Posts Tagged 'proposition 8'

Roundup

I’ll most likely be quiet over the weekend, so here’s a brief roundup of potentially interesting links.

Vagina – The Clown Car Movement. This one gets in solely for its title, but the content is pretty spot-on as well. Contraceptives are not evil, kids.

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What If God Disappeared? A humorous video about what the world would be like if God disappeared. (Hint: You wouldn’t notice much difference.)

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And to prove that I’m not completely biased, here’s one from Atheism is Dead: “Expelled Exposed” Exposed. It completely fails to address the primary problems with both ID (it’s a crock) and Expelled (it’s crap), but feel free to trawl through some of the many links. The rest of the blog is quite…well, it’s something, I’ll put it that way. (And what the hell is the banner image of?)

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Atheists frequently ask for evidence of God’s existence, and  this is a pretty typical example of the kind of vague handwaving that irritates us so much. The real comedy is in the comments section, though:

Almost twenty three years ago, I was a God and believer hater. I wanted nothing to do with God or His people. I even went out of my way in college to take courses that would help me deny God.

Then, through a seventeen year old girl, whom Father had placed in my life at the time, I began to experience His truth, forgiveness, grace, love and LIFE! Like your friend, Kliska, it was as if a light had gone on in my head and heart in an instance, and all of a sudden I could see and experience Father and all that He had for me. It was, in my reality, truly a miracle!

And they wonder why we don’t take them seriously….

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I forgot this the first time around: according to the latest Field Poll, a slight majority of Californians are still against Proposition 8 (emphasis on the ‘slight’, unfortunately – we’re talking 51% of those polled here, although only 42% said they were definitely for the ban). While it’s good that support for that particular piece of odious legislation hasn’t increased, it’s also a bit disheartening that more Californians haven’t come to their senses.

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Finally:

(Note: One or the other is also acceptable, but not two moms or two dads. For some reason.)

Note: One or the other is also acceptable, but not two moms or two dads. For some reason.

(Taken from the bafflingly named ‘Digital Network Army‘, who seem to really dislike gays. They don’t let you alter their images, which is why the guy doesn’t have crazy googly eyes photoshopped onto his face and why little addition isn’t pasted into the white space to the right. Killjoys.)

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Circular Reasoning?

I recently came across another ‘defence of traditional marriage’ on a blog called Square Post, and I’ve decided to respond to it briefly. It isn’t anything new, but the old points are formulated in slightly novel ways.

It opens with a quote from the Californian Constitution and then proceeds to argue that said constitution doesn’t support the right to marriage for same-sex couples. To me, any argument beginning from an ‘enslaved to the constitution’ stance has already failed, for the simple reason that we’re not enslaved to the constitution. Constitutions can be amended or changed, as the US constitution has been,  several times, in order to protect a minority’s rights.

But anyway:

Preamble:
We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.

And the opening to Article 1:
All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

To quote this as support of gay marriage, I argue, is the equivalent of the dog catching its tail, biting it, and continuing to eat it for several reasons. In Part I of this series I offer this reason: gay marriage does not perpetuate society and therefore should not have the blessing of the state.

The foundational assumption present in this Preamble is that the people of California want to perpetuate society and the blessings of God. Whether you take that as formalistic deism (doubtful based on the historical record) or true religiosity, the second part of the equation is the perpetuation of society. That can’t possibly happen under a gay marriage context. Now all the exceptionists will shoot down this reason, offering marriage among elderly man-woman couples, barren young couples, and the like as a reason not to provide an exclusive position for traditional marriage. But they forget that the burden is on the gay marriage folks to prove how their unions perpetuate society so much so that the state should redefine traditional marriage, a model which has stood since the beginning of recorded history. (Source)

I’ve got a few problems with this, and most of them are to do with the phrase ‘perpetuation of society’. This is probably taken to be synonymous with ‘having children’ (see the immediate mention of infertile and elderly couples), but you’ll notice that the Preamble is not specifically concerned with marriage or procreation. If it was restricted to such a narrow range of activities, then anything that failed to produce children would also have to fail to be ‘blessed by the state’, according to the original author’s own reasoning. And yet, we are told that infertile couples or couples composed of people disinterested in having children should be blessed by the state, with no real justification at all apart from a mild non-sequiter.

I’ll illustrate the problem a bit more forcefully by laying out the reasoning behind this:

  1. If something does not perpetuate society (produce children), it should not be blessed by the state.
  2. Same-sex couples do not perpetuate society.
  3. Therefore same-sex couples should not be blessed by the state.

And now the problem:

  1. If something does not perpetuate society (produce children), it should not be blessed by the state.
  2. Infertile heterosexual couples do not perpetuate society.
  3. Therefore  infertile heterosexual couples should not be blessed by the state.

