Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Wedding Bell Blues

I'm having a hard time understanding the Gay Marriage Issue... what the hell are people so afraid of? When I read the other day that Kerry and Edwards are on record as being against gay marriage (but think it's a state right, not a federal one, as if that makes a fucking difference), I found myself wanting to vote Nader all of a sudden. I can imagine people disapproving, I can understand people wondering why gays want to get married, but I don't get why people are against it.

I was mulling this over yesterday afternoon, trying to understand the mindset of those opposed; I tried to think of how, even in worst-case scenarios, gay people getting married threatens the institution of marriage, and how it can possibly harm the government and people of the United States.

For example, I can see that if gay marrieds get tax breaks for being married, then it would cost the federal and local governments a certain amount of revenue; partner benefits will cost employers a certain amount, also; and then I can see waves and waves of gay immigrants getting greencards by fraudulently marrying same-sex spouses instead of fraudulently marrying opposite-sex spouses as they do now. But look at it realistically: there aren't that many of us. Nobody except gays have ever believed that 10% rule-of-thumb put forward by Dr. Kinsey (hell, even I don't believe in the Kinsey Scale anymore), and then among gays only a percentage would find someone they wanted to marry, so just how many people do they think will be taking advantage of this right?

It seems to me that if people are married in their own hearts and in the eyes of their families and their churches, what right does the Government have to say that they are not married? I understand that if the government allowed anyone to be married who said they were married, it would open the door for polygamy and other strange practices from crackpot religions. But what harm would that do?

The problem I see is that the government does not actually have a right to be involved in any way with marriage, but it is involved... so once you realize that any legal objection to gay marriage is in contravention of the First Amendment (and it is... if marriage is "sacred," as so many are claiming, then the First Amendment disallows government involvement in marriage), then the next logical step is to throw out all marriage laws on the same grounds. There is no reason based in law that Mormons shouldn't have as many wives as they can manage to support; there is no reason based in law why a spouse should have any natural rights to inherited property if a person dies intestate; there is no reason based in law why a married couple should have a different tax status than anybody else; there is no reason based in law why businesses should supply benefits to employees' spouses.

The fact is, the traditional institution of marriage as a legal entity has, over the last century, become moribund and irrelevant due to technology and cultural shifts; the government's involvement in the religious ritual of marriage has always been un-Constitutional, but now the culture of the nation has completely lost sight of the traditional purpose of marriage as a legal arrangement. And I think that is the reason people are against gay marriage: it shows the straight people that they're just fucking around and that what they believe is in many ways false... it shows that the legal recognition of a religious rite on which they base much of their social and financial status is un-Constitutional, and that knowledge threatens what they have.

I've heard that the purpose for marriage being limited to a man and a woman is to create a family in which biological offspring are produced, and so since two men or two women cannot produce biological offspring between them, there is no real reason for them to get married. But if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, nobody should be able to get married if they are not willing and able to biologically produce offspring. So post-menopausal women should not be allowed to marry, people who have had recorded vasectomies and tubal ligations should not be allowed to marry, and people who are otherwise demonstrably sterile should not be allowed to marry. Following that argument to its end also throws out the legality of adoption, the ability of a single parent to keep his or her children, and a lot of other things as well... for if you are limiting the rationale of marriage to biological childbearing, you exclude considerably more than gay people from the paradigm.

But this is all very complicated. The fact is that there is no real reason, it's just that it makes people uncomfortable... it's a new idea, and the Great Unwashed haven't had time to get used to it. I personally think it was a mistake to start immediately in on the gay marriage thing in the current political climate; it would have been better to wait a little longer for the dust to settle from the whole sodomy-law thing. Because as far as I can tell, the biggest problem people have with gay marriage is the same problem they had with the sodomy laws... not to mention the Jim Crow laws: a phenomenon my coworker just now explained to me as "The Ick Factor"... it seems kind of yucky on the surface, in perception, and so it shouldn't be allowed.

It was The Ick Factor that forced my grandparents to go all the way to Washington state to get married in 1945 because my grandfather was of Chinese descent while my Grandmother is largely Anglo-Saxon (California had miscegenation laws on its books until 1957), and people thought interracial marriages were against God's will, biologically unsound, and simply looked funny; it was The Ick Factor that led people to actually believe that African-Americans should use different facilities because they weren't as "clean" as Anglo-Americans, as if the black of the skin would smudge surfaces and carry germs. It is The Ick Factor that makes a ludicrous controversy of something as benign as breast-feeding (I know I find it disturbing, but I am mammophobic).

And it was The Ick Factor that inspired people to deny basic human rights to sexual minorities (as well as racial and cultural minorities) for the bulk of our nation's history... when you would mention gay rights to people, they would immediately think of anal penetration and get all fidgety about it, as if anal penetration was the only thing gay people did differently from straight people, as if it were our sole defining characteristic. This is based solely in wilful (and therefore shameful) ignorance.

The final thing is this: the US Constitution was put into place to prevent Mob Rule (which is the natural conclusion of "majority rule" when there is no understanding), to prevent foreign and interest-group control of government (hence no State religion or foreign-born presidents), and to ensure the most rights for the most people... ideally all rights to all people. Passing a constitutional amendment that is inherently un-Constitutional and contrary to the spirit of idealism in which the Constitution was drafted is a serious waste of time... it's the same thing as Prohibition, which sought not to grant rights but to take rights away, and a Gay Marriage Ban Amendment will have to be negated by yet another Amendment for exactly the same reason. Constitutional Amendments are to ensure further rights, not to limit them.

One person's rights end where the next person's rights begin; there is a lot of gray area in between those two people, but if granting a right to one person does not take away a right from someone else, there is no reason to deny that right. Any activity that does not take the right to life, property, or physical and emotional safety from another person is not criminal and should not be made illegal. Granting gays and lesbians and transexuals and whomever the right to legally marry will not take away anybody else's rights, and so there is no reason to not grant those rights. It's that simple.

Any questions?

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