Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gay Marriage - Why Arguments Against are Faulty

You hear it constantly from someone on the TV, radio, on the internet, or just in public if you're in the wrong spot at the wrong time: "Gay marriage is wrong and we shouldn't allow it. Marriage is between One Man and One Woman. We must stand up for Traditional Marriage. Gays just aren't natural." And so on. Even more so now that Obama has become the first President to support Gay Marriage (another step forward by Obama, proving to the world that he doesn't want to recreate history he wants to make history. Another reason why his presidency is progress for more than just his ethnicity)

There are multiple reasons why this is nonsense, with most Gay rights supporters arguing that love is love between two consenting adults, and that enforcing a religious belief on a minority is religious oppression. Both very good arguments, but one I don't see very often which I would really like to be brought into this discussion is the fallacy of "traditional marriage". We see a brief discussion of it that only ranges back to pre-60s (1967 interracial marriage becomes legal in America in all states not just a few) but really we need to address the fact that conservatives are pretending their historical framework is based off thousands of years worth of how "marriage" is defined.

What even is traditional marriage? "Marriage" is currently a thing between two consenting adults ("adult" in our Western culture is currently 18) that are of opposite sexes. Previously it was between two consenting adults of the same sex and race. We believe marriage is all about an expression of love whereas throughout many cultures, Western included, marriage has frequently been for political or social gain. People married for money, or for power, not necessarily because the other person was actually interesting. Marriage used to be determined by the father or at least the parents. Marriage used to be between people younger than 18.

One awfully stupid argument (excuse my bias) against Gay Marriage is "it will lead to Polygamy." Most Christians in the US will probably tell you that they are against such things. Polygamy we know is wrong, because the Bible is riddled with examples of great kings who practised Polygamy, some of which were hand chosen by God to rule, like king David who had 18 wives. Oh wait, let me start that again... We know Gay Marriage is wrong because no recognised denomination of Christianity has ever made it a core tenant of their faith as the only way to get into heaven, like Mormonism. Oh wait, no I'm bad at this... were was I? Oh yes, pointing out that Gay Marriage will somehow lead to an unrelated form of relationships when those relationships have been endorsed by your religious heritage on numerous occasions is called hypocrisy and I'm sorry but it invalidates that argument.

We know that marriage is important, because otherwise why would we hold the ceremony in a Church? That's tradition right? Well, no. Up until the 16th century it was uncommon for marriages to be held in a church, be overseen by clergy, people didn't even have to witness it. A marriage was a commitment to the other person that they may or may not have told the church about. Not only does the idea of what marriage is keep changing throughout history, but the rituals and ceremonies associated with it keep changing also. For starters divorced used to be illegal, and in some points in history it was only acceptable because of adultery, but remarriage wasn't allowed. I was going to bring up Newt Gringrich at this point to point out that he has had multiple wives, but they all ended because of his adultery, so I guess actually he is technically sticking to a "traditional" idea of how marriages should end. His poor respect for personal commitment to his wives can be used as an argument for why gay marriage will no more sully the good name of marriage any more than all those darn straight people constantly getting divorced, but it is not part of my current argument so let's ignore it.

Marriages that a lot of people would look down on are still legal. For instance: an 80 year old can marry a 20 year old and suddenly everyone goes "gasp! What a gold digger!" even though Gerontophilia and graeophilia are legitimate paraphilias. The issue for most people would be the 60 year old age difference, but you probably wouldn't feel the same way about an 120 year old marrying a 60 year old. Granted, some marriages with massive age differences maybe be a bad idea and really don't work, but the point is that even though you don't like them they're still two consenting adults. That's a very important thing: two consenting adults. I hear arguments that Gay Marriage will lead to Pedophilia being legalised, which is absurd. Pedophilia is taking advantage of someone too young to understand what is happening, or to be mature enough to give consent, and therefore is not comparable to the love between two gay adults. One is abuse, the other is a wonderful thing between two mature individuals.

I keep coming back to this to add more as I remember more of my argument. I do apologise. "Gay marriage has never existed!" some cry, further spouting ignorance. Ancient Rome in the early Imperial period had gay couples celebrating traditional marriage rites. It was not until Christianity began taking over the Roman empire in the 4th century did anti gay marriage laws appear. The Roman emperor Nero was married to another man. Twice.  Possibly even three times apparently but that third time I can't find information on. Freedman Pythagoras and Sporus. Though generally marriage was considered to be between man and woman, the Greek historian Dio Cassius implied that Nero's gay marriages were less scandalous than his stage performances (I will admit that maybe Nero was the Tommy Wiseau of his generation and maybe no one could stop him because he was emperor?). Nero isn't the only example. The 3rd century Emperor Elagabalus also married a man and said that he was "delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the queen of Hierocles". He really wanted to be a woman and would've paid anyone handsomely if they could give him female genitals, but alas, technology wasn't what it is today. In fact, 13 of the first 14 Roman emperors were bisexual or even entirely homosexual. To say that homosexual tendencies aren't found in history is utter ignorance.

Marriage is no longer even a religious thing, it is just a commitment to another no different in secular society. We can not deny Atheists marriage no more than we can deny Islamic people marriages in Western society just because their idea of marriage does not hold the same religious significance and "traditions" as Christian marriage.

Believing that Gay Marriage is against tradition is deliberately ignoring the fact that your idea of what is or isn't tradition is merely social and historical bias effected by your cultural background. Remember that: defending traditional marriage is a fallacy brought on by a social and historical bias. Thanks to the magic of things like transportation, internet, phones, and other forms of communication, people should be able to understand better that other cultures exist outside their own and thus become more understanding of the complexities of human life. I look forward to people embracing this.

Believing that Gay Marriage is wrong because of some passage in the Bible is just part of your religious beliefs, and no one is trying to take that away from you. You have every right to believe that it is wrong but then again, from a Christian perspective so are all other religions because they deny Jesus. And Atheism. And all manner of things that people defend under moral relativism. But those things aren't illegal, because the US is not a theocracy. Therefore it is impractical and downright arrogant to think that one system of belief should be forced upon another group as law. I have just discussed Gay Marriage in terms of Christian marriage traditions which is incredibly limited considering that there are a wide variety of marriage traditions of all kinds of cultures that make up America, not just religious rituals, but ethnic traditions as well. The complexity of marriage is simply too large to discuss in a concise manner and as I've been saying all this time: it should not be boiled down to the narrow contemporary cultural perspective of the Christian right-wing.

And, as always, the most obvious thing to say: If you don't like gay marriage, don't get one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing..