Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Heteros are people, too.

As veteran SHAMbloggers know, I support gay marriage. To be honest, I don't even understand what the fuss is about. Why is it any of my business (or yours) if the same-sex couple up the street want to get married? And, to our friends in the world of Christian fundamentalism: Butt out. If you subscribe to the sentiments depicted at left, then leave it to God to adjudicate. Or tell ya what, why not head up there a bit early and see how He's handling it, 'K?

But this makes me uneasy. As you can see if you read the story, the city of Allentown, my municipal next-door neighbor, is attempting to enact legislation that would entitle "committed" gay couples to the same
health and other benefits as heterosexual marrieds. So far so good. The sticking point for me is that the city wants to specifically exclude committed (but unmarried) heterosexual couples from like benefits.

I see several problems here, both practical and ethical in nature. First of all, committed is committed. The logic of the legislation seems to assume that if you're heterosexual, and you're really that committed, well, you stop wasting time and get married. When did marriage become an obligation, not just a choice? Also, as you know from my stance on affirmative action (I staunchly oppose it), I think it's a bad idea when you start parsing language and jury-rigging laws to benefit one specific group while leaving out others. To quote from the article above:

"The amendment to the city's human relations code before council would make clear that it's not discriminatory for an employer to provide benefits to same-sex partners that also are not provided to unmarried heterosexual partners."
It would? How? Simply by say-so? "This law is officially not discriminatory, even though it discriminates." Oh, OK. Thanks for clearing that up.

I understand the rebuttal: "Look, gays generally can't get married. If they can't get married, and you want them to have access to the financial benefits of domestic partnership, you need a law like this." Fine. Then give the same benefits to all "committed" couples, regardless of sexual orientation. What's that you say? But a "regular unmarried couple" can separate any time they please? Well what's to stop a committed gay couple from separating? (For that matter, what's to stop a married couple from separating?) Or are we going to require that a gay couple, having declared itself committed, must remain together for life?

I'll tell you what the city says: "We can't afford to give partnership benefits to all couples. It's only affordable if we limit it to gays." Another terrible reason. Something is either morally right, and logically sound, or it isn't. If the concept of commitment means anything, then all couples deserve the benefits. You don't split hairs over money.

Of course, the real solution heregoing back to where we started in this postis to allow gays to marry. Let's do that, shall we? Forthwith. Let gays marry, ditch don't-ask-don't-tell once and for all, and move on as a society. Just let's not muck things up with half-measures that are themselves discriminatory. It's not right, and it sends a bad message.

Can't we be inclusive to gays without passing laws that are anti-straight?


Steve Salerno said...

And btw, I'm not implying that anyone, gay or straight, needs to be married to be committed. So maybe all committed partners deserve the benefits now reserved for marrieds. But let's cross one bridge at a time. If nothing else, marriage is a major cultural institution that represents a commonly understood dividing line between mere couplehood and permanent partnership.

RevRon's Rants said...

I personally don't think it's the state's (or the federal government's) place to say who can and can't get married. Marriage is fundamentally a religious ceremony that has merged with and ultimately evolved into a civil contract. Government should have no voice whatsoever in determining who can marry; that voice should belong solely to the church.

By the same token, the church should have no voice in determining the guidelines for civil contracts, including marriage. Such guidelines would be established in an environment of objective amorality, just like any other contract. This would eliminate the discriminatory practice aimed at heterosexual couples which you describe in your post.

By separating the civil process from the religious, we could eliminate all this hand-wringing and legal wrangling and pay attention to more important matters. If a religion decides that homosexuality is an abomination, they're welcome to deny gays the right to marry in their church, but would rightfully butt out of the negotiations over civil unions. And if a gay couple wanted to marry, they'd need to find a church whose doctrines didn't exclude gays.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: I certainly agree with you in theory, but in fairness to municipalities or insurance companies, it's not quite that simple from their POV, because they still have to decide how this plays out in terms of money. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I'm assuming you mean that once a couple (of any type) completes a civil union, they would be entitled to all financial benefits of partnership, correct?

