Kicking A Lion

…hear us roar

Gay Marriage: The Arguments & The Motives

Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives

A personal essay in hypertext by Scott Bidstrup
“We cannot accept the view that Amendment 2’s prohibition on specific
legal protections does no more than deprive homosexuals of special
rights. To the contrary, the amendment imposes a special disability on
those persons alone. Homosexuals are forbidden the safeguards that
others enjoy or may seek without constraint”
-Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority of the U.S. Supreme
Court in the decision overturning Colorado’s Amendment 2 referendum

Ask just about anyone. They’ll all tell you they’re in favor of equal
rights for homosexuals. Just name the situation, and ask. They’ll all
say, yes, gays should have the same rights in housing, jobs, public
accomodations, and should have equal access to government benefits,
equal protection of the law, etcetera, etcetera.

Then you get to gay marriage.

And that’s when all this talk of equality stops dead cold.

More than half of all people in the United States oppose gay marriage,
even though three fourths are otherwise supportive of gay rights. This
means that many of the same people who are even passionately in favor
of gay rights oppose gays on this one issue.

Why all the passion?

It’s because there is a lot of misunderstanding about what
homosexuality really is, as well as the erroneous assumption that gay
people enjoy the same civil rights protections as everyone else. There
are also a lot of stereotypes about gay relationships, and even a
great deal of misunderstanding of what marriage itself is all about
and what its purpose is.

The purpose of this essay, then, is to clear up a few of these
misunderstandings and discuss some of facts surrounding gay
relationships and marriage, gay and straight.

First, let’s discuss what gay relationships are really all about. The
stereotype has it that gays are promiscuous, unable to form lasting
relationships, and the relationships that do form are shallow and
uncommitted. And gays do have such relationships!

But the important fact to note is that just like in straight society,
where such relationships also exist, they are a small minority, and
exist primarily among the very young. Indeed, one of the most frequent
complaints of older gay men is that it is almost impossible to find
quality single men to get into a relationship with, because they’re
already all ‘taken!’

If you attend any gay event, such as a Pride festival or a PFLAG
convention, you’ll find this to be true. As gays age and mature, just
like their straight cohorts, they begin to appreciate and find their
way into long-term committed relationships.

The values that such gay couples exhibit in their daily lives are
often indistinguishable from those of their straight neighbors.
They’re loyal to their mates, are monogamous, devoted partners. They
value and participate in family life, are committed to making their
neighborhoods and communities safer and better places to live, and
honor and abide by the law. Many make valuable contributions to their
communities, serving on school boards, volunteering in community
charities, and trying to be good citizens. In doing so, they take full
advantage of their relationship to make not only their own lives
better, but those of their neighbors as well.

A benefit to heterosexual society of gay marriage is the fact that the
commitment of a marriage means the participants are discouraged from
promiscous sex. This has the advantage of slowing the spread of
sexually transmitted diseases, which know no sexual orientation and
are equal opportunity destroyers.

These benefits of gay marriage have changed the attitudes of the
majority of people in Denmark and other countries where various forms
of gay marriage have been legal for years. Polling results now show
that most people there now recognize that the benefits far outweigh
the trivial costs, and that far from threatening heterosexual
marriage, gay marriage has actually strenghtened it.

So, having established the value of gay marriage, why are people so
opposed to it?

Many of the reasons offered for opposing gay marriage are based on the
assumption that gays have a choice in who they can feel attracted to,
and the reality is quite different. Many people actually believe that
gays could simply choose to be heterosexual if they wished. But the
reality is that very few do have a choice — any more than very few
heterosexuals could choose which sex to find themselves attracted to.

Additionally, many people continue to believe the propaganda from
right-wing religious organizations that homosexuality is about nothing
but sex, considering it to be merely a sexual perversion. The reality
is that homosexuality is multidimensional, and is much more about love
and affection than it is about sex. And this is what gay relationships
are based on — mutual attraction, love and affection. Sex, in a
committed gay relationship, is merely a means of expressing that love,
just the same as it is for heterosexuals. Being gay is much more
profound than simply a sexual relationship; being gay is part of that
person’s core indentity, and goes right the very center of his being.
It’s like being black in a society of whites, or a blonde European in
a nation of black-haired Asians. Yes, being gay is just that profound
to the person who is. This is something that few heterosexuals can
understand unless they are part of a minority themselves.

