Archive for November, 2009

Danger, Danger; Gay Marriage

Monday, November 9th, 2009

In an opinion piece for the Star Tribune this past weekend, columnist Katherine Kersten posed the question, “How will same-sex marriage harm the institution of marriage — and in the long run, all of us?”

As Ms Kersten rightly points out in her piece, gay marriage won’t make your marriage any weaker, John and Mary. Some opponents of marriage equality have seriously posited that, if we let men marry other men, they’ll all leave their wives, but that speaks to issues that those folks are just going to have to work out in their own lives. Like Ms Kersten, most conservatives concede that gay marriage will not cancel, weaken or destroy any specific straight marriages. (Mrs Haggard, your husband is gay whether he can marry his masseur or not.)

No, the danger is not to individual marriages, but to the whole institution of marriage. As Ms Kersten tells us, “Marriage is a universal human institution. Across the world and throughout history, it’s been exclusively male-female.”

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Well, actually, that’s not true. Just as they used to say that there are no gay animals because no-one had bothered to check, so they say there’s no historical record of gay marriage because no-one’s doing their homework. The first recorded incidence of gay marriage goes back to the early days of the Roman Empire, but it almost certainly occurred throughout the ancient world, from China to America. It’s only our modern post-Christian bias that makes us think otherwise.

Just as we now find gay animals everywhere we look for them, so we find evidence of gay marriage wherever the historical record allows us to look, except where it has been outlawed by zealots. The Christian laws of the Theodosian Code of the fourth and fifth centuries AD give us perhaps the earliest known record of someone banning same-sex marriage, which had until that time been legal in the Roman Empire. It was the DOMA of Roma.

Then there’s the small matter of gay marriage having existed in the Netherlands since 2001, Belgium since 2003, Spain and Canada since 2005, South Africa since 2006, and Sweden and Norway since earlier this year. Those are all places in the world, and those are all years in history, so on that basis alone, even discounting more ancient records, I think we can say that marriage has not in fact been “exclusively male-female” across the world and throughout history, unless we’re also discounting recent history, in which case there has never been an internet.

But, Katherine, do please carry on.

“The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure the best environment for rearing the children born of male-female sexual acts,” she claims. “Marriage channels men’s and women’s sexual attraction into productive ends, and harnesses the male sex drive by binding men to the mothers of their children. The evidence is overwhelming: Boys and girls flourish best with a married mother and father, who perform different and complementary roles in preparing them to deal with the world and the opposite sex.”

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And here’s the rub. Actually, there’s quite a lot of rubbing going on here (and she rubs rather furiously), but in this one paragraph, Ms Kersten neatly encapsulates most of the myths of the ‘protect marriage’ argument into a bitesize nugget of bile. Let’s look at them one by one.

“The primary purpose of marriage is to ensure the best environment for rearing the children born of male-female sexual acts”. I suppose this isn’t a lie so much as an evasion. You’ll note she says, ‘primary purpose’, so she’s cognizant of there being other purposes to marriage. She is perhaps aware that some people get married with no intention of rearing children, and that some people rear children without any intention of getting married. There can be no absolute presumption that all unmarried parents are creating a worse environment for their children than all married parents. (In fact, looked at statistically, the divorce rate for unmarried parents is nil!)

Marriage and childrearing are demonstrably separate concepts, so there is no need for a law to ‘protect’ the false presumption of an indivisible link between them. You might as plausibly argue for a law that says girls should not eat bread crusts because eating crusts puts hairs on your chest.

The advantage of marriage in childrearing comes not from the fact of marriage, but from the rights and benefits that the contract of marriage allows. If our concern is for the children, then those rights and benefits should of course be extended to children being raised by gay couples, so that they are not disadvantaged. Ms Kersten, won’t you please think of the children?

(Incidentally, the children of gay parents are also frequently born of male-female sexual acts, though I see no reason to treat children conceived artificially as second-class citizens.)

