Gay Marriage. Why Are We Still Talking About It?

  Author Emily Dietle | Originally Posted at Emilyhasbooks

...

Rice University’s Herring Hall was buzzing with conversations about marriage equality after a talk given by philosopher John Corvino a few weeks ago. In his hour-long presentation, Corvino* examined the ethics of the debate about gay marriage in the public square. The evening opened with an introduction to the progress being made across the states in the struggle for marriage equality, and outlined the importance of local activism and acquiring the public support from ministers and unions in regions where anti-marriage equality ballots are up for a vote. After the talk, I couldn’t resist picking up a copy of Debating Same-Sex Marriage, a book Corvino co-authored with the National Organization for Marriage’s ultra-conservative Maggie Gallagher.

If you’re asking, as one of their publishers asked, “What’s left to argue?” then you should definitely pick up a copy, as there is a lot left to talk about. Sure, on the East and West coasts the issue of same-sex marriage is nearly a non-issue, but in all States in between, it’s a topic of contention with a lot of hateful rhetoric attached. You may also be asking yourself, “Why talk about it in Texas?” Even though it’s highly unlikely that the laws in TX or any other Southern State will change anytime soon, by creating a dialogue about same-sex marriage and LGBT equality in general- we can influence current debates elsewhere, and soften hearts and minds here. It takes time.

As Corvino’s own friendship with Gallagher shows, the closer our relationships are with those that oppose us, the more thoughtful the dialogue becomes. Most unexpectedly, their bonds of friendship encouraged Gallagher to stand up against “stupid remarks” made by NOM supporters. Again, from Corvino- we need to let people know why marriage equality is important to us, and we need to be mindful of presenting ourselves in a way that is welcoming to productive conversation.

I’d also argue that the same should be applied to issues of state-church separation and atheist equality- we must first get people to listen. Which brings me to an important point that Corvino brought up in his talk, “If we value marriage, we cannot honour only one faith or denomination- marriage is for all people.”

Fascinatingly, Corvino’s talk didn’t only combat the standard anti-equality rhetoric, he also addressed some of our own LGBT positive pitfalls. The “morality is a private matter and we shouldn’t be discussing this” line was rebutted with the fact that marriage is a social institution, not only a private matter. We care about morality, and this conversation is both valid and important to society as a whole. Secondly, while we often hear people proclaim that “this is the last frontier of the civil rights movement,” it’s not. We don’t know our moral blind spots, and we should never be complacent in seeking them out.

*John Corvino is Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Wayne State University. Applause should also go to Houston’s best independent bookstore, Brazos Bookstore, that provided copies of Corvino’s book for sale at the event, which was co-hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and Rice’s Department of Philosophy and the Centerfor the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

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Comment by greyfoot on October 24, 2012 at 11:29pm

But, Kris, those opponents ARE judges and legislators. The people in those professions have opinions too, and those opinions influence how they rule/legislate. Your comments are suggesting a level of objectivity that doesn't exist, not even in our most secular practices. Therefore, the real fight, if you'll forgive the cliche, is in the streets. Spread the message to the masses. Those masses will be influenced, and perhaps find their way into the legislature or the courtroom.

Mind you, this isn't without its inherent dangers. Remember that the ruling against Prop 8 was seen as judicial activism. You or I might scoff at this, but is that based upon empirical impassivity--an as-objective-as-possible interpretation of the law--or do we scoff because the ruling just so happened to be in our favor?

Comment by kris feenstra on October 24, 2012 at 11:47pm
While I am reading your posts, and welcome your views, I have to confess that it is awkward when you phrase things as counterpoints to a position I am not taking.
Comment by Unseen on October 25, 2012 at 12:04am

And Obama is ignoring DOMA for the most part. 

Comment by greyfoot on October 25, 2012 at 5:18pm

"The underlying point was simply that legislators and judiciaries need to be accountable to more objective and rational criteria than have been set forth by same-sex marriage opponents in the debate thus far. This is, fundamentally, a deeper and more important issue than the same-sex marriage debate itself."

"Cost-benefit is not overly difficult to address in this particular case as opponents have yet to establish any tangible cost apart from personal dissatisfaction."

Kris, I honestly don't want to bicker, especially in this format (this is why I MUCH prefer chat to forums--tedious back and forth can go on forever), but I don't know how I can make my opposition to your very own point, stated in the posts, any clearer. Except for the obvious gaffe of labeling you as a Libertarian, I have addressed your own words. You think the real issue is legal, and I think the real issue is moral and cultural. I said that the rationality and objectivity you're expecting of our congress people and judges is unrealistic, and that the more effective way to change attitudes toward homosexuality is address the culture as a whole, not one single (legal) aspect of it. How is that not addressing a stance your are taking?

Comment by kris feenstra on October 25, 2012 at 9:06pm

"You think the real issue is legal, and I think the real issue is moral and cultural."

