Friday, April 16, 2010

A Conservative Approach to Gay Marriage

I started my blog too late to lament the issues regarding the passing of Prop 8 in California in opposition to the legalization of gay marriage in that same state, but with a 3 month old article from Newsweek, I rediscovered what I thought was a well written and thorough argument for justifying the acceptance of gay marriage in a conservative political worldview. Of course, many conservatives would denounce the writer and have done so based on their own way of thinking that promotes what I view as less than fair minded and reasoned consideration of the Other in relation to what is allegedly a Judeo Christian mindset, where as I recall the Other is not to be excluded or marginalized, but welcomed and cared for to the benefit of a larger community. Admittedly this call is not always viewed in the same way, but when you start denying a certain minority group the same rights that you give the majority, it becomes alienating to those same people and they feel they must distinguish themselves in progressively more extreme ways.

The first point the writer puts forth is probably one many conservatives may not consider at first. If marriage is indeed a conservative value and supplants what is commonly a larger value of family and community, then the fact that gay and lesbian individuals want to get the status and appellation of marriage to their relationship would seem to suggest that conservative values are still demonstrably popular in this country. There are those that denounce the institution of marriage, but even in relation to my last post on how the institution of marriage has aged awkwardly, I would agree it has value as a form of social cohesion and uniting people to be concerned about things apart from a narrow group interest. No institution is perfect, and there will always be some room for improvement in order to make the principle of equality actualized in the practice of the institution itself.

In marriage’s case, one step towards further affirming what is in the Declaration of Independence, that all men [and humans by association] are created equal, would be to extend the institution of marriage to those that happen to be gay and lesbian. To try to argue otherwise about equality strikes me as what I observed with Mike Huckabee. Just because gays are not in the American “ideal” of families having kids, raising them to be straight and perpetuate the meme of marriage implying a connection to childrearing (when it doesn’t) does not mean they should be treated as less and given discriminatory terms to describe what their relationship is. Marriage in terms of etymology doesn’t even imply that it is strictly a male/female coupling, though it does seem to suggest that originally it was little more than an exchange of property and a giving of something to another. Equality doesn’t imply one has to agree with the practice of homosexuality or condone it or even see it as morally permissible according to alleged divine laws, but it does suggest that you should treat those people with the same respect you give to those within your own group. Even though they are strangers in your land, I recall in the Biblical narrative that the ancient Israelites were strangers in Egypt and then were made strangers in their promised land of Canaan. Therefore, the admonition to treat strangers with hospitality rings very true in regards to the alleged Judeo Christian origins of marriage (even though they may be much older than that). To ascribe less than equal treatment in relation to marriage seems to me unfair and to any fair analysis of the Constitution as against its principles of a group of otherwise different people uniting together for the purpose of creating a free and equal society where people are not treating unjustly because of things that are beyond their control or are intrinsically part of their identity in most cases (religion and sexual orientation both involving some amount of choice, though both can be a matter of compulsion as much as volition).

With marriage being both a civil bond on the one hand of secular considerations and a sacred unity on the other hand in religious considerations, this does create something of a difficulty. But this only comes about if you make the argument that all religious rites and services must be equally recognized in a civil or state context. No one recognizes a priest as a priest in regards to the state; they are only officiated and made so by the religious organizations themselves. And even if one chooses to have a marriage ceremony in your church, this should be no reason for the church in question to hold the final authority for what marriage is considered or whether the marriage itself is legal and binding under the civil and secular law, in principle considered apart from religious advocacy. Marriage’s traditional association with religious sacrament does not imply it should only be considered in that context. On the contrary, it should be considered as an all encompassing institution that crosses barriers that exist between people: religion, race, ethnicity, and even sexual orientation. It doesn’t affect my desire to get married if two gay men or women want to get married. Heck, it wouldn’t affect me if one man and 3 women wanted to get married. The principle I desire is equality and moderation of such a widespread institution, not whether it is convenient for the majority that doesn’t want a minority infringing on their supposed rights to solidarity in their age old tradition of man/woman only marriage.

The arguments against gay marriage are noted by the author to be quite mistaken. The argument from tradition doesn’t work by the same reason that the argument from authority doesn’t work. Just because it is a longstanding tradition to lynch African Americans, Jews, homosexuals and the like does not make it right or even justified to keep around. Tradition is a persistence of a cultural practice and only exists as long as there is a majority that agrees it is correct. In short, it is contingent upon popularity and when its popularity fades, so does its applicability. Not that popular opinion is universally applied except in a moderated fashion within the representative democracy system we use in voting. The majority does not get unquestioned dominance over the minority it was victorious over. In fact, in a sporting fashion, the victor is gracious and does not oppress the loser in any sense, and in fact congratulates them for their strong effort in competition.
The other two arguments can be lumped together under the suggestion that if gays get married it will negatively affect straight marriage and the associated values it has, such as family and procreation. Even from my own opinion alone, I see no reason to imply people are so superficial that they will stop getting married or be less motivated to have children just because two people of the same sex get together in the state of marriage (which I must emphasize does NOT imply having children or even having sex for that matter). I know I’d still love my future partner even if I knew gays and lesbians would also have the right to love their partners and share property along with the other associations that come with marriage as an act of sacrifice and unity in the same instance. Just because other people can own a car doesn’t reduce the value you place on your own, does it? Nor does other people being free and able to get the same job as you with the right credentials and experience reduce your enjoyment and merit you find in that same job. We’re told to share things as equally as possible as children and then when we grow up we start becoming attached to such abstract concepts as “traditional marriage” and the “sanctity of family” that we forget that marriage and family are evolving “traditions”. Do people really and sincerely think that a family has to be just a mommy and daddy and associated children? It can be two women or men that are sisters/brothers or lifelong friends, it can be grandparents, it can be uncles or aunts, and it can be the state foster child system even. With the idea of family being so diverse in even its very essence, let alone the accidental manifestations that can occur with tragic events like losing your parents in a plane crash or parents being incapable of raising you, it’s hard to suggest two males or females that love each other and want to raise a child cannot be considered a family just because they happen to have sex a different way or may very well not feel the need to have sex in some cases (as mentioned before). Not to mention I see no reason why I would be deterred from wanting children just because two people that cannot procreate happen to be married. Maybe it’s just the reasonable part of me realizing that marriage is a primarily unifying event and institution, not a free sex and/or children card. Sex can be done responsibly by cohabitating mature adults and children can be raised by otherwise unheard of people. Either of these instances does not reduce the importance of sex as a procreative act or a unifying act between people committed in marriage nor does it suggest children should not be adopted by couples that are either unwilling to have children or unable to in some cases. Differences do not make things incorrect; it is willful misuse to the detriment of others that creates things that are wrong and otherwise evil. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

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