I don’t know why, but I cannot load Rob’s F5 question blog at my home. I mean, I can do it with an anonymous proxy like unipeak, but not without one. I cannot imagine why Hanaro Telecom would choose to block Rob’s site, so I’m guessing it’s some glitch in another blockage, which I can’t do much about. But anyway, I’ve had trouble connecting there and I’ve also been dreadfully busy, which is why I haven’t posted anything lately under the Friday Five section of the blog. But today, I’m picking up with the most recent question, a headache of a question which was submitted by none other than yours truly:
This should give you a headache. What I want you specifically to do here is to choose the side of the same-sex marriage debate that you disagree with, and posit five supports for the position. For example, if you are currently, in real life, pro-same-sex marriage, I want you to make the five strongest arguments you can against it. Similarly, if you are against it, I want you to make the five strongest arguments you can for it. If you wish, you may substitute the debate on abortion, on teaching evolution in schools, free trade, or whatever. But please be scrupulous in making the five best arguments you can against your real-life position. As an added exercise, you may proceed to refute them, as I suspect I shall have to do.
Okay, so the topic I’m choosing for this exercise is Same Sex Marriage, and I’m choosing it for the American situation, since, after all, in my own country it’s been legalized and the “debate” centers more on the whining of a smaller selection of bigots.
But before I commence the exercise, let me be explicit about this: I believe that the legislative mobilization against Same Sex Marriage is nothing less than a new, somewhat more politically-correct version of Jim Crow. However, at the same time I can find some very interesting reasons why one might actually oppose Same-Sex marriage. I’ll present a few of them now, and then for the gratification of those who are still interested in what I really think, I’ll offer whatever refutation I can to my own arguments.
- Administrative Reluctance and The Truth About Marriage: First off, the thing is, one would think gays would appreciate the fact that they have, up to this point, been blissfully free from the horrors of divorce. If you haven’t noticed, half or more marriages are ending in divorce these days. From a bureaucratic point of view, even a small addition of more workload is going to increase the costs. If marriage laws are to be expanded to include same-sex marriage, marriage laws also need to be expanded to include more strict rules concerning the cancelation of the marriage pact. Until some formulation of marriage law is made which reduces this workload in terms of court-hours and money wasted on lawyers and the legal process, there’s no sense in availing even more people of the hassle. In other words: marriage as we know it is broken, and even just from an administrative sense, there’s no point in bringing more people on board until it gets fixed.
- This is Not a Step Forward: Gay culture has, for a long time, enjoyed the difficult but proud status of an alternative culture, and in certain ways perhaps an experimental vanguard culture as well. This is not to say that it’s right for gays to have suffered for so long as denied entry into “normal status” in our society, but rather to say that, under that pressure, they have constructed a semistable society of their own, with its own rules, conventions, and values. They have not only done without marriage; they have constructed a whole subculture that puts the lie to the received notion that marriage, as well as other facets of conventional life and morality, are absolutely required for social stability. In a time when straight people are more and more realizing that this is just not absolutely true, and in broad terms live freer from those kinds of assumptions than even before, it’s culturally speaking a backwards step for gays to embrace this institution. Far better it would be, should it be a consensus that the benefits of marriage are needed to be more fairly distributed, that they agitate for those benefits to be distributed outside of the bonds of marriage. In other words, giving up on their current alternative social structure would constitute a loss far greater than the gains won by successfully demanding that mainstream government recognize their alternative social structure in an equitable way.
- Timing and Method of Demand: Demands for gay marriage are only going to antagonize an ignorant, bigoted polity and make them increasingly unsympathetic to the rather reasonable demands that, fundamentally, gays are making. The simple fact of the matter is that mainstream America is biased against homosexuals, and very little can be done in the next generation to improve this. Steps can be pursued, but right now, pushing for a change in marriage–at a time when both of the major political factions dominating the landscape of the discussion are reluctant to grant it, and one of the factions is using it as a major tool of distraction from far more pressing issues bearing down on the nation–is only going to alienate the people whose sympathy you need to demand in such a way that they cannot withhold it. One of the reasons the civil rights movement in America won so many people over in sympathy against institutional racism was because the rhetoric of the church was used to construct irresistible demands for treatment worthy of fellow-Christians; the fellow-Christians element was even more profound than the fellow-Americans part, which I suspect is one of the major reasons why there is a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in America, but no Malcolm X day. I understand that one tires of waiting for sympathy and acceptance, and I am not advocating that; but when one demands acceptance, one must find a way to demand it using language that forces a reluctant mainstream to give it. I believe that this may well be the only effective way of changing the minds and hearts of a reclacitrant, bigoted populace. So the point is that demanding this change, without having first changing the minds of the American people, is less likely to bring about the sought-after change than it is to provoke a backlash of frightening proportions, even up to something as insane as a Republican Amendment of the Constitution.
