16 November 2008

Same Sex Marriage

Protests are going on across the nation following the ballot initiatives in three states that banned same sex marriage. These protesters are saying it is a civil rights issue while counter protesters are saying it is a moral issue.

I don't understand people who have a problem with same sex marriage. Marriage isn't a christian ceremony. People all over the world get married every day. No one argues that if you aren't a christian, your marriage doesn't count. In fact, marriage isn't even religious. Plenty of people get married every day and don't do it in a religious building. They have a judge or another secular person perform their marriage and no one tells these people that their marriage doesn't count. In fact, in Colorado you don't need a witness or someone to perform the ceremony. All you need to do is get a license, sign it, and turn it in.

So how can we say that two men or women whom love each other shouldn't be allowed to get married?

The arguement is usually that same sex marriage somehow hurts the sanctity of marriage, but what does that even mean?

Sanctity is defined in Merriam Webster as:
1: holiness of life and character : godliness
2: the quality or state of being holy or sacred

So, sanctity is just another way to say that the marriage is religious and god doesnt like same sex marriage. Again, i am going to have to call shenanigans. You can get married without a religious figure performing the ceremony. You can get married in a church, at the park, at a banquet hall, in your apartment or at prison. The State of Colorado, which licenses marriages, does not require a religious ceremony. So how can we really say it threatens the sanctity of marriage when marriage isnt even sacred to begin with.

I dont mean to suggest that marriage cannot be sacred to you. Your marriage might be very sacred. You may have gotten married with a priest or a rabbi. You may have listened to the vows, taken straight from your holy book, and really really meant everything you said about sickness and health. And if you did, there is nothing wrong with that. However, that doesn't mean that two people getting married in a judges chambers who wrote their own vows and don't believe in god are somehow less married.

As my pal Doc wrote, "The same also applies if you're getting married for less-than-holy reasons, like getting knocked up, or are just congenitally clueless and think it'd be cool to get married this week and divorced the next, and yet you don't see Christian organizations protesting outside courthouses to prevent stupid, loveless marriages, do you?"

It comes down to the fact that people against same sex marriage just don't like homosexuality. That is it. There is no rational argument against it. Or, if there is, no one has offered it up.

Same sex marriage is a civil rights issue like segregation and women's suffrage, and it is about time that we give homosexual couples the right to get married.

As Q says, isnt it about time we all had the right to suffer needlessly?



The Happy Cynic said...

Really Bird, those are my sentiments exactly. But I couldn't have said it that well if I took a thousand years to write it.

Bird said...

Oh HC you are the best. Remind me to give you a beer for saying the nice things I asked you too. Someone else much smarter pointed out that if we are saying that same sex marriage is destroying the sanctity of marriage then why arent christian groups out protesting divorces and extra-marital affairs?

Anyway, I have heard you say things a bajillion times smarter than what i wrote but thanks for the nice things anyway!

Bird said...

too many o's in what should be 'to' up there

Aaron said...

This marriage issue is not about homosexuality. It is about the family being defined as a father and a mother committed to a relationship in order to have children and provide them with a stable environment to grow up in. The problems of our society can all be traced back to the breakup of the family. Single parents and same-sex parents don't have what combined a male and a female have. The traditional family gives the best environment for raising the next generation. The population could not survive without male and female. There is no way to repopulate. Sure, two people of the same sex can create life scientifically but there is still a need for a sperm(male) and egg(female) to make this happen. Look at nature around us. There is only way for nature to repopulate. Maybe there are ways to clone but that is not the natural way. The earth's population traces it's start back to Adam and Eve being the first marriage. If it would have been Adam and Steve, none of us would be here. Even forgeting a higher Being, the process of life was defined to be a certain way. That is what marriage is about. People have there freedom to do as they choose but children brought into an environment that is not condusive to a happy life have there freedoms taken away. What about their right to choose? Same sex marriage is a States' Rights issue and should not be left up to activist judges who rule for a minority view that the majority oppose. Health insurance etc for same sex couples has nothing to do with their union being defined as a marriage. This is what the sanctity of marriage means. It doesn't have to be religious at all. The sanctity of marriage is about something male and female together can create. The family is the basic unit of society. That is why I do oppose infedelity and divorce but I don't have to riot in the streets to get my point across. I protest and get my voice out in other ways like voting and opposing laws that make these lifestiles acceptable. Marriage is about having children and having joy in your posterity.

