Saturday, 21 July 2012

Same Sex Marriage- Neither Compassionate nor Logical

There are few ways as guaranteed to get yourself into trouble as by opposing Same Sex Marriage.

It is far worse than the cliché of the Stealers Wheel song, neither jokers nor clowns but beset on one side by fascists intent on silencing any debate on an issue they have decreed closed but on the other by the last of the disgusted in Wicklow, sick that they once shared a conservative platform with me.

The Yeuch! factor has ceased to matter other than as a personal irritant. The tiny, dwindling minority whose social politics are informed by their disgust at gayness ("they kiss in public and as for what they do in private Mavis!") have neither power nor influence and forfeit their influence as soon as they reveal their prejudice. Yeuch! factor argument that has best been expressed by Michael Cook, editor of mercatornet. Cook believes that homosexual sex is so intrinsically wrong, so morally disordered that the decision to decriminalise homosexulaity is to admit to a false equivalence in law with heterosexual sex which makes Same Sex Marriage impossible to oppose. One might ask why male homosexual acts should be so threatening of the social order given that female homosexuality was never a crime in the first place?

That argument is a bad version of slippery slope-ism. It appeals to the state to uphold a particular sexual morality to prevent social breakdown & must do that by extending the state’s power into every bedroom. This argument/rational is  incapable of of promulgating a rational socio-legal view of marriage because it denies the need to do so, ignores the intrinsicality of homosexuality (allying with those who see gender as a construct) & insists that gays are a danger to the social order.

Worse, many, like Mr Cook, seem to believe that making an aspect of human behaviour illegal removes that behaviour completely from effect. This touching & simplistic faith in the efficacy law to alter behaviour & the belief that legal & coercive interventions in moral  behaviours are themselves moral are best regarded as merely confused. Yeuch! factorists, however articulate, do not make a persuasive argument against or mount a useful defence against Same Sex Marriage.  

It was the tactics of proponents that made me question the orthodox dogma on Same Sex Marriage.

If everyone from, the faux-conservative David Cameron to every publicity seeking show-biz hustler, is for same sex marriage why the anger, the immediate & ferocious bullying of any opposition? Why if the case is so incontrovertible for Same Sex Marriage must opponents be labeled bigots & silenced with such ardor?

Big changes need big debate.

Instead of debate on this huge redefinition of marriage & its significance for society we have a mob enforced silence, platitudes & pusillanimous agreement.

In any case we no longer really have debates but a culture war with battles run as Yu-Gi-Oh! contests, the Equality card trumping all others & ending the contests. Debates allow light to shine on issues & people to make up their own minds based on free choices, Yu-Gi-Oh! duels confirm existing positions without any exchange of information or knowledge.

Debates demand free speech & a willing search for truth, but the interplay of ideas is tainted by Marxist concepts of class & exploitation & by underlying Marxist or post-Marxist sociological assumptions about cultural hegemony, role of free speech & the nuclear family as an exploitative association to the point that these taints & assumptions are implicit, normalised & force real debate to start with a massive ground clearing exercise.

Equality is the great shibboleth of the this tainted order. Outcomes must be the same, end results non-divergent, numbers equal across each & all metrics or the secular sin of discrimination has been committed. So pervasive & unquestioned has this nonsensical idea become that in the US legal system evidence of different outcomes for any artificial class ( all classes are artificial but forgive the tautology) across any metric is evidence ipso facto of discrimination.

There is no popular movement for Same Sex marriage, no crusade, not even from gay men, for its ratification, but Same Sex Marriage has become the litmus test for compassion & with-it-ness. Compassion & with-it-ness are vital to intellectually & morally bankrupt politicians in a world impervious to their efforts. Cameron can't run Britain but he can appear all warm, fuzzy & fashionable by advocating Same Sex Marriage. Fianna Fail & the Irish Labour Party, a pair of bankrupt political movements going nowhere, have seized on Same Sex Marriage for the same reason. Other politicians, believing nothing, heeding nothing but the next headline & next poll will follow suit.

In Ireland we have become so used to public figures saying nothing at great length that the curt dismissal of any answer that takes more than fifteen seconds to deliver has become routine & acceptable. Unfortunately serious debate cannot be had in ten-second-sound-bites & the pattern of our public discourse now deprives us of any useful dialectic in the public sphere. Vincent Browne does not want considered, layered informed answers; his is an audience for light entertainment. The definition of entertainment is elastic.

In a debate about arguments are central, not the speakers personae. In the truncated Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel fought on Same Sex Marriage it is about cards and the speakers sexuality is a central one.

I am queer & I have suffered is a card that sits just around the Ace of Trumps & Equality card in value. In response I am forced to play the sexuality card just to stay in the duel: stick your mantras, I am a gay man and I oppose Same Sex Marriage. I'm not opposed to clear legal arrangements for gay people nor opposed on the grounds of disbelief in our capacity as humans to love & for that love to be as transcendent & durable as that between heterosexual couples. I oppose the complete, utter re-definition of marriage as a shocking intrusion by the political state and a grave danger to society.