The Arguments Against Gay Marriage

Well, of course there are a lot of reasons being offered these days
for opposing gay marriage, and they are usually variations on a few
well-established themes. Interestingly, a court in Hawaii has recently
heard them all. And it found, after due deliberation, that they didn’t
hold water.
Here’s a summary:

Marriage is an institution between one man and one woman. Well, that’s
the most often heard argument, one even codified in a recently passed
U.S. federal law. Yet it is easily the weakest. Who says what marriage
is and by whom it is to be defined? The married? The marriable? Isn’t
that kind of like allowing a banker to decide who is going to own the
money in stored in his vaults? It seems to me that justice demands
that if the straight community cannot show a compelling reason to deny
the institution of marriage to gay people, it shouldn’t be denied. And
such simple, nebulous declarations, with no real moral argument behind
them, are hardly compelling reasons. They’re really more like an
expression of prejudice than any kind of a real argument. The concept
of not denying people their rights unless you can show a compelling
reason to deny them is the very basis of the American ideal of human
rights.

Same-sex couples aren’t the optimum environment in which to raise
children. That’s an interesting one, in light of who society does
allow to get married and bring children into their marriage. Check it
out: murderers, convicted felons of all sorts, even known child
molesters are all allowed to freely marry and procreate, and do so
every day, with hardly a second thought, much less a protest, by these
same critics. So if children are truly the priority here, why is this
allowed? The fact is that many gay couples raise children, adopted and
occasionally their own from failed attempts at heterosexual marriages.
Lots and lots of scientific studies have shown that the outcomes of
the children raised in the homes of gay and lesbian couples are just
as good as those of straight couples. The differences have been shown
again and again to be insignificant. Psychologists tell us that what
makes the difference is the love and commitment of the parents, not
their gender. The studies are very clear about that. And gay people
are as capable of loving children as fully as anyone else.

Gay relationships are immoral. Says who? The Bible? Somehow, I always
thought that freedom of religion implied the right to freedom from
religion as well. The Bible has absolutely no standing in American
law, as was made clear by the intent of the First Amendment (and as
was very explicitly stated by the founding fathers in their first
treaty, the Treaty of Tripoli, in 1791) and because it doesn’t, no one
has the right to impose rules anyone else simply because of something
they percieve to be a moral injunction mandated by the Bible. Not all
world religions have a problem with homosexuality; many sects of
Buddhism, for example, celebrate gay relationships freely and would
like to have the authority to make them legal marriages. In that
sense, their religious freedom is being infringed. If one believes in
religious freedom, the recognition that opposition to gay marriage is
based on religious arguments is reason enough to discount this argument.

Marriages are for procreation and ensuring the continuation of the
species. The proponents of this argument are really hard pressed to
explain, if that’s the case, why infertile couples are allowed to
marry. I, for one, would love to be there when the proponent of such
an argument is to explain to his post-menopausal mother or impotent
father that since they cannot procreate, they must now surrender their
wedding rings and sleep in separate bedrooms. That would be fun to
watch! Again, such an argument fails to persuade based on the kinds of
marriages society does allow routinely, without even a second thought,
and why it really allows them – marriage is about love, sharing and
commitment; procreation is, when it comes right down to it, in reality
a purely secondary function.

The proponents of the procreation and continuation-The proponents
argument are going to have a really hard time persuading me that the
human species is in any real danger of dying out anytime soon through
lack of reproductive success.

If ten percent of all the human race that is gay were to suddenly,
totally refrain from procreation, I think it is safe to say that the
world would probably be significantly better off. One of the world’s
most serious problems is overpopulation and the increasing anarchy and
human misery that is resulting from it. Seems to me that gays would be
doing the world a really big favor by not bringing more hungry mouths
into a world that is already critically overburdened ecologically by
the sheer number of humans it must support. So what is the useful
purpose to be served in mindlessly encouraging yet more human
reproduction?

Same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage. Well,
that one’s contradictory right on the face of it. Threaten marriage?
By allowing people to marry? That doesn’t sound very logical to me. If
you allow gay people to marry each other, you no longer encourage them
to marry people to whom they feel little attraction, with whom they
most often cannot relate adequately sexually, bringing innocent
children into already critically stressed marriages. By allowing gay
marriage, you would reduce the number of opposite-sex marriages that
end up in the divorce courts. If it is the stability of the
institution of heterosexual marriage that worries you, then consider
that no one would require you or anyone else to participate in a gay
marriage. You would still have freedom of choice, of choosing which
kind of marriage to participate in — something more than what you
have now. And speaking of divorce — to argue that the institution of
marriage is worth preserving at the cost of requiring involuntary
participants to remain in it is a better argument for reforming
divorce laws than proscribing gay marriage.