Clearly, perpetuating society involves more than just producing children, or else the original poster would condemn infertile heterosexual couples as strongly as homosexual ones. And indeed, an infertile heterosexual couple deserves to have their relationship affirmed by the law because it represents a socially productive family unit. The fact that it does not (and cannot) include children which are biologically related to both parents is irrelevant. It should also be obvious that such a couple is perfectly capable of caring for adopted or fostered children, just as much as a couple which is biologically fertile.

One could also argue that producing children is not always to society’s benefit. If two people have more children than they can care for (or if they are simply unable to care for any children), those children will very often end up in care of the state, placing unnecessary pressure on the institutions in place to protect them. Conversely, an infertile or same-sex couple is completely incapable of burdening society in this way. I know people who work for the social services, and all of them will tell you that they never have enough resources to handle all of the cases that come their way. An infertile couple, whether heterosexual or homosexual, can provide an enormous service to society by helping to care for these children. Of course, if ‘perpetuating society’ only refers to biologically producing children then this is irrelevant and both groups should be denied the right to marry.

For some reason, many who are opposed to marriage equality speak as if altering the definition of marriage is some herculean task, one which should only be undertaken at (proverbial) gunpoint. I’d like to see some justification for this.

I’d also like to see some sort of justification for the ‘it’s always been this way, so we shouldn’t change it’ argument. I’ve heard honest-to-god philosophers use it, apparently forgetting that it’s generally looked down upon in most other contexts.

Two further points:

For example, the state carves out exceptions to this “inalienable right” all the time. Age (youth) is a limitation; consanguinity (blood relationship) is another limitation; still another is consent. And no right is being denied a man, or a woman, respectively, that is not denied all other men or women respectively—no man can marry another man and no woman may marry another woman, so all are protected or denied the same exact thing under the law.

Any limitation placed upon marriage must be a justifiable limitation. Age and blood relatedness are two sensible limitations (the latter somewhat less so, but that’s an issue for another day), while the race of the people involved is not, which is why that particular limitation was removed. Is it sensible to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying? Possibly, but I haven’t come across a good reason to do it just yet.

The second point of this paragraph, that all people are equally restricted in who they marry, is incredibly insubstantial. But I’ve written about it before, so I won’t repeat myself here.

Finally, I’m confused by how often those who are opposed to gay marriage argue that it should be banned because the traditional family unit is the best there is. Even if we grant that this is true, it does not follow that all alternatives should be banned. If it did, we would need to prohibit anyone from forming any family unit that wasn’t a traditional one. What people are actually saying with this is that same-sex families are bad or harmful in themselves, which is a different claim altogether. By praising traditional families rather than condemning non-traditional ones, they turn what would otherwise be a very negative statement into a superficially positive one.

Escalation

After the eightmaps.com website went live, I and a lot of other people were worried that the conflict over Proposition 8 and its ilk would inevitably escalate. Some anti-Proposition 8 activists have already resorted to intimidation and even violence, a fact that a lot of pro-gay bloggers have been curiously silent about. The last thing anyone needs is for people on both sides to lose their cool completely.

Which is why I have mixed feelings over this:

I implore all of you to think before you speak and act.  Ask yourself how being so emotional might impact those around you.  Question your judgement before you call or email somebody–will this have a positive impact on our common cause, or will it only serve to strengthen the resolve of those who disagree with us?  Like it or not, there will always be more straight people in this world than there are GLBT folks.  If we want to have equal footing, we need to prove that we’re worth it.

From now on, I will be in partnership with those targeted by your hatred.  I may disagree with some of their beliefs, but I also believe in their right to disagree and I’d rather work with them than against them.  Any phone numbers, email addresses, ISP’s and names I can collect that are linked to Prop 8 rage, I will publish it here to expose you.  I will not tolerate the open hypocrisy perpetrated by my own community.  I don’t like being called a traitor, but hopefully, in time, you’ll understand.  I’d rather do what’s best for us than continue to allow us to be our own worst enemies. (Source)

This might be a good idea, if not for the fact that it’s almost certainly not going to work. Even assuming that someone who’s thinking of taking matters into their own hands sees this, it probably won’t deter them. The sad reality is that a very large part of the intimidation and violence I’ve seen has come from the proponents of marriage equality rather than the other way around; having your name on the Prop 8 Maps website actually puts you at risk, whereas having your name on a list like the one proposed above probably will not. As a deterrant, something like this isn’t going to work unless a lot of people have access to it, and even then it must be asked whether this is really the route we want to take. Where does it end?

Before someone jumps down my throat, I absolutely agree that Proposition 8 has no place in a supposedly modern society, and that those who helped it pass should be ashamed of themselves. But it does not justify violence, particularly not if that violence is motivated by a desire for revenge rather than a need for decisive action. Although I’m less confident now in the inevitably of its downfall than I used to be, marriage inequality will probably not last for much longer. We’ve waited this long for it, and we can surely wait another few years.

This Sums It Up, Really

idt20060329equality

(Source)

Eightmaps.com – Unsettling?

I’m torn over this one. Eightmaps.com is a mash-up of Google Earth maps and the list of people or businesses who donated money to the pro-Proposition 8 campaign, and it’s not overly difficult to see how this could be badly misused – particularly given that some have already decided that ‘retribution’ is in order. Sure, all of this information is publically available already, but if I was one of the people showing up on this map I’d feel pretty nervous about it. I also have to question what the actual point of the website is. Certainly it serves as a good visual reminder of just how large the opposition to marriage equality still is (many of the donations listed are in excess of $10,000), but I’d be remiss not to wonder if someone involved with the project has an dangerous ulterior motive.

Needless to say, violence is not the answer. Even if you believe that voting yes on Proposition 8 was morally wrong (as I do), intimidation or threats are a disproportionate response. Remember, everyone who voted in favour of Proposition 8 also believed that they were doing the right thing, and the way to settle a moral dispute is not to bully the other side into silence.

More Townhall Stupidity

I frequently ‘tag surf’ around WordPress to discover what other people are writing about, and very often this gives me some inspiration for my own blog posts. A few minutes ago I came across a post on The Right Words?, in which another attempt at discrediting gay marriage is cut down in short order. Curious to see what kind of website would host the stupidity revealed through Laura’s tantalising quotes, I followed her link and discovered that it was Townhall.com. Again.

This one is particularly stupid; the author seems to have been on a mission to condense ever tired argument against gay marriage into a single (short) article, not caring whether he robbed  most of them of any sort of context or cohesion on the way. I’m not going to bother refuting the whole thing, mostly because I’ve already countered the only argument found within that’s worth addressing.

I would dearly like to know what kind of editorial process Townhall has in place. I’m guessing acceptance hinges entirely on how geeky a potential writer will look in the little snapshot photos beside their name.

Destroying Marriage

People who wish to be taken seriously will often accuse gay-rights proponents of attempting to ‘redefine marriage’. Those who don’t seem to care about being taken seriously will occasionally go one step further by insisting that we’re trying to ‘destroy’ marriage, often with the implication that this will somehow cause American society to implode spectacularly. Why exactly this would happen is generally not made clear – I guess you need to have a particular mindset to make a connection between gay marriage and anarchy.

I don’ know about you, but I can think of more certain ways to ‘destroy marriage’ than extending its definition to include same-sex partners. For example, one could suggest that, once formed, a marriage should be strictly adhered to even if one of the people involved becomes abusive. One could imply that the mere label of ‘being married’ is more important than the people involved actually acting like a married couple, by stating outright that seperation is preferable to divorce even in cases of prolonged physical violence. But surely nobody would be that stupid, would they?

Audio clips on a “Bible Questions & Answers” section of Saddleback’s website feature a speaker who says the Bible condones divorce for only two reasons: adultery and abandonment.

The speaker is not identified on the page, but a spokesperson for Warren said it is Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at the church in Lake Forest, Calif.

“I wish there were a third [reason for divorce] in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse,” Holladay said. “There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, ‘If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.'”

Holladay said Saddleback’s counseling ministry advises separation and counseling instead of divorce in abusive marriages, because it’s the only path toward healing. “There’s an abusive cycle that’s been set up,” he said. “Separation combined with counseling has been proven to provide healing in people’s lives.”

Holladay said there’s nothing in the Bible that says a spouse must tolerate abuse. “There’s nowhere in the Bible that says it’s an attitude of submission to let somebody abuse you,” he said. “That is not submission. So we recommend very strongly separation.”

He defined what he meant by physical abuse.

“When I say physical abuse, I mean literally somebody is beating you regularly,” he said. “I don’t mean they grab you once. I mean they’ve made a habit of beating you regularly. You need to separate in that situation, because that’s the only thing that’s going to solve that.” (Source; you may need to register to see the story.)

Ah. Never mind.

While there is thankfully religious opposition to this kind of madness, it’s indicative of the ‘traditional’ mindset. Holladay (if he’s actually the one being quoted) seems to think that the content of a marriage is less important than the word ‘marriage’, or else he wouldn’t insist that divorve is impermissable even in cases of physical abuse. It’s difficult to imagine a better reason for divorce, but hey, I guess happiness has to be routinely sacrificed at the altar of Family Values.