Monthly Archives: November 2008

On Gay Marriage

When people raise issues of gay rights, most commonly they are pondering or pontificating about how our government should address homosexual couples who wish to be married. Since that question concedes the underlying premise, however, that the government should be involved with marriage in any capacity, we invariably resign ourselves to the wrong side of the issue.

I used to think that the problem of gay rights in the United States today was largely one of semantics. I used to think that homosexuals should have the ability to obtain government-sanctioned unions, as should everyone else, and that those unions should impart equal legal privileges upon all who hold them. I used to think that a “separate but equal”-style system, in which the institution of marriage could be preserved in its traditional state, would satisfy all parties involved. However, after pondering the evolving political climate surrounding this issue, I can no longer hold that view. It is quite clear that granting separate civil unions to homosexual couples will never bring about the kind of equality we desire, simply because marriage has intrinsic spiritual meanings which a mere civil union can never entail.

The solution pushed by the gay marriage lobby is simply to add another facet to the legal definition of marriage. This would allow homosexual couples to enjoy all the legal benefits of marriage, and it would allow them to enjoy all of marriage’s spiritual connotations.
Unfortunately, this solution doesn’t address the fundamental problem: a lack of equality. It simply adds another group of people to be graced by government. It doesn’t end the “legislation of morals” which so many leftists decry. It simply substitutes the legislation of one group’s morals for another.

We have to remember that rights are inherent to individuals, not to groups. Groups are social constructs, superimposed upon individuals. In ensuring rights for all individuals, the solution proposed by the gay marriage lobby falls short. Their solution only creates and expands privileges for groups. It is a quick, politically expedient, but inevitably flawed solution.

Re-examination of the fundamental problem reveals not an unfair distribution of privileges, but a complete disregard for any separation of church and state. The sanction of traditional marriage in our legal codes has caused two negative consequences: First, it has produced a legal system which unfairly discriminates against homosexuals. Second, it places the institution of marriage in the precarious position of being subject to public scrutiny, and the further entrenchment of traditional marriage pushed by conservatives through their various state/federal marriage amendments only intensifies the problem. On the other hand, the solution proposed by the gay marriage lobby would, in the eyes of many traditionalists, defile the institution of marriage. Is there not a solution which could satisfy all parties?

Let us consider the extreme logical outcome of the solution put forth by the gay marriage lobby: Even if we overcome the impossible political task of expanding the definition of marriage to include any and every conceivable kind of union between people, we will still have discrimination between those who are married and those who are not. If we expand privileges even further to include both married and non-married people, then we entirely defeat the purpose of having those privileges, and we find ourselves back at square one. In addition to being pointless, a situation in which everyone subsidizes everyone else could be harmless, if not for that fact that money must be skimmed off the top in order to pay the salaries of the bureaucrats administering these programs.

Given this lesson, I think the ideal solution would be to completely remove government from the business of marriage. Abolish all definitions of marriage from legal code, and abolish all privileges enjoyed by married couples. Allow couples to seek any kind of union they choose, from whatever private institution they choose. Leave questions of inheritance, hospital visitation, end-of-life care, etc. for individuals to decide through contracts. Let people be equal through liberty, instead of grasping at an ever elusive equality through privilege and restraint.

If the laws were changed this way, homosexuals could benefit spiritually, and all individuals would be legally equal. It would also insulate the religious community from political scrutiny, and allow heterosexuals to pursue marriages unadulterated by those who hold morals different from their own.

I think many of my fellow conservatives have lost their way on this issue. Reminiscent of leftists, they take the attacks of the other side personally. This is understandable, because traditional marriage, an institution they hold dear, is so ingrained in public life. However, it is nonetheless reprehensible. They allow their spiritual convictions to drive their political convictions. This disregard for individual liberty is the kind of behavior I expect from the left, but to see it come from the right is discomfiting, to say the least. To my conservative friends, I would offer this prescription: if you wish to stop the destruction of traditional marriage, then fight that campaign within the private square, because the continued entrenching of traditional marriage in legal code is an inevitably untenable position. The most constructive action you could take in the public square to save traditional marriage is to join in calling for its complete absence from the law.

As an atheist, I have no vested interest in protecting the institution of traditional marriage. However, I have a deep-seated interest in protecting liberty. I wish we could let that become a uniting factor among both traditional marriage and gay marriage advocates, instead of being driven by divisive emotions.

People should not be ashamed of their sexual orientation, and they should not be subject to institutionalized ostracism or mistreatment because of it. Love is a natural and important aspect of all our lives–far too important to place in the hands of government.

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Abortion

I like to unwind with a social issue every now and then.

I would like to start out by saying that based on my views, I would have to identify more with the pro-life side of the argument. However, I am not pro-life for the more conventional reasons as are usually presented in the abortion debate. My argument is based on reasons of personal responsibility, not religious views.

The most common pro-choice argument, that “the woman has the right to choose” is inherently illogical and irrelevant, regardless of where you stand. What many pro-choice supporters fail to realize or choose not to realize is that the woman already made her choice. She was faced with a choice between having unprotected sex, and not having unprotected sex. At the first moment the question of abortion comes to the table, the argument is no longer “the woman has the right to choose” but instead, “the woman has the right to change her mind”. She has made an apparently unadvantageous decision, and she wants to now terminate the pregnancy to make it all right. The problem lies in the fact that abortion nullifies the apparently negative consequences of partaking in risky behavior. By allowing abortion, society has decreed that this behavior is responsible, and even respectable. And when people are no longer forced to take responsibility for their actions, they are more likely to repeat those actions. I guess you could say I am pro-choice also, but I am for a different choice. Also, I know that there are a few cases in which women are raped, and in a few cases the woman’s health is endangered by the birth of a child, but those make up a very small percentage of total pregnancies, and even then in the case of rape, there are alternatives to abortion.

The second most common pro-choice argument, that “the woman has the right to control her body (and the fetus, as it resides within her body)” is logical, but only depending on how far you are willing to extend that logic. I could kill another person by using my finger to pull the trigger of a gun, and then argue that I should not be punished because I have the right to control my body. I would be laughed at, though, as any action a human being exercises requires control over one’s own body. We outlaw certain actions in order to protect the freedom of other people. To question this pro-choice argument, I would say “Why not allow the rape of a woman? She will just have an abortion anyway, and the rapist was simply exercising control over his body.”

In the previous paragraph, I outlined the reason we have laws: To protect the rights of other people. I now realize that this begs the question of “When does the fetus become a person?” Although I will be more than willing to take in to account any definitive scientific proof on this matter, for the time being, I will address the question through a lens of practicality. The mutual objective of the progenitors (excluding cases of rape) is to create a new human being, and since conception is the first purposeful and definitive step to fulfilling this objective, I will define this moment as when the group of cells begins to identify as a person. However, let not this assumption shift the focus of my main argument: It’s mostly about personal responsibility. If more people used good judgment, many fewer people would need abortions in the first place, and many more people could get along.

If we must retain abortion as an acceptable action in society, government should act regarding abortion as it did before Roe v. Wade, and have the power reside in the states to decide how abortions are handled. Or perhaps no government regulation is needed at all. All I ask is that abortion be justified as a responsible act first (which I see as a very difficult task), and then perhaps let the market decide its fate.