Marriage is traditionally a heterosexual institution. This is morally
the weakest argument. Slavery was also a traditional institution,
based on traditions that went back to the very beginnings of human
history – further back, even, than marriage as we know it. But by the
19th century, humanity had generally recognized the evils of that
institution, and has since made a serious effort to abolish it. Why
not recognize the truth — that there is no moral ground on which to
support the tradition of marriage as a strictly heterosexual
institution, and remove the restriction?

Same-sex marriage is an untried social experiment. The American
critics of same-sex marriage betray their provincialism with this
argument. The fact is that a form of gay marriage has been legal in
Denmark since 1989 (full marriage rights except for adoption rights
and church weddings, and a proposal now exists in the Danish
parliament to allow both of those rights as well), and most of the
rest of Scandinavia from not long after. Full marriage rights have
existed in many Dutch cities for several years, and it was recently
made legal nationwide, including the word “marriage” to describe it.
In other words, we have a long-running “experiment” to examine for its
results — which have uniformly been positive. Opposition to the
Danish law was led by the clergy (much the same as in the States). A
survey conducted at the time revealed that 72 percent of Danish clergy
were opposed to the law. It was passed anyway, and the change in the
attitude of the clergy there has been dramatic — a survey conducted
in 1995 indicated that 89 percent of the Danish clergy now admit that
the law is a good one and has had many beneficial effects, including a
reduction in suicide, a reduction in the spread of sexually
transmitted diseases and in promiscuity and infidelity among gays. Far
from leading to the “destruction of Western civilization” as some
critics (including the Southern Baptist, Mormon and Catholic churches
among others) have warned, the result of the “experiment” has actually
been civilizing and strengthening, not just to the institution of
marriage, but to society as a whole. So perhaps we should accept the
fact that someone else has already done the “experiment” and accept
the results as positive. The fact that many churches are not willing
to accept this evidence says more about the churches than it does
about gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage would start us down a “slippery slope” towards
legalized incest, bestial marriage, polygamy and all kinds of other
horrible consequences. A classic example of the reductio ad absurdum
fallacy, it is calculated to create fear in the mind of anyone hearing
the argument. It is, of course, absolutely without any merit based on
experience. If the argument were true, wouldn’t that have already
happened in countries where forms of legalized gay marriage already
exist? Wouldn’t they have ‘slid’ towards legalized incest and bestial
marriage? The reality is that a form of gay marriage has been legal in
Scandinavian countries for over many years, and no such legalization
has happened, nor has there been a clamor for it. It’s a classic scare
tactic – making the end scenario so scary and so horrible that the
first step should never be taken. Such are the tactics of the fear and
hatemongers.

If concern over the “slippery slope” were the real motive behind this
argument, the advocate of this line of reasoning would be equally
vocal about the fact that today, even as you read this, convicted
murderers, child molesters, known pedophiles, drug pushers, pimps,
black market arms dealers, etc., are quite free to marry, and are
doing so. Where’s the outrage? Of course there isn’t any, and that
lack of outrage betrays their real motives. This is an anti-gay issue
and not a pro marriage issue.

Granting gays the right to marry is a “special” right. Since ninety
percent of the population already have the right to marry the
informed, consenting adult of their choice, and would even consider
that right a fundamental, constitutionally protected right, since when
does extending it to the remaining ten percent constitute a “special”
right to that remaining ten percent? As Justice Kennedy observed in
his opinion overturning Colorado’s infamous Amendment 2 (Roemer vs.
Evans), many gay and lesbian Americans are, under current law, denied
civil rights protections that others either don’t need or assume that
everyone else along with themselves, already have. The problem with
all that special rights talk is that it proceeds from that very
assumption, that because of all the civil rights laws in this country
that everyone is already equal, so therefore any rights gay people are
being granted must therefore be special. That is most assuredly not
the case, especially regarding marriage and all the legal protections
that go along with it.

Sodomy should be illegal and was until very recently. Ah, the ol’
sodomy law argument! Why was sodomy illegal in so many states for so
long? Because conservative religionists (at whose behest those laws
were enacted in the first place) historically blocked or vigorously
resisted attempts to repeal them in every state, and were horrified
when the U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the ones that remained.

