achicksperspective

My thoughts on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Oh, and sports too.

What A Great Breakdown

break it down

It is very unlikely that you will ever see me do this again, but in this case it seemed warranted. I recently posted a link on Facebook entitled “How to explain gay rights to an idiot.” It was quite a humorous way of poking fun at those who try to say that gay marriage would somehow open the door to marrying animals or inanimate objects. Most comments were funny in nature, but inevitably a debate broke out between two of my friends, about the true nature of governments role in marriage. They both agreed (I think), that gay marriage should be legal, but they were not in agreement as to why it was not. I would never bore anyone with the back and forth details of this debate, I would merely like to share the last comment made, because I think it may be one of the most concise, albeit simple explanations, of the complete lunacy that is the United States stand on gay marriage.

~~~Aaaargh! Look, I don’t have the time to write a well researched thesis about this, but the debate between Frank and I, is not about beliefs and choice. He’s arguing that the legalization of gay marriage, at the governmental level, is or is perceived to be a mixture of church and state because the government is regulating an inherently religious institution. I, on the other hand, am arguing that a) the government has been in the business of regulating marriage for a long time and b) that the history of the government’s regulation of marriage in fact establishes (has already established) marriage as a CIVIL institution that brings a lot of civil benefits like tax breaks and shared health insurance. I KNOW what I am about to say is simplified but here’s a breakdown:

In the beginning 2 people were married in Church A and 2 people were married in Church B. The gov’t “steps in” and says, “these 2 couples have differing religious beliefs but we’re taking religion out of this. Both couples are legally married.”

Next scenario: 1 person from Religion A falls in love with 1 person from Religion B. Religion A and Religion B will not allow them to get married in their respective churches, so the people get married in a civil ceremony. Again, in essence, the government “steps in” and says, “these 2 churches won’t recognize this marriage, but we’re taking religion out of this. These 2 people are citizens and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be married.”

Next scenario: Person A gets divorced from person B and falls in love with person C. Person A, B, and C belong to Religion “Nuh-uh,” which stipulates that marriage is forever and you can’t get married in our church twice. So Person A and Person C get married in a civil ceremony. Once again, the government “steps in” and says, “maybe religion “Nuh-uh” has a problem with this union, but we’re taking religion out of this. Person A is legally divorced and is a citizen of this country. There’s no reason why Person A and Person C shouldn’t get married.”

Next scenario: Person A belongs to no church and Person B belongs to Religion “JoinOrLeave.” Person A cannot, in good conscience, convert to Religion “JoinOrLeave” but Person B loves Person A anyway, so they get married in a civil ceremony. Don’t mean to belabor the point, but AGAIN, the government, in essence, says, “Religion “JoinOrLeave” is recognized in this country and they can freely practice their religion, but Person A is a citizen of this country whom we recognize even though Person A does not belong to a religion. Religion is not a requirement of citizenship. We’re taking religion out of this. Person A and Person B are legally married.”

Next scenario: Person A has no religion and Person B has no religion. They fall in love and want to get married. Having no religion, they get married in a civil ceremony. Again, the government says, “They have no religion, but we have ALWAYS taken religion out of this issue. Person A and Person B are citizens, and if they want to get married, they can get married in a civil ceremony, and we will legalize this union.”

So, the way I understand it is: 2 people can get married in this country regardless of religion, and it’s been that way for a loooooooong time. What matters here is your definition of “person.” This particular issue has come up before. The government ruled that, for example, women are people and should enjoy all the benefits of citizenship. The government ruled that, for example, black people are people, and should enjoy all the benefits of citizenship. (FYI, there was a law against inter-racial marriage in this country, and the government “stepped in” and protected the ability of any 2 citizens to marry, regardless of race.)

Ok, so here we are in 2011. People, no matter what their religion is, can marry (within one religion or between religions). People, no matter what color their skin is, can marry each other (whether their partner has the same skin color or a different skin color). People who don’t believe in God can get married (to each other or to a person who believes in God). And people, no matter what their gender is, can get married (to each other, or to a person of a different gender). Oh, wait, the last statement is not true. Seems weird…..

I AGREE, SO WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TO DO WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN DOING FOR SO LONG, FOR SO MANY OTHERS?

My thanks to Molly Peeney. Ph.D., Slavic Languages and Literatures
Special Professional Faculty at University of Notre Dame

6 comments on “What A Great Breakdown

  1. Frank
    December 17, 2011

    Just because I hadn’t taken the opportunity to reply… You are correct that I agree gays should be allowed to marry and it is a difference of why.

