Monday, June 16, 2008

Gay Marriage

A few hours ago California became the second state to legalize gay marriage. At 5:01 PM in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom presided over the wedding of a couple ladies in their 80's.

Four years ago, Mayor Newsom was also presiding over weddings in San Francisco, but a court stopped that practice and voided over 4000 marriages. Thirty days ago the California Supreme Court decided the case brought about from one of those 4000 marriages and found that the California Constitution not only had no implicit ban of gay marriage but was worded such that the government was required to allow gay marriage.

In just over 4 months, California voters will march to the polls and vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Current polling gives the measure a 50-50 shot of passing, significantly down from just a few years ago and unprecedented when set aside the numerous similar proposals that have won in landslides in other states.

I tend to indecision on most cultural issues. I like to think of this as openmindedness. Unfortunately, in November I'll be one of the millions voting on gay marriage in California and so I'll have to make a decision of some sort.

The arguments against gay marriage fall into three veins: it's unnatural, it's unholy and it undermines the fabric of society.

Homosexuality is natural. It occurs in nature across several species including our cousins the primates. Gay marriage is less unnatural than it is nontraditional. I struggle, as many do, with the idea of two people of the same sex being married. The linguistics alone throw me. There goes his and her towel sets. Who gets the ring with the big diamond? Bob and his husband? Diane and her wife? Mrs. and Mrs. Smith? All of this comes about from the dismantling of thousands of years of societal, cultural and linguistic tradition. That can be tough for anyone, but does it justify a ban on gay marriage? I can't think it does. I find going to the DMV for a driver's license to be a nuisance, but I keep on going.

Gay marriage is, in fact, unholy. All the mainline Christian faiths are against it. The Muslims have to be against it, especially the sects that don't even let women show their faces. The religious argument fails to move me, though. First, I'll apply the baseline argument that government imposing biblical law is unconstitutional. Second, I'll argue that citing biblical text to support a policy argument is useful in debate, but worthless logic. If a person should choose to outlaw gay marriage because of biblical precedent, then that person cannot stop at gay marriage. Leviticus and Deuteronomy are littered with wonderful little admonitions and rules. Take one, take all. Of course, I haven't read the New Testament as closely and perhaps Jesus reversed a number of those rules, but kept the gay marriage one intact. Someone more attuned with the Christian faith will have to enlighten me. I'm not holy. I have no religion. The religious argument just doesn't work.

The most compelling argument regards the fabric of society. The argument goes that the fundamental unit of society is a family. In this case, a family is made of a father, mother and children. Any other arrangement of this basic unit is inferior. Boys need fathers. Girls need mothers. Both genders need the balance, the influence and the example of the opposite gender to edify them fully. As a society moves away from this fundamental order the society deteriorates.

I have always found this argument appealing. It seems reasonable. It can be backed by some fairly strong data. Alas, it isn't perfect. Single mothers raise perfectly good children, as do single fathers. I haven't seen any evidence that children raised by gay parents turn into misfits draining the lifeblood of society. Families with a father, mother and children can be as dysfunctional, corrupting and destructive as any other group; indeed, more so in some cases.

To date, no one has offered me a persuasive argument for banning gay marriage. Am I completely comfortable with gay marriage? No. It tosses dirt in the face of millennia of tradition. It alters the fabric of society in ways that cannot be anticipated. It does all of this, but that does not make it something that should not be, not in a free society that values justice and was founded on the idea that pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right.

Eight years ago I voted against the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that is now part of Nebraska law. I did so because it was worded in such a way that a particularly careless interpretation could outlaw same gender roommates that weren't having sex. I did so because I don't like new laws because I don't like more government especially government meddling about in my bedroom.

In a few months, I will vote again and I plan to vote the same way and for at least some of the same reasons. This time I might not be one of the few who does.

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Abraham Reagan said...

Natural occurance of any condition is not a sufficient argument. Schizophrenia, Down's Syndrome, and Sickle Cell Anemia are all natural occurances, yet we do all we can to eliminate them.

Our Constitution grants freedom of religion, not freedom from it. It is not the Constitution but the Supreme Court that decided that religion cannot be intertwined with public policy. Separation of Church and State was a legal decision not a Constitutional provision.

For countless generations people have made the best of poor situations; it is a testament to human spirit, resiliency, and tenacity. But we should always strive for that which is best, that which is most beneficial, and that which gives us the best chance for success. A family that consists of a well adjusted father and mother that are fully committed to each other and to their children is BEST. We should hold this as the ideal while supporting those whose condition is less than ideal. We should not treat all family situations as if they are equal thus promoting them directly or indirectly.

These arguments apply not only to homosexual marriage, but to all kinds of different social situations. When social and political agendas attempt to subvert the fabric of our society, then should be strenuously scrutinized and resisted if for no more than to gleen the positive from the negative and insure that we are not just weather vanes blowing with the current winds.

Jefferson Adams said...

First, thank you for the comments. It's nice to know someone is out there paying attention.

Second, though my debate teacher would roll her eyes at this, let me say I agree with you on all points except for one sentence, "Our Constitution grants freedom of religion, not freedom from it." I think it does grant me the freedom to practice or not to practice any religion I choose. I also happen to believe separating church and state is a necessary precaution to maintain the Constitutional imperitive prohibiting the establishment of a national religion. I believe religion is a necessary and important part of policy decision, my policies decision are uninhibited or uninfluenced by a purely religious arguement.

Even though I agree with your points on natural occurance and what constitutes the best family, my underlying political philosophy values the individual above the collective when all other harms and benefits to society are equal, of course, we will probably disagree mightily on what causes harms and benefits to society.

Again, thanks for the comment.