Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Gay Marriage - The next battlefield in the war for equality.

While reading another blog, I was directed to a particularly, well, asinine, piece posted on MySpace by a guy writing under the handle Astrochronic. This piece is arguing that marriage equality for gays was, somehow, an infringement of civil liberties for straight people. His argument is, basically, homosexuality is a "dysfunction" and that gay people cannot form the required attachment that you would find between married people. Because gay people disagree with this perspective, he claims they are "self deluded." He throws in occasional arguments about morality, mental health issues, the media, and how gays living their lives is bad for society. In this blog I am going to answer the major points of piece in question, though, not necessarily in the order that they were presented.

You will also notice one other thing in this response that is not present in the original piece. In my response, for questions of fact, you will find citations. When discussing our government and governing documents, you will find quotations. These facts and figures will not convince the die hard fundamentalist, much as Galileo was unable to convince the fundamentalists of his time that the Earth revolved around the sun. Rather, this response is aimed at the middle - the fair minded people who can weigh the facts before making a decision.

Regarding religious arguments against homosexuality, specifically questions as to the morality of homosexuality and homosexual relationships:

The gay marriage debate is one involving the granting of civil rights and responsibility by the state. In America, we have the separation of church and state. While Christians may claim that this separation is the creation of an activist Supreme Court, the first person to coin the phrase was actually Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

Will this convince the fundamentalists? Well, no... Unfortunately, God Himself probably couldn't either. However, regardless of what they want to claim, our government is secular and was intended by its creators to be secular. The question of whether gay marriage or homosexuality is moral or not is for each individual to decide for themselves, not for the state to decide. Our Constitution promises each American equal protection under the law. Giving 1049 rights and privileges through marriage to heterosexual couples, while denying them to homosexual couples breaks this promise. Judging which interpersonal relationships between consenting adults are moral or not is not, nor should it ever be, the business of the state.

Regarding the assertion that homosexuality is a dysfunction or a disorder:

The American Psychological Association has the following to say regarding homosexuality being a disorder, "Psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals agree that homosexuality is not an illness, mental disorder or an emotional problem. Over 35 years of objective, well-designed scientific research has shown that homosexuality, in and itself,is not associated with mental disorders or emotional or social problems. Homosexuality was once thought to be a mental illness because mental health professionals and society had biased information. In the past the studies of gay, lesbian and bisexual people involved only those in therapy, thus biasing the resulting conclusions. When researchers examined data about these people who were not in therapy, the idea that homosexuality was a mental illness was quickly found to be untrue."

The American Psychiatric Association says, "All major professional mental health organizations have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association’s Board of Trustees removed homosexuality from its official diagnostic manual, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition (DSM II). The action was taken following a review of the scientific literature and consultation with experts in the field. The experts found that homosexuality does not meet the criteria to be considered a mental illness."

The two major professional organizations for the mental health field both say homosexuality is not a disorder. As such, Astrochronic's primary argument that gays suffer from a disorder is shown to be false.

Regarding the assertion that homosexual relationships cannot be as fulfilling as heterosexual relationships, and that heterosexual relationships are the ideal:

In 2003 a study was published that was conducted by Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington and Dr. Robert Levenson of the University of California at Berkley on gay couples and their relationship dynamics. During an interview with a University of Washington campus publication, Dr, Gottman said, "Gay and lesbian couples are a lot more mature, more considerate in trying to improve a relationship and have a greater awareness of equality in a relationship than straight couples."

Quoting from the same article Dr. Gottman goes on to say, "Straight couples start a conflict discussion in a much more negative place than do gays and lesbian couples. Homosexuals start the same kind of discussions with more humor and affection, are less domineering and show considerably more positive emotions than heterosexual couples. The way a discussion starts is critical. If it starts off in a bad way in a heterosexual relationship, we have found that it will become even more negative 96 percent of the time. Gays and lesbians are warmer, friendlier and less belligerent. You see it over and over in their discussions, and their partner is receiving the message they are communicating. In turn, their partner is allowing himself or herself to be influenced in a positive way. With married heterosexual couples a discussion is much more of a power struggle with someone being invalidated."

