Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Not a Civil Rights Issue"

This was a conclusion reached in two of the opinion columns I read in the local newspaper. Two of the three opinion columns, with the remaining one talking about the presidential election rather than Prop.8 aftermath, so thus without a comparable conclusion on the subject matter.

"Gay marriage is not a civil rights issue." Why, you may ask? Well...because...other people don't have a right to marriage either. There are conditions, and only one of them is that one has to be male and one female. That's the excuse. So, let me dig into that briefly.

It appears that, aside from one male-one female being a requirement (and marriage falling out of favor as a glorified childbearing quota system), the only conditions are that the married partners are "of age", aren't blood related, and do not enter into a polygamous relationship. Being the same race is no longer a requirement, obviously.

Now, I am going to just say that the age requirement, though set arbitrarily, needs to be put at some level at around where it exists currently in order to reasonably insure that there is informed consent. Marriage is a legal contract, after all. So, no. No endorsed pedophilia, no bestiality, don't bring it up because it happens everytime that people who disagree with gay marriage try their slippery slopes. Unfortunately, however, now I have to concede that there probably should be a slippery slope when it comes to the other issues.

The restriction against blood-related people getting married is also unjust. If informed consent also applies to that situation, then they should not be prevented from getting married. Ideally, they should be informed of the inherent risks of having children due to their genetic similarity to one another, and they should also ideally take precautions due to that knowledge, but aside from that, I do think that they should be free to marry as well. Same goes for polygamous couples (groups?). If consent applies, then their only crimes are making things confusing in their households, and hogging up a disproportionately large amount of potential mates. The reason for banning consensual incestual relationships is to forcibly prevent them from bearing children with birth defects, and the reason for banning polygamy is, more or less, jealousy. That, of course, is in addition to the fact that they were only instated as laws due to religious hangups (though incest is more of a universal cultural taboo, due primarily to fearful reactions to aforementioned children with birth defects). And, due to that, I think that those definitional restrictions, in addition to the restrictions against same-sex partners, could also be done away with.

I've just affirmed every homophobic nutjobs worst fears by saying this, though. When they say "what's next? Incest and polygamy" they are not used to hearing "hopefully" as a response. But, when you are hoarding exclusive access to secular partnership rights with such fragile reasons for doing so, it is your own damn fault. Denying right to marriage, which grants a plethora of exclusive privileges for those who enter in it (though they are admittedly mild privileges), is indeed a civil rights issue. The fact that you are excluding a few others on an equally shoddy basis is no excuse. Especially since there is precedent, in allowing interracial marriage, of changing these conditions in the name of fairmindedness and, dare I say, common sense.
Especially in light of the fact that the definition and role of marriage has been changing for centuries now, and is now a secular entity distinct from its religious forebearers, which exists in a supposedly secular society that still demands that we collectively adhere to their arbitrary definitions of morality.

Guess what? It is not immoral to love more than one person and have them reciprocate, even while knowing this fact. It is not immoral to love a close relative and have that person reciprocate (it is immoral to knowing bear children despite the inherent risks of doing so in this relationship, however). And it is not immoral to love someone of the same sex. And if you can't come up with a better reason to keep these people barred from marriage than tradition, your holy text, and some vague argument that permitting it is somehow harmful to society, without proof or even the slightest awareness of your uncritical prejudice on the matter, then I honestly think that you no longer have a leg to stand on.


Pliny-the-in-Between said...

My approach has always been simple - get government completely out of the marriage business. Have the government stop issuing marriage licenses at all to anyone and only issue civil unions. The union confers all the legal rights. If you want to go and get the union 'sanctified' and be married then afterward you could go talk to some preacher of some kind as that would be between you and your church. That separates the issue of marriage (arguably a religious issue) from rights (clearly a civil issue). Gay coupling no longer can be labeled any kind of stupid threat to marriage. I don't think that would be any crappy Missouri compromise but rather enforce separation of church and state. Churches would not be forced to accept gay marriages but gay unions would be legal.
This would at least shift the discussion to the real issue of bigotry rather than this sanctity of marriage garbage.

Asylum Seeker said...