Bird said...

Thank you for your comments Aaron. However, I have to disagree with you on a couple of points. I dont agree with you when you say that families are defined "as a father and a mother committed to a relationship in order to have children..." I dont think that families are defined in that way and I dont agree with you that the sole purpose of marriage and life is to have children. Of course a sperm and egg are needed to create life and 160,000 years ago when Homo sapiens popped on the scene, it was very important for us to churn out children. Times have changed and we are not in a 'reproduce to survive' situation.

I guess a question I would ask is, can you show me proof that children raised in non-traditional families somehow turn out broken? Certainly you can point to kids that have issues, but I believe for every broken kid I can show you a healthy, normal, well adjusted child.

I know that you and I dont see eye to eye on this because you are coming from a religious background and I am not. I just look around and see people who have come from so many different types of families. Single parents, same sex couples, grandparents, huge extended families, step parents, foster parents, parents who adopt. I see all these different types of families and really believe that if the children are loved by their family, it doesnt matter. Love and support and nurture are the important things.

Bird said...

Upon a second reading, I have to ask you to please show me how the problems of our society can be 'traced' back to the break up of the family. This is a pretty substantial claim and I would like to know what proof do you have of this? Statistics or something else solid you can point to?

And also, if religon is the driving force behind your feelings, what about those of us that arent religious. You wouldnt force me to believe your religion, but you are okay forcing others into your definition of marriage? Into what you feel is right and wrong?

And I had one last question. Do you think that if a gay couple got married, it would somehow invalidate your own marriage? By that i mean, do you think it will specifically effect your and your wife?

If you would rather talk about this in private, you can always email me. Thanks.

Pat said...

It's been awhile since I looked at your blog, but I am back and am butting into this argument! I've got some answers (and questions) for you, but only if you really want them and aren't sick of this topic. Otherwise, you could, you know, just go back to writing about snow and other 100% happy stuff.

Bird said...

Good to see you again Pat. Go ahead and post your comments and whatnot. I am always up for a good discussion.

Pat said...

This is too long but it’s your fault for making me think so hard about this!

I agree with you when you say marriage is not a religious institution. In fact, marriage is older than organized religion. The groups that are actively protesting same-sex marriage may be using the term “sanctity of marriage,” but I would argue a better term to use is “stability of marriage.” What we are arguing about is the legal, state-defined definition of the marriage contract.

Although you’re focusing on the weakness of the sanctity or marriage argument, I find the marriage as a civil right argument to be lacking. The statement “Homosexual couples have the right to get married” isn’t an argument at all, it’s just an assertion. Technically, a gay person does have the right to marry: What they don’t have is a right to be married on the terms that they define. In order to do this, they have to change the terms of the marriage contract—which is traditionally understood to be a lifelong contract between a man and a woman. Since supporters of same-sex marriage are seeking to make this change, and it is a fundamental change in the traditional understanding of marriage, the burden of making the argument should rest with them.

If someone is going to take up this argument, I would ask them: “Do you think 3 or more people have the right to enter into a marriage? What about an adult marrying a child? Do you think a couple should have the right to be married for only a certain number of years, where the marriage contract could be renewed on an ongoing basis?” The point is this: on what grounds can we make some fundamental changes and not others, or at least not leave the door open for these types of changes to be easily made down the line.

Maybe it’s possible to say “Who cares? We can make all of these changes. At least half of marriages end in divorce anyway. What harm could further changes bring? There is room in society for all types of marriage.” I think if this is the line of thinking one pursues, you have to question why the state regulates marriage at all.

I think the reason state is involved in defining marriage is because marriages produce children. True, not all marriages yield children and of course you do not need to be married to give birth, but definitely most marriages result in children. From the point of view of the state, a marriage is the best place for children to be raised. Otherwise, the state has to spend more of its resources taking care of them (social services, foster care, etc.) So it’s in the state’s own interest to recognize and nurture marriage. And, although there are a gazillion studies on marriage and family life that give you different types of results, I do believe it is not too much of a stretch to say the best place to raise children is in a stable, low-conflict marriage between a husband and wife.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that after we have a prolonged and enlightened national discussion about the meaning of marriage and the rights of same-sex couples, the “marriage as a civil right” argument wins out. As you say, we can still have religious marriage and same-sex marriage and all other types of marriage. In this scenario, everyone seems to get what they want. Alas, things are not always as they seem. Religious marriages still hold up in this version, but now everyone lives under law that recognizes same sex marriages. This can have an effect on many other types of institutions. Example: In Massachusetts, same-sex marriage is legal. The branch of Catholic Charities in Boston found that it could not operate its adoption services without accommodating same sex couples. Unable to get any kind of exemption from the state legislature, the Archdiocese of Boston could have challenged the matter in court, but prospects for victory did not look good. They decided they could not continue their adoption service. Unfortunately, they ran one of the biggest (and many say best) agencies in that area.