Dr. Gottman's prediction for the future - "I think that in 200 years heterosexual relationships will be where gay and lesbian relationships are today."

Now who is this Dr. Gottman? What does he know about relationships? Dr. Gottman, along with his wife Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman run The Gottman Institute, and Dr. Gottman is the author of 37 books dealing with relationships, family and parenting. More information on Dr. Gottman can be found here.

Far from being dysfunctional psudo-relationships, gay relationships have been show to be just as strong, if not stronger, the heterosexual ones. The are most definitely not "an abberation[sp] to the natural human bonding instinct," as the blog author insists.

Regarding gay people's desire to live their lives in the open:

Astrochronic comments in his blog, "why can't they just keep it to themselves a little better?" My response to him is, why should we? The First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants to all Americans the freedom of expression. If the fundamentalist crowd does not like it, that is their problem.

Additionally, coming out is therapeutic.
Quoting the American Psychological Association, "sharing that aspect of themselves with others is important to their mental health. In fact, the process of identity development for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals called "coming out", has been found to be strongly related to psychological adjustment—the more positive the gay, lesbian, or bisexual identity, the better one's mental health and the higher one's self-esteem."

Astrochronic states that, as part of the dysfunction he claims gays have, that they have a higher rates of bipolar disorder. I would submit to him that, if that is true, then the cause is not being gay, but rather dealing with the stigma society places on being gay. However, this argument is irrelevant anyway, as we have shown that professionals in the mental health field state, in absolute clarity, that homosexuality is not a disorder.

Regarding Astrochronic's claim that "the Constitution ensures the pursuit of happiness but that does not mean at the expense of society.":

First, Astrochronic needs to get his documents correct. The phrase "pursuit of happiness" is from the Declaration of Independence, which states, "
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Read that again! Notice the word "unalienable"? What are unalienable rights? Simple, unalienable right are absolute rights - natural rights, if you will. In the view of the founders of the nation, those rights are yours because you are a human being.

When dealing with rights, the Constitution states in the 14th Amendment, "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Should gay people surrender our unalienable rights of liberty and the pursuit of happiness and our constitutional rights to equal protection of the laws because it makes straight people more comfortable? I think not.

Regarding the assertion that some other partnership is acceptable, so long as it isn't called marriage:

Why do gay people insist on marriage? Because it is what straight people get. Separate but equal did not work in segregation, it will not work for marriage. The Constitution requires "equal protection." Fundamentalists put a lot of stock into this argument of semantics. To them, if its called something else it is something else, and therefore, unequal.

The irony is, gay people are already getting married in every state in this nation. The state's prohibition on gay marriage does not extend to churches, many of which are performing gay weddings already. Additionally, church or no, nothing prohibits or prevents gay couples from telling the world that they are married. The things at stake in this argument are 1049 rights and benefits offered to married people under federal law. Things like inheritance, hospital visitation, medical decision making, spousal privilege, social security survivor benefits, trans-national spouse protections, tax incentives, etc. While some of these can be obtained through complicated and expensive legal documents, most of them cannot.

Regarding the assertion that gay marriage harms heterosexual marriage, and the sanctity of marriage:

This assertion is, on its face, absurd. Fundamentalists seem to be under the impression that if gays are allowed to marry, that their own marriages would collapse. Of course, there is no evidence that this will happen, and it has not happened in Massachusetts, the only state in the nation that allows full marriage rights for gay couples.

How would straight marriage be harmed by gay marriage? Would formerly straight people change their minds, turn gay, and go find a gay marriage? Would straight people, seeing that their exclusive club is not so exclusive anymore just give up and go solo? The only way I can see this impacting straight marriage is if closeted gay people are encouraged enough by a more open and accepting society that they come out of their closet and avoid disastrous heterosexual marriages. That, however, is a benefit, not a curse.