So then would civil union be the bar a couple must meet in order to obtain such benefits? In other words, merely cohabiting wouldn't do the trick?

roger o'keefe said...

I have a feeling this will shock you but I too have come around to the position of supporting gay marriage, or if not really supporting it, at least tolerating it, since it really doesn't affect me. I still do wonder however, once we scrap all the traditional definitions of marriage how do we then take a reasonable stand against even more unorthodox pairings? It really doesn't affect me if a man lives with a goat, either. But I wouldn't want to call that a marriage.

Steve Salerno said...

And this may shock you, Roger, but I'm inclined to agree, at least in principle. Obviously we have other laws that prevent people from cohabiting with farm animals, but the theoretical argument remains that once you discard the definition of marriage as occurring between a man and a woman (or one man and one woman), how do you logically justify limiting its scope in other areas? I mean, if it's none of my business whether the couple up the block consists of two men or two women, why is it suddenly my business if the couple consists of a man and a goat?

It's an interesting topic, to be sure.

RevRon's Rants said...

That's exactly what I mean, Steve. The insurance companies should have no say, either; it's none of their business, and where it *is* their business, they need to adapt to the social dictates of their customers, not attempt to dictate them.

My opinion on marriage is valid only where my own relationships are concerned, and I - like the state - have no business prescribing how another's marriage is formed, beyond establishing that marriage is not a function of state, but of one's religious/spiritual beliefs.

The civil union would indeed be the bar where financial and legal matters are involved. It is no different from any other contract into which people enter every day, based solely in applicable laws governing financial agreements, wills,and the like, with no intrusion into the realm of interpreting the mores of the relationship. The emotional side of the union may well be the basis for entering into the contract, but it should have no real bearing on the contract itself.

As to farm animals... IMO, bringing bestiality into the mix is a distraction from the point of discussion. Animals are, according to laws in virtually every country, unqualified to enter into contractual agreements, and I'd be interested in observing an animal making a commitment to a relationship - at least, making that commitment in a fashion that would stand up in any kind of civil proceeding.

A Fag That G-d Hates said...

You talk out of two sides of your mouth, Steve, and this is fairly constant with you. You say you support gay causes and then you make a comparison to people having sex with goats. Somehow that doesn't sound like true acceptance to me.

Cosmic Connie said...

This may be only marginally on topic for this post, Steve, but it's definitely on topic for this blog. Did you happen to catch that segment on Monday's ABC Nightline about the retreat that claims to help rid men of unwanted homosexual tendencies? It's called "Journey To Manhood" and it seems to employ every hopelessly cliched New-Wage/SHAMmy/selfish-help concept popularized over the past twenty years or so. Using the basic format of LGATs and Men's-Movement retreats, it draws on all of that Iron John stuff, right down to the spoken affirmations, warrior imagery, and shouts of, "Ho!" in response to individual participants' every utterance.

I don't want to seem that I am stereotyping anyone, but neither the leaders of the workshop nor the young attendee named Preston who was featured on the segment convinced me that they were over their man lust. They still looked and sounded...well...gay. Not, as Jerry Seinfeld famously said, that there is anything wrong with that. But I think that most of the participants are lying to themselves (and, in the case of the workshop leaders, lying to others while taking their money).

Preston presented his story as having a happy ending, because his young wife is now pregnant. But it seems to me, after seeing her speak on camera, that the best this young couple can hope for is that they will come to terms with the fact that Preston will always have a thing for men. In fact she sort of teasingly (or was it just resignedly?) mentioned that ogling guys is something the two of them can now do together. She'd rather he be open about ogling than do it on the sly, you see.

Since Preston lives in Utah, I suspect there could be some religious influences pressuring him to reject his natural tendencies.

Not surprisingly, not everyone is convinced that Journey to Manhood "works," and many in the legitimate therapy profession (as opposed to the New-Wage LGAT profession) frown on the basic concept that homosexuality is something that can be "fixed," even if the person with the homosexual tendencies expresses a desire to be "fixed." The Nightline segment showed a couple of guys who tried Journey to Manhood, ended up disgusted with it, and now openly embrace their gayness.

Anyhow, here's a link on the ABC News site:

roger o'keefe said...

