Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gay Marriage, Lines and Lies

A commenter continues the discussion of my post "Mormon Priorities" in a way that I want to step outside of comments to address:

[F]irst of all neither of you [either commenter Zennalathas or this precious, precious blog's author] gave me an answer as to where it should stop. Because in hearing many on the gay rights side the argument is that polygamy is wrong. So how does that moral barrier get established when you are affronted by others that express their moral values?
I did, in fact, give my answer, and I will give it again. I ask you to read it, and then read it again, and continue reading over and over until it penetrates: I would draw the same line that applies when someone signs up for a mortgage or a car loan or military service or any other contract. Are the parties competent adults under the law? If yes, the state has seen everything it has a legitimate right to see.

You have the wrong question. You are concerned with defending a "moral barrier," whereas I don't want the power of the state involved in drawing moral barriers. I am extremely wary of the state officiating moral disputes over what behaviors count as pure/impure, beautiful/ugly, wholesome/offensive, holy/unholy and the like. These are not questions the state or the majority should be deciding in a free society.

The state should intervene in moral questions only insofar as actions involve real harms -- so, for example, it should take the side of the person waiting for the bus over the person brandishing a knife and demanding cash; it should take the side of the person who made money from selling liquor over the person who broke in to the liquor store and took all the cash; it should take the side of the child who was fondled by a priest over the pedophilic priest. So it takes a legitimate moral stand against things like assault, theft, arson, murder, rape, and and so on.

Gay marriage, whatever harm it might do to the delicate sensibilities of people who hear about it, does no actual harm. Nor do other marriages that others might find "offensive" -- marriages between people of different races, marriages between very old people, marriages between extremely ugly men and extremely hairy-backed women, etc.

Again that line for your review: are the parties competent adults under the law? If yes, collect the fee and grant the certificate. Call for next in line.

The comment continues:
It very much affects my children when they shove the educational bullshit books down my kindegartners throat such as "Peter has two dads" etc. You talk about pushback. This is why I push back. My children should not have to be taught that your lifestyles are acceptable, correct or moral under any circumstance, unless I deem it a necessity.
Won't somebody think of the children? The solution to the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad prospect of children hearing about icky things in school is to remove them from school. Be my guest! Home-school them or put them in a private school that will consult you before passing on any inkling of a novel idea.

Note, though, that banning gay marriage, as successful as it is in denying full equality to human beings, has no connection to the subjects teachers might discuss in classrooms. What's to stop a teacher from mentioning your heroic cancellation of gay marriages with California's proposition 8? Won't that naturally give rise to a discussion of exactly what was canceled and the overheated moral officiousness that made the cancellation possible? Or what if a teacher brings up the subject of marriages in Massachussetts? Or Canada? Or Connecticut? Or Spain? You've worked yourself into a lather by imagining into existence a world in which public school teachers expend vast amounts of time discussing the intimate details of real and hypothetical marriages. How's that working for you? Do they talk a lot about the ugly guy and his hairy-backed wife? Is back-shaving on his honey-do list? Have you asked the teachers how often they discuss it? Is it enough, too much, not enough? Are you sure? Are you sure you're sure?

And not that it's central to the argument, but your attempt at "what about the children?!?!" bamboozlement has utterly failed. My nine-year-old son is aware of the existence of gays and of the controversy over same-sex marriage, and he's not the least bit confused or frightened over either. (Nothing, that is, beyond his normal background levels of bafflement over human sexuality in general.) It was not a challenge to bring him to this point; it didn't require even a single difficult or awkward conversation along the way. I simply told him the truth using terms he already understands. Other adults in his life have done the same insofar as they've touched on it at all. Truthfully, he's far more worried about spiders than about gays, which tells me he understands the actual stakes quite well. I can say the same of several of his friends. Normal children just don't have trouble with this.

Continuing:
And to put it in your own words being gay "is freely chosen and freely abandoned by human beings (unlike, say, race or sex) ...
You don't know this; it's an area of ongoing research, much of it showing that homosexuality is both natural and inborn. That you assert a non-fact so confidently indicates you're lying to yourself and to all seven people who read this blog. Shame on you for that.

And whether homosexuality is chosen or unchosen, it does no actual harm, so there is no legitimate basis for banning gay marriage.

Finally:
Civil Unions are sanctioned all over the country heterosexual and homosexual.
Wrong again. See all the states in red? In those states, both same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions are outlawed (this is the image source, which is very informative).

3 comments:

Zennalathas said...

Wow...well at last Canada's all purple. Yay my country!

Seriously though, that's a really sad map of the US. It's pathetic really.

I'm curious, what level of bigotry/ignorance/retardation would it take for you to actually up and leave that country? My friends and I talk about it from time to time and we draw the line at the rescinding of universal health care, equality and secularism. Is there a limit at which you'd actually call it quits with the USA?

Dale said...

Honestly, Zen, it wouldn't take much. Mostly it's a matter of inertia. There's so much heavy lifting I'd have to do to make a move of that magnitude. For example, did you realize the desk where I'm typing this enthralling comment is actually too large for the doors to this chamber? It had to be disassembled to get it in here, and would have to be disassembled again to remove it. And it's like they used real wood on it or something -- even the parts are heavy! I'm weary just thinking about it.

In short, USA! USA!

Laura said...

What a well-presented response post, Dale. You always get right to the heart of the matter.