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 Unseen on October 28, 2012 at 11:18am

@Reg

Gay marriage is a moral issue for some religious people, or at least they believe it to be.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on October 28, 2012 at 11:50am

I agree that it is for many Theists as their books tell them homosexuality is wrong. The “holier than thou” bible or koran waving brigade have tried to make it a moral issue for society. To a certain extent they have succeeded and that is probably why the debate continues. However for me it is not a moral issue because homosexuality is not something that causes any harm to society. I wonder if “debate” is even the correct term. It is more of fight for human rights and equality before the law.  If morality has entered the debate it is due to the inferior standards of pious religionists that are below an acceptable par for a modern society that should be questioned. Their sanctimonious Dark Age concepts of morality and an Orwellian idea that their legal marriage makes them superior – or at least “more equal than others” is not just not good enough.

Comment by SteveInCO on October 28, 2012 at 11:56am

I agree with those religious people: It's a moral issue.

It's morally proper, as a gay, to marry in the way described as gay marriage.  It's morally improper to try to restrain or restrict that option.

Oh well I guess I don't agree with them after all.

Comment by Strega on October 28, 2012 at 12:10pm

Nice comments, Reg (and Steve).  There is no morality issue - some religious people point at their scriptures - the same scriptures that are filled with immorality in other matters.  How can it be moral or immoral?  Its just rights that have been denied to a social minority, and America is finally evolving towards acceptance.

Comment by SteveInCO on October 28, 2012 at 12:13pm

... but it's immoral to deny people their rights.

(Yes I realize I am not using quite the same definition of morality as the bible beaters do, but I am being serious, not flippant.)

Comment by Strega on October 28, 2012 at 12:22pm

No, its illegal to deny people their rights.  Not immoral, illegal.

Comment by SteveInCO on October 28, 2012 at 12:25pm

True that too.  I'll modify what I said.  It's not only immoral, it's illegal, and if somehow it ain't illegal it bloody well should be.

Ideally, only (some) immoral acts would be illegal, but not all immoral acts would be illegal, an illegal act would be an immoral act that also violates someone's rights.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on October 28, 2012 at 12:41pm

The last 10 seconds or so of the Dawkins video (watch out when he takes his glasses off first) prove that absolute morality does not exist. All morality is relative. It depends on too many variables that can change as society evolves. The morality of those ancient books is just not up to the standards required of a modern inclusive society. Atheism or at least the philosophy that flows from it will lead to a more just and secular society. Its standards of morality are better and more robust because they are reached through debate and consensus.

PS I have a herd of goats for sale or swap for a new slave if unbeaten.

Comment by Unseen on October 28, 2012 at 1:10pm

Morality is an illusion. While Christians may frame their objections to gay marriage on this or that scriptural reference, their real objection, I believe, has to do with their personal comfort zones. Also, it may be that they hate gays. No phobia involved.

Comment by Unseen on October 28, 2012 at 1:34pm

@Reg If you believe, as some Christians do, that society is held together by a social glue that includes heterosexual marriage, then marrying anything else weakens that cement. People who believe that have a reason (albeit, not a valid one) can disbelieve in gay marriage and still accept tha homosexuality apart from marriage is okay.

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