Next. “Marriage channels men’s and women’s sexual attraction into productive ends, and harnesses the male sex drive by binding men to the mothers of their children.” I’m not sure, but I think the argument here is that, without marriage, all men are rapists. How does gay marriage undermine the need to shackle straight men to their wives? It doesn’t. If gays can get married, Ms Kersten, it will not make anyone’s husband more rapey.

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Sidenote: If marriage is a binding harness, an awful lot of marriages end in escapology.

And then: “Boys and girls flourish best with a married mother and father, who perform different and complementary roles in preparing them to deal with the world and the opposite sex.”

Children must have a mother and a father! If a boy is raised by two women, how will he learn to wire a plug? We all know lesbians can’t handle home maintenance! And if a girl is raised by two men, where will she learn to cook? It is established fact that you can’t trust a gay man with a soufflé!

No, I’ve got this backwards. If a boy is raised by two men, how will he learn to wire a plug? True fact: In gay households, all light is provided by candles, because when a fuse goes, gay men run around flapping their arms and squealing until finally fatigue overcomes them and they collapse into a heap of warm male sodomite flesh. In the morning, there is sunlight, and that’s when they go out and buy candles. The fuse is never replaced. Their children will never learn how to change a tyre, whittle a stick, or shoot a caribou, but they will know all the words to Don’t Rain On My Parade, and you will just die when you see what they’ve done to the guest bedroom.

Or, Ms Kersten got it wrong again, because she can hardly think with all those stereotypes swishing around in her head. Boys and girls flourish best when they are loved and supported by their parents, regardless of how many parents they have or what their sexual proclivities are. Fathers and mothers do not slot into pre-set roles, any more than their sons and daughters do. Anyone who tries to impose quota-based parenting models is concerned about tradition to the detriment of the children’s welfare and development.

As for the children’s ability to deal with the opposite sex (or with the same sex - we gays are mostly created from out of straight people’s bodies, you know), I think that can best be supported by parents who don’t impose outmoded sexual hang-ups on their kids.

Straight parenting ain’t all that anyway. Look how many messed up children it’s managed to produce so far! By the ‘one man, one woman’ standard, serial killers Fred and Rose West are exemplary parents. And it’s pure supposition on my part, but I really do think that Adolf Hitler would have turned out better if he’d been raised by Alois and Klaus instead of Alois and Klara.

child-pageantStraight parenting.

Our friend KK isn’t done yet. “Same-sex marriage would not — as advocates claim — merely extend the benefits of marriage to more people,” she says. That’s an interesting bit of perspective. From where she’s sitting, that’s a “merely”. When you don’t have those benefits, that’s not really a “merely”. That merely is sought rather dearly by those feeling queerly. The fact that same-sex marriage would extend additional benefits is kind of a big deal. It’s kind of the whole deal. You’d think so too, if you didn’t have those rights.

But, go on.

“It would gut marriage of its fundamental meaning and transform it from an institution centered on children and the mother/father nuclear family to one centered on adults. Marriage would become an artificial institution, bestowing state approval on any adult relationship based on affection and interdependence.”

I hate to have to go here, but; Ms Kersten, I do not think that word means what you think it means. Marriage is an artificial institution bestowing state approval on adult relationships based on affection and interdependence. That’s why marriages need to be validated by state officials.

Ms Kersten’s ‘fundamental’ definition of marriage is not the legal definition of marriage, and as such it should not be used to dictate the law on marriage. We do not decide property laws by reading the inside of a Monopoly box.

Ms Kersten continues; “Once marriage is stripped of its organic purpose, why restrict it to two people? Two lesbians and the sperm donor for their child, polygamists, bisexuals: All will want society to recognize and respect their relationships.”

