By Jay Hansen
By Jay Hansen
We’re hours away from the first presidential debate, but I still wanted to crank out one article in the first half of this week before they got started. The debates mark the beginning of the end of a presidential election. If history (not to mention the polls) is any judge, Obama’s already got this thing in the bag. Romney may narrow the gap a little on Obama in these debates, but for him to close a five or nine point gap in one month’s time is virtually inconceivable. Given that, we’re sort of in a “calm before the storm” moment. Right now it’s the calm before the debates and the polling aftermath, but it won’t be much longer (another week or two tops) where we’ll basically all just be waiting for November 6th to get here. Since we’re at such a calm moment, I wanted to talk about an issue that is very important to me, but about which I don’t often write. With problems like campaign finance reform, violation of civil liberties, the train wreck of a tax code, and many more, some issues that are more personal and social can get buried, but that does not diminish their importance. That is why I’ve chosen now, in a rare moment when the mists of the election year part, to make a short post about same-sex marriage.
This article mostly began while I was at work the other day just musing about all the arguments against same-sex marriage that I’ve heard over the past few years. If you’re reading this site, odds are you know that there really just aren’t any good “arguments” against it, but when I sat down and thought it through as if I was actually having to explain what is stunningly rudimentary logic to someone I actually realized and understood the gravity of the situation; there really is no legitimate argument to be had as to why same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legal.
Let’s start with the obvious.
Homosexuality is a sin and same-sex marriage is wrong according to the bible.
The first amendment to the US constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Many people interpret citation of this clause as the counter-arguer claiming that same-sex marriage “establishes” a religion, which it does by imposing the laws of specific religions onto the state, but not many people focus on the latter-half of the sentence in regards to same-sex marriage; prohibition of the free exercise thereof. As I will address in greater detail later, the concept of marriage by itself is entirely tradition, culture, and/or religion-based. It’s a social custom of certain cultures. By prohibiting certain forms of it, you are prohibiting the free exercise of certain religions (many of which allow same-sex marriage). This in and of itself is no defense of a custom or tradition, but it is hardly by itself, as is evident by the establishment clause of the first amendment. If you want to have the discussion about whether homosexuality is a sin or not within the context of Christianity, do it on your own time when you’re not being paid with taxpayer dollars, and within the walls of a church, not the halls of the US Congress.
Our culture defines marriage as between one man and one woman, therefore we should defend it.
I hear this argument much more often than the last one these days because with these substituted words Republicans will try and make the same argument twice. Within this context, “culture” is nothing more than a euphemism for religion. The person speaking may be of a culture that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, but not everyone in our country is of such culture. On top of that, just because something is part of our culture does not mean we should defend or continue it, which is exactly what the next argument is.
Gay marriage is untraditional marriage and therefore bad
Just because something is in our tradition does not mean it should be continued or defended (but I repeat myself…). It used to be in American tradition that African Americans were treated as inferiors to Caucasians. This reason in and of itself was no justification for this tradition to continue. As we progressed as a society, we realized there is no reason for segregation because logically and scientifically speaking it made no sense and discriminated against a certain group of the population. We are now coming to the same realization about same-sex marriage; there is no logical or scientific reason as to why two people of the same gender couldn’t sign the same contract as a man and a woman when it comes to things like joint property and taxation.
BUT! Homosexuality is a choice, therefore we should be allowed to discriminated against them
You’re wrong on both fronts. Religion is a choice; should we be allowed to discriminated based on religion? Would you find it justifiable that Catholics were discriminated against in society and justify it by saying they chose their religion, therefore discrimination is okay? What about Mormons? Used to Mormons were just as persecuted as fundamentalist Muslims are today in America. Had we kept that tradition of discrimination, Mitt Romney could never have become the Presidential nominee for the Republican Party, not to mention wealthy (then again, I think I know some Republicans that wouldn’t be too torn up had Romney not become the candidate…). You’re even more wrong, though, on the other point, which is about homosexuality being a choice. The American Medical Association, as well as virtually all accredited medical organizations, recognize that sexuality is not a choice. What I find more interesting is that you think it is a choice. As I wrote about nearly a year ago, this belief of yours tells us way more about your sexuality than anything else.
