May 10th, 2012

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Gay Marriage

I've posted before about my stand on gay marriage; I've argued for the acceptance of gay marriage in church...and I think it's another of those issues which should never have become a political issue anyway.  I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, wrote to my Congresscritters (to no avail, as usual), and so far expressing my opinion has had no effect at all.

But here I am again.  Saying the same things again, with emphasis.  And congratulating President Obama for coming out in favor of legalizing gay marriage.   I am appalled at the continued efforts to make gay marriage illegal, especially since these efforts are based on false premises and equally faulty logic.

When someone says that X imperils Y,  they usually have a mechanism in mind, and--for physical things--can usually say what it is.   
Dropping a glass on concrete imperils the glass:  glass is brittle and will break when it hits a hard surface.   Some people claim that allowing gay marriage would imperil traditional marriage.   But they have no mechanism to display.  How--exactly, by what mechanism--is the marriage of two men, or two women, supposed to imperil the marriage of a man and a woman?   What does it do? 

A bit of boundary discussion here: who's responsible for what, and how that relates to marriages.   An individual is responsible for his/her own behavior.  Individuals who form a relationship (be it a marriage or a business partnership or a friendship) are both (or all, if more than two) responsible for the success or failure of that relationship.   The relationship will prosper, or not, as they invest in it the better parts of their character: honesty, courage, compassion, etc.   If three guys go on a fishing trip,  the success of that trip will depend on each one doing his part....and if one is a whiner, and one is a boaster and one didn't bring the food he promised to bring,  the misery they cause each other has nothing to do with the fact that in the next campsite three women are also on a fishing trip, having a great time,  and catching trout hand over fist.    Each group created its own experience. 

It's the same with marriages.   The success or failure of a marriage rests on the people in the marriage.   If the marriage tanks,  they blew it.    Not "society", not the in-laws, not the media, not the marriages of other people in the neighborhood or the social club or the church--not anything but the people themselves...male or female, in any combination that occurs.   The quality of a marriage is determined by the behavior of the people in the marriage., exactly, could the existence of gay marriages threaten traditional marriages, with the responsibility for the health of a marriage squarely on its partners?    Does accepting gay marriage mean that everyone has to have a gay marriage?  No.   No more than having traditional marriages means that everyone has to have a traditional marriage.  Does gay marriage mean that a straight marriage is doomed to fail?   No. does it threaten them? 

Clearly, it can't.   So those who oppose gay marriage have to leave the mechanism alone and take another route, the appeal to authority, what they say God said.    But the texts quoted do not say that gay marriages threaten traditional marriages...the closest they get is that God supposedly said marriage was between a man and a woman.   So the only legitimate approach to opposing gay marriages is to say that because God didn't sanction gay marriages, they should not exist.  

This is a very weak position.  God didn't sanction a lot of things--even if you take the Bible as the literal word of God, there's a lot simply not mentioned in the Bible.   Automobiles, trains, airplanes, nuclear submarines, electric lights, computers,  the stock market,  stainless steel,  coal mining, calculus, brain surgery, tectonic plates, science fiction, synthetic fabrics,  nail polish...the list is endless.   God specifically spoke against some things that you never hear gay-marriage opponents complaining about:  consuming pork and shellfish, for instance.   Creating economic burdens for the poor.   Flaunting your religion.   Judging others.    Failing to care for the poor.   In fact, if you take the Gospels as an expression of God's will (and if you're a Christian,  you're pretty much stuck with that)  there's no sign that God thought gay marriages were bad for people in traditional marriages...who were urged, along with everyone else, to quit being judgmental and leave the handling of sins to God. 

For those who aren't Christian, what the Bible says, or Paul of Tarsus is supposed to have said about homosexuality is immaterial--those beliefs aren't their beliefs and there's no justification for forcing those beliefs on someone who doesn't share them.   In a country with a diversity of beliefs--a diversity of beliefs that existed in the colonial period and throughout this country's history--there's a Constitutional right for each citizen to be treated equally--not to be forced to accept some other person's religious beliefs.  When the only underpinning for a law is religious--when there is no mechanism by which a different belief causes measurable harm to more than someone's sensibilities--then there's no justification for that law.   Religious practices remain in the religious realm;  law is political, and belongs in the secular realm.

To take a counter-example:  a law against underage marriage.   What's the basis for saying it's illegal to marry someone below a certain age?    A non-religious justification: quantifiable harm done to the underage person (usually female) by the physical, educational, and psychological consequences of  marriage at a young age.   This harm is quantifiable: interruption of education, limiting the fitness of a young person for later life, the physical damage that early childbearing causes, the increased likelihood of a complicated pregnancy and maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, the immaturity of at least one parent, which results in less effective parenting.    There is objective evidence that, in our society, the average young teenage girl  is not equipped for marriage and childbearing and parenting and that very early marriages are more likely to end sooner.   This decision comes not from religion (indeed several religions would permit marriage before the legal age of consent) but from the practical, observable considerations that it is better for society if those who marry are competent adults.

No such practical, observable, quantifiable consideration exists for gay marriage.  On the contrary, the lack of a recognized legal status for gay partnerships prevents practical, observable, and quantifiable benefits for society.,,the same benefits claimed for traditional marriage, in stabilizing relationships within a legal framework that makes clear the legal obligations of the parties involved, a framework that also provides young gay/lesbian people with a viable model of how they might choose to live.  

So  I support gay marriage.    And if one 60+ year old woman, brought up in a conservative small town,  in a traditional marriage for 40+ years, can come to the conclusion that gay marriage poses no threat to her or to any other straight people who are married, or want to get then can some still be foaming at the mouth?