Posts Tagged ‘same-sex marriage’

Tyrants

Same-sex marriage is back in the news in my state, thanks to an ‘activist’ judge striking down a ban on it, and of course people are arguing that it was properly voted into law by the people and shouldn’t be changed to suit a minority of the population. Which to me misses the point that it is part of the judicial system’s job to strike down unfair laws. And I’d think that would be fairly clear in a political system that with designed with a heavy hand towards checks and balances between the different branches of government. This is hardly the first law passed through proper channels to be struck down by a judge, it won’t be the last, and don’t try claiming that it’s not the judicial system’s job to do so because it absolutely is.

There’s another important issue here too, which is that of majority vs. minority rights. One role of government is to protect those with less power from those with more, which in this case would be non-straight people and their supporters who are a smaller group of voters than those against same-sex marriage, at least in this state. But their numbers do not change the effect that this ban has on the lives on same-sex couples, and those effects cannot be ignored just because more people say that they’re being sinful in their actions. Majority rule is entirely capable of trampling the rights of minority populations, and that’s another reason the system is set up the way it is, to prevent a tyranny of the majority from oppressing minority or disenfranchised populations. If one groups rights are being denied, it really doesn’t matter how many people voted to deny them those rights. Same-sex couples and their families are asking for the same benefits that opposite-sex couples already enjoy, and denying them that provides no benefit to anyone beyond a sense of righteousness at denying them those benefits. This ‘activist’ judge was doing nothing more than his job in striking down a law that he found to deny one group of the rights they deserve.

“Better” requires a “worse”

Some people don’t seem to think through the implications of what they’re saying. Take Maggie Gallagher. Now I understand why she’s saying what she’s saying–anti-marriage-equality folks are trying to make their message more palatable by showing that they don’t have anything against same-sex couples, just that they think their way is better.

Ultimately, though, they can’t.

“It is possible to affirm an ideal without stigmatizing the alternatives — to affirm in the positive without pushing the negative.”

The problem with the new spin people like Gallagher are trying to put on being pro-“traditional”-marriage is that it always comes down to placing opposite-sex relationships as being better than same-sex relationships. It’s relational–the idea isn’t that same-sex relationships are bad, just that opposite-sex ones are better. And when you’re making it relational, there’s no way to push the positive of one without putting a negative connotation on the other. If “traditional” marriage is better, than “non-traditional” marriage has to be, if not bad, at least worse. This is implicit in the messaging, and they can push the positive aspects all they want but they will never be able to avoid the negative messages about non-straight couples and the stigma they create because it’s inherent to the message.

It would be one thing if they were simply trying to say that they thought opposite-sex relationships were good–being in one myself, there’s no way I could argue–because it doesn’t carry the implicit meaning that same-sex relationships are bad (though, to be fair, most people who bother with saying the former DO mean the latter). It’s possible for multiple options to be good. But once you start using words like “ideal” you’ve created a scenario where anything else is at least somewhat negative, and human beings tend to be bad at understanding that “not ideal” isn’t the same as “bad”. So no, Gallagher, you cannot affirm the positive without pushing the negative, because as long as you’re placing one thing as “better” you will equally be saying that any alternative is “worse”. And it’s that last part that people are upset about.

So what: Mommies and Daddies

With Prop 8 and DOMA making appearances in the Supreme Court, the anti-same-sex marriage crowd has been a bit louder than usual. One recurring theme is the idea that it is best for a child to have two parents of opposite genders. For the sake of argument, lets say that this is indeed the ideal arrangement and that having two parents of the same gender isn’t as good.

How is keeping same-sex marriage illegal going to help make sure that kids grow up with both a mommy and a daddy?

It’s not like banning same-sex unions is going to encourage gay people to go out and find someone of the opposite gender to marry. It’s already illegal to marry someone of your sex and plenty of people live together with a partner of their gender, including raising kids with them. Marriage as a legal institution offers certain benefits, but as a social institution it’s viewed as being primarily for love and love is rarely pragmatic. So we can either have same-sex couples raising kids with the benefits that legal marriage provides or have them raising kids without those benefits, but they’re not going to go and ‘choose’ to fall in love with someone of the opposite gender for the sake of getting married, or they’d already be doing that. These children aren’t growing up in mom-and-dad homes today, so saying that such an arrangement is ‘ideal’ is irrelevant–clearly only recognizing opposite-sex couples isn’t enough to make sure that kids are being raised by such couples. All opponents of same-sex marriage are doing is denying some families legal benefits that other families already enjoy.