Indeed, those laws were very rarely enforced (though it did happen),
yet there was very stiff and angry opposition to their repeal. Why?
Because they were a great tool for a homophobe to use as a basis for
legalized discrimination. “Why should I rent an apartment to you, an
unconvicted felon?” “I can’t have an admitted criminal on my staff.”
“You’re an unconvicted felon. I want you out of my restarurant and off
my property.” “I don’t want you around my children. You’re a sex
offender!” These were very real, actual arguments that were used
frequently as a basis for legalized discrimination, using largely
unenforced sodomy laws. So even though this particular moral crusade
of the religionists using the power of the police has ended, at least
for now, the sodomy laws that made them possible are still being
pushed, and pushed hard. Crass politicians, including even president
George W. Bush, see votes in homophobia, and continue to push for
sodomy law reinstatement as a means of securing those votes. And such
laws, which have thoroughly discriminatory effects by intention, will
likely will be advocated for as long as politicians see votes in
allowing conservative religionists to impose their morality on others,
regardless of the violence this does to the intent of the Bill of
Rights.

Heterosexuals would never stand for such intrusion into their private
sex lives, of course, but the homophobes among them seem to see
nothing wrong in using the power of the state to enforce their
prejudices. State court systems, however, long ago began to see the
violation of the Fourth Amendment in such laws, and nearly as many
state sodomy laws were overturned as unconstitutional by state supreme
courts as were repealed by state legislatures, before the recent U.S.
Supreme Court in Lawrence vs. Texas decision which very pointedly
overturned all that remained.

Gay marriage would mean forcing businesses to provide benefits to same-
sex couples on the same basis as opposite-sex couples. While this may
or may not be true (based primarily on state labor laws), the reality
is that many businesses already do offer these benefits to gay
couples, and for sound business reasons. And experience has shown that
when they do, the effect on their costs for offering these benefits is
minimal – very rarely does the cost of benefits offered to gay couples
cause the business’ benefits costs to rise by more than 1.5%. This
trivial cost is usually far more than offset by the fact that the
company is seen as being progressive for having offered these benefits
– making its stock much more attractive to socially progressive mutual
funds and rights-conscious pension funds and individual investors, and
thus increasing upwards pressure on its price. This is why so many
corporations, including most of the Fortune 500, already offer these
benefits without being required to do so – it’s just good business
sense.

Gay marriage would force churches to marry gay couples when they have
a moral objection to doing so. This argument, usually advanced by
churches that oppose gay marriage, is simply not true. There is
nothing in any marriage law, existing or proposed, anywhere in the
United States, that does or would have the effect of requiring any
church to marry any couple they do not wish to marry. Churches already
can refuse any couple they wish, and for any reason that suits them,
which many often do, and that would not change. Some churches continue
to refuse to marry interracial couples, others interreligious couples,
and a few refuse couples with large age disparities and for numerous
other reasons. Gay marriage would not change any church’s right to
refuse to sanctify any marriage entirely as they wish – it would
simply offer churches the opportunity to legally marry gay couples if
they wish, as some have expressed the desire to do – the freedom of
religion would actually be expanded, not contracted.

The real reasons people oppose gay marriage

So far, we’ve examined the reasons everyone talks about for opposing
gay marriage. Now, let’s examine now the real reasons, deep down
inside, that people oppose it, hate it, even fear it:
Just not comfortable with the idea. The fact the people aren’t
comfortable with the idea stems primarily from the fact that for many
years, society has promoted the idea that a marriage between members
of the same sex is ludicrous, mainly because of the objections raised
above. But if those objections don’t make sense, neither does the idea
that gay marriage is necessarily ludicrous. Societies have long
recognized that allowing civil rights to certain groups may offend
some, and at times, even the majority. But that is why constitutional
government was established — to ensure that powerless, unpopular
minorities are still protected from the tyranny of the majority.
Simple discomfort with a proposal is no reasonable basis for not
allowing it – how many Southern whites were once uncomfortable with
allowing blacks to ride in the front of the bus, or allowing black
children to attend the same schools as their own, or drink at the same
drinking fountain? Half a century ago, those ideas were just as
unthinkable – yet nowadays, hardly anybody sees them as a problem,
seeing the fears as nothing more than racism, pure and simple.

