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September 29, 2004

Complexity: The Enemy of My Enemy?

The Marriage Debate blog quotes an argument from a Canadian report on bisexuals as the lost party in the debate over same sex marriage. A reality that pervades the entire debate arises again: the sides on this issue are simply irreconcilable. The same evidence can be claimed to support both conclusions, depending on first principles. Consider:

"The opponents of marriage equality consistently seek to reduce this emotional and complex issue to straight versus gay, good versus evil, religiously-blessed love versus mere sex," said Matt Foreman, Task Force Executive Director. "In reality, marriage is about much more than gender and sexual orientation, it is much more than a package of civil rights and responsibilities, and it is about much more than sex. Highlighting bisexuals in the debate underscores all of this and shows that love and commitment are wonderfully complex and multi-dimensional."

From where I sit, it is actually the advocates for same-sex marriage who "seek to reduce this emotional and complex issue to straight versus gay." In their view, straights love people of the opposite sex; gays love people of the same sex; who is the citizenry to decide that one is more legitimate than the other? With the placement of bisexuals before reasonable disputants, an answer to this question only becomes more conceivable.

Depending on circumstances, bisexuals would be open to marrying a person of either sex. Therefore, we may legitimately wonder whether — apart from the individual's desire — society has a reason to support one choice over another. For many of us on the traditionalist side, the answer already lies within our writing against same-sex marriage.

Marriage is indeed about more than those aspects of it that Mr. Foreman mentions. (Although, I'd be interested to know what that "more" is, from his point of view.) Highlighting bisexuals, however, only underscores the fact that different manifestations of the "wonderfully complex and multi-dimensional" experiences of love and commitment require different considerations — considerations according to which distinctions can and should be made.

Posted by Justin Katz at September 29, 2004 11:56 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

You know, it's patently unfair to force a bi-sexual to choose someone of either sex for a lifelong partnership. It goes against their very nature. Bisexuals should be allowed to marry one of each, right?


Posted by: Marty at September 30, 2004 10:20 AM

I disagree, Marty. For legal purposes, expanding marriage beyond two people would make a mess out of federal income tax and social security laws. Same thing for polygamy. I vote that we limit marriage to two people who are willing to make a solemn commitment to each other's well-being.

If "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships" will allow Gay couples to file joint tax returns and designate each other as beneficiaries under Social Security, I can accept that.

Posted by: Chuck Anziulewicz at September 30, 2004 11:40 AM

Chuck,
The marriage debate is not really about the benefits you know. It's about legitimacy. The benefits card is used as a distraction to keep people from recognizing that legitimacy is the crux of the problem. You can't separate polygamy from homogamy when the basis is legitimacy. If you are going to say one is legitimate, you cannot say the other is not. If the government has to recognize homogamy members as being elligle for benefits, then polygamy members will fall under that same classification, as would polyandry and polygyny. The whole debate was begun as an attempt to erase the boundaries of propriety.

Posted by: smmtheory at September 30, 2004 12:27 PM

Dear SSMTheory:

No, you are simply wrong. What Gay couples are most interested in is equal treatment under the law. We don't really care if you don't consider our love and commitment "legitimate." Evangelical Christians don't consider any religions but their own to be "legitimate" faiths. So what? You can't be forced to accept something you won't accept. Equal treatment under the law does not mean forced brainwashing of an unwilling heterosexual majority.

Some Gay people see federally supported "civil unions" for Gay couples as akin to the "separate but equal" facilities during racial segregation, but actually it's not a good analogy. The "separate but equal" facilities, as we all know now, were very often separate and UNEQUAL. But when it comes to equal treatment under income tax laws and Social Security, I think most of us would find "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships" perfectly acceptable.

You may think that such "equal treatment" would amount to your being forced to accept Gay couples. Personally I doubt you will EVER accept Gay couples. Your derision will continue regardless of what the federal government decides to do for us. But you might do well, just for the sake of argument, to put yourself in my place: You are a taxpaying, law-abiding Gay man in a loving and monogamous relatioship, yet you are forced to pay into a system of financial support that you and your spouse are not able to take advantage of. How would YOU feel?

