The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What is this fight all about?

Reading about the Iowa court instituting same-sex marriage made me think again about this subject. If I could get people on the various sides of this issue together into a room, and I could ask one question of each side, I know what my questions would be. So I'm asking them here, hoping that someone reads this blog and could enlighten me.

To the pro-gay-marriage side: What is so important about the word "marriage"? In Vermont, which has had "civil unions" for a number of years, they recently passed a marriage law -- what did that actually accomplish? If you have a civil union that is legally the same as a marriage, and you can call yourself "married" in all situations except that the law uses a different word, why isn't that good enough?

To the anti-gay-marriage side: Who would be hurt by allowing same-sex couples to marry? Certainly, not traditional man/woman couples; nobody would invalidate their marriages just because some other couples, who cannot marry now, would be permitted to marry. And you cannot say that the clergy in religions that do not approve of same-sex marriages would be forced to perform them, because even under current laws there are marriages that are forbidden under the rules of particular religions, and nobody forces Jewish rabbis to perform religiously mixed marriages, or Catholic priests to perform marriages involving divorced people.

If someone points to the "abomination" in the Book of Leviticus, the "establishment" clause in the Constitution can be invoked. Putting one group of people's interpretation of what God says is right and wrong is certainly an establishment of religion. (After all, there are Unitarian ministers and Reform Jewish rabbis who perform same-sex marriages, so at least some people believe that God does not disapprove.)

While I have no reason to oppose the concept of same-sex marriage, I just wonder what is so wrong with the compromise of having a status that is legally equivalent to a marriage but calling it by a different name. And since there are some people who are willing to accept civil unions but won't take that last step, it seems a far more profitable use of your effort to push for civil unions or the like in as many States as possible, rather than pushing, in states like Vermont, for this last step of adopting the word "marriage."

So please enlighten me.


Asclepius said...

Hey B - to sum it up quickly, my opposition to the term gay marriage resides in two major issues.

The first is adoption. What some don't realize is that Catholic Charities is the largest facilitator of adoptions in the country. Now, in certain states where gay marriage has become legal, CC has been forced to get out of the adoption business because they must - by law - extend adoption rights to legally married couples. It's clear (on religious grounds) why CC would rather fold than facilitate such a thing.

Every study under the sun has concluded the same thing: children do best with a mother and a father, and by politicizing the issue in the name of "rights," I find many wrapped up in a kind of narcissism which disregards the welfare of children. So this points toward your "who would be hurt" concern.

Second: The reason the word "marriage" means so much is because that word has been strictly defined throughout Western Civilization.

Now, if I take that word "marriage" and redefine it to fit something else, what stops me from - a few years from now - redefining it again? It's the good 'ole slippery slope argument, which isn't the strongest of arguments because it's predictive (but in terms of culture, almost always true). If I define marriage as a union between two consenting adults (regardless of sex), then the act of redefinition allows us to - in five years or whenever - decide that "marriage" should mean "the union of any number of consenting individuals." And depending upon the cultural trend, I might drop the "individuals" or the "consenting." Why not?

I should add that I am most certainly in favor of recognized legal unions between whoever, for whatever reason. These recognized unions would provide certain benefits and rights common to marriage, but not all, on the basis that a civil union does not serve society as marriage and the natural generation of families do.

Opinionator said...

I will not -- at this point -- address your first point, because it requires more thought than I'm prepared to give it at present. Let me stick to your second.

"The reason the word 'marriage' means so much is because that word has been strictly defined throughout Western Civilization." Define "Western Civilization." Certainly, "marriage" once meant that the wife was the property of the husband. And polygamy has been legal at various times; Jacob had a host of wives, and Judaism in particular only ended polygamy about 500 years ago. "Adults" for purposes of marriage could be as young as 14 for males and 12 for females in at least one State in the US (New Hampshire, hardly a "backward" state!) as recently as the 1960s. So both the definition of "marriage" and the definitions of the several words in that definition, repeatedly, have been changed throughout Western Civilization.

But you'll notice in my original post, I did appeal to the other side to stop pushing to have the word "marriage" used. Will you acceopt the compromise I've given in that post?