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 Strega on October 23, 2012 at 3:16pm

I married my wife last year in Vermont.  The only negative experiences we had were with potential wedding photographers - they just plain refused, when we called them up.  Some were rude, some hung up once we explained we were both wives-to-be, and one guy just mumbled about not being able to do it because his wife didn't agree with the idea of same sex marriages.  So obviously the credit crunch hasn't hit the VT photographers, because they can afford to throw away commissions.

In the end, it turned out that not one, but two of our guests were photography addicts, and the pictures we got from them were seriously wonderful, taken with love and printed carefully.  Couldn't have been better if we had waved limitless cheques around.  Love those guys.

Melissa Etheridge has a great take on why same sex marriages should be necessary.  She says the gay community desperately needs same sex divorces, especially where there are children involved.  Think that through.  How many break ups are harmonious?.  it's the divorce courts that help the distribution of assets and maintenance and access rights for the children.

It is just a matter of time before the federal government here in the US becomes obliged to recognise same sex marriage.  At the moment, if I go to Texas I can marry a guy there and not be a bigamist.  If we  drive to New York, where they acknowledge same sex marriages, do I become a bigamist, simply by crossing a border?  How ridiculous!

I think individual states can decide whether or not they want to perform the ceremonies, but I think ALL the states have to recognise a married couple as married, if they have been married in a state or country that has fully adopted the universal nature of two people marrying.

The USA is so out of touch with the rest of the modern world on this issue - come on, America! get with the times - its the 21st century..

Comment by Judith van der Roos on October 23, 2012 at 4:44pm
On December 24th my wife and will have been married 11 years, having made our promises to each other in a civil ceremony age 22. No one gives a furry crack of a rat's arse here if you are gay. in all our travel throughout Europe we have never encountered a problem even in those countries that have yet to enact equal marriage laws, even in contact with Muslim communities has posed no problems for us, though they definitely do not like homosexuality amongst their own kind !

On gay divorce there definitely needs to be more change and greater clarity, this country has not quite got that right yet, by I am sure in time they will. The transgender community are really the ones in need attention more than us in the gay community, some of their legal issues are dreadful but could so easily be dealt with if birth certificates could be "re sexed".
Judith. Vd R.
Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on October 23, 2012 at 6:48pm

We are still talking about it because religion has held us back for so long. It is still only “an issue” for Theism (generally). If it was not for religion there would be no need to fight for this human right. It would not be a topic for discussion as nobody would (or should) need to see it as an issue. We would not be talking about it because there would be nothing to talk about. It would not be debated because it would not enter our minds as something that needed to be debated.

A recent statistic from Ireland last week showed that at least 66% of the population are now in favour of full marriage for gay people.

Comment by kOrsan on October 24, 2012 at 3:24am

Why are we still talking about religion, god, politics, abortion? All of these things were solved hundreds of years ago already. So? Easy, because humanity is stupid. Don't get your hopes up. The talk about gods, gays and abortion will still be around in a hundred years. We're a fucking failed species.

Comment by Strega on October 24, 2012 at 8:16am

Instead of questioning why same-sex marriages should be allowed, society should be questioning why legislators have the right to say 'no' without providing a valid. fucking. reason

Oh yes!  This is so much more to the point - why is it prohibited?  I like the cut of your cloth, there, Kris.

Comment by Lars NIelsen on October 24, 2012 at 8:25am

Waha we don't it has been legalized in my country :D

Though I understand your points, I think it mostly do to the hugh embedding of religions in the populations minds 

Comment by Unseen on October 24, 2012 at 11:21am

Because you brought it up?

Comment by Unseen on October 24, 2012 at 11:21am

More seriously, don't underestimate what a conceptual change it is for a lot of people, particularly a lot of religious people.

Comment by Unseen on October 24, 2012 at 12:04pm

Good occular exercise. Eye twitching.

Comment by Lewal on October 24, 2012 at 12:46pm

I think it definitely lies in combating "the standard anti-equality rhetoric." Which is to say, with this issue specifically, I definitely think the best way to win the war is to take away your opposition's reason to fight. I've been down this road with a close friend of mine (guns, babies, Reagan) who immediately jumped to "Because the institution of marriage is sacred," at which point I simply asked him why. This lead to an exploration of marriage's origins, which in my experience is always far more beneficial than debaters typically appreciate. Most people hit the origin of an idea like it's a pit-stop, when everything you need is in it. By the end of it I'd convinced him that he didn't care (which, if you're the guy signing off on it, is technically a yes).


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