be hypocritical, I am planning on investigating "controversial" topics, most of which I already have a very black or white response to. To find where I really stand on these issues however, I will evaluate arguments made by both sides.

I will try to be as open-minded as I can so as not to just write a post advocating one side or the other. Obviously I will end up taking some stance, but I hope it comes through analysis of the arguments and not tweak the arguments to fit my initial conclusion. I also feel many of these topics are pretty self-explanatory. Yet these topics keep coming up in the news and are being debated by our representatives. Therefore, there is still obviously some debate to them. The better question is should there still be debate or should the debate involve a different aspect of the issue.

I've decided to start with gay marriage because this issue seems very self-evident and easy to me. I also think there are only a handful of arguments, so I won't require my readers to spend a day looking over my long-windedness. But we'll see what I truly believe.

One argument against gay marriage is that it is not natural. This can take one of two forms, one religious and one natural. They are very closely related but I'll try to address them separately. The natural argument states that homosexuality is not natural because you need a male and female to procreate. I'll leave aside all the asexual plants and animals (God did design them also, didn't he?). So I'll concede that point. Yes, you do need a man and woman to create a child. I'm just not sure what this has to do with marriage. If procreation=marriage then why do we not force couples who get pregnant to be married for the rest of their lives? And why do we allow divorce, especially in cases with children? It seems to me reproduction is separate from marriage. When we describe marriage, we are thinking about something beyond our most primal sexual urges. If not, one only has to look in nature across the animal kindgom, where monogamy is hardly seen, homosexuality is not scarce, and the concept of marriage is foreign. But I'm not advocating going there because when I think of marriage I think of something greater than procreation.

Ahhh, but there's this thing called family. This is just a variation on the natural argument with a religious slant. It's not procreation that makes a marriage it's the ability to raise a family that does. My first response is then what about people with fertility problems or people who choose not to have children. Do they deserve the right to be married? Well, I guess it's always possible for medical advancements and people do change their minds. So it's the possibility, however slim, of raising a family that bestows marriage rights. To this I would argue then why do we allow older couples to marry? Should we disallow any woman who reaches menopause to marry? Do marriage rights end after menopause for a couple who never had children? Until we agree on those points this argument seems rather spurious.

Another argument against gay marriage is the more direct religious argument. Mainly, that one's religion does not approve of homosexuality and thus does not approve of gay marriage. The key argument here is what advocates of gay marriage mean when they speak of gay marriage. In general, they are not trying to overturn thousands of years of religious laws and dogmas and beliefs. If they are, I would disagree with them. Religions should be free to make their own rules just as people have a choice to choose their own religion which fits their beliefs and lifestyle. I'm purposely being general and brief here because it's going off on a tangent I don't want to go. What advocates of gay marriage want is to be recognized by the state, not through the religious community. As long as we believe there is a separation of church and state, then this argument is null and void. It doesn't mean we can't use morality and religion to inform our laws, it just means it can't be the basis for our laws. Just like we don't punish people for not following the proper handling and cooking of meats prescribed ad nauseum throughout The Old Testament. So then the question becomes what is the morality underneath the religious conviction against homsexuality. I've already tackled the issue of raising a family - once menopausal women are also obstructed from marriage then I will revisit that argument.

So this brings us to some type of underlying morality. One argument that comes up is the homosexuals will endanger society. This is always so general that I'm not sure how to consider it. So I'll just use my interpretation. One idea is that this means that homosexuals are inherently more deviant than heterosexuals. Therefore, they will cause more deviant behaviors by legitimizing homosexuality and showing others their lifestyle is acceptable. But what constitutes deviant behavior? For surely we have laws in place that apply to both straight and gay singles/couples. Do we plan to restrict deviant singles/couples from marriage? Who decides what constitutes deviant behavior? I'm not saying we shouldn't set limits (pedophilia, necrophilia, etc), just pointing out that deviant behavior boils down to homosexual sex. If that's the case, then the issue is not so much over gay marriage as much as it is over whether homosexuality should be legal. And given all the settled law and hate crime enforcement, I'm not going into this discussion no matter how much Justice Scalia wants to drag us in there. If you truly believe homosexuality should be outlawed, then we'll have to agree to disagree. For inherent in my discussion is that homosexuality in and of itself would not be debated. I know I mentioned it earlier sorta in context to religion, but I purposely framed in it marriage terms. It would be like arguing over whether the chicken or the egg came first.

But let's say it's really not about sex. Instead, you argue that homosexuals have more partners and have more divorces and are more unstable and like to dance on soap filled floors with tecno music playing. And you argue that all of this hurts society by weakening our morals. That there is a cumulative effect that harms society whenever we relax our morals. Now, this would appear to be a legitimate argument on the surface. However, how do we handle this in practice? Do we go back to the days when adultery was a crime? For if we are going to punish gay couples we need to be consistent and punish straights. Basically, this argument would impose laws that have been tossed or set aside banning divorce, adultery, etc for both straight and gay couples. If you are unwilling to go this route, then this argument goes away. I don't want to impose these laws, so that's my stance.

Let's say there is insistence on harming society with the gay lifestyle. My first point is to prove there is causation, ie, homosexuality leads to the negative effect. Second, show me that this will be exacerbated by allowing gay marriage through some idea that it will mainstream homosexuality. Then maybe we can discuss this general argument. Of course you will have to punish gays and straights equally unless it's a behavior that somehow only inflicts gay people.

Another argument I've heard is that it will be easy to beat the system. To quote a friend, what's to prevent 2 dudes who are roommmates from getting a fake marriage to get the benefits. I guess that's a possibility, but I find it unlikely. At this current time, homosexuals are a minority and are discriminated against. People usually try to pass for the majority to avoid discrimination, not the other way around. One just needs to look at the light skinned blacks who used the opportunity to pass for whites. But I'm supposed to consider all arguments so here goes. To fully address the issue, one needs to understand the benefits that would be available to scam. Ultimately I think it boils down to health benefits. I'm sure I'm missing a lot by not being married but a majority of the benefits occur when the person is sick or dying. So I'm gonna lump immediate benefits under health benefits. I highly doubt 2 roommates are considering getting a fake marriage for 40 years so that when one dies the other can inherit their possessions. Or make decisions about life and death. Just seems like too much work. However, receiving health benefits sounds like a good rationale - please correct me if additional benefits are truly different in nature. Again, I will consider this argument once people against gay marriage advocate rejecting health claims for straight marriages that are allegedly fake. And who decides whether a marriage is fake for health/citizenship? Couldn't the same rules for straight married couples be applied to gay couples? I remember watching a second of Desperate Housewives where Teri Hatcher was going to get fake married to get benefits for surgery. Maybe I missed the outrage from the religious right - she was lying and demeaning the sanctity of marriage. Oh well, I guess I'd rather allow gay marriage and try to stop all fake marriages, not just gay ones. Call me stupid, but I don't advocate removing a right or a system or whatnot if it works properly just because there is some room for fraud. I'd rather try to limit the fraud.

The last argument against (yes, I'm sure I'm missing others) is that the definition of marriage includes between a man and a woman. My response here is so? The Constitution onced defined blacks to count as 3/5th of a person. Should we never have outlawed slavery or redone electoral votes once slavery was outlawed, just because of a definition? Plus, definition of words are tweaked, added, or removed yearly based on changes in society. So what's to prevent the definition of marriage being changed to accomodate changes in society? It's not like we're talking about some mathematical constant that has been proven to be constant.

The major argument for gay marriage involves civil rights. Now, I agree this is as general and cryptic as many of the arguments against gay marriage. So it forces me to guess what is meant by this, which gives me a few options. One option means that everyone has the same rights. This all sounds good, but taken to the extreme is confusing. Why else would we have laws preventing people from committing certain acts? Certainly that is not the case. Yet we are talking about marriage, so it boils down to everyone having the right to marry the person they choose. On the surface, this sounds appropriate and I can't help to agree with it. But it really should involve further exploration. Take the word person. Right away I'm limiting marriage to 2 people. Am I not violating someone's rights by restricting them from marry multiple people at the same time? I understand the rationale for making state sanctioned marriage between two people, yet I also don't see any reason why multiple people could not be married. It might seem weird and might not conform to my idea of marriage, but I can't argue against it. As long as fraud and the prevention of child marriages are handled, I really can't argue against polagamist marriage. But this doesn't deal with whether we should have laws restricting marriage. I actually can't argue against having some restrictions against marriage. There are reasons why there are consent laws that get enforced. So I guess that means that as long as 2 people are of age and consenting then I'm ok with it.

Ahhh, but there's that word consenting. And it's used often. But is consent enough to justify behavior? Not by itself. Abusive spouses/boyfriends are jailed regularly for abuse without the consent of their partner. I know that's a bad example because no one really believes the victim is asking for it. But it does show that consent needs to be taken in context. However, we are not talking about a crime being committed, in most cases. Again, it comes back to whether homosexuality should be outlawed. If you don't feel that homosexuality should be outlawed, it's very difficult to argue against gay marriage.

The final argument I'll look at is what is meant by marriage rights. Basically, the above deals with individual rights - what an individual can do for love or whatnot. But marriage invokes joint rights over property, benefits, life/death decisions, etc. So those need to be taken into consideration. Why/how do we assign the rights of an individual to another individual? Whether right or not, the law assigns family these rights. Again, I'm not saying that's right but using it as a starting point. That's why the spouse is usually the default in cases where it's not stated or the parents or other family members where a spouse/parents are not available. However, this can be modified through a will. Anyway, this is going off topic. But I happen to agree with this default in lieu of additional information. I would actually argue it should be shared among spouse and immediate family but I happen to have a loving family so it's easy for me to argue this. Then again, what about abusive relationships where the spouse never got out. I guess my only solution here is to allow the courts to hear cases where there are discrepancies. It may not be the perfect system, but it will allow us to evaluate instances that would not be handled amicably amongst the parties themselves. So how does this relate to gay marriage? Well, I was trying to apply inheritance beliefs to understand if there is anything that might complicate gay marriage rights. I don't see how exactly it does, though I see my multiple wives argument falling apart a little (nothing a well thought out will wouldn't fix).

Well, that was pretty uneventful and not entirely too enlightening. Basically, I discovered the argument for and against gay marriage rests on whether you believe homosexuality should be legal or not. Some people might think I'm going too far, but basically all arguments against gay marriage are at their heart an argument against homosexuality. If you are against homosexuality, you will be against gay marriage. And most likely vice versa. However, you do not see a push by the majority to criminalize homosexuality. That gives me hope that when people truly understand the debate is about homosexuality and not gay marriage, that this debate will cease to exist. Then again, what do I know. I'm just some crazy liberal blogger.

As a disclaimer, I apologize for any shortcomings in this post. I have a full time job so I am limited in the amount of time I can spend on posts. I also apologize for not citing any sources - again, it's time but also my inherent laziness. Then again, at the end of the day this is all about me and my understanding of the issue. I am open to any debate, especially in regard to pro-gay marriage. I find it easier to find con arguments than to remember the pro-arguments. If you have additional arguments, I would love to hear them and consider them for myself. For I believe that is how we grow as a society - through open and honest debate. The current political environment just lends itself to doing nothing and it's really a shame given the potential of this great country.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'll leave aside all the asexual plants and animals (God did design them also, didn't he?)"

No - what are you, some kind of Intelligent Design advocate?

6/20/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Tom G said...

It was meant as tongue in cheek. I am definitely not in favor of intelligent design. It's ridiculous that people have so much trouble with apparent contradictions between science and religion. As if The Bible was meant to be a scientific textbook.

6/20/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom G. said:
"It was meant as tongue in cheek. I am definitely not in favor of intelligent design. "

I say:
Great - you had us nervous there for a minute...

Tom G said:
"It's ridiculous that people have so much trouble with apparent contradictions between science and religion. "

I say:
What's with the weasel word "apparent"?

Tom G. said:
"As if The Bible was meant to be a scientific textbook. "

Well, there can be little doubt of thism as it predates science by several millenium. The real question here however is not whether it is science but whether it is anything more than a man-made book (it's merits being a matter of subjective taste).

I say, whether one is a puddingheaded Biblibal literarist or takes the Bible 'figurateively', if at the end of the day, you believe there is something 'supernatural' about it's authorship, you're nuts.