"A Fag That God Hates," I see that Steve hasn't replied yet and I'm not putting words in his mouth, but I'm going to address your comment. Personally I am sick and tired of the political correctness surrounding this issue. I believe strongly that gays should be allowed to marry and serve in the military. That's a totally separate issue from whether gay behavior is normal. It isn't, plain and simple. Gayness is a deviation from the norm, which means it is deviant. There is no criticism implied in that. I'm just stating a fact. If something is not normal, it is abnormal. There are no two ways about it.

Mankind cannot perpetuate itself through gay sex, and the vast majority of people are not gay. So it's one thing to grant gay people full rights, which I believe they deserve to have. Then you want to take it several steps further and insist that your behavior be accepted as totally normal, the same as if you were heterosexual, and that's where I (and a lot of people) have to draw the line. I don't draw that line out of bigotry. I'm simply noting a fact, just as I might note that a tiger is more naturally aggressive than a lamb. I'm not judging the tiger and I'm not judging *you*, as a gay man. But facts are facts. Deal with it.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie: Thank you for that. It's surely a worthwhile addendum--and something to look into.

"Fag" and Roger: Hmmm. I'm pondering.

RevRon's Rants said...

It's a proven fact that whenever the population of a species increases to the point where the environment won't support it any longer, nature corrects the imbalance through disease, heightened social tensions that lead to warfare, or some other corrective phenomenon. Given that human population on earth continues to skyrocket, it just might be possible that the human genetic makeup is trending toward an increasing ratio of homosexuals to heterosexuals, thereby reducing the birth rate. If this theory is viable (and I've been unable to find anything to indicate it is not), perhaps we are evolving toward a point where homosexuals make up the majority of the population. Following Roger's logic, they would then become the "normal" ones, and the heterosexuals would assume the "deviant" title. :-)

BTW: I don't think G_d hates anyone, especially not because they're a fag. Might be getting tired of all the folks with a chip on their shoulders who spend so much energy looking for reasons to spew their "issues," though... I'll have to pray on it.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron: The problem with your argument is that in an ironic way, it can also be used to explain HIV, which, especially in its early years, decimated the gay population. In fact, that reasoning about how Mother Nature "thins the herd" could be twisted to support some of the most disagreeable viewpoints on gays and gayness.

Like many issues dealing with nature, nurture, "nonconformity," people's feelings, and how politics and social conventions process all of the above, this is a topic fraught with pitfalls and paradoxes.

I do think that there is something to Roger's point about "deviance," though one must also recognize (and cannot simply dismiss) the offensive overtones of the word. In and of itself, "abnormal" is not a pejorative (at least I don't see it as one). I am abnormally tall, at 6-4. I played with guys (football) who were described by friends as "freakishly" big. The issue of gay rights has become overlaid with so much nuance and so many hypersensitivities that it's hard to even state obvious facts without eliciting rancor. One such obvious fact, as Roger states, is that the gay sex will not result in procreation, which would spell the end of the species; clearly that cannot be viewed as the "natural" way of things, in the Darwinian sense.

However, homosexuality occurs throughout nature, including in humans (duh), so by definition, then, it would seem to be "natural." That's why I said above...I'm pondering. (Not to imply that I have the answers. I'm just thinkin' on it, is all.

RevRon's Rants said...

Just stirring the pot a bit, Steve. One can take pretty much any argument to such extremes that it becomes patently offensive... a shorter trip for some than for others.

As "inhumane" as it sounds when one says it out loud, many diseases and calamities have served to "thin the herd," as you put it. And making such correlations is admittedly inhumane. But who says nature has to be humane, anyway? The notion that a particular disease or event is a conscious act of celestial discipline is a human invention, borne of the need to reinforce one's own ideological preferences.

A forest fire is a disaster if you're one of the trees being burned, or if someone or something dear to you happens to get in the way. In the grand scheme, however, the forest fire is just another normal event, and leaves the forest healthier for its destruction. We humans just refuse to acknowledge that despite our grandiose self image, we're still just trees in the forest.

Anonymous said...

Roger, AMEN!