Posted by: JDM..... | October 16, 2012

The “same-sex marriage” issue…..


Don’t shake your head…..as a child I enjoyed toying with hornets’ nests…..

One of the “hot buttons” this election season is the issue of “gay marriage”. As with any idea or product which one has reason to promote, especially in the face of strenuous opposition, it has a number of less direct but perhaps more easily digestible monikers designed to reduce resistance from those who may not be supportive. That’s the nature and magic of language, of course.

Depending on what side of the fence one sits on regarding any particular issue, and on how controversial it is, this softening strategy may be considered a good idea or a misrepresentation. For example, by broadening the issue of “gay marriage”, which is itself a softening of rather harsh indictments one might have heard a generation ago, renaming it to include references to “equality” or “discrimination”, the selling points take on a whole new aura. The implication is that anyone who does not support the idea is, by association, globally anti-equality or discriminatory. This may lend sense of strength and confidence to those promoting the motion, but those opposed may feel unfairly misinterpreted.

With good reason, perhaps. A number of years ago, while I was working in the Behavioral Health field, I had occasion to read a series of books on the topic of verbal abuse, to learn more about how to identify and deflect it. The tactic of laying out a verbal snare for someone to step in seems to be what much of modern politics is all about. While most of us like to believe the “When did you stop beating your mother?” questions were left behind upon the completion of Elementary School, we find that political contests reignite them.

The temptation when thus confronted, of course, is to “defend” one’s position on the issue (in this case, “gay marriage”). Hmmm. Taking a defensive position almost universally means the snare worked. To protest “But that isn’t what I meant” doesn’t say a thing about what one did mean and, as with the “Tar Baby” of Uncle Remus’ fame, may simply make things worse.

Realizing clearly the nature of the beast with which I choose to dance, I nevertheless will state where I stand on the question of “gay marriage”, and offer a few comments about why. It’s one of those things about which one virtually cannot assume comfortable neutrality.

In about three weeks, my state of Maine will vote on the issue of whether or not to “allow” gay marriage; not my choice of words, but that’s what we will be answering. I will be voting “No”. I don’t need to explain or justify that position, any more than staunch supporters need to divulge their own sexuality one way or the other, or gain validity by telling about homosexual friends or family members. Nevertheless, I will talk about some factors which have influenced me in the matter.

People tend to be fairly stabile and firm in their opinions on the matter of gay marriage, and the things I say are not intended to try and change anybody’s mind. I simply feel the need to state my position, in part because reading my words puts a different perspective on the ideas running around in my head. I usually learn from the process.

My reasons are not religiously founded, at least not consciously. Having grown up during the Fifties and Sixties in a rather unremarkable middle class, flag-flying, church-going family, I certainly was influenced by that environment in assembling a system of values and developing a personality through which to express them. However, I’m not a rubber-stamped copy of that experience, nor do I think I fit any particular stereotype.

Religious arguments aside, I have to look at the history and nature of humankind as a species. Biologically, like most other life, human life has been able to continue because of sexual reproduction. That process is encouraged and facilitated by a number of biological and psychological characteristics and functions that draw the opposite sexes together. In some instances, those same forces draw people of the same sex together. That doesn’t define the two circumstances as identical, however.

Homosexuality is presumably as old as humankind, but until recently it has been one of those things people really just didn’t discuss a whole lot. Awareness and understanding have greatly increased since my youth but, obviously, there remain strong differences in how the public views that orientation.

Although the totality of recorded history is but a tiny bit of the entire history of our species and its development, it might be presumed that same-sex interactions most likely preceded recorded human history by a significant margin. A number of ancient civilizations recorded the practice, and tended to “look the other way”, so to speak. On the opposite face of the issue, there have also been many societies and cultures where homosexuality was prosecuted by death.

Committed relationships between males and females have also been a factor in human history, presumably long before such things were described in lore or written down in some fashion. There have been variations, including both matrilineal and patrilineal family structures as well as polygamous relationships. Right or wrong isn’t the core question, that being a purely subjective declaration. Each variation developed within its culture or society to fulfill some need, and either endured or was abandoned through the same process. I know of no culture or society in recorded human history, or any suggestion of one in prerecorded human existence, where same sex relationships were deemed to fit into the needs of the society or culture to a degree resulting in any ritually sanctioned association resembling or imitating heterosexual “marriage” or any of its cousins.

When someone observes that homosexuality “isn’t natural” or “isn’t normal”, they are right, to some extent, at least from a statistical perspective. Check out the concept of the bell curve. I understand the motivation to “normalize” the behavior or lifestyle, but that’s different from redefining “normality”. A culture is characterized by its mores, and those are aspects which don’t respond well to a prescriptive approach. They have to develop over extremely long time spans, in ebb and flow expressions of the circumstances a society experiences. We may be living in a period of bloom for liberal causes, but there are aspects of humanity that can’t just be redefined because a small population wants to do so. It is what it is, as the saying goes. The ebb and flow of today’s circumstances and cultural experiences will influence the paths of the future, of course, but such a narrow social ripple won’t define those paths or prescribe them.

