Friday, May 16, 2008

A Strange Beast...

The National Organization for Marriage exists to stop people from getting married. Isn't that weird? You'd think it would be concerned with stuff like the enormous divorce rates in this country, since something like 25% of U.S. adults have been divorced at least once.* Or maybe they could deal with issues like preparing young people for marriage so they don't, as is the habit in my particular state, marry the first person willing to have sex with them, pop out half a dozen kids, then get divorced and let the state sort it out. Maybe they could even have an outreach arm like the Family Preservation Unit at the organization where I work, helping families under pressure stay together and, failing that, help to maintain the most stable possible environment for the children involved.

Yeah, all that would make sense for something called the National Organization for Marriage. Instead they exist solely for the purpose of keeping gay people from getting married. They're currently all in a tiff about the California state supreme court's ruling on Thursday that overturned the state's ban on homosexual marriage. This is it for California - the U.S. Supreme Court has no say over state laws on this issue, so barring a state constitutional amendment, gay marriage is in California to stay. Boy are the conservative groups upset. Obviously, of course, if gay folks can get married, the government will soon afterwards invalidate all heterosexual marriages and then pair us all with randomly matched same-sex partners. One in five of us will instead be paired with a random zoo animal.

No, wait, that's not right...

Oh, oh, now I remember! If gays folks can get married it doesn't affect the rest of us for squat. I've been reading NOM's website all morning, and I've read all three variants of their arguments against gay marriage (The NOM is multilingual- they speak Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish!), and I've yet to really see any justification for their position other than "we're uncomfortable with it on religious grounds", which is a legitimate feeling but not necessarily the best way to set national policy. Their answer to the question "Will same-sex marriage hurt your marriage" is as follows:

Same-sex marriage advocates want to force everyone to dramatically and permanently alter our definition of marriage and family. The great, historic cross-cultural understanding of marriage as the union of husband and wife will be called bigotry in the public square. The law will teach your children and grandchildren that there is nothing special about mothers and fathers raising children together, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a bigot.

Now, let's look at this. They're afraid that the government will make them think nice things about married homosexuals. That's a pretty pallid argument, not to mention the fact that they're already successfully resisting the aggregate weight of the entirety of modernity on other social issues, so what's a little government compared to that? Maybe if this statement were about something that the light of modernity has already shone brightly upon it would help us think about this more clearly:

Anti-slavery advocates want to force everyone to dramatically and permanently alter our definition of what constitutes a human being. The great, historic cross-cultural understanding of humanity as consisting only of the European races will be called bigotry in the public square. The law will teach your children and grandchildren that there is nothing special about people of European ancestry raising children together, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a bigot.

I'm aware that that comparison is a bit of hyperbole, but there's often something to be learned from exaggeration. The fact of the matter is that civil rights for minorities are very often opposed by the majority. Societal inertia in favor of a particular situation does not necessarily make the situation an equitable one. This is an issue of people have a rabid ideological opposition to something that won't effect them in the least.

Now, I don't care if churches don't want to perform homosexual marriages. No one is saying that they have to, and it would be an abhorrent breach of the the First Amendment for the government to legislate religious practices that way anyway. However, if a homosexual couple wants to be married by either a liberal church or by an agent of the state, I can see no legitimate reason to oppose that. What adults do with other willing adults is a matter of their own consciences about which the state should have no say.


*Ironically, the divorce rates sits somewhat higher among self-described "born-again" Christians, Baptists in particular, and is the lowest nationally among self-described atheists/agnostics and Catholics.

6 comments:

Garret said...

Yeah, about the only non religious reason I think, for "non marriage of gays" is the so called teleological (purpose) argument.
It goes something like this-

Governments honor marriages. Governments give tax breaks to straight married couples because they (potentially) have children, as a natural product of heterosexual sex. The children are citizens and will eventually be productive members of the society.

Homosexual unions do not produce children, therefore governments have no reason to honor homosexual unions in this way.

In otherwords, there is a purpose for marriage- future citizenry- anything that cannot lead to the fulfillment of said purpose has no substantive (but of course, emotional) reason for existing.

Skippy said...

If we want to cast marriage as something that is in the interest of the state because it promotes reproduction, we should also cast it as something that might help orphaned children become productive members of society as opposed to languishing as wards of the state.

Since homosexuals average higher on socioeconomic indicators than heterosexuals the argument could be made that, in terms of providing a stable and financially secure home environment, adoptions by homosexual couples may be beneficial for the children involved vs. remaining in group homes or foster care.

Skippy said...

Also, by the "marriage is for having children" logic, why should infertile couples, folks with no desire to have children, and post-menopausal women be allowed to marry?

Jason said...

Perhaps they should change their name to the National Organization for Certain Marriages.

JAK said...

Or the National Organization for People Just Like Us.

Garret said...

skippy,
"help orphaned children become productive members of society as opposed to languishing as wards of the state."

Yep, adoption is awesome. My mom adopted 2 kids herself- my beloved bro and sis.


"Since homosexuals average higher on socioeconomic indicators than heterosexuals the argument could be made that, in terms of providing a stable and financially secure home environment, adoptions by homosexual couples may be beneficial for the children involved vs. remaining in group homes or foster care."

You could, but adoption is different than marriage, its a different issue altogether.

"Also, by the "marriage is for having children" logic, why should infertile couples, folks with no desire to have children, and post-menopausal women be allowed to marry?"

Now you would be changing the law to discriminate against the elderly and disabled? Folks with the inclination to have no childern can change their minds.

Remember what we are talking about- changing the law to broaden the scope of marriage- marriage is already defined as man and woman. The logic of teleology is already in place, it is in fact biologically true, and presumably, the tax benefits are their to ease tax burdens from "what happens" when man and woman come together.

By the way, what two men or two ladies do behind closed doors, thats between them and God, I could care less. That does not mean I have to endorse Gay marriage. I am sympathetic to the issues my gay friends have brought up. One should be able to write wills and recieve hospital visitations from whomever you want on the list. I can not imagine the horror of dieing in a hospital and not having the one I love most not being able to visit me. Horrible.

Gay marriage will be routine in a few years, no question about it.