Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Question about Prop. 8

The passing of Proposition 8 in California a couple of weeks ago makes gay marriage unconstitutional in that state; protests have begun and it's likely that the short term local defeat will lead to a movement that will eventually provoke a reversal at the national level. From my perspective, it should be untenable for a country that prides itself on liberty and justice for all to continue to refuse the right to legal protection and benefits to people who want to ratify their partnerships; especially when so much of the rest of the democratic world has seen that offering civil partnership legislation to same-sex couples is not a travesty of 'traditional values', nor will it undermine heterosexual marriage, but is actually best seen as an extension of the principles outlined by the founders of the United States - when people recognise injustice, what they are supposed to do is end it, not enshrine it in law.

Meantime, the opposing factions in this culture war don't talk to each other very much, partly I suppose because they are afraid, partly because they don't know each other (or they don't think they know each other). One side sees the GLBT community as demons out to destroy family life; the other sees religious fundamentalists as their oppressors, out to take away their very right to a family life.

So the question I want to ask is: what exactly do the proponents of Proposition 8 think there is to be gained from preventing loving couples having the right to share their tax burden, visit each other in hospital, and live in the same country? It's a serious question; and I have genuinely never quite understood the reasons offered by those opposed to gay marriage. I have some more detailed thoughts on this, and hope we can have a dialogue here about this; I'd be grateful if any readers would like to kickstart it by posting their responses to this question: How does gay marriage negatively affect anyone who is not gay?


Wayne said...

It makes people feel "icky".

Seriously tho, your points are all valid. I can't think of any real reason it should be opposed.

JoeBumbulis said...

While I agree with your stance on this issue, I'll give you the perspective from a friend of mine (who I keep around to remind me what conservatives believe ;) ) who basically argued the slippery slope argument.

He said that he is okay with giving gay couples tax and state rights, but not "marrying" them. He simply does not want to open marriage or the definition of marriage because what is to keep it from broadening. His example was, what if someone wanted to marry their dog (please excuse the crass associations that can probably be made here which I don't believe are in anyway intentional).

For him, slippery slope which is always fear driven is his reason for not wanting to redefine marriage.

andy amoss said...

There isn't a reason valid enough for it's opposition.

The "icky" is probably a large part of it, but it goes nowhere; thinking about my parents at it makes me feel icky, should i make a move to outlaw their marriage? In fact, shouldn't we campaign for a legal upperage limit! Crazy.

The slippery slope thing again is ridiculous - as JoeBumbulis' qualification of his friend's (deeply offensive) statement shows.

Even the most fervent, radicalised fundamentalist Christian will be able to acknowledge that God has the guts enough to offer us freedom in our own existence. We as society have the right to police and protect ourselves when it comes to matters that endanger us, but there is nothing dangerous enough about homosexuality to warrant the illegality of gay marriage. If you wish to maintain a view which says homosexuality (by orientation, practise or marriage) is sinful you can do so, but it is not the place of law to govern my choice of (human, adult, consenting) marriage partner, any more than it does the amount of false things i say in a day or how often i pray.

Freedom and equality has to be our primary morality, everything else follows, if for no other reason than that's the example God has set us.

Existential Punk said...

i am a Christ-following queer woman who will be moving back to California next year with my partner. The passage of Prop 8 was ridiculous. BUT, we are making progress in our fight for civil rights.

In 2000, the anti-gay measure in California passed by 21 points. This year Prop 8 only passed by 4 points. Baby steps, eh?!

This whole civil union thing pisses me off. Civil unions, which are not available to us in all states, vary on rights afforded by state. YET, they all fail to offer the over 1,000 benefits married couples receive when being able to file joint tax returns federally.


Chris said...

It's probably fair to say that straightforward intolerance is behind this issue - you're right, this is an argument made by people who don't communicate with the opposing side. Meet a gay Christian or people in their church and you meet people who understand fellowship comes before grandiose principles.

I think that marriage in America is so wrapped up with the Christian ceremony, it makes things more complicated. Christian marriage, being an age-old ceremony, was made as a heterosexual thing, and people probably fear seeing changes in their institutions like that. In the UK civil partnerships are legally equivalent to marriage - but gay marriage in our churches has become an argument on top of that.

As you say, I imagine the proposition will be reversed nationally - 'untenable' is the word. But maybe some of the opposition (as it is in the UK) is less about rights and just about the name/process of marriage ceremony itself.

gareth higgins said...