Posted by: Chuck Anziulewicz at September 30, 2004 2:01 PM

Chuck: "I vote that we limit marriage to two people who are willing to make a solemn commitment to each other's well-being."

We get to vote on it? What wonderful news!

Chuck: "you might do well, just for the sake of argument, to put yourself in my place: You are a taxpaying, law-abiding Gay man in a loving and monogamous relatioship, yet you are forced to pay into a system of financial support that you and your spouse are not able to take advantage of. How would YOU feel?"

Welcome to the club. I pay taxes that pay for all sorts of stuff doesn't benefit me. In fact, I have to pay for things that I actively hate. I have to help fund state universities that racially discriminate against my children. I have to subsidize National Public Radio and Piss Christ. I have to pay taxes for public schools, and then pay again to purchase a quality education for my children from a private school.

You have to pay for some things you don't benefit from? You think that makes you special?

Posted by: Ben Bateman at September 30, 2004 2:50 PM

Chuck:

How we feel or how you feel is irrelevant, and I didn't see any "derision" from anyone. Christianity, also, is not your enemy.

I support the types of changes you want, although I bridle at the strategy of positing Gay issues as a civil rights cause. If it is, indeed, an Equal Protection matter, then civil unions won't stand any legal test. Only "marriage" will, since it is a state sanctioned condition, and I suspect most Gay activists understand this. The logical and legal end is "marriage", not civil unions, whether you are in favor of this or not. And the consequences of a challenge under the 14th Amendment is only supportable if marriage is the issue.

What Gay activists like yourself need to do, if you are honest, is claim that the state has no business sanctioning relationships of ANY kind. Short of health measures governed by the state's Police Power (general welfare and all that) consenting adults should live as they please.
(Is this your position?)

But this view is widely unpopular, so the fallback strategy is to allow the Equal Protection arguments to evolve from civil unions to an expansion of of "marriage" to include Gays. But since marriage as a state concern revolves around the encouragement and support of families and the protection of children, what is the next step?

Children enter the picture in one way or another, and the argument here is that children are adaptable. Children, in this case, are stronger than adults, because they can adapt to Gay Marriage but Gays can't adapt to civil unions.

The civil union strategy is very snarled and confused if it is about Equal Protection. Maybe you understand this, maybe you don't. But the civil union preference as a civil rights issue ends in Gay marriage, and nothing else.


Posted by: Rhod at September 30, 2004 3:01 PM

Chuck,

"But when it comes to equal treatment under income tax laws and Social Security..."

Why do you think the laws that we have are the way they are? And why do you think they should be changed to fit your situation, and your situation only? I forget if you've answered this question previously, but do you support laws that would allow any couple that lived together, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or relatedness, to receive tax and/or Social Security breaks/benefits?

Rhod,

"Children, in this case, are stronger than adults, because they can adapt to Gay Marriage"

I suppose that depends upon what you mean by 'adapt'. And the main reason why many children appear to be 'stronger' than adults is because so many adults nowadays act like children, and many children don't have the option of acting like normal children.

Posted by: Mike S. at September 30, 2004 3:14 PM

Equal protection is EXACTLY what we have now. But that's not good enough for gay people, because (i must assume) they don't consider themselves equal.

Funny, gay people were perfectly "first class" citizens until recently, when they themselves started calling themselves "second class". Sorry chuck, that don't make it so. Even McGreevy and Dan Savage have managed to get married, so nobody is denying them anything -- only expecting them to play by the same rules as severyone else! Equality -- the horrors!