I have not said that there is not a real moral or cultural issue. I am stating that there is an issue which has arisen in the legal debate which is more severe and universally distressing than the debate over same-sex marriage itself (regardless of whether you are for or against same-sex marriage).

"...and that the more effective way to change attitudes toward homosexuality is address the culture as a whole..."

I have not addressed how to change attitudes toward homosexuality in my comments. I have not stated how it should be done, or even if it should or should not be done. I haven't gone there in this thread. t=That you want to address it makes perfect sense -- it's obviously relevant to the blog on which we are commenting --, but I am not commenting on that aspect, myself.

I said that the rationality and objectivity you're expecting of our congress people and judges is unrealistic,

It has already been established. Past tense. Studies have been conducted to assess the impacts of same-sex parents in family units with positive results (from an LGBT rights perspective). In California it was demonstrated that same-sex marriage has a slight positive effect on the economy due to the money invested in weddings. Several countries and regions have already legalized same-sex marriage or unions and serve as real-world case studies of the impacts and challenges. The results so far? Society did not dissolve into anarchy, mayhem and moral decay. On a moral front, the harm caused by same-sex marriages has not been demonstrated, and religion has not really had to compromise -- only co-exist.  There's more, but I'm not here to rehash an entire debate.

There is reasonable evidence which can be assessed objectively in place of mere opinion, conjecture, or emotion. While there are plenty of other aspects to the issue which could be discussed outside of a courtroom, not all aspects of the debate can realistically be entertained by the law. For instance, religious freedoms can be (and have typically been) addressed, but the validity of Leviticus, let's say, cannot. That would be truly unrealistic.

Comment by greyfoot on October 25, 2012 at 10:06pm

Gah.

Kris, I'm doing everything I can to keep from dragging this out, but this has to be addressed.

I didn't say that you said that morality and culture weren't a factor at all. I simply pointed out that in your own post you specifically stated that morality and culture weren't AS important as legality. You say that the legal debate is "more severe and universally distressing." How does my statement of "You think the real issue is legal, and I think the real issue is moral and cultural" NOT address that? Do we need to split hairs? Should I have said "more important issue?" My position, which I think quite clearly opposes yours, is that the moral and cultural debate is more important than the legal one. My own ideas of how we should proceed in the argument against the opposition was simply to supplant the importance of the issue itself. But I did in fact address your very stance.

As for the objective reality of the benefits of gay marriage already having "been established," that is still not an objective statement. "...from an LGBT rights perspective." What about a perspective that isn't LGBT? No, the countries and cultures you mention did not descend into total anarchy or utter moral depravity, but there are people--educated, wise, conscientious people--who have concluded that those cultures have degenerated at least somewhat, citing everything from socialism to the extremes of libertarianism. They have their own studies, let's not forget. We can't just dismiss these educated and conscientious people as being guided entirely by their emotions, in the same way we can't dismiss the people who fought in favor of institutionalized racism. Yes, the majority of us feel that they were (are) wrong, but that's now. And that's because the tide went a certain way. It could easily have been the opposite. You are dismissing an entire database, if you will, of morality, culture, and objective sociology with your stated point of view. And that is most definitely not objectivity.

"While there are plenty of other aspects to the issue which could be discussed outside of a courtroom, not all aspects of the debate can realistically be entertained by the law."


Which is precisely why the real fight IS outside the courtroom, as I have already said. Courts and legislatures change with the times. There is nothing objective about them at all. And since those represent the sentiments of people anyway (for the most part), why not start at the source?

Comment by kris feenstra on October 25, 2012 at 10:46pm

"Kris, I'm doing everything I can to keep from dragging this out..."

If you want to stop it from dragging out then listen to me when I say the position against which you continue to argue IS NOT A POSITION I HAVE ASSERTED.

I am not stating that the legal aspect of the same-sex marriage debate is more important than the moral or cultural aspect. I have not argued this position. Get your mind off of that. It is not asserted in my posts. I am done repeating myself.

As for the objective reality of the benefits of gay marriage already having "been established," that is still not an objective statement. "...from an LGBT rights perspective." What about a perspective that isn't LGBT?

The research was positive for LGBT rights advocates because it objectively contrasted the claim that having same-sex couple parents was harmful to children. 

...who have concluded that those cultures have degenerated at least somewhat, citing everything from socialism to the extremes of libertarianism.

If there are credible studies showing a direct link between the legalization of same-sex marriage and cultural degeneration, I would be delighted to read them at my earliest convenience if I have not yet done so in the past.

Comment by greyfoot on October 25, 2012 at 11:07pm

Yeah, it's time to stop this, since you're being obtuse about this. I most certainly have argued against your very position, have even given you your own quotes. So I'll refrain from beating my head against a wall any longer.

Comment by kris feenstra on October 25, 2012 at 11:24pm

Even in withdrawal you still need to assert that you know better than I what my own position is? Look, if you don't understand my position or what I am stating that's fine, but I will not let you dictate to me what my own views are. Got it?

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on October 28, 2012 at 11:16am

Gay marriage is not a moral issue.  

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