Same-sex marriage would ruin the sanctity of marriage
In case you haven’t noticed yet, nearly all of these arguments are really the same one just re-worded again and again. Sanctity is a characteristic defined almost entirely by religion, within the confines of religion. Sanctity in one religion is not sanctity in another. By citing the “sanctity of marriage,” you’re specifying a specific religion’s definitions once again, but this time it’s both the definition of marriage and “sanctity.” Besides, while sanctity remains a somewhat abstract concept, I’m fairly certain that someone getting married and divorced three or four or more times in their life out of self-interest or disdain for their partner does more to damage the “sanctity” of marriage than two people, regardless of gender, joining in love ever could.
Same-sex marriage would require the re-definition of marriage
We’ll go through this argument one more time. Each and every religion has its own definition of marriage. Enforcing one religion’s definition of marriage onto the state violates the first amendment. Even within the Christianity, however, the fact that you can’t sell your daughter for three goats and a cow means we’ve already redefined it, and we’ve done so many times throughout history as cultures progressed and changed to keep up with an ever-changing world.
If you allow same-sex marriage you open the way for people marrying animals, corpses, children, or inanimate objects.
This is the argument where the lack of logic on behalf of the simple-minded is staggering. The line is drawn at consent. As someone who… well, uses human reasoning, marriage is for consenting partners. Much beyond that I don’t care, nor is it any of my business, what you do. One who is legally capable of giving consent must be a legally recognized adult human being. No one and nothing else can give consent to marriage; not animals, not objects, not children, and not dead people (which are now inanimate objects). This graph from BuzzFeed shows exactly how to explain this concept to an idiot.
AH-HAH! But on those grounds, if you legalize same-sex marriage you also have to legalize polygamy because adults can give consent all the same to marry multiple people.
Of all the “arguments” conservatives make against same-sex marriage, this is the closest one to legitimate (emphasis on “close to” legitimate). This is because it actually has a degree of logic to it since it involves parroting progressives’ logic when it comes to consent and throwing it back at them. It seems to be a favorite of some of the more “intellectual” Republicans because they think it’s a checkmate argument. That is why I will take tremendous pleasure in busting the ever loving crap out of this one.
This argument is what’s known as a “slippery slope” argument, meaning that X will lead to Y. This type of argument does not prove that X in and of itself is necessarily a bad thing at all, but that later down the line it opens the door for Y which is problematic. In this case, X is same-sex marriage and Y is polygamy. So right off the bat, this argument has nothing in the way of proving the immoral or unethical nature ofsame-sex marriage in and of itself. If we’re really worried about polygamy, which a majority of the country opposes, that issue should be addressed separately. Most governments already have laws against polygamy, but why not up the ante with a constitutional amendment specifically prohibiting it? It wouldn’t be hard to pass such an amendment with such overwhelming support behind it. People who make this argument, but aren’t concerned with and aren’t attempting to further protect us from polygamy, clearly don’t have an interest in “protecting marriage,” and instead are just using “marriage” as an excuse to discriminate against others (the LGBT community). In other words, it’s a completely separate issue.
On that same token, since they are separate issues within a slippery slope, it’s impossible to say that same-sex marriage causes polygamy because… well, it doesn’t. There’s no significant evidence to this claim. States and countries that have legalized same sex marriage have not experienced an explosion in polygamy or even support thereof. The only way these two issues are even linked at all is because they share a belief; that the current legal definition of marriage is too strict. That’s it; that’s the entire reason conservatives try and link these two things, often holding them up as if they were one and the same. Claiming that polygamy will come of same sex marriage because they both want to widen the definition of marriage is no more right than saying someone is a communist that wants total equality of pay and lifestyle for all Americans just because they want to tax working and wealthy people in order to use that money to fund programs that benefit the poor. Yes, both want to change current law (either to fix income inequality or redefine marriage), but the degree of that change is vastly different.
On top of that let’s not forget that polygamy has a history in this country of being used to oppress women and abuse children. Polygamous relationships are much more prone to instability, domestic abuse, incest, welfare fraud, and poor living conditions based on what information is available. Given that, there actually is logical reason and precedent to ban polygamy, while the same facts and statistics do not exist for same-sex couples and marriage.
Marriage is also a social and (recently relative to the duration of human history) legal construct. This means one is not “born” a polygamist with an innate desire to marry multiple partners. We may be born with an innate desire to procreate or “hook up” with as many people as possible, but simple sexual relations and instincts do not constitute a marital relationship, nor the incentive to have one (often these sexual instincts lead to an aversion of marriage). The same is not true for homosexuals. Based on scientific evidence, there is little to no “choice” to be had in sexuality other than simply choosing to not be sexual, or arguably social, at all, which is an unreasonable request. Denying a polygamist their right to marry multiple people, then, is not a comparable form of discrimination. A homosexual’s right to marry their partner is fully denied by anti-LGBT laws, whereas a polygamist’s right to marry whomsoever they wish, at worst, is only “half” infringed upon, as they are still allowed to marry once.