It offends everything religion stands for. Whose religion? Many
mainstream Christian denominations, to be sure, and definitely most
branches of Islam and Orthodox Judaism, but outside those, most
religions are unopposed to gay marriage, and many actually favor it.
When the Mormon church arrogantly claimed to represent all religions
in the Baehr vs. Lewin trial in Hawaii, the principal Buddhist sect in
that state made it very clear that the Mormon church didn’t represent
them, and made it very clear that they support the right of gay
couples to marry. That particular Buddhist sect claims many more
members in Hawaii than does the Mormon church. In a society that
claims to offer religious freedom, the use of the power of the state
to enforce private religious sensibilities is an affront to all who
would claim the right to worship according to the dictates of their
own conscience.

Marriage is a sacred institution. This is, of course, related to the
motive above. But it is really subtly different. It’s based on the
assumption that the state has the responsibility to “sanctify”
marriages – a fundamentally religious idea. Here we’re dealing with
people trying to enforce their religious doctrines on someone else,
but by doing it through weakening the separation of church and state,
by undermining the Bill of Rights. Not that there’s anything new about
this, of course. But the attempt itself runs against the grain of
everything the First Amendment stands for – one does not truly have
freedom of religion if one does not have the right to freedom from
religion as well. It would seem to me that anyone who feels that the
sanctity of their marriage is threatened by a gay couple down the
street having the right to marry, is mighty insecure about their
religion and their marriage anyway.

Gay sex is unnatural. This argument, often encoded in the very name of
sodomy statutes (“crime against nature”), betrays a considerable
ignorance of behavior in the animal kingdom. The fact is that among
the approximately 1500 animal species whose behavior has been
extensively studied, homosexual behavior in animals has been described
in at least 450 of those species. It runs the gamut, too, ranging from
occasional displays of affection to life-long pair bonding including
sex and even adopting and raising orphans, going so far as the
rejection by force of potential heterosexual partners, even when in
heat. The reality is that it is so common that it begs an explanation,
and sociobiologists have proposed a wide variety of explanations to
account for it. The fact that it is so common also means that it
clearly has evolutionary significance, which applies as much to humans
as it does to other animal species.

Making love to another man betrays everything that is masculine. Well,
I’ve known (and dated) plenty of very masculine gay men in my day,
including champion bull-riding rodeo cowboys and a Hell’s Angel biker
type, who, if you suggested he is a limp-wristed fairy, would likely
rip your head off and hand it to you. There was a long-honored
tradition of gay relationships among the tough and macho cowboys of
the Old West, and many diaries still exist detailing their loving and
tender relationships out on the range, and the many sacrifices they
made for each other. Plenty of masculine, respected movies stars are
gay – indeed, Rock Hudson was considered the very archtype of a
masculine man. Came as quite a shock to a lot of macho-men to find out
he was gay! So what’s wrong with all these kinds of men expressing
love for each other? Why is that so horrible about it? A society that
devalues love devalues that upon which civilized society itself is
based – love and commitment.

The core fear here is the fear of rape and a loss of control or status
as a masculine man. This is instinctual and goes right to the core of
our being as primates. If you examine what happens in many animal
species, especially displays of dominance in other primate species,
dominance displays often have sexual overtones. When, for example, in
many species of primates, a subordinate male is faced with aggression
by a dominant male, the dominant male will bite the subordinate,
causing him to squeal in pain, drop the food or the female and present
his rump. This is an act of submission, and it is saying to the whole
troupe that the subordinate is just that – subordinate.

This happens in humans just as it does in other primates. It is the
cause of homosexual rape in prisons. Homosexual intercourse in prisons
is not an act of sex as much as it is an expression of dominance and a
means of control. Nearly all of the men who aggressively rape other
men in a prison setting actually revert to (often promiscuous)
heterosexual sex once they’re on the outside.

So is this something straight men should fear from gay men? Well, you
can relax, all you straight guys. You’ve nothing to worry about. The
vast majority of gay men prefer sex in the same emotional setting most
of you do – as a part of the expression of mutual love, affection and
commitment. We’re not out to rape you or force you into a subordinate
position. The majority of gay men don’t want sex with you because
we’re looking for the same thing in a sexual relationship that you
look for – the love and affection of a devoted partner. Since we’re
not likely to get that from you, you’re not desirable to us and you
have nothing to fear from us. The small minority of us (and it’s a
very small minority – less than 3%) who do enjoy sex with straight men
understand your fears and are not going to have sex with you unless
it’s clearly and completely understood on both sides to be on a peer-
to-peer basis and your requirement for full and complete consent and
need for discretion is honored.

