Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Maines Proposition 1: Rationalizing Harm

Those who are defending Proposition 1 in Maine to revoke homosexual marriage in that state are much like the defenders of slavery 150 years ago. They have invested their lives and even their identity in a culture of prejudice and will grasp any excuse, no matter how absurd, that gives their institution an illusion of legitimacy.

Those who defended slavery 150 years ago grasped a number of absurd beliefs that had no connection at all to reality. Today, we ask why they believed such absurdities. Of course, the answer is clear. They were grasping any fiction that availed itself to the defense of slavery.

They spoke about the poor, unintelligent black person who was just too stupid to have much of a life in the real world. It was better for them to live under the kind supervision of a slave master who provided them with food, clothing, and shelter – and some discipline from time to time. Of course, it was only fair for the slave master to demand some labor in exchange for the sacrifice he was making for their benefit. Slavery was benevolent institution filled with happy slaves and God-fearing masters who went to church religiously and saw God smiling down upon them for their charity.

We see the same types of fictions in the culture that opposes gay marriage.

They claim to be acting to protect the institution of marriage. They claim that all of civilization will crumble if society should ever allow two people of the same gender to spend their life together in marriage and to raise a family. They claim that they are protecting children, who allegedly suffer some great harm if their parents do not consist of one male and one female.

Yet, there is no sense in any of this. There is no more reason to believe these claims than there was to believe the claims about the happy incompetent black slave. It is believed because it is useful in perpetuating cultural practices harmful to others – and that is it.

The claim is that we must protect the institution of marriage – of two people making a commitment to share their lives together – to share their joys and burdens – devoted to the care of each other until death do they part – by prohibiting people from doing so. If a prohibition on homosexuals getting married is such a boon to the institution of marriage, then it seems that a prohibition on heterosexuals getting married would be an even greater boon. In fact, the true devotee to the institution of marriage should prohibit all marriages.

In fact, the best way to protect the institution of marriage is by condemning those who would undermine the commitments that couples make to each other. It is the person who wishes to break asunder the bonds that people form who are the true enemies of the institution of marriage. Those who attack homosexual marriage are the ones who are trying to destroy relationships of mutual sharing and commitment. Those who realize that these relationships have value and are worth preserving are those working to secure these relationships from the harms that people unfriendly to any given marriage would inflict.

As for the protection of children, we must consider the fact that many children will grow up to be (or to discover that they are) gay. Their futures are not being secured at all. Their futures are being attacked.

We are talking about an institution that better secures a happy future for some children and harms none. In fact, it even better secures heterosexual marriage, because it will reduce the incidents of people entering into such a marriage as a lie – taking a second-best option for the sake of appearances or in the hopes that the person will learn to love the spouse in the right way.

Where homosexuals are allowed to marry and their marriages are treated with respect, heterosexuals can be more secure that their spouse is not secretly struggling with desires that society demands that they suppress, that will put great strain on a marriage that should never have been made to begin with.

These are common sense absurdities. 150 years from now, people will find it useful to look back on this era as yet another example in which institutionalized bigotry caused such incredible blindness and brought people to embrace the most absurd claims.

3 comments:

Kip said...

Well said. And thank you.

Sabio Lantz said...

I found a great quote (you may already know it):

“What do you want a meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning.”
-Charlie Chaplin

mmissinglink said...

Terrific essay!