Sunday, November 23, 2003

shots in the impending culture war

I won't link to it since it's on Salon, but here's one "letter to the editor" re: gay marriage:

If the religious right and the Republican Party push forward with a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the Democrats should respond with the "slippery slope" argument. That is, if the goal of such an amendment is to preserve families and protect the sanctity of marriage, isn't an amendment banning divorce next?

Come to think of it, banning divorce would go further toward accomplishing that goal and be even more in keeping with Christian teaching. After all, Jesus, never recorded as saying a word for or against homosexuality, is quoted in Scripture on the subject of marriage as stating "what God has brought together, let no man bring asunder."

Sounds to me like Jesus wanted us to outlaw civil divorce. Let's see how the people in the pews go for that.

-- Gary Belis

You already know I'm no fan of slippery-slope arguments; they're too limited. But I think Mr. Belis is demonstrating, intentionally or not, that anti-gay-marriage folks aren't the only ones who can employ a slippery-slope argument. I don't buy Belis's contention (I hope his scriptural point gives literalists pause... though it probably won't), but I like how it demonstrates that slippery-slope arguments can produce a weird sort of rhetorical parity.

And regarding a comment made by the Air Marshal in a previous post:

A union between [two] gay people isn't the same as a heterosexual marriage as a consequence of the biology and the organic nature of the hetero family. Is it fair? No. It's just the way it is.

True, but there seems to be a presumption that gay couples are somehow wishing to experience what married heteros experience, which isn't the case. This campaign isn't motivated, for example, by uterus-envy: gay men aren't fighting for the right to experience the hormonal changes of pregnancy. It's an obvious point, but it needs to be stated: gay marriage advocates want the fruits of gay marriage. They're not looking to experience exactly what heterosexuals experience. The expressed desire for marriage (and for family) doesn't imply a desire for hetero-style marriage and family.

I make this comment because the Air Marshal's question-and-answer, "Is this fair? No. It's just the way it is," seems to suggest that gays are seeking exactly what heteros experience-- and gays somehow view it as unfair that they can't have things their way. I don't think you'll find many gay folks who'd agree with this, though perhaps some gays do think this way. That hypothetical minority notwithstanding, the pragmatic issue is that of legal privileges, not experiential equivalence. So again, this isn't about equality of outcomes. This is about justice, civil rights, etc.

This was a theme in private discussions with the Air Marshal as well: the idea of the uniqueness (or maybe I should say specificity) of the hetero experience of marriage and family. Problem is, even among heteros, the attitudes toward marriage and family are widely divergent. It follows, then, that the experiences of marriage and family will be widely divergent.

The Air Marshal has written eloquently and touchingly about his own experience as husband, and then as father. He represents, in my view, the noble end of the hetero spectrum. I can vouch that he's a great husband and father. On the other end of the spectrum are unfeeling absentee fathers and women who give birth into a toilet in a public restroom, then abandon the baby-- people who experience parenthood not as a soul-shaking, life-altering experience, but as just another responsibility to shirk. People who go "whew, glad it's over" when they've left that restroom, then get pregnant again a few months later. How does one compare or classify what it is that people are actually experiencing when they have children either through pregnancy or adoption? I'm not sure what general claims can be made based on subjective experience (noted: the Air Marshal explicitly stated he's not trying to convince anyone; I'm therefore responding more to a school of thought than to the AM's particular case).

As for the objective biological realities-- of course there are differences, and gays are fully aware of what's possible and what's not. Gay marriage is possible; experiences that are the fruit of gay marriage are also possible.

Interesting remark on the subject from the Infidel:

I have to admit I agree with the proposition that marriage is about committment, and not procreation.

Not all heteros draw the line at the same place, it seems. And since the Infidel's got that lawyerly brain, I'd appreciate his weighing in on the legislative vs. judicial issue re: the Massachusetts decision and the overarching gay marriage debate. Might provide an interesting counterpoint to whatever the Maximum Leader contributes.

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