I feel clever conservative wanting to jump back in now and shout about how same-sex marriage would re-define marriage, so why not re-define it to allow polygamy? But I already addressed this; they aren’t the same thing. Both want to change standing law in regards to marriage but there’s a huge difference in the degree of that change. Those that can’t wrap their mind around that are extremely simple-minded and can’t see the world in anything but black and white, making them poor decision makers with even poorer judgment. Perhaps more importantly though, we need to take a look at the purely legal purpose for marriage. Like I’ve said, marriage started as an entirely cultural institution. Each culture, religion, kingdom, and so on, had their own definition for what constituted a marriage or how such a union was formed. So why did the government need to get involved at all?
The answer largely lies in the legal benefits of marriage such as special tax breaks for families, inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights, end of life decisions, joint property rights, and many other aspects of such legal unions. These are the legal benefits of “marriage.” Couples that are opposite sex get these special rights that same-sex couples are denied. By “couple” I don’t even mean a romantic couple, but just a partnership of two people living and working together to help each other survive. The best example I’ve ever seen of this was in the TV show Boston Legal, with the characters Danny Crane and Alan Shore. They were two best friends that met through the legal profession, and when Danny started to grow older and began suffering from early signs of Alzheimer’s disease it was Alan who lived and worked with him to help him survive, and both characters admit they could not survive without the friendship of the other. For all intents and purposes, Danny and Alan were life partners, even though they were completely (and passionately) heterosexual. Why should a couple like this not have the same rights to inheritance, end of life decisions, or even special tax breaks for domestic partnerships, or dare I even say families? It’s not like there’s some sort of physical impediment for applying these same benefits opposite-sex couples enjoy to same-sex couples, nor do I see any logical reasoning why two men like Danny and Alan couldn’t have the same rights if they so choose (if they both consent) to the other being their classifiable “life partner.”
It’s not making a mockery of marriage. Marriage, as we know it, has absolutely no dependent attachment to these rights and benefits same-sex couples are denied. Hell, men and women have been marrying for business, political, and legal reasons since the invention of marriage. I’d go as far to say that political reasons may have been the initial reason for the very invention of marriage millenniums ago. So in all honesty, why can’t two people of the same gender get married?
In regards to polygamy, the more people that get involved in a “marriage” the more difficult it is to apply, enforce, and police these rights. For example, say a man is married to three wives. How will his assets be divided upon his death? Many a long-drawn out legal battle could ensue from such a policy. End-of-life decisions could get even stickier; remember what happened to Terri Schiavo? The battle over her went on for years, and it wasn’t even between multiple partners, just her one partner and her parents. Could you imagine the debacle if someone in her situation had three, four, five, or even more partners, each with conflicting wishes in regards to their “partner?” Then there’s the problem of applying tax breaks to such families, joint property rights, and the list goes on and on. From a purely legal view of “marriage,” then, polygamy makes little to no sense at all even if the members entering into the relationship are consenting due to the extreme levels of complexity it can create. In other words, there is further legal precedent as to why polygamy is illegal, but once again this same rationale can’t be applied to same-sex marriage.
So, in review, this one argument about same-sex marriage leading to polygamy is busted for all the following reasons:
- They are not the same issue
- The ethics of polygamy have no hold or connection to the ethics of same-sex marriage
- Same-sex marriage does not cause polygamy
- Just because polygamy and same-sex marriage have one common belief that the current definition of marriage is too strict does not mean they are one and the same. Saying they are one and the same because of this is like saying all conservatives want a total theocratic dictatorship because of their social beliefs.
- Polygamists are not born polygamists. People do, however, have an innate sexual orientation.
- Polygamists are not fully denied their right to marry whomsoever they please; homosexuals are.
