October 27, 2008

Fetch Me my Shoehorn.

Filed under: Uncategorized — numist @ 4:37 am

maybe I came off a little bit as a religion hater in my last post on prop 8, but after a little thinking, I think I’ve come up with a better argument; certainly one that both sides can probably agree with. I found the real root of the problem: an obvious lack of separation between church and state.


Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8.”

they’re right. in a (larger) nutshell:

marriage. church and state both call it the same thing, and in this campaign the church is operating on the principle that a “marriage” is equivalent between both church and state, regardless of when or how they were performed, so the government shouldn’t sanction marriages that the church would not sanction. however, this assumption shouldn’t be made in the first place, it’s fallacious.

here’s an easy solution. gays don’t care about the church by and large (all the gays I know are *very* strong atheists), and the church shouldn’t be acting against the rights of others (why else would we call them rights?), so why not instantiate a split between church and state?

one of them can keep the word marriage (to make things easier: the church, to appease them) and the state can have their own thing, where you get all the government-sponsored benefits of marriages today. see? all fixed. the church can have their religion-supported marriages and morals and stuff, and the gays can have their tax breaks and spousal health insurance.

if it were possible for my girlfriend and me to get a domestic partnership instead of a marriage, I would cut the church one little bit more out of my life. equal rights, guys!



  1. Can’t you just get married before a judge in California? No church involvement?

    Comment by Scott — October 27, 2008 @ 7:24 am | Reply

  2. until Prop 8 passes, any pair of Californians can get married before a judge.

    Comment by numist — October 27, 2008 @ 7:39 am | Reply

  3. I’ve heard this proposed before and I think it’s a fine solution.

    After talking to a few “Yes on 8” people, though, I gather that the central issue really isn’t the “sanctity of marriage” thing, at least among the better educated proponents. Instead, it’s the worry that allowing gay marriage will let “[gay people] push their agenda on everyone else.”

    I don’t fully understand this objection, but apparently it manifests itself in things like removing “husband” and “wife” from textbooks (I don’t remember anything about marriage in textbooks…), teaching small children that it’s OK or normal for boys to like boys (I fail to see the problem here either and this might be due to the belief that homosexuality is a disease you can catch or be tricked into) and locking up clergymen for hate speech if they preach on the part of The Bible that says homosexuality is a sin.

    There’s alleged evidence and precedent for all of these things in Massachusetts and Canada, though my rational brain tells me it’s inflated party politics radically distorting the facts.

    Either way, this is apparently a very compelling argument against Prop 8 specifically for the people who claim not to care if gay people can get married, so long as it doesn’t affect the children(!).

    Comment by Brad — October 27, 2008 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

  4. Oops. That should have read “very compelling argument for Prop 8,”

    Comment by Brad — October 27, 2008 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  5. If you just replace every instance of marriage with “civil union” in the law and replace husband/wife with “spouse” or “domestic partner” then that’d probably work. I believe that’s effectively what was done in Canada.

    If you have a chance to talk to more yes-on-8 peeps, ask them if they think homosexuality is a genetic trait or a lifestyle choice and see what they have to say. My roommate, who supports prop 8, agrees that some people are born gay and can’t really change that preference but that there are others for whom it’s more ambiguous and he thinks that culturally legitimizing homosexuality will make it more likely that those people will choose to be bisexual instead of straight. That’s only a problem, of course, if you believe that any sexual behaviour outside hetrosexuality is bad. And that’s where the homophobic bias of conservatives tends to draw upon the writings of Paul in the new testament as supporting evidence. It’s a tough case to argue at that point because these people don’t actually care about the truth so much as they want to believe that their existing biases are OK.

    It’s reminiscent of things like biracial marriage, where the same thing happened but eventually it became pretty acceptable and only a small minority of Americans see that as deviant now. Hopefully we someday look back on this time in the same way.

    Comment by Tony — October 28, 2008 @ 6:50 am | Reply

  6. @Tony: my opinion in that regard is pretty well-defined. homosexuality is like any other major personality trait – maybe you’re born with it, or maybe you grow into (or out of) it. In either case it’s not a clear conscious decision to become gay, straight, or bisexual any more than it’s a conscious decision to be outgoing or a hard worker.

    as far as I can tell, legitimizing homosexuality makes it more likely that people on the experimental fence will choose to be bisexual, and the problem with this is just difference of opinion.

    ultimately I agree with you. hopefully we’ll look back on all this and see it as us making another set of historic steps towards equality for all, unfortunately polling indicates that we might look back on this year and shake our heads. a lot.

