Archive for December, 2008

Prop 8 & Gay Marriage – A Point by Point

December 18, 2008

I have a hard time understanding the current fervid “defense of traditional marriage” position. How is marriage being attacked, again? As Jason Linkins pointed out recently on Huffingtonpost:

…it’s a lot like saying that my preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla threatens the sanctity of dessert. Must we have these conversations over harms that are entirely imaginary?

But way too many Americans voted for Prop-8 or similar legislation, so what did they tell themselves to make that okay? I’m trying to understand. I am. Which is why when Jon Stewart managed to have a civilized discussion about gay marriage with Mike Huckabee this week, I sat up and paid attention. Huckabee speaks for the core of social conservatives, right? What did he have to say when Stewart questioned him?

…um, that’s all he’s got? Sadly, I was expecting more. If you look closely at what he asserts, you find merely age-old rhetoric without an ounce of logic or demonstrable fact.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look:

  • Marriage between a man and a woman should be the only marriage because “it’s always been that way.”

Since when has this been a vaild reason for anything? Earlier in this country it had “always been” that a woman had no right to enter into a contract of any kind and she legally held no possessions. First she was a dependent of her father and then a dependant of her husband and held no legal rights to make life choices that might go against their wishes. (See Debran Rowland’s awesome book,  The Boundaries of her Body.)

In 9th century Europe, and for centuries before, it had “always been” that a woman who learned to read was sinful, dangerous and very likely possessed.

Things that had “always been” but were eventually changed for the betterment of society are so numerous you could dedicate a book to the topic.

And besides that, it HASN’T always been that way. Far from it. Although Huckabee boldly asserts that it was one man one woman for “the past 5000 years of recorded history,” it’s just not true. In a 2006 article historian Stephanie Coontz writes:

Pundits and politicians love to pontificate about strengthening traditional marriage. But as someone who has studied marriage forms and family life for more than three decades, I wonder how many of them have the faintest idea of what they’re talking about.

I suppose they mean the “traditional” marriage of one man and one woman.

But through most of human history and in most cultures the most widely accepted tradition of marriage has been polygamy — one man and multiple women. We’re not just talking about exotic island cultures or lost tribes in the African jungle. Polygamy is the family form most often mentioned in the first five books of the Old Testament.

In some societies, traditional marriage meant one woman wedded to several men. In others, a woman could take another woman as a “female husband.” In China and the Sudan, when two sets of parents wanted to forge closer family ties and no live spouse was available, one set sometimes married off a child to the “ghost” of a dead son or daughter of the other family. Among the Bella Coola and Kwakiutl native societies of the Pacific Northwest, two families who wished to become in-laws but didn’t have two sets of marriageable children available for a match might even draw up a marriage contract between a son or daughter and a dog belonging to the desired in-laws. Most traditional marriages were concerned with property and wealth, not love or sex.

But what about the sanctity of marriage in the Christian tradition? It is true that Jesus, contradicting Moses, forbade his followers to divorce. But Jesus was not very keen on having them marry in the first place, holding that it was better to abandon worldly ties and dedicate oneself to building the faith. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke, 14). The Apostle Paul thought that getting married was better than burning in hell for unmarried fornication, but that the truly good thing was to remain a virgin and devote oneself to spreading God’s word. [Em. mine]

  • Marriage is all about making babies and hey, they just ain’t got the plumbing for it…

We’re talking about the law here. What part does procreation play in the law of marriage? Barren couples can marry. A couple can marry who has no intention of ever having children. A couple can marry and then proceed to adopt the offspring of others. All perfectly up and up. So the feeling is basically “As long as you’re having sex the way we expect you to, your marriage doesn’t have to be about procreation at all!”

And seriously, what does he mean by

“But even anatomically- let’s face it, the only way that we can create the next generation is through a male female relationship.”

So… gay marriage would replace heterosexual marriage and therefore lead to our eventual extinction?

  • If you “open up” the definition of marriage to include same sex couples, then you “have” to open it up to include everything else – (with multiple spouses, children, and animals ostensibly the first in line.)

Really? Why? Because you need to equate two men falling in love, getting married and spending their lives together with the profound abuse of children and animals? (assuming the animal marriages were, uh…consummated.) Sadly the equating of “grave sins” with whatever he disagrees with is not new territory for Huckabee.

Let’s look at other groundbreaking moments of  “redefinition” over the past 60 or so years.

* When “free man” in the US was redefined to include all races, were children suddenly emancipated from parents? Live stock emancipated from owners? Pets roaming the streets? Zoos emptied?

* When the definition of a legal voter changed to include women, did the floodgates open so that children, animals, and immigrants suddenly lined up at the polls?

* When an interracial couple could legally marry – did that immediately pave the way for marriage between homosexuals, children, animals, and next of kin?

Then why? Why would gay marriage lead to everything else you propose? Never once has anyone elaborated on this. Why.

  • It says so in the bible.

This one is so flawed that even Huckabee didn’t touch it during his Daily Show chat. First of all, contrary to the opinions of some, the bible does not inform our laws. Cheating on your spouse, disrespecting your parents, shouting “Goddamnit, Jesus Christ!” and lusting after another dude’s wife are all perfectly legal. Rather, our laws are explicitly informed by the US Constitution and the Separation of Church and State is in its oldest amendment.

That really is all that needs to be said to on the topic. Separation of Church and State. Yet, it’s only the beginning of why this “reasoning” is flawed. So although I don’t have to go here, it’s so much fun, why the heck not?

Yes, the bible says a man shall layeth with a woman, etc… The bible, in fact, says a lot of things. Deuteronomy Books 21 and 22, for example, have an awful lot to say…

  • You must stone to death a disobedient child. Deuteronomy 21:18-21
  • “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whomever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 22:5
  • Any man whose bride has not shown sufficient evidence of virginity upon the wedding night must publically stone her to death upon her father’s doorstep. You know, to “purge the evil from the midst of [him].” Deuteronomy 22:13-21
  • If a married man cheats with another woman “both of them shall die.” Deuteronomy 22:22

(The previous culled from the wonderful Michael Shermer in his book Science Friction.)

Sure, there are lots of positive “do unto other” sentiments in the bible, especially once God has a son and everyone mellows out. But if you proclaim that what is written in the bible is the word of God, how can you dismiss some points while emphasizing others as absolute truth?

As Shermer says:

The problem here is consistency, and selecting ethical guidelines that support our particular or social prejudices. If you are going to claim the Bible as your primary (or only) code of ethics, and proclaim […] that homosexuality is sinful and wrong because the Bible says so, then you’ve got to kill rebellious youth and nonvirginal premarried woman.

Instead, the social conservative culture chooses to target homosexuals (no marriage!) while going easy on equally offending sexually active single women (please marry!…Oh, and have babies as soon as possible…)

Prop 8 proponents also spew another attack line, which again Huckabee was smart enough to avoid in his tete a tete with Stewart – Gay marriage defiles children. How?

The official Prop 8 site has this cute video (I’ve linked to it before, I know…) where a couple fears for the well being of their child because a teacher spoke about same-sex marriage in class. How the child would be harmed is never delineated.

This woman, gets more specific with

If you look at homes where one parent abuses the other parent, especially if the child is a girl, she will grow up to pursue guys who abuse her. My prediction is that if two lesbians raise a little girl/boy, the child will have a very high chance of either committing suicide or turning homosexual himself. Especially if one of the parents has been artificially inseminated.

She also happens to believe

…homosexual lifestyle leads to high rates of suicide, depression, HIV, drug abuse, STDs, and other pathogens.

What kind of koolaid has she been drinking? I don’t even feel the need to rebut this, as it’s a sentiment that has never been substantiated in any way – not even in theory.

Random House defines homophobia as “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.” Now, explain to me how actively supporting Prop 8 (or similar legislation) doesn’t make you homophobic.

Go on , Huckabee. I’m listening…

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