Posted by: Marty at September 30, 2004 5:10 PM

Chuck,
Wow, that is a first! I'm not normally considered an Evangelical Christian. As Ben alluded in his message, I am paying into a system of benefits that I get nothing from. I pay school taxes and my children are grown. I will probably always have to pay school taxes, and the taxes will most likely continue to rise throughout the rest of my life. I have also paid into Social Security for all of my adult life even though I very well may not get any benefit from that. I pay for family coverage under my employer's group insurance plan, but I can't have my grown unemployed children covered because they are considered too old. Some of the money I pay in federal taxes goes to crack pot scientists yapping constantly about how mankind is causing global warming. I will never get any benefit from that. I'm sure there are several other scientists getting money from the feds for something I'll never get any benefit from. Farm subsidies for bell peppers, or okra? City, County, State, and Federal taxes to subsidize maintenance on roads I may never drive on. Does any federal money go to the U.N.? Tell me how I'll benefit from that. I pay money to subsidize people that can't afford lawyers. (Okay, that is one I fervently hope I never need to benefit from.) But all that aside, why do you even bother to ask how I would feel when you don't care in the first place? Being a gay practitioner doesn't boil down to a physical difference anyway. It's your choice to shack up with somebody of the same sex.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 1, 2004 12:06 AM

Mike:

I hope you don't believe that I was claiming that children are necessarily stronger than adults. They aren't, particularly in the issue at hand.

It seems to me that proponents of Gay marriage accept the possibility of Gay Adoption and use the adaptability argument to dismiss real concerns about emotional and practical considerations for kids. Children will get used to it, sort of, so it isn't a problem. What?

The disconnect for me is that, having arrived at Gay Marriage as a solution to the emotional catastrophes inflicted upon Gays by denying them the "right to marry", we underwrite the VULNERABILITY argument for adults (in this case) but leap right over to the DURABILITY argument for children. Every organized society we understand has taken the opposite position, up until now.

I can't quite get my mind around this strange inversion, this phenomenal swing in social logic in the direction of adults and away from kids. We really do NOT know what the consequences for children are. This is serious, and I haven't heard any argument at all from Gays on the issue.

Posted by: Rhod at October 1, 2004 7:40 AM

"Does any federal money go to the U.N.?"

Actually, the UN only exists because the US funds it. I don't know the exact numbers, but if the US stopped paying what we pay, or cut the amount significantly, the UN would be even more irrelevant than it already is.

Rhod,

"I can't quite get my mind around this strange inversion, this phenomenal swing in social logic in the direction of adults and away from kids."

Self-centeredness, pure and simple.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 1, 2004 11:31 AM

Mike S.,
Egads! I just got a visual... the U.N. is a U.S. puppet, but everybody else has been given a string to yank on.

I had had a glimmer of an idea that I wasn't getting any benefit from the government subsidizing the U.N.

In addition to the argument about the adaptability of children vs adults... if an adult isn't as adaptable as a child, then it is by choice that adult has made not to be so adaptable. Also, if a child were given a choice about what situation it wanted to live in, that child would most likely choose the ideal situation. I.E., an unbroken family with one mother and one father since that is the natural norm.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 1, 2004 12:10 PM

"if an adult isn't as adaptable as a child, then it is by choice that adult has made not to be so adaptable"

precisely. Usually left unstated, or unexamined, when someone is saying, "the kids we'll be alright - they're adaptable" is "why are you forcing them to adapt?"

Posted by: Mike S. at October 1, 2004 9:44 PM

Just a bit further on the adaptability issue. Here in my gentrified little hollow in Connecticut, I put three sons through the local gilded entity called the school system.

Each year the "system" grew less inclined to subject a child to any stress, ambivalence, offense or test that would have actually made something of them. All this laughingly imbedded in a wide and shallow fixation on the enlightening tensions of multiculturalism.

It's my impression that the same "thinkers" who originated this system of comfort also would be in favor of gay adoption. Inconsistent? No. We know little or nothing about the effect of being raised in a same-sex marriage, but the question here is not kids, it's not even gays, the consistency is in a broad ideological aversion to dissonance, stress, sacrifice in ANY form. People and their distinctions are unimportant. What matters is the vague existential moods induced by pleasure and contentment.

Stress, discomfort (longing too?) needs to be deconstructed wherever the various leftish bureaucracies can effect the change. The essential tragedy and alternating pains and pleasure of Life itself is a social construct to these folks. As long as this is the answer to social problems, nothing will be fully understood, especially the valid claims on both sides of the Gay marriage issue.

Posted by: Rhod at October 2, 2004 9:31 AM