    Comment by numist — October 28, 2008 @ 7:09 am | Reply

  7. “…I think I’ve come up with a better argument; certainly one that both sides can probably agree with. I found the real root of the problem: an obvious lack of separation between church and state.”

    … except that some of folks on the other side don’t agree with it, because “separation of church and state” apparently doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to the rest of us.

    In avoiding being a jerk about religion, it’s useful to draw a line between religion and religious fundamentalism. Religion can be sane; it can occupy a space complementary to and only in mild (and in some ways healthy) conflict with science and a civil society filled with other religious and atheistic beliefs. Religious fundamentalism knows no compromise and recognizes no boundaries between the religious and secular spheres of society.

    Christianity is a perfectly nice and generally peaceful religion. Christian fundamentalism, while certainly nowhere near as physically violent as Islamic fundamentalism has been in recent years, threatens to inflict incredible social and cultural violence, especially in the US. (As Andrew Sullivan has said, “[Islamic fundamentalism] will never defeat America’s core values. [Christian fundamentalism] has already made a dent.”) There’s a frightening number of people who believe that the U.S. is a “christian nation”, and as such not just the values and beliefs but the “facts” of Christianity should be reflected in our law. Even when that, y’know, blatantly violates other parts of our law like that silly little Constitution thing. To them, the separation of church is just a one-way thing keeping the state from meddling with the church or from taking sides between the multitude of variations of Christianity.

    All that said, regardless of who the main Yes on 8 folks are, or what arguments they make, I don’t think this is primarily a religious issue for people. I really think this just comes down to a gut-check referendum on how squicked people are in the state about gay folks. People will make all sorts of logical or spiritual arguments to justify their positions, but in the end I think they’re just that… justifications. We can malign the “kids will be taught about homosexuality in schools” commercial for being factually inaccurate all we want, but the real point of that ad was to say, “Okay guys, um, we’re really talking about a society that say gay folks are normal and equivalent to straight folks. Is that really really really what you want?” And there are a lot of people who aren’t quite there yet.

    We’ll see, I guess. I’d really like to get real-married instead of fake-married, and the discrimination and prejudice around homosexuality (and non-traditional gender expression in general) hurt and anger me on a very deep level. But when I do get real-married I’d like it to not turn into a fake-marriage after the subsequent election because of a minor mood swing.

    P.S. I’m not an atheist. I guess I would be considered agnostic, but I’d rather call myself… I dunno, a scientist? An it-doesn’t-really-matter-ist? I decided when I was a teenager that the existence or unexistence of god(s) wasn’t really going to affect my moral views or behavior one way or the other, so… it doesn’t really matter to me personally even though it is one of the fundamental questions of our existence and all that.

    Comment by Paul S. — October 28, 2008 @ 8:48 pm | Reply

  8. While I agree with your fundamental assertion that a separation between church and state would help here, and that “marriage” should fundamentally be a non-governmental idea, I’m not sure I agree with your conclusions.

    Marriage is indeed a religious institution, but it does not belong to any single religion. Most (all?) religions have their own concept of what marriage means, and what traditions and expectations are associated with marriage.

    I think the real problem is that the religious majority in the ‘states don’t just want marriage to be defined by religion, they want marriage to be defined by *their* religion. Because their religion doesn’t recognize homosexuality as anything other than a crime against Jesus, they assume that obviously gay marriage can’t and shouldn’t exist.

    But let’s say that hypothetically (or not?) I start a gay-friendly religion. Imagine it’s awfully similar to arbitrary popular religion X, except that it explicitly and traditionally allows both heterosexual and homosexual marriage. And it’s still called marriage, and it still has the same meaning other religions assign to “marriage”.

    So if this happened, what could the government do? If they try to define marriage at all, inclusive or exclusive of gay marriage, they will be disenfranchising at least one religion. The only solution is for government to adopt a legal definition of marriage which is all-inclusive, and to *allow* but not force individuals and individual religions to define marriage in whatever terms make sense to their traditions and values.

    Comment by Micah Dowty — October 29, 2008 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

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