I think that more thinking is needed from all sides on the meaning of marriage as a legal institution, why we have it, what are its purposes, etc. before further changes are made. I am sympathetic to same-sex couples seeking to be married, but I think society as a whole is better served by the traditional understanding of marriage. I think civil unions are a good compromise, but I know that many people who argue under the civil rights banner think that these are “separate but unequal.” It might be that the only compromise solution is legalized same-sex marriage, with exemption granted to religious institutions so they won’t be compelled to legally recognize them or have their traditional understanding of sexual morality altered.

Finally, I do agree with your claim that many people involved in this argument just don’t like homosexuality. I disagree with that type of thinking, and hopefully, this post doesn’t put me in their ranks. However, I do think that same-sex marriage supporters can harbor their own prejudices, and it would behoove them entertain the idea that opposition isn’t necessarily always rooted in prejudice. Gay couples aren’t going to go away and neither are religiously motivated voters. Both sides need to learn to live with the other and engage the debate on civil, thoughtful (dare I say loving!) grounds.

Bird said...

Thanks for your comments Pat. It was long but somehow i managed to pull myself through it all!

I guess the core issue i have with this subject is that...I am not too impressed with the
"traditional definition of marriage." I dont think being homosexual is a choice, it is something you are born into. And to tell someone that because you were born gay-you cant get married is absolutely a civil rights issue. You couldn't tell a couple, oh sorry you were born black and he was born white so you cant get married. Oh wait...until 1967 that is exactly what they were told! The Supreme Court finally struck down the last anti-miscegenation law that year.

I dont see any difference between homosexuals marrying and interracial couples marrying. To not allow it is a violation of their civil rights.

DoctorSuspicio said...

Well…here’s what I have to say about that.

There are, of course, nonessential reasons for the state being involved with marriage. Being able to keep track of the names of your citizens, particularly if they change them in the course of marriage, is a useful convenience to the orderly functioning of the state. Knowing what non-blood-relative should be contacted if you end up in the hospital is a more efficient practice than figuring it out at the time. Also, marriage is a public declaration of your love for someone else. Giving that recognition is nice, and, much like making Thanksgiving a federal holiday, sometimes government does things simply because the people running it think it would be nice.

All of that is well and good, but none of that got the state into the marriage business. I think that the reason the state is involved with marriage at all is for the safety and stability of society, a far more basic purpose than creating a stable environment in which to raise children. Without legal involvement in marriage, divorces would happen by whatever means the parties involved pursue, be that polite conversation or violent usage of kitchen implements. Society would risk complete chaos.

I mean that quite literally, with no exaggeration or hyperbole. Imagine the most vicious, angry divorce you’ve ever heard of; now imagine that same couple, in the same situation, without the law between them. Would they be better off without the calming, deliberative involvement of government, or worse? Would there be any peaceful counterbalance when emotions ran high? Would they be violent with one another? Without a clear end to the dispute, someone to act as arbiter and decide when the division of property is done and the process of divorce is over, what happens? Would the wife be satisfied if she realizes that no argument will convince her husband to give up more than 20% of his assets? Would the husband be satisfied if he realized that all their previously “shared” assets are actually in his wife’s name, and his having enough money to survive was, all this time, dependent on the whims of his wife?

What if one of them cheated on the other? What if one abused the other? Without the state to provide an out in the form of divorce, what if one of them refuses to “let” the marriage end? What would end the marriage then? One of them holding some beloved possession hostage until the other agrees to let him move out? Threatening to tank the other’s career by making scenes at work? A savage enough beating from an in-law?

