Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Secular Case Against Gay Marriage?

Bradlaugh at Secular Right has weighed in with a six-part secular case against gay marriage. I consider each six with all the gravity they deserve, which is to say, fair to middling:

(1) I wonder if this "anti-minoritarianism" bears any resemblance to "the majority gets to dictate private affairs, even on matters of individual conscience"? If this noble-sounding "anti-minoritarianism" differs from rank majoritarianism, I have no idea how. No, I take that back -- there's nothing noble-sounding about it.

I have read and re-read (2) to ensure that my reading eyes are not deceiving me, but indeed, Bradlaugh wrote it in public, where others might read it:

Counter-arguments like “so was slavery” [long-established by tradition] are unconvincing, as the occasional slights suffered by homosexual couples are microscopic by comparison with the injustice of human beings buying and selling other human beings. Gay marriage proponents make much of the cruelty and injustices of the past.
The most charitable way to read this is to say that tradition-based injustices are excusable so long as the wrongs fall short of outright human chattel slavery. That's bad enough, but the subsequent fleshing out of the argument validates a not-so-charitable reading under which Bradlaugh means to minimize and dismiss the injustices done to gay people in the name of "tradition" (and little more):
Gay marriage proponents make much of the cruelty and injustices of the past. I must say, though, being old enough to remember some of that past, I am unimpressed. I was in college in the early 1960s. There were homosexual students, and nobody minded them.
Shorter Bradlaugh: in the good ol' days before they got so uppity, the homos seemed happy -- always smiling ear to ear, whistling while they shined our shoes, bowing before the ladies, always addressing white-folk, er, straight-folk with a peppy "Yes Sir!" or "Yes Ma'am!"

So, for Bradlaugh's sake, here goes: traditionally, men had greater lattitude for physically abusing women. Traditionally, parents had greater lattitude for physically abusing children. Traditionally, women were restricted in their access to professions and to institutions of higher learning. "Because it's tradition" was a bad argument against the social and legal changes that have rolled back these non-slavery injustices, and it is an equally poor argument against gay equality.

(3) There really is, avers Bradlaugh, a slippery slope tilting from decriminalizing gay marriage straight down to the sanctioning of any imaginable coupling: three-ways, four-ways, entire counties populated by a mutually-intermarried blob, interspecies couplings, interplanetary interspecies couplings, couplings with long-dead historical personages, couplings with everyday objects, couplings with diacritical marks and abstract nouns. Can't we, urges Bradlaugh, love umlauts and fuck justice without changing the law?

At no point does Bradlaugh mount a substantive argument against the end point of the slide, but he's certainly against it. To be clear, I think there are clear and bright lines we can draw that will allow people to run their own lives, structure their own households, build their own families, and order their own romantic affairs, without trampling the rights of others. The slide can be framed fairly and reasonably.

(4) I quote this one in full, that all may marvel at it as I do:
If you have a cognitively-challenged underclass, as every large nation has, you need some anchoring institutions for them to aspire to; and those institutions should have some continuity and stability. Heterosexual marriage is a key such institution. In a society in which nobody had an IQ below 120, homosexual marriage might be plausible. In the actual societies we have, other considerations kick in.
Neat! If I had some idea of what he's getting at, I might try to assess it. But no, I have no idea what he's getting at. Without unjust institutions and arbitrary legal inequalities, dumb people will be confused and angry? And this counts in favor of arbitrary legal inequalities?

(5) I don't even disagree with this premise:
Homophobia seems to be a rooted condition in us. It has been present always and everywhere, if only minimally (and unfairly — there has always been a double standard here) in disdain for “the man who plays the part of a woman.”
But the premise does not determine the conclusion. Assume homophobia is deeply ingrained; assume it is difficult to overcome; assume it will always be present to some degree. This doesn't make it right, nor does it negate the plain injustices that ensue from it. There are numerous "rooted conditions" against which civilized people -- as a matter of definition -- rebel.

(6) The last is essentially a restatement of the second, spiced with a complaint that the pro-gay side is against injustices but lacks a positive vision:
How many times have you heard that gay marriage is necessary so that gay people will not be hindered in visiting a hospitalized partner? But if hospitals have such rules — a thing I find hard to believe in this PC-whipped age [really, Bradlaugh? Do you?]— the rules can be changed, by legislation if necessary. What need to overturn a millennial institution for such trivial ends?
To which I would simply say that identifying, opposing, and trying to redress injustices is a worthwhile aim whether or not attached to an abundantly detailed alternative vision. Moreover, full equality for gay people is, in and of itself, a positive vision; and for that matter, there is no shortage of detail on how this equality might look and fit existing society: to name only one place to look, Andrew Sullivan expounds on it regularly on his blog, and has written at least one book expanding on it.

At least Bradlaugh's arguments, such as they are, count as secular -- he was right about that.


larryniven said... Expect to see a post about this soon.

UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 4/30/2009, at The Unreligious Right

Anonymous said...

Sophistry of sophistries, saith Twoblueday,sophistry of sophistries; all is sophistry.
[paraphrased from Ecclestiastes]

[Referring to Bradlaugh, not you.]

UNRR said...

Bradlaugh has another post up about it. He's digging a deeper hole.

Dale said...

UNRR, thanks, and thanks for the heads-up on the new bradlaugh. Twoblue, that's a good word for this -- as I read bradlaugh's arguments, I kept wondering if he was really advancing his own position or just fishing around for what one might look like (and going pretty deep into the barrel to find something). Maybe his newer piece will answer that.

Anonymous said...

Along with gay marriage, we should also consider interracial marriage. Let us consider interracial marriage. Do we really want mixed race families running around? what will that do to our census processes? What will little idiot white kids aspire to?

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