Friday, September 3, 2010

J v. E - First Round Knock-Out

One thing I have learned over the course of the blogging is that it's a bad idea to pick an argument with Eli in roughly the same way it's a bad idea to pick a fist-fight with circa 1986 Mike Tyson. Not appreciating the hazards, Justin has undertaken to debate Eli on the question of gay marriage, and his opening reveals such meager roundhouses as this:

Gays often need their relationships to be open, but straights almost invariably need them to be closed.
Eli's response is there for the reading, but in the comments at Justin's blog, I had to step in and ask: what does this mean? Is this an empirical observation, and if so, where is the supporting evidence?

Even supposing it is a fact that gays "often" "need" open relationships whereas straights "almost invariably" "need" closed relationships -- this runs afoul of an is-ought distinction. If gays experience a "need" for open relationships in a higher proportion or degree -- it's not clear precisely what metric has been suggested here -- and if open relationships are A Bad Thing (as Justin asserts), it plausibly follows that the social and legal boundaries of marriage would benefit them more than it benefits straights. If Justin's empirical(?) claims are true, it sounds like the straight people are arriving at closed relationships with or without a license from the county.

It's also worth wondering if this "greater need" obtains when gay people resist their inclinations. If "cured" or "reformed" (or whatever) gays who marry opposite-sex partners experience this "greater need" for open relationships, then it sounds like gays shouldn't marry at all. This "greater need" that Justin has attributed to them would seem to render them a poor fit for marriage, no matter the plumbing of their marital partners.

It seems to me that two gay people entering the county office to apply for a marriage license are sending a signal that they do not, in fact, feel driven by a "greater need" for open relationships. The application for marriage is precisely an application to close the relationship in the relevant sense, and to have this closed state formalized in the eyes of the state and the wider society. Whether a given marital contract endures will, of course, depend on a great many things, just as it does for straights.

Maybe I'm punching above my weight here, but I think I blundered into something with that last bit: that people are individuals, not walking embodiments of their sexual orientation. Whatever the aggregate facts about "gays" and "straights," "open" and "closed," and various kinds of "needs," the laws should embrace the equality of individuals.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Dale, your comment reminds me of the point that writers on gay issues often make: sex with a partner of the same gender is something gays do, not something they are. The matter of sexual identity is a great deal more complex than who you may be having sex with at any one moment. Well, it is for grown-ups who aren't obsessed with other people's private lives.