In the un-debate about Same Sex Marriage proponents strive to create a class who are oppressed by the current cultural hegemony, a group against whom the sin of discrimination is committed. In truth no discrimination exists. Only by re-defining marriage as an institution in which gender is irrelevant (marriage should be gender neutral) & whose social purpose is the gratification of adult's needs for romantic gesture (I am not allowed to show my love) & community affirmation (my relationship is devalued by our not being allowed marry) can discrimination be alleged.

It is hard to think of a bigger change to the significance of a social institution than the proposal of Same Sex Marriage and that change, that sweeping redefinition & repurposing of marriage should concern everyone, gay, straight or undecided. Marriage is the basic building block of society, essential to our human lives. It's redefinition affects society in which we all have a stake. The glibly hypocritical “If you don't like gay marriage don't have one” is a massive untruth: under this re-definition of the institution everyone gets a gay marriage.

The family predates the state & the state has little business reordering it for some current fashion. Same Sex marriage is an intrusion into the social meaning of family & marriage by the state, not some compassionate crusade by the powerless. The State could get out of marriage altogether, by adopting the libertarian view that marriage is best handled (like everything else) by private arrangements in civil society, allowing any group the marriage of their choice & neutralising the need for any debate on the appropriateness of a one size fits all policy. Since the argument of proponents is that the change to Same Sex Marriage is irrelevantly tiny this argument is certainly not on their agenda. It may yet surface from opponents of the move.

Marriage is not about the whims of adults, nor is it based on their romantic entanglements. Marriage, as a social institution, is centrally about the creation, rearing & socialising of children. That is its meaning to society. Couples & individuals may enter marriage for all sorts of reasons, even intending NOT to have children but the social meaning of the institution, not its meaning to any one couple or individual, is what matters.

One central barrier to rational debate on these issues is the widespread & unshakeable belief that relationships only have the meaning we ascribe to them ourselves, with no wider implications or meaning.  

The purpose of marriage is different from individual conceptions or reasons for marriage so too is it separate from the accidental. Spouses die, or are unfaithful, what was intended as a long term or even lifetime contract is abandoned, maybe even on whim. These are individual failings, not purposeful nature or function of the institution.

In the culture war has become a destructive article of faith & therefore an unmentionable heresy to question, that all family models are equal.
The nuclear two parent family was radioactive to all totalitarian movements of the 20th century & the needs of Nazi's & Marxists to destroy private life have spilled over into a fundamental dislike of the nuclear family in a public discourse polluted by Marxist ideological tropes.

Outcomes are not the same across all models: children do best when reared in a two parent father & mother model family. David Blakenhorn put marriage’s advantages for children most succinctly “Marriage is the planet’s only institution whose core purpose is to unite the biological, social and legal components of parenthood into one lasting bond.” No amount of anecdotal evidence (my nephew was a the child of a single mother) or appeals to personal offence ( I'm a single mother & I find what you say offensive) outweigh the masses of data collected in almost all countries. Shifting the legal definition & social purpose of marriage away from that model threatens the very basis of life & society but just as our public discourse is now stripped of the knowledge of how classical liberalism created prosperity & widespread technological progress, so too has it been denuded of even trace knowledge of a social order more complex than we can understand.

Children, whether it pleases the activists or not, are the product of heterosexual sex. Children, biologically, have a father & a mother. We can either acknowledge and celebrate who we are or do as the Same Sex Marriage proponents would have us do: reducing a man to a sperm donor/sperm inserter & a woman to convenient tank incubator in our central family law. This this reductionist notion of human sexuality is disrespectful of our humanity, distorts the law & can only be disastrous for society.

Same Sex Marriage puts at the heart of family law an implicit endorsement of that form of prostitution that is surrogacy. Wombs-for-rent are in the main a third world phenomenon as the desperate use the only marketable item they have to achieve some kind of gain. As a libertarian/minarchist I have argued that the state ought not be in the business of forbidding & preventing “capitalist acts between consenting adults” (Nozick) but the concept of consent must be distorted by the enormous financial abyss between the surrogate mother & rich westerners. If prostitution is an evil here surely trans-national prostitution aimed at some of the world’s poorest women is questionable? It is not a trade to place at the centre of the meaning of family law.

Biology has meant that for all of human history parents were of both genders. That essential gender difference is vital in the rearing & socialisation of children. Neither parents nor parenting are gender neutral . Children need & are entitled to a father & mother. Nothing comes before a child's right to that essential human construct. Enshrining Same Sex Marriage in law requires that right to be written out & dismissed. Even to bring up the family as a rights issue is to invite the invective of cadre of activists for whom the nuclear family is is a culturally created prison-camp.

The argument's from children's rights has been up-ended & looking-glassed by Same Sex Marriage proponents in a hideous way: arguing that because Gay couples have children not allowing Same Sex Marriage discriminates against those children. In fact it is the exact opposite: those children must not be deprived of their origin. No child is the product of homosexual union, always there is a father & mother nor can any good come from enshrining an asexual, de-gendered model of the family in law.

