Queerly Beloved

A reader (hurray for readers) wondered if I might have something to say about this column on same-sex marriage.  I might.  I'd say the author hasn't even really tried.  Luckily, however, he italicizes his points so even I can see where to look.  His points are three in number.  And three is the number of his points, not four, not two.  He writes:

It is not the business of judges to make public policy.

Reasonable men and women can disagree on whether same-sex unions should be granted legal recognition, or whether such recognition should rise to the level of marriage. The place to work out those disagreements is the democratic arena, not the courtroom.

Well, the court, which decides matters such as these, is an institution in our democracy–a fundamental one, some might not implausibly suggest.  Its decisions necessarily have to do with public policy.  This argument–judicial activism!–really ought to be retired: they're little question-begging argumentative stand-ins.  Make a legal argument against the legal argument.  

Point number two:

The radical transformation of marriage won't end with same-sex weddings.

Another well-worn anti gay marriage argument.  Where will it end?  Well, the slope begins with actual marriage, so one can only conclude that the existence of marriage between a "straight" couple will lead to all sorts of weird marriages.  Besides, the problem with this particular variation of the slippery slope argument, it tacitly admits there's nothing wrong with gay marriage–the problem is rather with all of the other crazy marriages that will follow in its wake.  Of course, if there's a problem with those marriages, you can just make arguments against them for what they are (marriage between three), rather than something else they're not (marriage between two consenting adults).

Point number three:

Society has a vested interest in promoting only traditional marriage.

Which is the argument of the gay marriage advocates–they want a traditional marriage too–its legitimacy and legal benefits.  Like the one Britney had–the first one or the second, take your pick.  What's really silly about this claim is that it supposes gay marriage would be some kind of competitor or threat for "traditional" marriage.  This doesn't seem to be the case at all.  If history is any guide, gay couples have existed (with diminished or nonexistent legal status of course) for a very long time.  Their existence hasn't done much to undermine traditional marriage.  Not as much as, say, divorce, infidelity, sports, weight loss or gain, age, youth, or failure to put the toilet seat down. 

11 thoughts on “Queerly Beloved”

  1. A Monty Python reference in a post with a Simpsons drop for the title….well done.

  2. You said…….. gay couples have existed in history, can you tell me the names of any couple.

  3. Sure. Any Ancient Greek man and any Ancient Greek boy. Homosexual relationships in Ancient Greece were casually viewed. It’s even historical fact! Look it up.

    Also of note, would you make it overly obvious that you were gay if the punishment for doing so was immediate and likely gruesome death through use of some improvised death-machine? Didn’t think so.

  4. Daniel–

    I realize I shouldn’t allow myself to provoked by a question clearly intended to provoke (and not much else), but what would that prove? I mean beside the fact that homosexuals have routinely been among the world’s most persecuted individuals since the advent of Christianity, so much so that there is little to no record of the type which you purport to seek.

  5. “…gay couples have existed in history, can you tell me the names of any couple.”

    Ummm, sure. Here are a few examples:
    1) Agathon and Pausanias (both adult male ancient Greek poets, they are also important characters in Plato’s Symposium);
    2) James Buchanan and William Rufus King (The 15th President of the USA and a Senator from Alabama in the early 19th century) Note: There relationship is somewhat controversial, but since King is my great, great, great, great uncle, and I’ve seen the evidence, I think I can safely assert their relationship;
    3) Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby (typically known as the Ladies of Llangollen).

    There are plenty of others, these are the three that immedately came to mind. Hope that helps.

  6. The one I’ve never understood is “harm to the institution of marriage” line. The likely sense of it is that there is no effective response to the objection, “I don’t see how gay couples marrying harms my marriage or anyone else’s marriage in the slightest.” As a result, the locus of harm is not any given marriage, but the nebulous, abstract notion of marriage, the Platonic form of marriage. This makes the claims seem deep while making it at least unfalsifiable, if not completely meaningless.

    But if we were to try to be maximally charitable, what would this objection mean?

  7. Hi Steve–always nice of you to drop by here. I think maximal charity suggests the occurrence of gay marriage qua marriage (not civil union) has a negative effect on the occurrence of traditional marriage. Since everyone agrees there ought to be hetero marriage, but not everyone agrees there ought to be gay marriage, gay marriage ought to give way. So an argument might go.

    It would be unclear, however, what the source of the negative effect would be. There may be some closeted gay people who wrongly get married who don’t get straight married anymore. That seems like a net benefit for the institution of straight marriage. That would eliminate one cause of divorce, unhappiness, and so on.

    On top of this, you’d think no one would want gay people to enter into straight marriages for any reason. So their no longer entering into marriages wouldn’t be a harm in any case.

    There of course is also the charge, brought up by Rick Santorum (giggle giggle) the other day. He claimed empirical research had demonstrated that in the wake of a gay marriage law in Norway, there were fewer straight marriages. Turns out not to be the case, however. There were actually fewer before the ruling, but slightly more after.

    But regardless of that. As you suggest, marriage is not some kind of Platonic form. It’s a human institution that has had any number of historical iterations. Only recently has it been considered to be for people who actually love each other in a romantic way. Read some Jane Austen, and you’ll see marriage as a cold financial arrangement.

  8. Patton Oswalt’s take on this business is hilarious…and NSFW for language.

  9. Quantum mechanics tells us that gay and straight marriages are entangled: gay unions wreck straight ones, spookily and at a distance.

  10. After reading Daniel’s insightful comment, it struck me….I can’t think of any historical examples of gay couples. Gay couples are a new thing. Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres were the first gay couple.

    Pinko atheist gay scientists in San Francisco created the first gay couple in vitro circa 1974, but it did not survive when exposed to normal air pressure and ironclad anti-gay marriage logic.

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