- Polygamy has been used and is used for oppressive, abusive, and illegal activities within a family unit, making standing legal precedent for outlawing it, but this same precedent does not apply to same-sex marriage
- Polygamy creates bizarre, confusing legal situations that complicate and even completely defy the legal purpose of marriage, creating further legal precedent that applies to it and not same-sex marriage
All of this came to mind recently because of my decision with my partner Heidi to be placed on her insurance despite the fact that we are not legally married. In Oklahoma, as common-law spouses (we live together and live all the same as a married couple would) we are entitled to some rights of married couples. When I learned this was when I most recently began to seriously contemplate same-sex marriage. Basically, at least in Oklahoma, you don’t even have to be married to have some of the rights of marriage. Why, then does the gender of the people in a domestic partnership matter at all, if marriage is not even in the equation? When this occurred to me I realized I had found the beyond-all-doubt proof about the same-sex marriage battle; it’s not about marriage at all. It’s about oppression, and this latest realization is pretty damning evidence of that. If it were about marriage, then why can unmarried couples be extended some legal rights of marriage without getting married, but a couple of the same gender that is just as equally unwed and unmarried, meaning they are equally qualified for these rights under Oklahoma law, not allowed to have them?
I don’t often write about this issue because I honestly think it’s not long for this world. The public is rapidly turning to the side of support for same-sex marriage, and conservatives have worn all their arguments thin and into the ground to the point where they’re just re-wording the same arguments again and again in an attempt to swing people to their side. They’re pretty much completely out of legal justification of their arguments and excuses for their bigotry. Without any arguments or evidence based in logic and fact, same-sex marriage has become the biggest issue that just shouldn’t be any more. Even all of my die-hard Republican friends here in Oklahoma support same-sex marriage now; they just don’t vote in accordance with their own beliefs or interests (don’t ask me why, I don’t know). I honestly don’t know a single person opposed to it, or at least opposed to extending the rights of marriage to same-sex couples. I’d be willing to bet, barring any catastrophic global events, within the next decade this issue will be a thing of the past.
And when it happens, all the conservatives will turn around and say “What? US? Opposed to same-sex marriage and hating gay people? NO! We’d NEVER do that!”
I’m aware that I haven’t listed every argument against same-sex marriage here, but a vast majority of the remaining arguments are painfully stupid, and that’s saying a lot; the ones I did post were among the “smarter” ones (or rather less dumb). Here’s a list of some of them, but I wouldn’t encourage reading the whole thing unless you’ve got some serious headache medicine at your disposal. They range from homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry because they can’t procreate (implying that only those fertile and capable of reproduction should be allowed to marry) to people claiming and acting like the rapture would instantly happen if a dude married another dude (The Onion depicts it well). To address these arguments, and ones of even less intelligence and factuality, I simply reply with this video:
By Jay Hansen
Man, where to begin. First, all accredited medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Association of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association are in agreement that sexuality and gender identity are not choices.
Taken from the American Psychological Association’s page on sexual orientation:
“There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”
This is one of the primary reasons I have such little respect for the Republican Party in today’s America; they have become the anti-science party. Be it Evolution, Global Climate Change, or the science of human sexuality, all they do is bury their heads in the sand, plug their ears, and shout “LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” when it comes to anything that causes them even the slightest bit of cognitive dissonance. It’s times like this where I actually start to think the religious wing of the party may have more power than the wealthy wing, because at least the wealthy wing would be smart enough not to deny science and prevent such asinine statements by its members, right? And yet, here I am writing this article.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, even if sexual orientation was a choice, Lankford’s argument is still inherently false. If employers can fire someone because they “choose” their sexual orientation, can they also fire employees based on religion? We choose our religion, after all. If an atheist employer decides to fire all his Christian employees simply because he hates Christians, should he be allowed to? Or how about an Evangelical employer firing all his Protestant employees, simply because he or she disagrees with their beliefs? According to Lankford yes, because religion is a choice – far more of a choice than sexual orientation ever has been.
It’s this exact question I plan to pose to Lankford in an e-mail, because I’m sure he’s being flooded with e-mails right now with the sources of how and why homosexuality isn’t a choice. I decided to take a different approach. See the bottom of this article for the full text of the very short message.
Now, to be as fair as physically possible to Lankford (am I not the most open minded man in Oklahoma?), if he answers yes to the religion question, that employers should be allowed to discriminate based on religion, at least he’s not being a bigoted, disingenuous asshole. Instead, he’s just being a libertarian asshole. I’m not saying all libertarians are assholes, but rather I’m talking about the ones that hold the belief that employers can do no wrong and should the government ever attempt to intervene, regulate, or otherwise tell them what to do they cry bloody murder of “big, intrusive government.”