Obviously, It is what it is, applies equally well to the pro “gay marriage” argument. As I stated earlier, same-sex attraction and same sex love exist, presumably have all along, and probably will continue to exist into the future. Nevertheless, I remain opposed to enacting a law acknowledging such a relationship as being identical to the one I enjoy with my wife. And that, I believe, is central to the whole controversy. It’s about more than just the legal technicalities.

Over the past half century or so, a large body of law has come into being that has taken the course of prescribing cultural changes in matters of race, gender, and other issues. More than just a matter of removing barriers, it became an expedition of erecting ladders of exclusivity. Changes have taken place. There have also been some negative consequences, not the least of which has been the unsustainable expense involved in micromanaging the comings and goings of 310 million people. Philosophically, we have become acutely divided between those who want such micromanagement to continue and even to expand, and those who see such government intervention as counter to the aims of the Founders and the Constitution they authored.

We have moved closer to the dictates of that Constitution over the past fifty years or so than we have ever been, with the exception of the ending of sanctioned slavery with the Civil War. It took a century for the changes put into motion with that terrible conflict to begin to bear real fruit, but today there are doctors and lawyers and business executives in roles that were out of reach for their parents and grandparents, simply because of gender or skin color. That’s a good thing. What is not such a good thing, however, is the scaffolding erected to build that that access still exists, and in fact continues to grow. Government intervention, along with the infrastructure required to support and feed it, has become an industry in its own right. Every time a new “special interest population” receives its credentials, a bureaucracy follows in order to define, micromanage, and enforce the privileges bestowed with that designation. Perhaps we need to clean up that junkyard before we go tossing more stuff on it to rust at taxpayer expense.

Would same sex marriage “threaten” me or my marriage? Of course not. That suggestion, used as a “straw man” in a letter I received on the matter recently, elicits the response “What makes you think I feel threatened?” It’s an unfounded presumption not supported by anything I might have said.

On the other hand, I do think that one should be careful when redefining traditional mores. If the institution of marriage was redefined to include same sex couples, I would feel that the word and the relationship it has defined in one form or another “forever” would be changed, and I don’t like that idea. Is the exclusion of same sex couples from the ritual of traditional “marriage” arbitrary or discriminatory? No. It does not prevent such couples from loving each other, from cohabiting, or engaging in contracts together. Those contracts differ somewhat from those associated with traditional “marriage”, but if that is the meat of the objection to exclusion, there have been countless efforts to eliminate that contractual difference.

Silly as it may seem to some, one of my reactions to the issue a long time ago was “But that’s MY word….”. A sanctioned relationship between people of the same sex that exactly mirrors traditional “marriage” would be a simple matter to draw up and put into place. Just use a different word. Change one letter, I don’t care. Companies do that all the time so they can legally mimic and market their offering as another product. No matter how much they might imitate the preexisting model, they aren’t the other model in substance, and aren’t likely to be viewed as the other model, at least not with any rapidity. Is there a difference between lovelife.com and lovelife.comm? You bet there is, especially to those who identified themselves by the name first.

So there it is. I have no objection to same-sex relationships. I do object, however, to a legislated redefinition of a word that has been a very natural and normal part not only of my culture but of human history as I understand it.

It is a controversial question that strikes very deeply for many on both sides of the issue. For those who base their opposition on religious teachings, it challenges core beliefs they hold dear. For those who just want to be treated like anyone else, the refusal of traditionalists to agree with them may be hurtful and frustrating. Others have their own reasons for how they feel about same-sex marriage. Before we can arrive at an equitable solution that most closely meets the needs of all involved, which essentially is everybody, we need to find a way to set emotion aside, define specifically what it is about traditional “marriage” that people in same-sex relationships want, and specifically what those opposed to “gay marriage” want. While I sincerely hold to the belief that all people are, simply by fact of their birth, endowed with no less right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than anyone else, that does not necessarily mean that everybody gets the same thing.

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Responses

  1. …”When someone observes that homosexuality “isn’t natural” or “isn’t normal”, they are right, to some extent, at least from a statistical perspective.”
    …”I do object, however, to a legislated redefinition of a word that has been a very natural and normal part not only of my culture but of human history as I understand it. ”
    The above statements were in your blog. I agree with 99% of it; the only part I question are the above words “Natural” and “Normal”. It is Natural and Normal for those involved. It is not Natural or Normal for those in mainstream society. Because it doesn’t fit society’s definition of “normal” doesn’t mean it isn’t “normal”. I choose to say they’re “different”. It’s THEIR normal.

  2. ” I do object, however, to a legislated redefinition of a word that has been a very natural and normal part not only of my culture but of human history as I understand it. ”

    If your ability to get married as a heterosexual does not change at all, I disagree with your interpretation that anything is being ‘redefined’.

    • Thanks for your input! Glad you took the time to stop by and check it out. Not everything is a hornet’s nest….some stuff might even be construed as funny. Stop in again.
      Regards,
      😎


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