Monday, March 10, 2008

Gay Marriage.

It seems almost unthinkable that in the nearly two years I've been keeping this blog, I've never devoted a post solely to gay marriage. Yet with that kind of sustained omission, it's understandable why people would wonder why I'm finally addressing the issue now. There's no better reason than the fact that the California Supreme Court is now revisiting the issue to decide whether or not the state should uphold its ban on same sex marriage. The main question to be decided is whether such a prohibition contradicts the civil rights of gay men and women. At the same time justices on the court have to determine whether or not it is their role to overrule a voter referendum and an appeals court that have already passed judgment on the issue.

Personally I'm conflicted on the value of marriage in the first place. Before M. and I got married, I was convinced that the institution amounted to little more than a legal contract. I felt that no piece of paper could change the nature of commitment within a relationship. If you are determined to be with your partner forever, than what does it matter whether or not you have the state's approval? Of course I've always conceded that it is a matter of perception. If you believe that it makes a difference, then it does- for you and your partner. Still it's patently clear that there exists no social consensus about what it all means. Hell, it's commonly stated that a full 50% of marriages result in divorce. If that's not a sure indicator of conflicted definition, then I have no idea what would be. Anyone who claims to have a handle on marriage is most likely just talking out of their ass.

At the same time, it makes sense from a legal standpoint. There are lots of indispensable benefits that accrue to the lawfully wed. In fact I have read that there are an estimated 1000 federal and an average 400 state benefits that apply to married couples. Some of the more notable ones include joint adoption, next-of-kin status for medical purposes, joint insurance policies, divorce protections (like child support), automatic inheritance, qualification for spousal benefits (annuities, social security, pension plans, and Medicare), property tax exemptions, joint filing of tax returns, bereavement or sick leave to care for spouse and/or child, evidentiary immunity (if spouse is on trial), and domestic violence protection orders. That's certainly a lot to give up on principle. And it's a lot to withhold merely because you don't approve of some stranger's betrothal.

Personally I don't find any of the arguments against gay marriage compelling. The most commonly heard objection is that allowing homosexuals to get married will destroy the institution itself. This contention lacks any hint of logic or reason. Exactly how will this destruction occur? Whatever damage could be done to the tradition has already been done by straying heterosexuals. Others claim that opening up the restrictions on marriage will lead to more children being born out of wedlock. If you give a mere thirty seconds of consideration to that proposition, it becomes unfailingly obvious why it's beyond ridiculous. Some assert that legalizing same sex marriages will launch society down a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to the sanctioning of legal unions between man and animal, man and child, and man and several wives. Whenever I hear this argument, I wonder about the fantasy lives of its proponents.

Finally many opponents of same sex marriage appeal to the authority of the Bible. In their view "God" doesn't sanction gay behavior- so why should government? According to this two thousand year-old text, marriage was intended to be used for procreation above anything else. But I never hear these same Christians attacking heterosexual couples who have decided not to have kids. They also have never proposed forbidding infertile people from getting married. What kind of double standard is that? While they might protest that this is an invalid extension of their beliefs, they are immune to the argument that homosexuality has nothing to do with bestiality. Naturally the inconsistency of their holy book finds its mirror in their own opinions. That's inevitable among fundamentalists of all types.

Anyway, I see no reason to govern a modern society according to ancient belief systems and superstitions that would have been more appropriately left to medieval peasants. That's the reason why the founding fathers included a protection from religion in the 1st Amendment. If we're going to use Leviticus to decide this issue, then let's be consistent and outlaw "usury". That's right- according to the Old Testament, charging interest on a loan is a sin. Let's really shakedown a powerful institution!

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Blogger Dagrims said...

It's interesting to me that I can read a post of yours like this and find myself in agreement with nearly every word, while reading your post on Castro and Cuba, and finding myself in disagreement with nearly all of it.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Hmmm... I don't know how to account for that. I'm wondering what you disagreed with in the Castro post. Most of it was a recounting of the events of his life. There's a lot more editorializing here than in that post. Interesting...

8:55 PM  

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