The thought of gay sex is repulsive. Well, it will come as some
surprise to a lot of heterosexuals to find out that, to a lot of gays,
the thought of heterosexual sex is repulsive! But does that mean the
discomfort of some gays to heterosexual couples should be a reason to
deny heterosexuals the right to marry? I don’t think so, even though
the thought of a man kissing a woman is rather repulsive to many
homosexuals! Well then, why should it work just one way? Besides, the
same sexual practices that gays engage in are often engaged in by
heterosexual couples anyway – prompting the ever-popular gay T-shirt:
“SO-DO-MY — SO DO MY neighbors, SO DO MY friends.”

They might recruit. The fear of recruitment is baseless because it is
based on a false premise – that gay people recruit straight people to
become gay. We don’t. We don’t recruit because we know from our own
experience that sexual orientation is inborn, and can’t be changed.
Indeed, the attempts by psychologists, counselors and religious
therapy and support groups to change sexual orientation have all
uniformly met with failure – the studies that have been done of these
attempts at “therapeutic” intervention have never been shown to have
any statistically significant results in the manner intended, and most
have been shown to have emotionally damaging consequences. So the
notion that someone can be changed from straight to gay is just as
unlikely. Yet there remains that deep, dark fear that somehow, someone
might get “recruited.” And that baseless fear is often used by bigots
to scare people into opposing gay rights in general, as well as gay
marriage.

The core cause of this fear is the result of the fact that many
homophobes, including most virulent, violent homophobes are themselves
repressed sexually, often with same sex attractions. One of the recent
studies done at the University of Georgia among convicted killers of
gay men has shown that the overwhelmingly large percentage of them
(more than 70%) exhibit sexual arousal when shown scenes of gay sex.
The core fear, then, for the homophobe is that he himself might be
gay, and might be forced to face that fact. The homophobia can be as
internalized as it is externalized – bash the queer and you don’t have
to worry about being aroused by him.

The opposition to gay marriage stems ultimately from a deep-seated
homophobia in American culture, borne out of religious prejudice.
While many Americans do not realize that that homophobia exists to the
extent that it does, it is a very real part of every gay person’s
life, just like racism is a very real part of every black person’s
life. It is there, it is pervasive, and it has far more serious
consequences for American society than most Americans realize, not
just for gay people, but for society in general.

Why This Is A Serious Civil Rights Issue

When gay people say that this is a civil rights issue, we are
referring to matters of civil justice, which often can be quite
serious – and can have life-damaging, even life-threatening
consequences.
One of these is the fact that in most states, we cannot make medical
decisions for our partners in an emergency. Instead, the hospitals are
usually forced by state laws to go to the families who may have been
estranged from us for decades, who are often hostile to us, and can
and frequently do, totally ignore our wishes regarding the treatment
of our partners. If a hostile family wishes to exclude us from the
hospital room, they may legally do so in most states. It is even not
uncommon for hostile families to make decisions based on their
hostility — with results consciously intended to be as inimical to
the interests of the patient as possible! Is this fair?

Upon death, in many cases, even very carefully drawn wills and durable
powers of attorney have proven to not be enough if a family wishes to
challenge a will, overturn a custody decision, or exclude us from a
funeral or deny us the right to visit a partner’s hospital bed or
grave. As survivors, estranged families can, in nearly all states,
even sieze a real estate property that a gay couple may have been
buying together for many years, quickly sell it at the largest
possible loss, and stick the surviving partner with all the remaining
mortgage obligations on a property that partner no longer owns,
leaving him out on the street, penniless. There are hundreds of
examples of this, even in many cases where the gay couple had been
extremely careful to do everything right under current law, in a
determined effort to protect their rights. Is this fair?

If our partners are arrested, we can be compelled to testify against
them or provide evidence against them, which legally married couples
are not forced to do. In court cases, a partner’s testimony can be
simply ruled irrelevant as heresay by a hostile judge, having no more
weight in law than the testimony of a complete stranger. If a partner
is jailed or imprisoned, visitation rights by the partner can, in most
cases, can be denied on the whim of a hostile family and the
cooperation of a homophobic judge, unrestrained by any law or
precedent. Conjugal visits, a well-established right of heterosexual
married couples in some settings, are simply not available to gay
couples. Is this fair?

