Monday, July 4, 2011

The NY Gay Marriage Business

So long as I'm rolling, here's a few brain-droppings in reference to the recent decision by New York to allow "Gay Marriage."  On the one hand, this time I'm more-or-less OK with the outcome, at least in terms of the process.  The new rule was made by the duly elected legislature (even in bipartisan fashion), rather than by judicial fiat.  In that sense, I can accept the new status as simply another law with which I disagree, much like the 16th, 17th, and 26th amendments.  The people have spoken, and if they (we) have chosen poorly, well, they (we) get what we deserve.

That said, I still am not very happy with the process on a macro level.  Much ink (pixels) has been spilled remarking on the fact that this particular decision was embraced by Republicans, and that recently, for the first time, polls indicate that upwards of half of Americans now approve of gay marriage.  I feel like this evolution has been the result of some rather dishonest tactics.  Way back when the Supreme Court decided the famous Lawrence v. Texas decision that overturned Texas' anti-sodomy law, Justice Scalia said in his dissent that this would lead directly to redefining marriage.  "Relax," traditionalists were told.  It's not going to happen.  Don't be paranoid.  Later, when traditionalists were interested in a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage (at a time when they might have had the votes... or at least were a lot closer than we are now), we got the same story.  Don't worry--the Defense of Marriage Act makes that unnecessary.  Not long after there were court challenges to DOMA.  And the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (itself a pro-gay law when Clinton signed it, as it removed the threat of dishonorable discharge from discreet gays).  When traditionalists opposed Civil Unions as a back-door to eventual gay marriage, same story.  Until, of course, the tide turned, and Civil Unions could be held up as the modern-day "separate but equal."

And why DID the tide of opinion turn?  Every incremental step was hailed as a victory for tolerance and equality and modernity.  Hollywood, of course, did their part.  If you were to extrapolate from popular TV and movies, you would think that gays make up 20-30% of the population instead of a tenth of that.  And when there were setbacks, the pro-gay side simply regrouped and charged the same hills again and again.  The California Proposition 8 story is illustrative here.  Every time the traditionalists won, the goal posts were moved.  But this NY outcome is seen simply as the voice of the people, which should be final.  I don't mind losing fair and square (well, I do mind, but I have learned to be polite about it), but I don't know of anybody who can smile when they lose a rigged game.  Furthermore, the way we've gotten to this point does not do much for my confidence about any assurances given now.  This NY law has a "religious freedom" clause.  I'm sure that helped it pass.  And considering the sum total of what has gone before, I don't doubt that it will be jettisoned as soon as the deed can be plausibly done.

Having said all of that, I think it's important to note that I don't oppose gay marriage only, or even primarily, on religious grounds.  (With the one exception to that statement being that I foresee an eventual 14th vs. 1st Amendment face-off, and worry that there will eventually be limits placed on religious freedom when the young, hip, and cool gay-rights group wins out against old, boring, and square Christendom.)  My big problem with re-defining marriage is that I think it is bad in the long run for society.  I think the undermining of the traditional marriage relationship accelerates the decline of families and therefore society.  We've already done plenty of damage with no-fault divorce and the complete loss of shame over illegitimacy.  Gay "marriages" are many times more likely to not be exclusively monogamous.  And once the door is thrown open to same-sex marriage, what prevents consensual adult incest, polygamy, or even straight roommates declaring themselves "married" for the purposes of tax or probate law?  Please don't insult my intelligence by acting like there's no chance of that--that's what was said so long ago about gay marriage, and look where we are.

But who cares, after all?  Isn't this simply about people's rights to love whoever they want?  Doesn't equality trump all?  I guess nowadays it does.  But for most of the last 5000 years, marriage was not a license to have state-approved whoopie.  It was about creating families and raising children.  Marriage was what civilized men--making sure that they would protect and provide for their offspring rather than moving on to do what nature and biology wired them to do, which is impregnate as many fertile females as possible.  We've already come close to destroying that model of civilization; why would we want to drive a stake through its heart?

I don't dislike gay people.  Indeed, I don't like OR dislike any particular demographic group.  I like a great many gay individuals, and dislike some, as well.  I don't see this particular sin as being any worse than any other one (funny that we all too often are just fine with our hetero friends having sex outside of marriage, yet want to point fingers at gays as if their sin were more heinous).  I'll even go so far as to say that sins of the flesh are probably a lot less corrosive than my own pride, snobbery, and hypocrisy.  And when (and it's when, not if) this issue finally comes into my own circle of friends, I'll be nice about it.  But I'll still think it's a bad idea.  Lots of bad ideas have become law.  (The lottery pops to mind!)  Please don't assume I'm some sort of bigot for thinking this is one of them.

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