Greetings and Salutations everyone. Longtime lurker (and very big fan of this site and its blogmistress), first time poster. I was compelled to write the following essay after several days of listening to the news, and of course the Rick Warren situation (I'm working on another essay for that), and a few blogs I'd stumbled onto about how being anti-gay marriage does not make one an outright bigot/homophobe. To be honest, I've had some pretty positive discussions with the guy, and think this might go somewhere positive. I'd be apprecitiave if you'd share your thoughts on the piece. Thanks!
There’s much to discuss. Last night, before I left for video games and drinks, I stumbled onto a livejournal post by a guy who quite deftly attempted to articulate the anti-gay marriage argument via his religious belief system. All and all, an enjoyable conversation that left me, as ever, thinking about the greater implications. The one thing I felt it was lacking was the input of someone who wasn’t straight, devoutly religious (or should I say attached to an organized religion?) or married, so I felt compelled to add some of my insights. This went well, but there are more personal queries I’m left with. I’ve read and to a degree blogged (still hate this word) a considerable amount on the topic of gay marital equality, and still feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface on what seems to be an increasingly polarizing, dehumanizing issue.
I’ve been mulling these things over for the better part of the day. Okay, all day (and a little of last night’s post drink sobriety. All right. So its constantly on my mind). And the questions I keep getting stalled on are as follows; Is it possible to be friends or comrades in earnest, and fundamentally disagree on the worthiness of equality? On the access of one of the party to certian rights? Is it possible to love someone, respect and desire their friendship, and fundamentally disagree on whether or not you’re worthy of their religion’s acceptance? What is it we’re not seeing when we look at this issue?
I have a sneaking suspicion that a great many ethnic and cultural minorities have had the displeasure of being made to feel painfully aware of their statuses, by proxy of being the tokenized exception to the rule. Reminded quite often by people they share their lives and communities with that they’re “pretty good at this, for a girl”, or are a “very handsome black man”. How one is “very articulate/clean for person of this ethnicity” , or “not as studious as other Asians” and in short marginalized by people we very much like. Accidentally, sure, but this is a patent indication of what we once and former social scientists would call “white privlige” (I’m a great fan of Peggy Macintosh) When the majority culture dictates the status quo,by default anything and anyone non-ethnic is rendered “exotic”, or deviant. When speaking on human sexuality, one can substitute “white” for “straight” and come to see the thrust of the argument when aimed at biases aimed at homosexuality within the overarching American culture. Such privilege does make empathy regarding something many of us would, as the argument goes, take for granted a very difficult thing to achieve indeed. Straight privilege is similar to the above in that it makes an essentialist claim out of individuals and groups that do not so neatly fit, comparable to male privilege in glibly assuming that male dominance is normative. Whereas Macintosh lists numerous examples or benefits to being within the majority group regarding whiteness, the case for straight privilege has yet to be articulated well (or cared about, obviously).
I’ll briefly do so here:
1.) Straight privilege means that I will not have to make a public case for my relationship with my spouse or longtime partner.
2.) Straight privilege ensures that I will not be socially punished, subjected to harassment, or workplace discrimination because of my sexual orientation, or relationship with my spouse.
3.) Straight Privilege means that my innate morality and consideration as a “good person” is not in question because of whom I love.
4.) Straight privilege ensures that I will be able to visit my spouse in the hospital, and act with power of attorney should they be injured.
5.) Straight privilege ensures that I will not have religious based initiatives seek to invalidate my relationship or endanger my ability to provide for my spouse.
6.) Straight privilege means that I will always have the morally defensible position of righteousness both socially and religiously when compared to persons of other relationship types.
7.) Straight privilege means you can enter into a legally binding marriage with a flippant attitude and divorce as you see fit without being eyed as someone who is ruining the sanctity of marriage.
And so on. The premise I’m painting here is that we are not always entirely aware of the latent functions of our social status, and more importantly, the impact of our position among the strata as it affects others who do not share such positions. The blithe assumption that the way it is for one, is the way it has to be for all well surpasses the unconscious obliviousness about privilege Macintosh alludes to, and marches indignantly towards entitlement. We are the majority, cow to our collective might and condemnation- and if this were a cut and dry political issue, this would work out no differently than choosing candidate X over candidate Y. When it comes to civil liberties, and the rights of those outside of the majority, can anyone (given the above, especially) say with certainty that its rational or fair for the empowered group to be able to vote on whether or not to include the minority group in legal protections and economic incentives?