These are far from being just theoretical issues; they happen with
surprising frequency. Almost any older gay couple can tell you
numerous horror stories of friends and acquaintences who have been
victimized in such ways. One couple I know uses the following line in
the “sig” lines on their email: “…partners and lovers for 40 years,
yet still strangers before the law.” Why, as a supposedly advanced
society, should we continue to tolerate this kind of injustice?

These are all civil rights issues that have nothing whatsoever to do
with the ecclesiastical origins of marriage; they are matters that
have become enshrined in state laws by legislation or court precedent
over the years in many ways that exclude us from the rights that
legally married couples enjoy and even consider their constitutional
right. This is why we say it is very much a serious civil rights
issue; it has nothing to do with who performs the ceremony, whether it
is performed in a church or courthouse or the local country club, or
whether an announcement about it is accepted for publication in the
local newspaper.

Why Does Conservative Politics Find Gay Marriage So Deeply Threatening?

As George Lakoff, in his excellent book, “Moral Politics” points out,
conservatism is based on a “strict father” metaphor of morality, in
which a wise father (church or political leader) sets the rules, and
the children (the people) are disciplined to comply, thereby gaining
self discipline, and with it, autonomy and self-sufficiency. For a
complete understanding of this metaphor, which is beyond the scope of
this essay, I would refer readers to Lakoff’s book, but inclusive in
that metaphor is a set of moral boundaries established by the “strict
father,” who is, in this case, the moral authorities of the church and
the political system working in concert. These moral boundaries exist
in society, in the conservative’in society, in the conservative'<WBR>s vi
straight and narrow path to autonomy and self sufficiency, but
primarily to maintain social order and discipline, and that is their
primary purpose. Compliance to the established moral boundaries
implies acceptance of the legitimacy of the moral authority figures
who established them, and it is this acceptance of the legitimacy of
this moral authority that is viewed as the very basis of social order.
Hence there is a deep investment in the legitimacy of the moral
authority, often presumed to be none other than God himself.
Therefore, someone who moves off the sanctioned paths is doing
something much more than just acting immorally; he is rejecting the
goals of the society in which he lives; he is calling into question
the purposes that govern most peoples’ lives, but he is also doing
something even much more threatening: By deviating from the standard,
ordained “path,” he is showing people that other paths are possible,
and that those other paths may not neccessarily be unsafe to tread
upon, nor is society harmed by his actions.

By so doing, he calls into question the legitimacy of the moral
boundaries he has violated, and hence, the competence and legitimacy
of the moral authorities who established them. Since moral boundaries
are the very essence of conservative politics, the very basis of
conservatism itself is brought under implied threat.

As serious as that is, the threat goes beyond even that: When the
“deviant” treads his forbidden path, and not only gets away with it,
but ends up living a happy, fulfilled and contented life with no harm
done to himself or society, the conservative himself feels cheated, in
having observed a set of boundaries which have proven to be
unneccessary and arbitrary. And in doing so, he feels cheated of his
own freedom of action, even if he had not himself bumped up against
those particular boundaries. The conservative thereby feels he is
being implicitly invited to abandon those moral boundaries and join
the “deviant” in accepting increased freedom by rejecting moral
authority. Fear that others may reject these apparently arbitrary
moral boundaries, and hence question those who decreed them, and cause
society to fall apart, is the reason for the conservatives’ deep
paranoia about the mythical “gay recruiting” and the equally mythical
“gay agenda.” Hence, conservatives have a deep emotional investment in
keeping gays repressed through the maintenance of this particular set
of moral boundaries, just as they did in maintaining their moral
boundaries underlying racial segregation in the Deep South a
generation ago and slavery a century before that.

How then should conservatism, as a political movement and a way of
life, come to grips with the reality of gay marriage? In precisely the
same way that it has come to grips with its errors with regards to
racial segregation: own up to its mistake, and simply expand its moral
boundaries to include gays and gay marriage. Just as most older
conservatives now acknowledge that they once erred in “keeping blacks
in their place,” they should make the same acknowledgement for gays
and their right to marry, and live happy, open and contented lives in
each other’s arms, without fear or discrimination – that gays are just
as entitled to the equal protection of the law as anyone else, and the
14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution means what it says and applies
to gays as well. No “slippery slopes,” no “slouching towards
Gomorrah”, no “end of civilization as we know it”; just freedom,
liberty and justice for all.