6/20/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger betmo said...

as to the topic of 'gay marriage,' speaking as a married woman whose spouse and she have decided against procreation- i tend to agree with your argument that it really boils down to homosexuality. talking about gay marriage is so much easier than saying- 'yuck' to homosexual sex. it is easier for people to distance themselves from the people themselves by 'disagreeing' with gay marriage. "oh, i don't care if they are gay- but if they get married the world will end" is simply a cop out. i guess i am stymied as to how the legal marriage of 2 homosexual people will end my marriage. millions of gay folks are having gay sex all over the world and hey- i've been married for 9 years(my husband and i lived in sin for 4). i fail to see how these same gay folks having sex as MARRIRD people will effect my marriage. then again, i don't think about other people having sex. maybe if other people stopped thinking about that- we wouldn't have as many problems.

6/20/2006 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see you link to 'polagamy' (polygamy mis-spelled?) but otherwise make no reference to the obvious point of comparison - polygamy.

Polygamy is outlawed (men are not allowed to marry multiple wives) even though it is allowed and even encouraged by certain religions (eg. the Mormons, Islam). Note we do not put people in jail for having multiple girlfriends, but we do outlaw such relataionships being given the imprimatur of legitimacy that sate sanctioned marriage confers. So your argument that it all boils down to whether or not you think homosexuality should be illegal is all wet.

One need not hold that homosexuality ought to be illegal to contend that, nevertheless, it is innappropriate to confer upon it the legitimacy implied by state sanctioned marriage. Not all people opposed to gay marriage do so on 'moral' or religious grounds. Some reject the modern liberal POV that asks us to regard homosexuals as something approaching an ethnic group and see homosexuality as something more realistically (if ultimately innacurately) compared to a disorder. Should we accept homosexuality as 'normal'? Or is this rather like calling a disorder normal rather than seeking a cure? The idea that homsexuality is somehting that one might seek to cure is of ocurse 'heresy' to the PC crowd, but it is a POV we ought not dismiss as casually as simple 'bigotry'.

I for one support 'gay marriage' (ie. they should have the domestic partner benefits as wedded straights), but do not knee-jerkedly categorize all of those who do not as 'bigots'. I see the latter as politically correct hyperbole that is to often accepted unexamined for deeper motives.

6/20/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom G said...
It was meant as tongue in cheek. I am definitely not in favor of intelligent design.


Sir— I do not know very much about evolution, but I hear that it means that our ancestors were apes. Was ever such a wicked story invented by the evil one in the history of the world?

What kind of people do really believe in this evolution nonsense? Am I to believe that I have come down from monkeys? As far as I and my family are concerned, we are satisfied to trace down to Adam and Eve, even though, of course, Eve was wicked enough to eat the apple the serpent offered her, poor woman, new as she was to the ways of this wicked world. I say, put the people who believe in such silly nonsense out in the cages with the other monkeys and they would soon learn sense and believe in what the Bible tells us.

AN AMERICAN MOTHER

6/20/2006 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Tom G said...

First off, thanks for the comments. And I apologize for any spelling errors. I wrote this is multiple pieces throughout the course of the day. I unfortunately have a full time job and can only write when I have some time. But I'll try to do better.

Wow, homosexuality can be cured. There's really no reason for us to argue about this issue as I'm sure we could both find many studies if given the time to prove our point. I just don't buy it. And I say this not to be PC but as someone who has read scientific research on the issue and one who has and has had many gay friends. When I see my cousin Robb, I never think he's sick and suffering from a disease. But that doesn't mean I'm right. It just means I've taken the time to make an informed decision based on my life experiences. Maybe given more exposure to people who have been "cured" or additional research I would change my mind. I highly doubt it (based on the preponderence of facts I've already accumulated), but I am open minded enough to consider it a possibility.

6/21/2006 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see where anyone claimed homosexuality was a disease to be cured, rather it is pointe dout that some feel this way and feel so sincerely - they are not 'bigots'. This notion that either you are for gay marriage or you are a 'bigot' is a politically charged false dichotomy. Many people are just not comfortable with the notion of sanctioning marriage for such unions, just as some are not comfortable with polygamy (though it is accepted as the norm for well over a billion people on the planet and I'm sure you might get along as well with a Moslem polygamist as your cousin). It's this self-righteous, smug PC tendency to judge people who disagre with you as 'bigots' that is objectionable (not talking about you, but about the PC crowd in general), more so than homosexuality itself.

6/21/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger melanaise said...

if this is the anonymous proofreader, perhaps you should perform your own spell checks before posting.

That was tongue in cheek, to be perfectly clear. ;)

6/25/2006 01:10:00 AM  

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