I can’t seem to think of any more points to add, so I am going to proceed straight to my refutations.
- Refutation #1–Administrative Reluctance and The Truth About Marriage: Frankly, while it’s understandable from an administrative point of view, it’s just not equitable. Marriage may be broken, but people still, consistently, turn to it as a method for organizing their lives. If individuals who happen to be gay wish to enter into marriage contracts–regardless of how dysfunctional we all know they are–they ought to have just as much right to commence and to terminate such contracts as anyone else. And from an administrative viewpoint, marriage basically is an issue of contract commencement and contract termination. Nobody would accept bureaucrats making marriage between blacks or of everyone born after 1982 illegal for the sake of bureaucratic inconvenience. So as messed-up as modern marriage is, this is no reason for one group of people to be selected for a bar against entry. If marriage indeed is this broken, then fix it!
- Refutation #2: This Is Not a Step Forward: This may well be true, but it is not the responsibility of gay people to be the vanguard of experimental social life for our society. Regardless of whether the subculture as a whole, or groups within it, chose to forge a new way of living in the face of a society that barred them from the ostensibly “normal” way of living, this does not mean that they ought to remain barred from it. One imagines a parallel argument about how black people ought to live in America; one would begin by noting that the biggest innovations in American music came from black musicians, and that a lot of it emerged from pressure-cooker situations of police persecution and brutality, drug-culture, and pervasive racism and even widespread poverty within the black community. Noting this as a historical fact is fine, but as soon as one begins advocating this as a status quo that ought to be returned to, in order to continue American musical innovation led by American blacks, one has crossed into a very twisted Frankenstein experiment of social proportions. It’s just plain wrong. If gays want to enter into the mainstream–or try–then I can’t see why anyone should stand in their way, regardless of what it costs them as a subculture, and us as a society. (And perhaps, really, what would follow is more of an enrichment and much less of a loss than this argument assumes.)
- Refutation #3–Timing and Method of Demand: While this argument is the closest of the three to being actually convincing, the problem is that every civil rights movement has provoked a backlash. Weathering and defeating the backlash is simply the only way to succeed, because the backlash is honestly inevitable. The challenge faced by gays in America and not faced by blacks, women, and other groups in America is twofold: first, there is not much within Christian scripture that can help against bigots who find support for their bigotries in Christian verse. Those people are willing to ignore thousands of declarations against poverty, and settle upon a few verses dealing with sexual taboos, and to let manipulations of those few taboos determine their voting habits even when those they’re voting for simply do not square with the fundamental values that appear again and again in the scripture they’re quoting. So using Christian Ethics against them is not going to work in the same way it did for blacks, women, and other groups in America, unfortunately. The deck is stacked. And secondly, unlike visible minorities, gays are able to conceal their identity, or, rather, simply to choose not to disclose it; and in a bigoted society, they stand to gain by doing so. Therefore there’s not necessarily the same kind of pressure to push and push with everything on the line. If a gay man stands to lose his job because he is gay, it’s certain the thought will cross his mind to keep to himself that fact about a part of his life that is, after all, private. Unlike a black man, he can keep it to himself. Both of these problems suggest that if a major confrontation, and a major backlash, do not come in the foreseeable future, then the future probably will not change. It might just be true that the issue needs to be forced, for the sake of forcing the issue, and that avoiding it will do more harm than it can good.
In any case, all of the above constitutes what is largely an intellectual exercise. Basically, I think that the fight against gay marriage in America is ridiculous, and that eventually it will just be legal in some states, and performed regularly in those states, and the hicks and bigots will simply have to accept the fact… just as they simply have to accept the fact that gays can marry in several countries around the world. But it’s always an interesting exercise to try construct arguments against what you really believe, just as an imaginative experiment.