It's interesting that that would probably work and satiate the religious masses, even though doing so would make it so that religous marriage ceremonies aren't automatically considered legal unions by the state (which I am sure a select few blowhards would be pissed about, for some reason). I honestly think that it needs to be made clear that marriage, in its current state right now, is not an exclusively religious affair, that Christians don't have a special claim to it, and that the state cannot force the churches themselves to marry gay couples, even if their marriages/unions are made legal. Your method would make it clear by making a distinct division of the two kinds of marriage (civil, and religious). I think that if these people actually wanted to make an informed position on the matter, though, merely explaining that to them would help. But, perhaps "show, don't tell" is the better approach.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

It would be nice if people could recognize the current dichotomy of marriage as both a wave and a particl...DOH! I mean as both a potential religious issue and a civil matter. I'm not sure they can without the training wheels. I could be wrong - wouldn't be the first time today.

Asylum Seeker said...

"I'm not sure they can without the training wheels."

Well...all signs have been pointing to "no" thus far. It's amazing that they manage to keep the training wheels on in so many aspects of their lives, though. Once you get to the third or fourth set...that's one messed up vehicle...

pboyfloyd said...

Shouldn't your new "About you" comment officially end with "TIMMAY!"(from South Park)

Mandar Malum said...

well said Asylum! I enjoy reading your blog!

Asylum Seeker said...

"well said Asylum! I enjoy reading your blog!"

Thanks! [And I thought I was crazy...]

Richelle said...


i'm so glad you posted a blog about gay marriage. for the last couple weeks i've been on the verge of ripping my hair out every time i hear some homophobic ass clown on tv or on the radio trying to tell people that "premarital sex and teen pregnancy is bad enough as it is and allowing same-sex marriage will only make it worse!"... apparently the rules of logic don't apply to these people.

and while i, personally, find it less than appealing, i don't really see why relatives who are of age can't get married as well. the risk of birth defects is really only an issue with siblings who have the same parents. first cousins run the same risk of birth defects as a woman who gets pregnant after the age of 40. and let's face it, if two relatives REALLY want to have sex with each other, i doubt they care whether or not they are married.

as far as polygamy goes, i think there could potentially be some nasty legal issues if we allow that one, so i'm gonna reserve judgment for now.

the main problem with the whole "definition of marriage" argument is that people are using the bible to define it. last time i checked this country was not a theocracy so we can make a legal definition of marriage that does not match the bible. marriage does not belong only to the christians so why do they get to define it? i'm getting married in just under a year and i'm agnostic.

maybe the righteous will be trying to ban marriage for atheists next...

Asylum Seeker said...

Wow. You snuck up on me Richelle!

"the risk of birth defects is really only an issue with siblings who have the same parents. first cousins run the same risk of birth defects as a woman who gets pregnant after the age of 40."

To be honest, I knew this, but it completely slipped my mind! It is an incredibly good point (and I believe that it was something that was weighing on my mind when we learned that the 40-something Palin had recently given birth to a Downs baby). The morality of such pregnancies in such situations seem to be similar, and another case of banning one of the other because we are selective in our application of fascism.

"as far as polygamy goes, i think there could potentially be some nasty legal issues if we allow that one, so i'm gonna reserve judgment for now."

I've got to say, the complexities that go along with it is probably the only good argument against polygamy. It would be as confusing as hell. But, that is mostly because marriage as we know it today was specifically structured to bar such kind of contracts and make them incompatible (again, similar to what they have tried to do with same-sex marriage).

"the main problem with the whole "definition of marriage" argument is that people are using the bible to define it. last time i checked this country was not a theocracy so we can make a legal definition of marriage that does not match the bible."

It's not just the Bible, but also tradition. Men have always married women in the past, ergo, we should never have anything but men marrying women in the future. That's actually the entirety of their politics, in many respects. And it is fairly obvious why that would be at odds with attempting to obtain equal status for historically oppressed or neglected groups (i.e. civil rights issues). When they invoke the secular tradition of marriage, they fail for those reasons. When they invoke the Biblical definition of marriage...they just plain fail. The Bible no longer has any bearing on what marriage is as long as we have state-sanctioned marriages that can be obtained regardless of religious affiliation. So, contrary to what the hate mongers believe, their holy book's opinion on homosexuality isn't worth the paper it is printed on.