The idea that all persons who take issue with gay marriage are outright homophobes is not a case I’m making here. But consider in earnest, if we allowed the issue of Segregation to go to the ballot in the 50s and 60s (the cynic in me would say even today) in states like Louisiana and Mississippi, would the “will of the people” still be in effect there today? If we can concede that MacIntosh has a valid point in that persons in the majority can often times be entirely unaware of the cultural and social forces that drive them. I don’t doubt plenty of people in Mississippi during desegregation had serious misgivings about the process-and its possible that not all of them were bigots, but we cannot forget the fact that the practice of segregation did in fact limit the rights of one group of Americans in favor of another. One talking point I hear repeated ad naseum from detractors is that “the will of the people” trumps the role so called “rogue liberal judges”, and I find especially in light of weighty injustices our society has been responsible for perpetuating (Segregation, Japanese Internment camps, Loving v. the State of VA, etc) , that our court systems are at times the only protection persons without privilege and power have.
I’m positive that the will of the people is not always patently self interested, but I’m not convinced that, given our checkered pasts when it comes to simple human equality among our own citizenry that we can trust our ability to be ethical when it regards a just application of the principles we’ve used to guide us from America’s inception regarding divisive social issues. Whether or not religious social conservatives or majority culture en masse rejects the existence of homosexual coupling it seems intensely troubling that they or anyone else should be allowed to vote on matters they have shown a distinct inability to be rational about. Our forbears were not wrong to consider the “tyranny of the majority” a legitimate obstruction to ensuring that everyone was appropriately protected. (I intend to spend some time looking through the Federalist papers over the next few days, I may do a post about my assessment) I submit that those who would oppose the idea of gay marriage from a biblical standpoint have every right to do so. This is something inherent to their beliefs and therefore something that should be at the least appreciated. Where this bleeds into dangerous and problematic territory is when that belief becomes a political initiative set on wrestling what they see as something they feel entitled to, from the hands of others they deem less worthy to its access. Religious institutions are entirely within their rights to disallow whomever they like from seeking to be married within their churches and synagogues. They can dictate the rule of the day within the confines of their religions. Its when said religions throw their proverbial hat into the ring of public policy, and all the while assume that their rights, their beliefs are more important than the rights of others that seems so precarious. It’s the dictation, not the belief that is the grievance here. No one interested in gay marriage, or presenting the simple truth that gay people are in essence no different than anyone else, is interested in taking away the right for anyone to worship , believe (and most importantly) live as they see fit. Religious institutions can very well continue to bar gay people from worship, and deny them access to their amenities. Many do not have any inclination to go where they are emphatically unwelcome. Ironically, the limitations, stop gap efforts and restrictions seem to be coming from the other side of this ideological continuum.
All of us should be honor bound, as both Americans and human beings, to uphold and appreciate that which makes us collectively great and individually unique. Liberty is a principle that should not only be applied to those within an oblivious majority. The ability to love and honor that love is something that should not be selectively accessible. 18,000 some couples in California are being put through unconscionable agony because the “will of the people” is more interested in being self selective than it is about realizing that at the heart of the matter every one of us spent our childhoods dreaming about settling down with the right person. By rights, who that person ultimately ends up being is going to vary for everyone, but that dream should not be rendered irrelevant because some aspect of the equation has changed. Being told by a group of friends and neighbors that one’s marriage is retroactively invalid is something so spiteful and so patently disrespectful I’ve yet to find the proper means to articulate it. I implore us all to comprehend, to fully visualize what it must feel like to have one’s relationship invalidated by vote, retroactively or otherwise. Let’s give a moment’s thought to how that must feel, how much “I’m sorry, but the people decided that you shouldn’t be allowed to share your lives in a real and meaningful way. I hope this isn’t any inconvenience.”, must sound. A deep and abiding religious belief should not give anyone the right to inflict this sort of pain on the pretense of having the moral high ground. Ours is a massively complex, genuinely idealistic society, dear reader. If we are ever to give more than lip service to the ideologies we’ve been weaned upon we need to look seriously, critically upon the staunch reservations on this issue and look at the reality. That restricting the rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness to people engaging in things that are taboo (interracial marriage was not decriminalized until 1967 by the federal Supreme Court, I remind you) ultimately limits our ability to be the egalitarian republic our forebears intended.
I speak up here because I know the decisions and divisiveness we’ve seen in California is not who we are as a collective. Or at least I dare dream it. Perhaps there’s an impasse here regarding the perspectives of the church and those who would not seek to be forced into treatment over being gay, and perhaps that will always be so. That these differences in opinion exist is not problematic, that they would be legislated and enforced by the dominant group against the minority is. Biases are unavoidable, but how we seek to apply them, what damage we do with them is ours to control. Speaking personally, I don’t ever want my biases to cause me to treat people differently. I don’t want my reservations to ensure that certain individuals are curried less favor politically, socially. At the end of the day, all differences aside, I want everyone to have access to the same rights and protections, have the same opportunities and chances. I want these things, and fully hope that I’m not being too optimistic in expecting them uniformly. Liberty is too precious, and love too rare to summarily disallow it. I thank you for your consideration.
“The world is swinging open, but hearts and minds come first. The time is right to think about our words.”-Matt Pond PA- Hearts and Minds.