We hear a lot about the "sanctity" of marriage. How can any institution be declared sacred if it can be granted for a small fee at a drive up window by a guy dressed as Elvis in the great state of Nevada? How can it be sacred when Fox, the network that is near and dear to the fundamentalists heart, has a reality show that offers a large monetary prize to a woman to fake an engagement and wedding to fool her family? How can it be sacred when some of the most vocal people screaming it is sacred are on their second or third marriage?

The argument that the institution of marriage has been unchanged from ancient times is also a fallacy. In ancient times, and, in some countries even in modern times, marriage consisted of one man and many women (polygamy is also mentioned in the Bible). Up until 1967, when the Supreme Court struck them down, many states had laws preventing interracial marriage.

There are also Biblical arguments that fundamentalists make, but, as I pointed out earlier, those are not appropriate in the realm of government. If a church is opposed to gay marriage, it is free to not marry gay people.

Regarding the notion that gay marriage infringes upon straight people civil liberties:

The author's premise in his piece is that, because of the conditions he cited (and refuted above) that allowing gay marriage would in some way limit his freedom. Even in the event that all of his assertions are true, he has, in no way, demonstrated how gay marriage personally harms him. His claim is that harm is done to him because marriage would be cheapened. However, could not the same line of reasoning lead one to conclude that his Free Speech liberties are cheapened when someone protests for a cause which he opposes?

What are civil liberties? Andrew Reeve defines civil liberties as, "Those freedoms which are, or should be, guaranteed to persons to protect an area of non-interference from others, particularly power holders and legal authorities. Civil liberties are especially invoked to limit the justifiable coercive power of the state: for example, freedom from arbitrary arrest, or detention, and habeas corpus; freedom of speech; freedom of lawful assembly; freedom of association and of movement; and the right not to incriminate oneself. Some civil liberties are seen as implications of respect for the rule of law; for example, the right to a fair trial. The importance of civil liberties has been reflected in attempts to provide constitutional guarantees for them."

With that definition in mind, how, exactly, do two people getting married, neither of whom is Astrochronic, in any way, impact his civil liberties? No where in that definition, or in any other from any reputable source, will he find support for the assertion that his liberty is impacted because he just doesn't feel as good about it as he did before. The assertion is groundless and absurd.

Conclusion:

I hope that these points have shed some light, and some facts, on the assertions made by Astrochronic. The fight for gay marriage is far from over, but it is a fight I am confidant will be won by those who seek to expand liberty in America, rather than contract it. Please feel free to post any comments, for or against my arguments.

2 comments:

Astrochronic said...

You totally mischaracterized my argument. I never said homosexuals could not form the required attachment. It not about that. You set up a strawman to knock down. Congratulations. It is about making concessions against the obvious ideal and most functional paradigm to ego-centrically validate dysfunction. Tolerance is not enough you want to force acceptance, it is obstinate and spiteful, and altogether fascist. This argument is about assuaging the persecution homosexuals suffer by humanizing the issue. You indicate your dispostion on the matter by refusing to even consider the possibility that some people may be able to recover from homosexual proclivity, when it is manifested as a thrill addiction, not as a biological/psychological dysfunction.

The fundamental argument of why there is two seperate distinct sexes, is the base precedent establishing what the natural functional ideal is. Homosexuality goes beyond simply being a deviation, it totally reverses that distinction and renders its function moot. It is simply not normal for boys to be sexually attracted to boys. Aberrations in nature are totally natural. They happen, they are still aberrations. Like cancer is natural. Social, cultural, geneological structures are prone to forms cancer too. Sometimes small changes create creater diversity, and from that new and more progressive associations are afforded. The cancer is not the deviation, it is how the deviation is viewed.

Dauger's World said...

Astro, I seem to recall arguing with you in great detail regarding this over on the myspace version of this post. Perhaps you should refresh your memory.