Quite apart from the fact that she hasn’t grasped how bisexuality works (have the traditional marriage side really not worked out that their gay-proofed holy institution has already been infiltrated by the bisexuals?), and that she seems a little shaky on lesbianism as well (I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I think most lesbians would rather not have to see a sperm donor at breakfast every morning), this panicky paragraph shows Ms Kersten’s misapprehension in a nutshell. “Once marriage is stripped of its organic purpose”? If reproduction was ever fundamental to the institution of marriage, it isn’t now. She’s locking the stable door after the groom has bolted.

“And why should marriage be open only to people with a sexual relationship?” she adds. “That discriminates against two female friends who want to share the burdens of rearing their kids, or a disabled brother and sister who live together.”

Yes. Why should it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could allow those people in those situations to choose to enjoy certain legal benefits with each other? That Ms Kersten thinks we should respond to this suggestion with spluttering outrage shows us the sickly pallor of her soul. These ultra-liberal marriage laws she posits would allow people to help each other in difficult situations. We must nip this in the bud at once!

On she goes.

“It’s ironic that in other realms of life, Americans are very aware of the risks of tampering excessively with nature.”

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Here we learn that Ms Kersten thinks that marriage grows on trees. Marriage is the vegetable lamb of Tartary, and it blossom with little three-tier cakes that imbue the eater with fidelity, parenting skills, and the ability to change a fuse. The problem, it seems, is that Ms Kersten genuinely believes that marriage and reproduction are interchangeable concepts. She must think all rabbits are Mormons.

Ms Kersten ends with a flourish. “We understand little about how marriage has undergirded the order and prosperity we take for granted. We tamper with marriage at our peril.”

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, except that I think it was lifted from a 1953 issue of Tales From The Crypt, and she’s put in the word ‘marriage’ where it used to say ‘the jewelled death mask of Chandragupta’.

Still, if marriage is so important in preventing the coming apocalypse, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have more of them? Even if the gay ones only count for, say, half a normal marriage, that’s still a net gain, isn’t it?

Here’s my counter-argument in favour of gay marriage. Marriage is a legal institution that confers special benefits that everyone is entitled to, and couples should be free to share those benefits as they see fit. Whether or not they intend to raise children is no-one’s business. Their religious beliefs are no-one’s business. Their sexual attitudes are no-one’s business. None of these things are a qualifying bar to marriage; they should not be treated as such, especially not for an isolated minority.

Ms Kersten; Ms Gallagher; Bishop Malone; President Obama;  There is no single model for marriage. If you insist that there is, and if you allow the people to vote out anyone who does not fit that model, then you are not protecting the institution of marriage; you are destroying it.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Give: If you are a supporter of America’s Democratic party, please consider supporting this call to suspend all donations to the DNC until they enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Maine Issue

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

I’m told that Maine has a reputation for proud independence. They don’t let outsiders tell them how to think or what to do.

Obviously that reputation is now in tatters, and the proudly independent people of Maine stand exposed as the biggest bitches in the US. In a rare turnabout, the legislature must now be ashamed of their electorate. In April and May of this year, the Maine House and Senate showed their grit and independence when they made Maine the first state in the US to introduce gay marriage through legislative process.

This week, the electorate voted to undo that laudable work, because they were bullied into it by two well-known political pressure groups from outside the state - one in Utah, the other in Rome. Interesting fact: the Mormons and the Catholics still enjoy historic tax exemptions from back when they used to be religious organisations.

The Mormons make their donations through a shell organisation, the National Organisation for Marriage, which, in direct contravention of the law, likes to hide its lists of donors, but we all know it’s those Latter Day shits. The Catholic Church is a hate group that doesn’t care who knows it; they made their $550,000 donation in their own name.

The pro-equality side ran ad campaigns showing how real Maine families would be affected by this law. They presented the people of Maine with stories from their own neighbours, families and friends. The anti-equality side took the same lying, fear-mongering ads from their Prop 8 campaign, and scratched out the word ‘California’ and wrote in ‘Maine’. And the people of Maine fell for it like the easily punked dumb hicks they are.

