Wednesday, February 25, 2004

le parcours II

As I examine other members of my blogroll, I can see that it's pretty much a gay marriage roundup we're in for, so let's forget about gay marriage a second and start off with Lorianne's post on my least favorite subject, clothes shopping. I hated clothes shopping as a kid, being dragged all over the mall when all I wanted to do was play arcade games or hang out in the bookstore.

While I was working at APIC in the late 90s and early 00s, I'd be given APIC Annual Conference shirts to wear. I now have five such shirts-- blue faded heavy cotton weave, button-down, ranging from 3XL to 4XL. To people I meet, it must appear that I wear the same shirt and pants every day (I have three pairs of very similar black pants, you see). I don't give a rat's ass. What matters is that I wear these shirts untucked and mostly-unbuttoned: that's Hominid Style for you. I hate suits, jackets, slacks, loafers, formal wear. Hate 'em all. Gimme my damn freedom of movement.

OK-- onward to gay marriage. Once more unto my bitch, dear friends...

Ryan Overbey takes Andrew Sullivan's side in this debate, which many are calling the latest culture war. He says:

This is familiar rhetoric. Appeals to nature, to societal stability, the lambasting of "activist judges", the frequent usage of the verb "to protect". But what does the rhetoric mean?

I have not heard a single argument in this whole debate which is opposed to same-sex marriage and simultaneously empty of misleading rhetoric. Try to argue with an amendment supporter: ask him or her what they mean by "activist judges." Ask if they have read the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision, and whether they agree that there is a compelling parallel in Brown v. Board of Education. If they don't agree, ask them why not. Ask them what they mean by "weakening the good influence of society." Does legalizing gay marriage effectively remove the rights of heterosexual couples to marry? Of course it doesn't. But what then is meant by the verb "to protect"? If the answer is "sanctity", ask for a precise definition of sanctity. Ask how sanctity is relevant to the functioning of a democracy. Ask why loving homosexual relationships cannot be sacred.

This entire debate is grounded on a very limited set of vocabulary, a narrow range of concepts and assumptions which beg to be challenged. So many people are simply repeating the rhetoric, and I'm not always sure they have a firm grasp on what exactly the underlying principles are. Or perhaps some do understand the underlying principles—those of hatred and bigotry—but they understand that they cannot utter their true thoughts in the arena of public discourse. These are the sorts who are worse than our dear friends at God Hates Fags: they share the same horrific ideology but are burdened with the additional vices of dishonesty and cowardice.

So I issue a challenge. Do any of you, my dear readers, support a marriage amendment? And if so, why? Feel free to comment below. But this game will have rules. You are not allowed to say "Because I want to protect marriage", or "Because I want to defend the sanctity of marriage." If you do attempt these meaningless lines of argument, then give them meaning. Define them. Tell us why allowing gay people to marry will damage the institution itself, will dilute the meaning of union for other couples. If you sincerely believe that permitting gay marriage will lead to the collapse of our social institutions and family structures, do us the favor of telling us why you believe it is so. And try not to be like the Baptist protester in Boston, who stated frankly and unironically that God would destroy the state in the same way He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. You can do better than that.

By the way, further down his blog, Ryan links to a French-language post re: the pleasures of cunnilingus on a blog by someone with the pseudonym Beuzl. I congratulate Beuzl in my rusty French in the comments section. "Mysterious carnal machinery" indeed.

Another explosion of commenter activity over at Bird Dog's gay marriage thread on Tacitus. Very lively.

Cobb (whose granddad just passed away this past Friday) opines on gay marriage and takes a pretty solid religious and political conservative position. He doesn't want to grant the use of the term "marriage" to gay unions (I say "What's the big deal, though?"), he views marriage as ordained by God, but he's also somewhere close to Donald Sensing's position, in which we separate the legal and the spiritual aspects of marriage and let the proper authorities have their own proper purview. Check Cobb out here and here and here. Search around for other posts; he's got a few more.

