Thursday, December 4, 2008

The illusion of neutrality: Gay Marriage

Ok, I am going to take a slight detour from the typical satirical hilarity for a moment to give a little social commentary. I hope to make it brief and elicit some good responses.

I've been mulling over the issues of freedom of religion and individual liberty and how the state fits into it all for sometime. Issues that you might recall as being particularly divisive and even polemic are prayer in schools, the pledge of allegiance, and gay marriage. The one that has lately received the most attention is the latter. California's proposition 8 was covered a great deal by the press, and it's almost all I've heard any significant conversation revert to in recent weeks. For those of you who either live under a rock, in a shack in northern Canada, or are no longer living, Prop 8 was a legal amendment to California's state constitution that defined marriage legally between a man and a woman.

Even with Obama carrying the state of California, and California being a blue state since the 1980s, the Proposition was ratified with a 52%-48% vote. It was a tighter vote than it was for similar laws in Florida and Arizona because it was California, and because California's gay community is much more vocal, numerous and affluent than in those states. The proposition's acceptance makes California the 30th state in the union to enact a law defining marriage between a man and a woman (so this is not some amazing fluke).
Now here's where I'm going to weigh in. The argument of the gay community and those who are calling for equality claim that religious institutions like the LDS (Mormon) Church and the Catholic Church are trying to impose their morality on them. Well, I do not disagree. They are. It is in their interest to do so. The state is what allows them to operate on a legal basis. If the state sanctions gay marriage it affects the status of any LDS or Catholic institution, be it a private high school, a hospital, or a university. The government could quite easily tell the churches that they could not discriminate on sexual orientation, and could also tell the church they must marry homosexuals or be deprived tax exempt status, or be completely shut down for being unfair. But, lest we forget there are other rights at stake here.

The state sanctioning gay marriage limits the religious community's right to practice as it chooses. So it is freedom of religion versus freedom of the individual. But many people are led to believe that we can get along fine with a "live and let live" society. Or, in other words, whatever my neighbor does and believes is fine and equally valid as what I believe. The problem inherent in that sort of delusion is that both cannot be equally valid. If that were the case, neither would be worth a trough of pig feed. There need to be moral lines that our government draws. When people say, "morality doesn't belong in politics" they neglect the fact that by imposing this idea of a false neutrality, they are imposing a morality. 

It's the same as saying science can self-regulate. People believe that it is completely objective and neutral. However, if science were truly neutral, then it would need a guiding force outside of itself to help it decide what, how, when, and why it studies what it does on a moral basis. And, I would argue that it does. However, there are certain scientists, be them sociologists, biologists, or astrophysicists who believe that science should be autonomous from moral questions and philosophy. Well, as soon as it becomes autonomous, it must create its own morality, which, in the case of science is efficiency and predictability. Its morality becomes utilitarian. It begins to assign value to life based on utility (and I don't think I need to elucidate the path where that leads).

So how does this affect the gay marriage question? Quite simply. The argument that religion is imposing its values and beliefs on society and the state are valid, but so is the argument in the converse. By allowing gay marriage, the state is putting a moral stamp on that particular lifestyle choice (I know that's a can of worms because there are those who do not choose to be gay), and saying that it is on par with heterosexual marriage. This permits the state to limit the freedom of religions within their own sphere, and allows public entities like schools and state agencies to impose the gay marriage view on those who enter in them. 

For instance, Kindergardeners would be required to learn about alternate lifestyles and that Steve and his partner Dan are completely within their moral right to have a child, and are a happy wholesome family. Gender roles, and traditional family are no longer concrete. Children run home to their parents with questions like, "I thought families have a mommy and daddy, but at school they say you can have two daddies. Why don't I have two daddies?" Of course the parents can educate and reassure their children with their own private moral view, but the influence of the state has a dramatic effect on the children. The ability for the parents to teach and be responsible for the upbringing of their children is undermined. There is no way to opt out of this type of education. It is the law.

What gay marriage does is it denies freedom at the cost of "equality." But, it is not the only place that this is happening. The push to equality at all costs leads to an ever stronger, more powerful, centralized state. People who are unequal mentally, physically, monetarily all believe they have a fair grievance, and the only one who can flatten society is government. 

This tendency ignores the fact that people are different. Some are born smart, some are born stupid. Some are born with athletic prowess, others are not. Some are born to wealthy parents, others are not. These are things that differentiate us. Is it fair that Michael Jordan was an amazing basketball player, and I am not? No. But I don't want the government to change it. And, not to jump into another can of worms, but with biotechnology and eugenics, soon I may be able to have designer children who can jump higher, run faster, learn more, and be greater people. Of course this would be expensive, and it wouldn't be just and equal only for the wealthy to be able to have designer kids, so the government would subsidize gene therapy and enhancement. But then, after everyone's children were maximized, everyone would be the same. There would be nothing more that could be done to equalize. We'd be a bunch of identical, un-individuals. And yeah, that's what I want.


Anonymous said...

“I know that's a can of worms because there are those who do not choose to be gay,”
We all know that you are struggling with that & maybe one day we will find out the truth about how you really feel deep down inside.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on most of this, but a short caveat on: "There need to be moral lines that our government draws."

The government should draw those lines based on - like they did with Prop 8 - the voice of the people. I'm fine with elected representatives making some decisions for us; but when it comes to moral issues, I think it should always go to the popular vote of the people.

Michael Powers said...

I'll have to disagree about the majority rule thing.

Granted, I understand that we live in a representative democracy, yet the only reason we haven't all become moral relativists with nothing but the constance of change as our guide is because there exist in America certain aristocratic residues. We have juries, lawyers, physicians, associations and the concept of rights. Those principles came from our english forbears (and the concept of aristocratic freedom), and not an abstract idea of universal democratic equality.

I don't think that might makes right. Just because a majority of people define values a certain way doesn't mean it's the way it ought to be. If everyone in America believes casual sex is fine, that does not make it fine.

"I Try Mariti" said...

I think you're being fairly sensible, but saying that granting gay marriage deprives religious people of their liberty to have their religion represented in society is somewhat extreme - if I live my life in a way that you think is immoral, and I'm not harming you (by the general norms of the definition of harm) then most people would recognise your view as illegitimate. I think someone's freedom to live their life in a certain way far outweighs someone else's freedom to have them live their lives in a certain way.

Personally, I'm neutral on the gay marriage issue, and I don't think it really matters whether it gets passed or not - as such, it's a waste of Congress' time.

Nice satire, by the way.

"I Try Mariti"