I know we’re supposed to note that almost 50% of people in Maine voted to preserve equal marriage rights in the state, and we shouldn’t be angry at the whole state, but I’m sick of hearing that. Marriage equality failed, which means the whole state failed. If you live in Maine and you support marriage equality, you did not do enough. That’s a fact. The same goes for California. The same goes for the other 29 states that have voted on and voted down marriage equality.

The point that always needs to be repeated regarding Maine and California is this: the majority voted to strip the rights of a minority. That’s the sort of evil that only the truly sanctimonious could ever get behind. The law ought to protect minorities from such outrageous bullying - and that’s a fact that other minorities might do well to remember, including the Mormons and the Catholics. The biggest threat to their reigious freedom is not gay marriage; it’s the precedent set by overturning it.

A couple of other notes on Maine:

First of all; in the same election that stripped gay people of their marriage rights in the state, a measure was passed that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine. That’s a progressive cause if ever there was one. Why weren’t Maine’s progressives standing behind gay marriage in the same numbers? Where were you when we needed you, dope heads?

Second; the gay rights movement needs leadership. Groups like HRC and GLAAD enjoy their White House dinner invites too much to push for an aggressive agenda. They spectacularly failed to get President Obama to weigh on on Maine. Under their watch, Obama has proven to be anything but the fierce advocate he promised he would be for gay rights. Under their watch, it looks like marriage equality won’t even be put back on the California ballot in 2010, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will get pushed back into Obama’s second term, should he ever get one.

Stronger voices come from bloggers like Pam Spaulding and David Mixner. This week, while arguing for civil disobedience and a closed chequebook for any politican who does not support full equality, Mixner referred to the disparity in rights for gay Americans as “gay apartheid”.

The word ‘apartheid’ entered into the political lexicon because of the policy of racial segregation in South Africa during the second half of the 20th century. Since then it has been used to refer to numerous other incidences of political segregation, including the treatment of Algerians in France, the treatment of the poor in Brazil, and the treatment of Palestinians in Israel. It’s a good term. It’s powerful. It’s the sort of language we need to be using to make our case with rhetorical force.

And as soon as Mixner used it, people started arguing that ‘apartheid’ as a term should be held in reserve, in the same way that we protect the term ‘Holocaust’. (The gays did have a holocaust, of course; we call it ‘the Holocaust’.)

I’ve never heard anyone suggest that we firewall the term ‘apartheid’ before. Even Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, drew parallel between homophobia and South Africa’s Apartheid in an article five years ago. As far as I’m concerned,’apartheid’ is established political shorthand for any system of political segregation. But now the gays have used it - in a way that casts the USA in a very poor light that it well deserves - and suddenly it’s off limits.

Now it seems we need to calibrate the depth of gay suffering against black suffering in South Africa from 1948-1994, and if the social and economic disparity of marriage inequality laws in America are not found to be up to snuff (and they won’t be) gays can’t use the term. And this is a view being expressed by progressives! Maybe they’re the same ones who cherish medical marijuana but don’t give two toots about marriage rights?

Incidentally, do you know what happened if you were gay in South Africa during the Apartheid era? Homosexuality was illegal, so you went to prison. More gruesome than that; in a country where every white male over 16 was forced into military service, they didn’t have Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; they subjected suspected homosexuals to electric shock therapy, chemical castration and forced sexual reassignment surgery. As far as I can find, there has never been a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for this. And do you know what name we all used to describe that system of political oppression?

Oh, you big silly. Why would we have a name for something no-one ever talks about? We didn’t boycott or sanction South Africa because of their treatment of homosexuals! Mistreating homosexuals was normal.

And in the US, it still is - whereas South Africa passed same-sex marriage laws back in 2006.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Give: If you are a supporter of America’s Democratic party, please consider supporting this callto suspend all donations to the DNC until they enact the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.