The penny-dreadful Barack Obama took that argument to a risible level when he reasoned that he had to support Same Sex Marriage because his children could not understand why the gay parents of their friends could not marry. In effect Mr Obama was arguing to be allowed construct a society based on the beliefs & comprehension of his children. Deliberately constructed societies are dangerous since society is much more complex that we understand, to reduce social construction to that which White House teenagers could understand is beyond comment.

If children, their genesis, rearing & socialising are not at the centre of the socio-legal meaning of marriage then the State has no reason to forbid marriage to any two people. Since the progeny outcome is irrelevant restrictions on incestuous or any other union not now regarded as licit, are merely based on personal disgust, not rational grounds. Such grounds could not be used as a continuing basis for regulation. Same Sex Marriage is viable as an idea only when the meaning of marriage itself is collapsed.

It is, said the lamp merchant to Aladdin, the smallest, least important of lamps. We are inveigled with the same words concerning the minuteness of the proposed change but a change that alters the meaning of the institution, enshrines a absurdly reductionist notion of human sexuality & a denial of of the natural rights of children at the heart of family law is too large a lamp to hand over easily.

The fundamental changes required by this genie’s lamp necessarily create a cascade of changes which have neither been questioned nor thought through.

Massive linguistic engineering must take place not just to re-order the language surrounding marriage but centrally to give effect to the state’s intrusion into the family. While the Nick Clegg proposes abolishing the terms of husband & wife, Canadian law has been overhauled to remove the word parent: the state defines the relationship between child & “guardian”.

Since Same Sex Marriage creates one social institution of marriage for all couples discrimination, in the sense of recognising a distinction or differentiating, will not be possible. The first implication is for religious freedom. The issue of whether Churches will be forced to celebrate Same Sex weddings against their wishes (Nick Clegg intends that the Established Church in Britain will) is, like many of the issues implied, not possible to yea or nea without the legal changes becoming embedded into jurisprudence, but like Mr Clegg, many Same Sex Activists are clear that for churches or other institutions to refuse will be “discrimination”: an ominous word given that even private individuals are subject to lawsuit in many jurisdictions for minor refusals to cooperate with Same Sex Marriage ceremonies.

The terrifyingly totalitarian ending of Catholic adoption agencies in the UK, closed by Labour’s equality law, shows the dangers of placing dubious equality concepts in all embracing law. Catholic (or any, the law was non sectarian, merely pro the new Anti-Discrimination creed) adoption agencies could not  discriminate or choose, all couples had to be equal. The end of the Catholic agencies demonstrates the evil perpetrated in the name of doctrine & the inability of this new totalitarianism to allow competing or alternative institutions.

Religious freedom is not merely the freedom to worship but to engage in the full practise of faith. Where only non-religious institutions are permitted to exist for any reasons then religious freedom no longer exists. Closing Catholic adoption agencies, forcing Christian & other churches to act against their essential beliefs is a direct & intense attack on religious freedom.

None of this is to say that gay people themselves inherently make bad parents: always the central issue with Same Sex Marriage are the socio-legal changes to the central social institution & the implications of those changes but we must beware of being trapped into pretending that we know enough to equate gay families with those founded by heterosexual couples.

Mark Regnerus’s[link] study of gay parenting is flawed both the possible selection by gay couples of children heterosexuals would not take & the fact that natural children of individuals in homosexual couple adoption had already been through traumatic family disintegration. Outcomes for both groups could only be poor. Regnerus’s sole contribution may be to mark the issue of stability & relationship length for further investigation. The 2005 official brief on same-sex parenting by the American Psychological Association (APA) suffers from mirror-image faults by being selective only of a small sample of prosperous stable couples. No evidence can be adduced either way from flawed, conflicting studies. There is however the issue of what is best for the child. Children are not experimental subjects and arguing that all couples must be treated the same for adoption purposes ( As British law now so treats) ignores the unknowns as a non-risk in favour of religious creed of selective Anti Discrimination. Discriminating or choosing on the basis of children’s potential welfare (all adoption choices are about potential or future happenings) is not just reasonable but necessary. A child is not in this sense, a right but a privilege. Gay people ought not be excluded from adoption, merely in the interests of children given our current state of knowledge, married couples should be given preference.

Gay couples are entitled to give legal effect to their love & partnerships: needless cruelty is not the mark of a well ordered society. Hardships inflicted on gay men & women whose relationships had no legal basis, the terrors inflicted by legal exclusion from deathbeds, funerals or finances of partners served only to demean rather than strengthen the social order. No case can be made for treating gay couples in any way differently from a tax, pension or benefit point of view.

There is within the current flawed Civil Union law the core of a real gay social institution, one that reflects the needs & realities of gay people’s lives. Developing this would be much more useful than the misguided, failing Same Sex Marriage efforts.

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