Monday, March 9, 2009

Philosophical Thoughts on Gay Marriage and Prop 8 : Brief Opening Remarks

I want to preface this post by saying I am decidedly on the side of gay rights,  even though against gay marriage.  My sympathy in particular  -  and also admiration  -  has always fallen strongly on the side of gay males.  My husband and I spent our vacations in Provincetown,  on Cape Cod,  MA,  which is one of America's Gay Meccas.  We always felt ourselves honored to spend time in this community.  

 The fight for gay marriage has for so long been framed in arguments about civil rights and equality,  that the pernicious aspect at the core of the fight has been for the most part ignored.

The accusation that there is a "hidden agenda"  contained within the struggle to legalize same sex marriage does not become false simply because that hidden agenda may be largely unconscious.  Feminism and the sexual revolution since the '60s have driven modern democracy down the slope of cultural,  sexual,  and moral relativism.  The idea that there are a multiplicity of ways for people to love and raise children precludes the idea that there is any superior model which arise from nature's intention ( and here nature can include the social and cultural).  Religious arguments have rightly been discredited,  but the strong secular,  humanist and philosophical arguments against gay marriage cannot so easily be swept away.

If we look at two Kantian terms,  teleological and deontological,  and understand that these mean,  respectively,  the natural goal and purpose of something,  and the rights and duties inherent in that something,  we find a very good place to begin a robust argument against gay marriage.  First,  marriage is the elevating of the natural will to sexual intercourse and procreation.  It is the harnessing of something natural and chaotic into something civilized  and controllable  by centuries of extravagant elevation via religious sacred ceremony. This has been for the purpose of social order and the raising of children,  and the keeping track of progeny.   That we may now dispense with some of the religious extravagance in no way brings us to the conclusion that all may be changed without serious consequences.

Briefly,  the deontological aspects would run thus:  Allowing gay marriage would constitute a further slide into relativism.  As their civil rights are covered by civil unions,  and procreation using sperm donors or surrogates is clearly a slide into the disordering of parenthood and progeny,  then what argument can gays use to insist on marriage,  which does not reveal that the costs to society would surely outweigh any benefits?  Clearly:   A minority must not be given free reign to impose its will on the general culture.  America has an opportunity to distinguish itself from Europe and Canada by refusing to go along with the slide into moral and social relativism which the advocates of postmodernism disguise within the civil rights framework of gay rights,  gender feminism,  and other politically correct  but dubious identity political agendas.

Enlightenment values and classical liberalism may be adhered to without going so far as to allow the splintering of the social order.  Looking to Kant's categorical imperative,  it poses this question:  Can I will that the principle of my action be deemed a universal law?  If not,  it must be rejected.  I think that gay marriage fails under this imperative.  Civil Unions do not.  The latter demands tolerance.  The former demands acceptance and the reordering of social traditions to accommodate a minority whose true origins and meaning are extremely dubious.  The born that way arguments of LeVay and others have not been sufficiently proven and there are a myriad of familial,  cultural and social trends which clearly have given rise to homosexual behavior in many who would not have exhibited such in former times.

Andrew Sullivan's Virtually Normal has been revealed to be so full of contradiction and counter-intuitive statements that it can be said to have failed the baptism of fire,  i.e.,  the test of reality.  It is now highly suspect, in my opinion,  to act as though Sullivan has closed the argument.  Much is still up for debate.  Adam Kolasinski's The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage,  (2004)  has sewn up the case far better:  Briefly,  that allowing gay marriage would have the ripple affect of loosening the definition  to the extent that it would lose its spine.  Divorce, having  children outside of marriage,  single parenthood,  bisexuality,  the choice to remain single but have a succession of live in lovers :  Not for all,  or even most,  but for many persons these would be increased as  viable options with the introduction of gay marriage into the social mainstream.  In fact,  gay marriage as an agenda clearly arose as a consequence of these ills in the first place.  

Proposition 8 in California reveals the will of the people in a free and fair electoral process.  To demand that it be overturned begins to smack of the new identity politics run amok.  It is not homophobic to stop at civil unions.  It is not homophobic to put children and their futures before the will of a minority of adults.  Many gays speak of using sperm donors ( in the case of lesbians)  and surrogate mothers (for gay male couples ) as a way to make their marriages productive in the procreation sense of the word.  But such a cheerful view of fertility technology forgets one thing:  These procedures presuppose a trio of parents from the outset,  with one parent willfully agreeing to give up the rights to this child before its conception.  Is this the minor reform Sullivan speaks of?  Already hyper-feminism has been proven pernicious after altering much of the social landscape.  It will take decades to repair the damage.  Can we afford more of the same at the hands of the gay marriage activists?  Support of Proposition 8 is NOT homophobic;  it is reasonable and conducive to social order.  That  Great Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown howls against it only strengthens this conviction.  America need not adopt a monkey see,  monkey do attitude toward Europe.  We have always been independent,  and there is no reason to fuse with them now.  It has long been recognized that Britain has become a self-contradiction and hypocritical Nanny State.  We have no need of guidance from them at this juncture.

The Aristotlean idea that some must rule and others need to submit to rule does not hold truck with politically correct liberals.  Even if marriage has been contiually reshaped throughout the ages,  there are good Aristotlean reasons that the line should be drawn now at gay marriage.  The Humean idea that we ought to limit our public discourse to the empirical.  and that inspired men are dangerous,  is a two-edged sword that cuts through both religoius contra and gay pro arguments.  Libertarians are under no compulsion to support gay marriage in order to be loyal to their ideology:  Civil Unions give gays access to all they need from this perspective.  The fact that Andrew Sullivan and others cannot get over their Catholic upbringings and the idea of a chuch endorsed ceremony does not mean that a democracy must take his pinings seriously.  The love arguments set forth by proponents such as Keith Olbermann in his op-ed rant are weak,  philosophically,  and clearly have thrown logic to the four winds,  while allowing a flimsy sentimentality to override disciplined thinking.   They are the result of a softening of the moral fiber and reasoning powers which is the legacy of the Boomer generation,  and fail to pursuade any serious thinker.  Addendum:  I think another argument can be made,  which oddly I support perhaps even more fully than the one I have posted here,  about the dangers of advocating gay marriage.  I mean the danger to the gays themselves;  also to society at large.  That is this:  by using the heterosexual marriage model,  one boxes oneself and others into a system which has always been filled with plenty of hypocrisy,  misery,  and all manner of foolishness.  I think it is important for the raising of children;  otherwise,  am not really a big fan.  In rare cases,  yes.  In many,  it's not to be envied.  Not so much as the gays might think it is.  

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