Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gay Marriage and Conservatives

In 2004, opponents of gay marriage rallied to vote for a large number of state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. In 2008, California voters voted down Proposition 8, which would have legitimized same-sex marriages in that state. Gay marriage activists were stunned and upset. It hadn’t been a good half-decade for gay marriage advocates—after years of hard work trying to build support for gay marriage, only two states (Massachusetts and Connecticut) recognized same-sex marriages at the beginning of this year.

However, it appears that perhaps their work is starting to pay off. Recently, the Iowa Supreme Court decreed that the Iowa state Constitution supported the recognition of gay unions. And the Vermont legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages.

Demographically, the situation looks encouraging for gay marriage supporters. Polls show that a majority of young people support gay marriage, and the fastest growing demographic segments mostly support gay marriage. (Of course, those things can change. A generation ago, young people seemed to spend all their time on anti-war protests and sit-ins, while now they all work in offices and vote Republican. And a generation ago, Catholics were a solidly Democratic voting bloc, while now they are more evenly split between the two parties).

These facts have generated a great deal of fuzzy logic and bad reasoning on both sides. Liberals, who tend to support gay marriage, chastise the United States for being so far behind the rest of the world on the subject of gay rights. Conservatives, on the other hand, see the advance of gay marriage as an unprecedented assault on traditional values.

Conservatives who make the latter case are partly right. Liberals who make the former case are wrong. The United States doesn’t recognize gay marriage. Neither do most countries. Great Britain doesn’t permit gay marriage. Neither do Australia, France, Portugal, Brazil, Switzerland, or any other country other than Belgium, Norway, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Spain. Apart from those seven countries, gay marriage isn’t recognized anywhere.

(Lending some credence to the liberal point, however, is the fact that many other countries do include a form of civil union for same-sex or unmarried opposite couples, a measure that strikes me as sensible and worth considering for the U.S.).

In fact, given that four states currently allow same-sex marriage, America is actually a bit more liberal towards same-sex couples than other countries. A gay couple living in Ohio can move to Massachusetts and get married, which is more than that a couple in England can do.

True, most states don’t recognize gay marriage, and neither does the federal government. But that doesn’t make the U.S. much different from most other countries, and the fact remains that it is easier for a gay couple to get married in America than in France.

Conservatives see gay marriage as a great threat, striking at the heart of all tradition moral norms. They see permitting gay marriages as making the institution of marriage meaningless, divorcing it from its traditional meaning, as well as from childbearing.

They are right, to an extent. But the advent of gay marriage is a symptom, not a disease. If gay marriage is recognized, then it is so because the institution of marriage is already meaningless. About fifty percent of heterosexual marriages end in divorce; cohabitation and illegitimate pregnancies are universally accepted. If marriage is supposed to be a permanent union, or supposed to exist for the purpose of providing a stable, loving home for children, then marriage as the Western world knows it has no meaning at all. Gay marriage isn’t a threat to traditional marriage—you can’t threaten something that doesn’t exist.

Conservatives can go ahead and protest gay marriage, and pass constitutional amendments and lobby state supreme courts all they want to. But their efforts will be in vain unless American (and Western) society returns to a more traditional view of marriage, in which marriage is viewed as permanent and the only acceptable way to raise a family. Until then, trying to fight gay marriage is, in the long run pointless.


At April 15, 2009 at 7:38 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

Personally, I don't care one iota if two persons of the same sex want to get married. I happen to think that case being made by "conservatives" that said marriages have some sort of effect on one's own marriage or the concept therein is weak at best.

Marriage by definition is a union between two things. I've used the term to describe a pairing while previously working in the restaurant industry.

What's more, I don't find marriage (as defined between a man and a woman) to be something that government ought to be given the authority over. Since marriage is by and large a ceremonial and/or religious sort of union, the decision to join two persons ought to be left to the discression of the institution performing the service.

Government's role is to merely uphold the contractual obligations between the two parties.

All that said, there is a proper way in which to go about pursuing the recognition of gay marriage and the manner in which it was done in Iowa is not it.It was Judicial Activism at its finest. In one fell swoop you had the Supreme Court of Iowa overrule the legislature of Iowa which had previously passed the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court declared it Unconstitutional and thus imposed upon an unwilling public, by a lopsided majority, gay marriage in the state of Iowa.

In so doing, it shredded the concept of self government; that is that the people, through their duly elected legislature, will choose the laws in which we live. Instead, what has happened in the case of Iowa is that a Judicial Oligarchy has ruled against the will of the people. Again in so doing, the Supreme Court of Iowa completely and totally distorted the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution and inconsistently apply judicial scrutiny to legislative acts therein.

At April 15, 2009 at 8:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your argument that returning to "traditional marriage" would make opposition to gay marriage valid does not hold water.

If we believe that marriage is the bedrock of civilization, why wouldn't we want every committed couple to be married and thus make our society stronger?

At April 15, 2009 at 8:40 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At April 15, 2009 at 8:43 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

"...and the only acceptable way to raise a family.""Acceptable" way? And whom might we suppose is the arbiter of what is "acceptable"??

Preferable I'll grant you, as the triad (Mother, Father, Child) has been studied and documented to be conducive to a more productive rearing environment (and perhaps only because studies otherwise have yet to be largely conducted).

What is "acceptable" in the following scenario?

Having a child grow up in a home where the father is an abusive alcoholic or having the child grow up with a same sex couple that is caring, loving, and provides the child with a stable environment?

At April 15, 2009 at 12:32 PM , Blogger Z-man said...

I don't really think gay marriage threatens heteros, they're doing a fine job of that on their own, but for me it comes down to cultural preference. For most of recent history a majority has been against gay marriage and as I just blogged about today there is a rather strong residual distaste for gay acts even when we are being tolerant. As a culture people just don't want to go there (except apparently in Vermont) so the legislative approach is better. If you're a federalist you have to have a grudging respect for Vermont but for me that's it, the gay thing is over my head.

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