Annika is for gay marriage, but thanks President Bush for his principled stance, which puts the big decisions back in the hands of the people. I imagine she agrees with Keith Burgess-Jackson that Bush made this decision freely, but I'm not so sure. I think there's plenty of reelection pandering going on, and Bush is beholden to his own Religious Right special interests. That said, I'm over the initial emotions and think that, yes, Bush's action shouldn't be viewed either as surprising or as all that threatening. Why? Because like Annika and others point out, there's really no way this amendment will go through.

Kensho Godchaser writes a post on the "Tyranny of the Majority," however, and brings up my own and others' concern (cf. Bill Maher in Smallholder's post): sometimes the majority has its head up its ass. Of course such an assessment is countered by the accusation of liberal arrogance: "Once again, you judge everyone else as stupid." I think it's a charge worth considering, but this brings us back to Plantinga-related issues: which is more arrogant, the liberal stance or, say, a "WHITES ONLY" sign?

Kensho writes:

"We can't have gay marriage," they cry - "the majority of Americans are opposed to it."

"The people," they pronounce, "should have the right to decide whether homosexual couples can participate in marriage."

How idiotic would these arguments sound if you replaced "marriage" with "free speech"? Or "owning property"? But conservatives ignore the screaming contradiction of their position in their quest to defend the "ancient tradition of heterosexual marriage". (News flash, folks: slavery used to be an ancient tradition until we outlawed it.) These are the same conservatives who are quick to remind you (rightly!) that rights are inalienable, that America is a democratic Republic, not a democracy, and that the Bill of Rights was created to protect the sanctity of the individual against the tyranny of the majority. This argument serves their needs when the issue is gun control or the capital gains tax - but bring up marriage equality, and suddenly, the sanctity of the individual is up for vote.

Kensho, by invoking free speech and property, also ends up talking about basic (civil) rights.

[NB: Over at Cobb, there is no tolerance for dragging race analogies into a sexuality issue. He says: "What the justices of the peace (who are actually disturbing it) in SF are trying to do is to paint blacks white." I'll respectfully disagree with Cobb on this because I see this as a civil rights issue.]

Glenn also issues a challenge to amendment advocates:

I'd like one person who opposes gay marriage (whose opinion actually matters, so 99% of you bloggers don't count) to come up with a credible argument for not allowing homosexual marriages that DOESN'T INVOLVE a religious reason. Why that stipulation? Because the last time I checked church & state were seperate, and if you're going to use the secular law system then GODDAMMIT you better have a better reason than "It's in the Bible so I'm against it."


I dare anyone to come up with a reason that isn't rooted in the religious. To leave the *INSERT HOLY BOOK HERE* out of it. Because if you can't, then you need to shut the fuck up.

Also, if you try to use the argument that "marraige was intended to form families for the purpose of child bearing and creating families" I'll fully be expecting you to rail against the evils of old people getting married, infertile couples being allowed to remain married, and the consciously childless being allowed to remain married. Because those marriages ain't havin' no kids. But why allow them to remain married?

Please, someone. I dare you.

At Amritas, Dr. Miyake may skew fairly conservative, but he also comes out strongly against Bush on this.

People like Keith Burgess-Jackson will do their damnedest to paper over bigotry issues and try to keep the focus on the purely legal aspects of the overall debate (KBJ's latest tactic is to paint the pro-gay marriage side as hysterical). It's a shame, because life happens around us no matter what the musty law books say. Donald Sensing recognizes this, even if he views the situation with sadness. I admire his empiricism and pragmatism, even if I disagree with his theology.

Previous civil rights battles also involved a huge extralegal component. It's the constant push-pull of chaos and order, novelty and stasis; boundaries have to be crossed, rules have to be broken, and points have to be made by deeds, not words. So maybe the folks in San Fran are holding bogus marriage licenses. Maybe. But they've made a statement, these gay folks, as have the judges in Massachusetts. Both sides need to remember that the opposing position, however repugnant it may seem, does not signal the end of the world. The story doesn't end; the dialogue continues; the universe moves.


No comments: