Nero at American Power, grasping onto one of the few electoral victories for his side this season, puts forth the proposition that Gay Marriage is Not a Civil Right. Is he correct?
Latching onto foolish, racist behavior by some of the folks protesting in favor of retaining the right to marry, brought on by the fact that the same blacks who turned out in record numbers to vote for Obama also voted in favor of restricting the rights of homosexuals to marry in CA, Nero first quotes a piece of an article from the LA Times: Gays, blacks divided on Proposition 8, suggesting that many black voters don't see homosexuality as being a civil rights issue in the same way that the African American struggle has been.
Nero goes on to say:
Indeed, the effort to change the language of traditional civil rights to include gay marriage has been one of the most clever yet sinister elements of the same-sex marriage movement this last few years. Yet, as Eugene F. Rivers & Kenneth D. Johnson indicate [in a 2006 Weekly Standard article, Same-Sex Marriage: Hijacking the Civil Rights Legacy], the equation of gay rights with the black freedom struggle - and the traditional civil rights agenda - is a fraud that cheapens the historic legacy for equal treatment under the law in the United States:
I'll quote & reply to what the two opinioneers from the Weekly Standard article had to say in due course, but at the outset, let me say that few on any side of this issue are suggesting that gay & lesbian people are facing the exact same struggles that blacks once did. Of course they aren't. While there has been some pretty nasty treatment of people based on their sexual orientation in various places & times over the years, there have been far fewer cases of slavery, lynchings, & other awful behavior affecting the homosexual population than affected the black population in this country.
Nero offers it in his first line above. The Weekly Standard boys put it this way:
"Whatever wrongs individuals have suffered because some Americans fail in the basic moral obligation to love the sinner, even while hating the sin, there has never been an effort to create a subordinate class subject to exploitation based on "sexual orientation.""
This is a red herring. Many groups in the US have faced discrimination or been seen as less deserving of rights over the years, including women, the Irish, Jews, Catholics, and the disabled. Some of these groups continue to face issues to one degree or another to this day, while the problems of others are substantially behind us. To my knowledge, none of these groups has faced the same degree of oppression & mistreatment as blacks, either, but most Americans agree that when people from these groups are discriminated against, it is a civil rights issue. Just because the discrimination is not as bad as it could be, or not as bad as it once was for another group, that does not mean discrimination is not taking place, and to suggest otherwise is smoke & mirrors.
Continuing, as Nero does, with Eugene F. Rivers & Kenneth D. Johnson, writing in the Weekly Standard:
"It is precisely the indiscriminate promotion of various social groups' desires and preferences [italics (the equivalent of John McCain's "dick fingers", as far as I'm concerned) as in original] as "rights" that has drained the moral authority from the civil rights industry. Let us consider the question of rights. What makes a gay activist's aspiration to overturn thousands of years of universally recognized morality and practice a "right"? Why should an institution designed for the reproduction of civil society and the rearing of children in a moral environment in which their interests are given pride of place be refashioned to accommodate relationships integrated around intrinsically non-marital sexual conduct?"
What we're looking at here is various social groups desires & preferences for having the same access to the rights & privileges of this society as anyone else, and not have them denied based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. This is not that difficult a concept.
There are many half-truths, suppositions, & bandwagoneering in this paragraph, & indeed much of what these two gentlemen write in their article. The idea of " thousands of years of universally recognized morality and practice" is called into question--by a devout Christian, in an piece discussing how best to advance Biblical morality, no less--in this article: The Biblical Source of Western Sexual Morality, by Peter J. Leithart A quick excerpt, from the beginning:
It is all too easy for Christians, when examining the moral behavior and beliefs of cultures, to impose our patterns of morality on them. As Christians, of course, we must make judgments about all cultures based on the eternal standard of Scripture; I am not advocating cultural relativism. What I am warning against, however, is the tendency to assume that past civilizations (or even contemporary civilizations) approach life and morality the same way we do. If we make that assumption, we will never be able to begin to understand their behavior. The danger of this approach is not only that we will fail to understand another culture, but that we will appeal to a nonexistent 'consensus' as the standard of moral behavior. Conservatives and many Christians make this mistake when they call for the reintroduction of "traditional values". The question must arise, Which tradition?
To suggest that marriage was or is "an institution designed for the reproduction of civil society and the rearing of children in a moral environment in which their interests are given pride of place" is a short-sighted description. Were marriage primarily designed for reproduction & child-rearing, those who could not reproduce would discouraged from marrying, and those who did not reproduce would be ostracised in society. Neither is the case.
In point of fact, Marriage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "People marry for many reasons, but usually one or more of the following: legal, social, and economic stability; the formation of a family unit; procreation and the education and nurturing of children; legitimizing sexual relations; public declaration of love; or to obtain citizenship."
More from Rivers & Johnson:
One must, in the current discussion, address directly the assertion of discrimination. The claim that the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman constitutes discrimination is based on a false analogy with statutory prohibitions on interracial marriages in many states through much of the 20th century. This alleged analogy collapses when one considers that skin pigmentation is utterly irrelevant to the procreative and unitive functions of marriage. Racial differences do not interfere with the ability of sexually complementary spouses to become "one-flesh," as the Book of Genesis puts it, by sexual intercourse that fulfills the behavioral conditions of procreation. As the law of marital consummation makes clear, and always has made clear, it is this bodily union that serves as the foundation of the profound sharing of life at every level--biological, emotional, dispositional, rational, and spiritual--that marriage is. This explains not only why marriage can only be between a man and a woman, but also why marriages cannot be between more than two people--despite the desire of "polyamorists" to have their sexual preferences and practices legally recognized and blessed.
While it's fine for these two men--one the Founder and President of the Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian Studies, and a pastor of the Church of God in Christ, the nation's largest historically Black Pentecostal denomination, and the other a Senior Fellow for Social Policy and Civil Society at the same Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian Studies--to define & discuss marriage from a biblical standpoint, such views do not deserve to be the basis of US law or included in the definition of what is & is not discrimination or a violation of one's civil rights.
Unfortunately, many of the same arguments offered against gay marriage--including arguments based on the Bible & religion--were offered against interracial marriage:
Miscegenation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "In the United States, segregationists and Christian identity groups have claimed that several verses in the Bible, for example the story of Phinehas and the so-called 'curse of Ham', should be understood as referring to miscegenation and that these verses expressly forbid it. Most theologians read these verses as forbidding inter-religious marriage, rather than inter-racial marriage."
The trial judge in the original Loving case, Leon Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's 18th-century interpretation of race, proclaimed that
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix."
More: Why the Ugly Rhetoric Against Gay Marriage Is Familiar to this Historian of Miscegenation
Rivers & Johnson, continued:
Moreover, the analogy of same-sex marriage to interracial marriage disregards the whole point of those prohibitions, which was to maintain and advance a system of racial subordination and exploitation. It was to maintain a caste system in which one race was relegated to conditions of social and economic inferiority. The definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman does not establish a sexual caste system or relegate one sex to conditions of social and economic inferiority. It does, to be sure, deny the recognition as lawful "marriages" to some forms of sexual combining--including polygyny, polyandry, polyamory, and same-sex relationships. But there is nothing invidious or discriminatory about laws that decline to treat all sexual wants or proclivities as equal.
People are equal in worth and dignity, but sexual choices and lifestyles are not. That is why the law's refusal to license polygamous, polyamorous, and homosexual unions is entirely right and proper. In recognizing, favoring, and promoting traditional, monogamous marriage, the law does not violate the "rights" of people whose "lifestyle preferences" are denied the stamp of legal approval. Rather, it furthers and fosters the common good of civil society, and makes proper provision for the physical and moral protection and nurturing of children.
As I noted above, there are differences in the experiences of homosexuals & blacks, and fact that there is some difference in the motivation for discriminating against them by law (though not as much as these two suggest) is another. So what. If we are indeed discriminating by not allowing gays to enjoy the same rights & benefits of marriage as everyone else, who cares why we're doing it? If it's discrimination to do so, the motives are unimportant.
Further, to see gay coupling & marriage as nothing more than a "form of sexual combining" dismisses the myriad of other very real & necessary reasons people choose to affiliate as couples in loving relationships.
And finally, there is the nature/nurture debate. While these two Christians have seemingly decided that homosexuality is a sexual want people choose (nurture) and can change their mind about, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that one may be born to love one's own gender (nature), and theories abound on both sides, as well as combinations of the two camps, in concert. Homosexuality: Nature or Nurture. I have no theories of my own, but also don't see it as important to the debate. Whatever makes the heart want what (or who) it wants, the heart does want what it wants, and the state should not hold any more sway over one's heart than is absolutely & demonstrably necessary.
It is there that Nero leaves his friends from the Weekly Standard, and I see little in the remaining article worth discussing at this time (though there are more of the same religiously-based, right wing talking points about defending "true marriage"...) Summing up what he suggests we've learned from them, he says:
I have no illusions that such rigorous argumentation and logic will convince homosexual rights advocates that gays face no discrimination on the question of marriage rights.
But as we can see, the homosexual movement is attempting to create a right to marriage that has no basis in historical practice, and such attempts trivialize the bloody march to equality Americans have endured and overcome.
As I believe I've shown, these gentlemen's article, & Nero's quotes of it, is far from the final word on the subject of discrimination against homosexuals as concerns marriage rights, and the idea that any claim of discrimination that speaks to treatment less severe & horrendous than that faced by blacks is not a "real" civil rights violation, is just silliness, and moreover, a red herring tossed in to distract one from the issue under discussion.
This is a lesson gay activists should consider, for when 70 percent of blacks in California - the nation's most liberal, trend-setting state - oppose the demands of an extremely vocal radical minority, it's a pretty good indicator that the movement for same-sex marriage rights falls outside the bounds of both traditional law and universal morality.
The fact is, I'm neither surprised or offended that religious folks, whatever their race or denomination, opposed gay marriage in CA. As I've said previously & at length, I agree that marriage is a sacred rite, and that the laws of man have no business infringing on it. The state & the laws governing the legal uniting of two persons ought to use the term "civil union" in place of "marriage," and define it as including--but not limited to--the rites offered by the church & officiated by a religious figure.
In closing, I want to include the following bit from Mildred Loving, spoken in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision. While I understand that her opinion holds no more (or less) sway than any other lay person's, it's interesting (& gratifying) to know how a person who went through the trials & tribulations she did in her day views the current situation.
Loving v. Virginia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "On June 12, 2007, Mildred Loving issued a rare public statement prepared for delivery on the 40th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision of the US Supreme Court, which commented on same-sex marriage. The concluding paragraphs of her statement read as follows:
“Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the 'wrong kind of person' for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.
I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."