I'm grateful for the comments so far - all of which contribute something of a good tone to the debate, which so often generates more heat than light. I'm particularly taken with Wayne's 'icky' comment - if we're going to have everything up for serious discussion then the non-rational aspects of why some people are opposed to gay marriage need to be examined too.

rocinante said...

hmmm... perhaps the non-rational issues ahould be the focus rather than the "lets look at them too." as with most stuff, people make up their mind first and rationalise afterwards.

the problem is, what to do about it? where the central issue is "ew, that's icky," arguing people round isn't really viable.

(i don't want to suggest you should forget about rational arguments, just that the irrational should be more than an add-on. it's a bigger deal for more of us than care to admit it!)

Gareth Higgins said...

thanks rocinante - you convey better than i what i think - i didn't mean to suggest that the 'non-rational' bits are less important - indeed i think there is a lot of credibility to what you say about the relationship between feelings and thoughts...thanks again

Existential Punk said...

Wow, adult-like conversations on this issue ARE refreshing! There is a debate/conversation series going on over at Tony Jones Beliefnet blog that gets a lot of Bible literalists arguing against gay marriage. The same old circular arguments are are boring and get us nowhere. i guess we will never agree. Such is life! Thanx, Gareth, for having this adult conversation!


Existential Punk said...

Oh, and i forgot the link in my last comment to Tony Jones' blog:

He makes really good arguments.

Linds said...

To be honest, it really doesn't matter what California voters decided about Prop 8. It's an issue that must go to the US Supreme Court, both under the 14th Amendment (equal protection) and for the 'full faith and credit' clause of the Constitution.

We haven't heard the end of this for quite awhile. Good ol' federalism...

Lewis Cash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis Cash said...

Gareth, great post on this issue. I think it'll be the defining issue of our generation, so I am thankful for open and honest dialogue.

I know that films speak to you (and me) regarding many issues; with that said, I wonder if you've seen "For the Bible Tells Me So?" Its a documentary on Christians and homosexuality and its interesting. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that movie (on the podcast or otherwise).

Also, I just posted some thoughts on the film on my blog, check it out if you'd like:


Gareth Higgins said...

hi lewis - i have seen 'for the bible tells me so' and thought it did a pretty wonderful job of personalising the questions raised; i admired it also for at least attempting to be theologically serious rather than simply disregarding the arguments over scripture advanced in the discussion. i'll raise the prospect of reviewing it on the podcast with my genial co-host.

olli said...

Most of the gay people I know are not 'obviously' gay - that is, they don't define their lives around being gay, it is just one part of their lives.

The problem with the lack of communication and lack of knowledge is that gays only see the loudest, most aggressive, most outrageous and publicity seeking conservative Christians and assume they are typical and, equally, conservative Christians only see the loudest, most aggressive, most outrageous and publicity seeking gays.

Each is a provocation to the other and ordinary gays and Christians rarely meet - or rarely 'knowingly' meet.

The activists and militants on both sides will never resolve the theological or societal issues in dispute.

mitzi said...

I am a Biblical literalist and a real conservative, so here's my take. Biblical marriage is a union of opposites, and the word "marriage" in Western history has meant just that- in plumbing, in electrical work, and in philosophy. Try making all the sockets in your house "gender neutral" and see how well your lights work.
That "union of opposites" is much deeper than just "connectors" though; it is the school in which God teaches us how He, though totally different from us, chooses to relate to us anyway. A real husband sacrifices his life to protect and serve his wife, and a wife learns to obey (to the point of risking her life to bring his offspring into the world) him as the only suitable way to honor that love. The relationship is complementary, balanced by the differences like a modern-art mobile. This is an ideal that most people never achieve, but it is worthy of earnest effort, and illustrative of Christ and the church in deep ways.
Do I think homosexual individuals should be able to choose to live together? Sure. Want insurance benefits and bereavement leave? fine. But don't take another perfectly good word from our language (like "gay"-I was acquainted with way too many male homosexuals in the late 80s and early 90s who buried their friends to ever call them "gay") and strip it of meaning so you or your friends can be happier with their choices in life.

andy amoss said...

Hi Mitzi,
Given all that had gone before, your comment is brave, considered and respectfully stated. I appreciate that and I hope mine to be also.

The problem i have with what you've said is you've assumed that gender is the ultimate signifier of complementary balance and mutuality of opposites. My experience has been that life, relationships and people are just not that easily definable, and actually there is, in some cases, the potential for all those things you've described to take place in a way which transcends gender.
When that happens i think that is worthy of an honourable mention, perhaps a mention as honourable as 'marriage'.