    I just think the argument Molly presents that because “people are okay with agnostics and atheists getting married, so they should be okay with gays getting married” is a non sequitur. It is like saying that because you violate traffic laws by speeding, you should be okay with running red lights and driving drunk. I don’t believe it is a particularly compelling argument, as society tends to tolerate small deviations from the norm and not tolerate larger ones.

    Her argument also tends to discredit the opinions of people who are opposed to gay marriage by labeling them as prejudice. While there are people who oppose gay marriage for prejudicial reasons, the people I know who are opposed to gay marriage aren’t opposed to equality for gays. They define marriage differently, as being between a man and a woman, and there is an understandable historical norm for holding this view. Given that the former group will most likely never change its opinion, lumping both groups together only undermines your ability to convince the latter group.

    You can’t change someone’s mind until you attempt to see things from their viewpoint and understand how and why they reached the opinion they hold.

  2. Molly
    December 18, 2011

    Frank said: I just think the argument Molly presents that because “people are okay with agnostics and atheists getting married, so they should be okay with gays getting married” is a non sequitur.

    Molly responds: That’s not exactly what I’m saying. For the zillionth time, I’m saying that the government’s role in marriage has nothing to do with religion. The government has established “civil marriage” because religion is not a criterion for legal marriage. This addresses your claim that the government regulates a religious institution (mixing church and state). No, the government established its own protocol that all citizens must comply with in order to get married and enjoy the civil benefits of marriage. I can’t emphasize enough that there are two processes in place for marriage: religious ones and civil ones. Yes, if you get married in a religious ceremony, the government will recognize your marriage, BUT you must go through a civil procedure in order to get that marriage legally recognized. TWO independent processes. You can marry in a church, but the government won’t recognize it unless you follow a civil process. And you can get married in a civil ceremony, but churches will not officially recognize that marriage. I’m not saying that “people are ok with agnostics and atheists getting married,” I’m saying that we have an established institution of non-religious marriage, i.e. civil marriage, so the question of whether or not gays can marry in a civil ceremony has nothing to do with religion.

    Frank said: It is like saying that because you violate traffic laws by speeding, you should be okay with running red lights and driving drunk.

    Molly responds: No, it’s not like that at all. I did use your term, ‘regulation” in a conscious effort to demonstrate that I am listening to you and trying to understand your reasoning, in an attempt to see things from your viewpoint and understand how and why you have reached the opinion that you hold. However, it seems that my use of the phrase “steps in” has been taken to mean a form of policing. I meant to convey that the the institution of civil marriage has functioned as a legal means to maintain equality between citizens who, for one reason or another, are not affiliated with a church. Again, my language was meant to convey the distinction between religious marriage and civil marriage. The government does not police religious marriages. Religions can continue to deny gay people the opportunity to marry (although I think it’s wrong) because we enjoy religious freedom in this country. So it’s not at all like speeding vs. drunk driving. If you want to go with the traffic analogy, what I’m saying is that it’s like the government is saying “2 cars can travel on this road side by side. It doesn’t matter what two types of cars. It can be 2 black cars or 2 white cars or it could be a black car and a white car or it could be a car with a stickshift and a car with an automatic transmission, but it canNOT be 2 cars with “stickshifts.” We’re not talking about regulation of traffic. We’re talking about the right to get on the road.

    Frank said: Her argument also tends to discredit the opinions of people who are opposed to gay marriage by labeling them as prejudice.

    Molly responds: Specifically, I’m saying that people who pre-judge gay people as incapable or undeserving of marriage based solely on the fact that they are gay are prejudiced.

    Frank said: While there are people who oppose gay marriage for prejudicial reasons, the people I know who are opposed to gay marriage aren’t opposed to equality for gays. They define marriage differently, as being between a man and a woman, and there is an understandable historical norm for holding this view.

    Molly responds: This is **also** prejudicial. This argument compares to segregation. When the government and society wrongly said, “Ok, black people. Fine. You’re people and you should be able to work and go to school and get married. But you can only do that with each other and you need to stay away from us. You’re people, but you can’t come to the same restaurants as us or drink from the same water fountains as us.” Similarly, this “we define marriage differently” argument says to gay people, “Ok, gay people. Fine. You can get married, but we have to keep you in a separate category. You can’t get married, but you can get “partnered.” It’s exactly the same thing but you can’t use our term because then we’d be similar and we can’t be similar because, well, you’re GAY, and we’re NOT!” As for your “historical norm” formulation: yes, there is an “understandable” historical norm for understanding marriage as something between a man and a woman, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. There’s an understandable historical norm for racism, too. ORIGINALLY, black people in this country were slaves and were believed to be INHERENTLY less than white people. If you grew up in this kind of society, yes, it’s understandable that white people might have a hard time coming around to viewing black people as people, but that does NOT mean it’s right! Likewise, you see, ORIGINALLY women were the property of their husbands because they were thought to be INHERENTLY less than men. But again, just because there is an understandable historical norm for discrimination doesn’t mean it’s right. Yes, ORIGINALLY marriage was between a man and a woman, but that doesn’t mean that it’s INHERENTLY a commitment between a man and a woman.

    Frank, are you attempting to see things from my viewpoint? Are you trying to understand how and why I have reached the opinions that I hold? Because honestly, it seems to me that you’re trying your hardest NOT to understand.

  3. Craig
    December 18, 2011

    It’s simple, the Federal Government is not and should not be invloved (Tenth Ammendment). My marriage license was issued by the State of Massachusetts not the Federal Government and in that part it was not issued by a church either. It’s a state’s rights issue. Federal involvement is not only not needed but boggs down the issue. Let the states decide. This is part of the reason the Federal Government is so messed up now, it is dealing with things it has no business dealing in.

    A few points, the title “How to explain gay rights to an idiot.” becomes a non starter for people you are trying to win over. You do not call someone an idiot then expect to have a debate with them. Isn’t calling people “racists, bigots and idiots” the same type of behavior you are trying to overcome to begin with?

    We want people to debate it. It is a skill lost in this society (not just in the US). So people debating it on your blog is a good thing. People need to learn to be able to debate without calling names (idiot).

    The largest problem I have being from Massachusetts is not Gay Marriage but how it was done, three unelected judges creating law. The law can be written properly (to alleviate fears of people marrying farm animals) by simply stating “a union of two consenting people”. Simple yet to the point and it takes into account a concern cited by opponents. So simply by wrting the law less vague you destroy an argument against. This is why you listen to opponents to what you beleive in, you find a base to work from.

    As fot the church, that’s their problem again the state issues the license So why does a church or religion even need to be discussed? There is no tax payer dollars funding it everyone pays the fees the same. The church just like justices of the peace or city clerks are given the ability to marry in the eyes of the state. So in a short post I have alleviated the “marry farm animals” and the church and the federal government, have we as society made things too complicated?

    • jwc
      December 18, 2011

      Craig. Just want to clarify two things.

      1/ “How to explain gay rights to an idiot” was just a link to a humorous take on the argument. The fact that it opened up a much more relevant discussion about the topic should, in no way, mean that the people involved in the debate take the “idiot” title as anything more than the tongue in cheek nature with which is was intended.

      2/ At no point, in the comments by Molly, did she ever intimate “federal” government. Government operates on the state level, as well as local. Although I would like to think that you were merely expounding on her point, it sounded a lot more like you were attempting to say her argument was misdirected. However, if the argument WAS to be made that she was speaking from the federal prospective(she wasn’t), I would contend that anytime a citizen of this country is having their civil right infringed upon, it the duty of the federal government to protect them. I agree that states should have more say about the laws in their state, i.e. seat belt laws, drug legalization, etc. However, a state not allowing gay marriage is no different than saying blacks can’t get married. No state has the right to decide what civil rights they will protect and which ones they won’t. That is where the federal government has to step in. Just sayin’. 😉

  4. Craig
    December 20, 2011

    Jeff, I know it was a link. My point is trying to be humorous can backfire. Bill Maher is a perfect example, when ever he gets cornered on something he said, he pulls out the “satire card” when every other time he feels he should be taken seriously, until being questioned. This is the type of thing that has stiffled debate in this country instead of talking about the issue we are dragged down to pointing fingers “you called me stupid”. That was my point. You are correct it has stimulated debate, which is good, I feel it can stimulate more debate if done properly.

    I didn’t read Molly’s comments before posting, I was putting my 2 cents in. Reading it, I would say we are both in sync with what we are saying. The term “mariage” is not a sole possesion of any religion. What a religion defines as marriage is what ever they want it to be, they do not issue the license, so it only matters who the authority issuing it defines as marriage (the sate).

    If we look at issues on a sane level (all issues) we can find the answers are maybe easier than we think.

  5. Stephanie Toupin
    January 20, 2012

    Great blog!

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This entry was posted on December 17, 2011 by in Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, Random Thoughts.
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