We haven’t even gotten to imagining children in this scenario, because it’s frighteningly difficult. We already bear witness to monstrous ugliness in custody battles. What if the battles simply didn’t end? What if there was no arbiter, no resolution, just couples feuding endlessly, with children forever caught in the middle? The mind reels.

The state is involved with marriage for the simple reason that someone must act as arbiter, because we long ago outgrew the tribal society and the endless slights and feuds and war that come with it. The state should recognize and be involved with the marriage of gay and lesbian people for all the same reasons. The state should provide its services to make sure that when a committed relationship ends, it ends peacefully, calmly, and with finality. And it should also allow them to visit their spouses in the hospital and pick up their kids at school and, yes, have their love and commitment to one another be recognized as a good thing, all without the stigma of being labeled as different for just wanting the same things everyone else wants.

After all that, I do have one larger coda. One can easily imagine that this description might be dismissed as cynically negative, because it does boil down to this: the state is involved in marriage for the purpose of making it possible for marriages to end. Before you take that tack, consider this: that is the nature of most of the blessings of government. We all have, by simple virtue of being human, a thousand freedoms to. Government provides freedom from. I can say what I like, believe what I like, and do what I like. Our government protects me from suffering for doing any of those, so long as I don’t harm my fellow citizens by doing it. And in that same way, I can marry whoever I like. I can marry the love of my life, or a willing passerby at city hall, and the state will make sure that the risk of that marriage is mitigated. Maybe it will be a wondrous experience; maybe it will be a disaster, but the state will do its best to make sure it is only an emotional one.


And just because I am on a composition kick, I also wanted to address a couple of specific points Pat laid out:

*"Do you think 3 or more people have the right to enter into a marriage?”

Yes, because I think consenting adults of sound mind and body have the right to declare their love for whomever they wish, even if they are misguided and acting like idiots. A supermajority of the country does not agree, however, and there are certainly external arguments against polygamy, such as instituted misogyny (in such cases where it’s one husband and multiple wives) and preventing inherently abusive relationships (imagine the damage to one’s self-esteem to be a “tertiary” spouse). Nonetheless, the gay rights movement, which is significant across this country, is utterly unrelated to any movement concerned with the legalization of polygamy, which I would imagine would be the very definition of a fringe group, as well as being confined to Utah and parts of Texas.

*“What about an adult marrying a child?”

No. Children can’t give consent, thus, they can’t get married. Any conflation of gay marriage with pedophilia is ridiculous and insulting.

*“Do you think a couple should have the right to be married for only a certain number of years, where the marriage contract could be renewed on an ongoing basis?”

They do. There is no law preventing people from having a scheduled discussion every three years as to whether or not they should stay married, or preventing them from getting divorced after whatever number of years they choose, and I doubt any law doing so could be reasonably defended.

*Maybe it's possible to say "Who cares? We can make all of these changes. At least half of marriages end in divorce anyway. What harm could further changes bring? There is room in society for all types of marriage."

It’s certainly possible to say that, but I haven’t yet heard anyone making an “it’s almost broken anyway, why not tinker?” argument. I don’t even know what “types” of marriage are thought to be necessary in addition to the simple commitment of two people. I think proponents of gay marriage, myself included, would be satisfied with one type of marriage, equal for all.

*…although there are a gazillion studies on marriage and family life that give you different types of results, I do believe it is not too much of a stretch to say the best place to raise children is in a stable, low-conflict marriage between a husband and wife.

I think it is. I haven’t yet heard of any modern study commissioned by anyone other than the Family Research Council and their ilk that has anything negative to say about gay and lesbian couples raising children. Besides, opposing gay marriage on the basis of it being a negative environment for children makes no sense unless you also oppose gay couples adopting; aside from the ongoing court case in Florida, there isn’t much push for gay adoption bans.

Also, assuming for the moment that the best environment in which to raise children really is the goal of all this, why are single people allowed to adopt? If there is no vehement argument against singles adopting (again, I haven’t seen any), then that raises another question: what about gay couples is so incredibly negative that their child-raising is inferior to that of a single person? Is it a fear that the children they raise will be gay? There are plenty of studies that show that such a fear is unfounded; children of gay parents are not gay in any greater proportion than the rest of the population.

Is it simply fear of the Other?

Bird said...

Oh and Pat...i totally agree with your last point that, that some same-sex marriage supporters can harbor their own prejudices and your call to have a sensible and reasonable discussion about the subject!