“But sir, we in the federal government are just saying you can’t whip your employees as a form of discipline.” – Regulator
“Bull$#%&!” – Libertarian asshole
I’ve talked about this level of libertarianism before in previous articles. In a nutshell, I explained that while there’s sometimes merit to libertarian arguments, we live in a society that needs fair and efficient intervention and regulation of the free market to prevent exploitation of consumers, employees, and the citizens of our country in general. We can’t just let each and every employer make their own rules, otherwise entire communities within society could easily be discriminated against en masse, forcing them to forever stagnate in horrible poverty, turning them into a completely new lower class of society. It happened to the black community in the dark days after the Civil War and before discrimination laws were created, so to say it is out of the question or too farfetched that it could happen to the LGBT community simply isn’t true.
Of course, Lankford’s no libertarian. That would take principle. His support of big oil subsidies and earmark spending prove that beyond much of a doubt. Given that, the only real option is the former of the two; Lankford wants to use the issue of discriminatory hiring practices as yet another means to spread, or at least permit and foster an environment for, discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals. While this is no real surprise, I think this story may tell us a lot more about Lankford than most of us perceive.
When Rick Perry came out with his horrible campaign ad “Strong,” I wrote this article about the projection of homosexuality. I’d suggest reading the entire article, but again, in a nutshell, I explained that truly straight people don’t have gay thoughts. It’s pretty much that simple. Therefore, if you hear a preacher or politician talking about how people need to “reject the temptation” of homosexuality, what does that tell us about him or her? It means that they, in their personal lives, have experienced this temptation, and assumed it’s normal. If one of these same people see homosexuality as some great plague upon humanity that could bring an end to us all, the only explanation for that is because they assume that everyone would be gay if they weren’t “choosing” not to be, when in reality they’re just suppressing their instinctual urges. Why else would they assume everyone would choose to be gay if it was legalized or otherwise sanctioned? It’s because they feel these urges themselves, and to defend their own psyches from the possibility of the realization that they might be gay themselves, they project the perceived flaw onto everyone else because of their assumption.
One of the primary ways this projection happens now is politicians and other social leaders make the claim that homosexuality is a choice. By touting this claim, despite it not being scientifically or medically true at all, they can convince themselves that they are “choosing” not to be gay even though they themselves feel the urge to be. So for them, it is a “choice,” but only because they’re ignoring and suppressing their instincts and who they are. So, as I said in the aforementioned article, whenever a politician insists that homosexuality is a choice in the face of great scientific opposition to the notion, raise a huge red flag – the person making the claim is very likely gay themselves, or at least bisexual.
So, in the words of Cenk Uygur, I’m not saying anything, I’m just saying, and allow me to be the first to say it.
James Lankford… gay?
Allow me to be immature for a moment. This does make a lot more sense now. I mean, look at the guy.
Tell me this picture and face doesn’t just scream “I’m going to be caught snorting coke off a male prostitute’s ass within ten years.” Does anyone want to start an official poll? It’s something about the lips and mouth, I tell you. Maybe the hair.
Well whatever it is, this story and video of Lankford has really triggered my gay-dar. There’s nothing wrong with being gay of course, but when you’re making a career out of gay-bashing and oppressing them even if just in part is when I clearly begin to take issue with such sell-outs.
At the very least, I’m starting to think my initial branding of Lankford as a tool may have been overly generous. Now that he’s showing direct defiance of science, and falling for his party’s own propaganda and lies, he may turn out to be a fool yet.
Full Text (of message to Congressman Lankford)
Dear Congressman Lankford,
My name is Jay Hansen. I’ve recently come across a conundrum within right-wing ideology, and I’d like to know your position on the issue. I know you support most deregulation to give employers as much freedom as possible in their own businesses and hiring practices, but I must ask, how do you feel about employers that practice discriminatory hiring practices based on people’s religion? Could an atheist employer refuse to hire Christians? Or could an Evangelical employer fire all his Protestant employees simply because they’re Protestant? Do you believe this should be legal and permissible?
Thank you for your time.
- Jay Hansen
UPDATE: Lankford went on an Oklahoma local news station and says that Think Progress is trying to slander him by taking his quote out of context. He clarified in the interview that he does not support legal protections for members of the LGBT community from workplace discrimination. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that not everyone is as open-minded as he claims to be, as he continually assumes the argument that an employer would never fire anyone based on anything other than job performance, which is just extremely ignorant.
So… he wanted to clarify that he does in fact believe it’s okay for employers to discriminate based on sexual identity?