Sunday, April 12, 2009

X-Post: Gay Marriage vs Infertile Heterosexual Marriage

American Nihilist X-Post

In reply to: American Power: Gays and Infertile Heterosexual Couples

Douglas sez: Citing political scientist Susan Shell, here's this from my post, "The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage":

American citizens should not have the sectarian beliefs of gay-marriage advocates imposed on them unwillingly. If proponents of gay marriage seek certain privileges of marriage, such as legal support for mutual aid and childbearing, there may well be no liberal reason to deny it to them. But if they also seek positive public celebration of homosexuality as such, then that desire must be disappointed. The requirement that homosexual attachments be publicly recognized as no different from, and equally necessary to society as, heterosexual attachments is a fundamentally illiberal demand. Gays cannot be guaranteed all of the experiences open to heterosexuals any more than tall people can be guaranteed all of the experiences open to short people. Least of all can gays be guaranteed all of the experiences that stem from the facts of human sexual reproduction and its accompanying penumbra of pleasures and cares. To insist otherwise is not only psychologically and culturally implausible; it imposes a sectarian moral view on fellow citizens who disagree and who may hold moral beliefs that are diametrically opposed to it.

American citizens should not have the sectarian beliefs of gay marriage opponents imposed on them unwillingly, either. Whether their beliefs on the subject are religious, secular, or both, those who disagree with those beliefs should be under no obligation to accept them as fact and live as though they express ultimate truth. This country is based on freedom to worship (or not worship) as one chooses. The state should not be imposing moral beliefs on the people with the force of law. The proponents of gay marriage seek equal treatment under the law, including all privileges offered by the state. Positive public celebration is not a legal right for anyone, but the ability to publicly join together before ones peers, with the hope that they will celebrate your union, is. While the state cannot require that individual members of the public recognize homosexual unions as being no different from heterosexual attachments, they (or "we," because we are the government)) can require that the law treat them no differently, and leave it to individuals to see them as they will. (Whether any marriage is necessary to society is a whole other question.) It is true that gay folks and straight folks have different experiences, but no one is asking the state or anyone else to guarantee anything as regards anyone's marriage experience; only the same opportunity to experience what they will. The ability to reproduce is currently not the only reason for marriage, assuming it ever was in the first place. Those who would impose a strictly procreative definition of marriage on their fellow citizens are being no less morally sectarian than the folks about which the author is speaking. Perhaps she might consider living her own life as she sees fit, and leaving others to live theirs according to their own morals, rather than hers.

This really gets to the heart of the gay marriage debate. Radical gay rights secularists are trying to ram down their views on everyone else. William Murchison, for example, decisively argued yesterday against "The Gay Marriage Fantasy." That is, there's really no such thing, logically, as same-sex marriage.

And as I replied to William Muchison earlier, he's welcome to his views. But like Susan Shell above, he's not welcome to impose them (or "ram them down") on anyone other than himself.

And what about infertile heterosexual couples. Well, in response to National Review's editorial, "The Future of Marriage," check out Andrew Sullivan's latest hissy-fit:

National Review's new editorial comes out firmly against even civil unions for gay couples, and continues to insist that society's exclusive support for straight couples is designed "to foster connections between heterosexual sex and the rearing of children within stable households."

This is an honest and revealing point, and, in a strange way, it confirms my own analysis of the theocon position. It reaffirms, for example, that infertile couples who want to marry in order to adopt children have no place within existing marriage laws, as NR sees them. Such infertile and adoptive "marriages" rest on a decoupling of actual sex and the rearing of children. The same, of course, applies much more extensively to any straight married couple that uses contraception: they too are undermining what National Review believes to be the core reason for civil marriage.

And note that point: "much more extensively." Or, fundamentally radically.

No matter how you spin it, and especially no matter how hard gay radicals attempt to repudiate traditionals as "theocons," the shift to gay marriage is a radical departure from the situation of infertile heterosexuals couples who are married. People like this, when they adopt children, and when they live their lives in the context of society's historically accepted normative institutions, are not revolutionary. To say that gay marriages are indentically co-equal to marriages between infertile heterosexual couples raises the question once again of how we are to define society's social regimes

Once again, professor Douglas feigns misunderstanding of analogy. Yes, gay marriage is a big change to what has always been ("radical" and "revolutionary" change, according to Douglas). But on the more narrow point that Andrew Sullivan was making--that to base marriage on the ability to procreate is to deem those who do not or cannot, gay or straight, as unworthy of the legal recognition of marriage--Sullivan is right on point, and Douglas fails to address it by spouting his scare words, and hoping you won't notice that he never replies to the point Sullivan actually makes.

"It must be, because it's always been" is about the extent of his argument.

Look, as Shell notes:

A society could abolish "funerals" as heretofore understood and simply call them "parties," or allow individuals to define them as they wish. Were the "liberationist" exaltation of individual choice pushed to its logical conclusion, would not a public definition of "funeral" as a rite in honor of the dead appear just as invidious as a public definition of "marriage" as an enduring sexual partnership between a man and woman?

No scheme of demonization concocted by Andrew Sullivan can change the fundamental fact that marriage AS AN INSTITUTION is established for the regeneration of society. Infertile heterosexual couple who marry are not trying to overturn that norm. Same-sex couple who demand marriage are.

I replied to Susan Shell's crazy funeral analogy here the first time Donald Douglas offered it, but since he brings it up again:

Correct the Analogy

When people make incorrect analogies, I think it's best to correct the analogy.

The funeral analogy is this:

* funerals have always been Catholic or Jewish
* Protestants have memorial services

To protect traditional funerals:
* only Catholics or Jews may use the term.
* Protestants may only have their own traditional memorial services.
* atheists & agnostics can't have funerals or memorial services
* atheists & agnostics can have "civil burials" — but anyone buried civilly cannot:
* pass on property
* cannot be listed in the obituaries in newspapers
* cannot have a service presided over by clergy

Further, anyone who reads the history of marriage knows that the rearing of children is but one factor that helped bring the institution of marriage about, and that other factors--the transfer of property, political alliances, romantic love, a duty to one's faith, -- have always been a part of the institution of marriage, quite apart from procreation and child-rearing. And, in considering these other factors, we can see that the institution and definition of marriage HAS changed over time, and will continue to do so. Here in America, we have pretty much done away with dowerys, arranged marriages, and poligamy. Romantic love, faith, and procreation/child-rearing remain, for many. But none of these are required. Gold-diggers do marry for money rather than love. People marry for green cards, and pretend the rest. Atheists pledge their love and fidelity to each other without faith. And yes, couples who cannot or choose not to have children wed. The regeneration of society isn't the sole purpose of the sacred or the civil marriage contract. It never was, and hopefully, it never will be.

The idea that we should continue to limit civil marriage to opposite sex couples because we always have before, just doesn't withstand scrutiny.

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