About The Author:

The author, Scott Bidstrup, is a free-lance writer and political
activist who has been active in human rights issues and in the gay
rights movement, specializing in youth and marriage rights issues,
since coming out as a gay man in 1994. He has a Bachelor of Arts in
Communications, with a concentration in broadcasting from Brigham
Young University (1971) and is a retired microwave communications and
satellite earth station transmission engineer. He was born in the
United States, but has lived in Nigeria and is currently living in
exile in Costa Rica. He maintains no political, professional or other
affiliations or sponsorships, and carefully maintains strict editorial
independence in the editing and maintenance of this web site.
His essays on this web site, including this essay, have been
frequently reprinted in magazines and in book form in essay
anthologies, and this particular essay, the most widely reprinted, is
often used in formal logic and critical thinking classes, both at high-
school and college level, as a study text. The web site which the
author maintains of which this essay is a part is one of the oldest
and most popular personal opinion web sites on the Internet. It “went
live” in early 1995, and over the years since it has become quite
popular among gay youth and their parents, as well as intellectual and
political readers of the web; the site currently gets about 150,000
page-reads per month in total.

This essay was first published on this web site in September, 1996 and
first appeared in print in September 1998 in the anthology, “At Issue:
Gay Marriage” (ISBN 156510692X).

Resources for those researching the subject of gay marriage:

Books:

Recommended books, which you can obtain from Amazon.com, by following
the links:
The Case for Same-Sex Marriage : From Sexual Liberty to Civilized
Commitment by William N. Eskridge, Jr. offers some compelling reasons
why the arguments raised in this essay make sense, both from a legal
and moral point of view. Highly recommended.

Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter To America by Michael Nava and
Robert Dawidoff is a compelling argument on why the issue of gay
marriage and gay rights are vitally important to all Americans, not
just gays.

A Place At The Table is Bruce Bawer’s excellent treatise on how
Americans have come to misunderstand homosexuality, and in the
process, have failed to understand why gay marriage would benefit
society as a whole.

Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don’t by George
Lakoff offers an excellent series of insights into the conservative
mind and ultimately why they reason as they do on this issue.
Recommend it highly.

To get the current bibliography on gay marriage from Amazon.com, type
the phrase same-sex marriage (be sure to include the hyphen) in the
form above and click the “search” button. Other suggested search
phrases are gay couples and homosexuality+phrases are gay couples an
search any other phrase you wish, too. In any event, Amazon.com will
then return to you a list of the currently available books on the
subject, which if you wish, you can safely purchase online and have
within a few days.
Internet Resources:

An excellent bibliography on the issues surrounding gay rights and the
history of the gay rights movement. For students researching gay
marriage, this should be your first stop. Thoroughly researched and
very complete.
The Partners Task Force list of links on gay marriage.
The current status of anti-gay marriage laws in the U.S.
Opinion of the First Circuit Court: Baehr vs. Miike, Hawaii, 1996 in
which the State of Hawaii had to justify its prohibition of gay
marriage. The State failed utterly to do so, and this is the court’s
judgement in favor of the plaintiffs seeking a Hawaii marriage license.
A legal “backgrounder” on the federal so-called “defense of marriage
act”
A “backgrounder” piece from Fox News that is about as balanced as Fox
News ever is.
Opinion in favor of gay marriage

Opinion in The Economist, Britain’s leading news magazine.
A speech by Iowa State Representative Ed Fallon on that state’s
attempt to ban gay marriage by law.
A press statement from the American Civil Liberties Union about gay
marriage
A University of Florida student web site that demonstrates the typical
mindlessness of arguments raised in opposition to gay marriage.
Opinion opposing gay marriage

No Gay Marriage web site sponsored by the far-right religious group,
The American Family Association. It has all the arguments (but isn’t
updated very frequently).
Commentary from the far-right Weekly Standard, using mostly the
arguments discussed in this essay.
Charles Colson, the notorious convicted Watergate felon, wrote this
anti-gay marriage piece for Christianity Today.
Source URL: _http://www.bidstruphttp://www.bidhtt_
(http://www.bidstrup.com/marriage.htm)
Return to Scott’s Home Page
Write to Scott
Copyright © 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004 by Scott Bidstrup. All rights
reserved.

Advertisements

Written by kickingalion

November 21, 2008 at 5:01 pm

%d bloggers like this: