Western Civilization and Same Sex Marriage

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Bob says:

    E.D. You make the point nicely. As I said in my post to Josh this morning: if forced to choose between a legal solution and a cultural solution I would choose the cultural. I will add a small point. It seems incontrovertible that cultural change takes place at a relatively fast pace today. To go to your use of history, we are no longer Medieval peasants living our lives within a 30 mile radius of our birth place, and exposed to a single, church, point of view. As you say, nothing stays the same, and I am hoping as things change acceptance of gays continues to grow.Report

  2. Avatar Josh says:

    Yeah, sorry, but I’m still not buying it. I have not yet encountered an argument against same-sex marriage as a legal institution that holds any water. And while I appreciate that certain parties have to be appeased to make legal changes a reality, I don’t think it’s fair to say to the gay community, “Well, although there is no rational case to be made for not recognizing your marriages legally, there’s still a great deal of work you have to do on the cultural front.”

    I mean, no, in practice we don’t always adhere perfectly to the Enlightenment-inspired ideals the country was founded on. But we should try to. And that does, to my mind, mean that the people opposing gay marriage have to present an objective, nonreligious argument that makes some sense.* And if they can’t, it’s absurd—typical, but absurd—to demand that the burden of more work be put on the folks they’re trying to stop from getting married.

    *If I have missed one of these somewhere, please send a link.Report

  3. Avatar Bob says:

    Josh, not sure who you are addressing here but let me state briefly, again, my point of view. One, it is not an either or case, pro gay marriage folk can advance their case on both fronts, legal and cultural. Two, no one here has called the oppositions arguments rational, although I’m pretty sure that they are convinced of their rightness and rationality. Three, as I wrote you this morning, I see cultural avenue as a more solid footing for any advancements in rights. (Do you think that any one in there right mind, would advocate denying women the right to vote today, after seventy years acceptance?) Four, I thought you were speaking in favor of the cultural path. Go figure.Report

  4. Avatar KipEsquire says:

    “Culture” has no rights. For that matter, neither do “institutions.” Only individuals have rights.

    Therefore, the only question is whether those rights will be recognized or trampled. And if the latter, then dressing it up in blathering gobbledygook about “respecting culture” or “defending institutions” only makes it that much more despicable.Report

  5. Avatar Josh says:

    @Bob: No, of course it’s not an either-or thing. But how exactly one “advances” a cultural argument is escaping me. More gay-friendly TV shows and movies? Yeah, those have helped make gay culture part of the mainstream in a big way (although I think there’s also a minstrel-show aspect to some of them, like Queer Eye). And I endorse people being publicly out in whatever sense.

    But when E.D. writes that “there is still a great deal of work to be done on the cultural front before a legal case can be won,” I have to disagree, or at least say that suggests that our legal system is in bad shape indeed. Again, although there are practical concerns to observe, we are not supposed to make (or not make) our laws based on how we feel; pure objectivity is impossible, but we’re supposed to make an honest effort to hew to that ideal. We’re not supposed to say, “Well, all of the arguments against same-sex marriage as a legal institution fall short, but the people making those arguments feel very strongly about the issue, so gay people who want to get married have to work harder at making them feel comfortable first, and then they have a legal case.”

    And, y’know, at what point do we say we’ve advanced the cultural argument far enough along? I mean, as a first step, it’s been taken. It’s been taken for many years now and is in the process of still being taken. The cultural argument is going to keep advancing until same-sex marriage is legalized and for a long time thereafter. So again, when E.D. says, “I think the first step needs to be a less legalistic, more culturally based approach,” I say, “It’s happened,” and then I add that the only way to test whether or not the cultural argument has been made strongly enough is to take it to the courts.

    Now, in the case of Prop 8, based on what I read, it looks like same-sex-marriage proponents did a pretty bad job of making the cultural argument, saying essentially “We’re going to get this whether you like it or not” rather than “Hey, we just want to be treated like full-fledged humans.” And that may well have made all the difference. So, yes, a well-articulated cultural argument is essential to getting and keeping same-sex marriage rights—I’m certainly not arguing against that—but the only way to test the effectiveness of that cultural argument is through the legal system.

    Anyway, we’re on the same side here! But can you see what I’m saying?Report

  6. Avatar Bob says:

    Kip, Well, as a matter of fact intuitions do have rights. For starters, many cooperation’s are given rights in state and federal courts. The Supreme Court recognized the right of the Boy Scouts to determine members. Many other examples could be given. That is well established law. So perhaps a do-over is called for on your part. State your views but don’t mistate facts.Report

  7. Avatar Bob says:

    Josh, you write, “But how exactly one ‘advances’ a cultural argument is escaping me.” Well that is what has been happening for the last, at least, 50 years. Since Stone Wall but well before that. See Harry Hay and The Mattachine Society founded in the 1950’s. Actual laws protecting gays are few. Many of the ones passed have been repealed, mostly by popular votes. So to repeat myself, cultural change seems the best way to go, but not the only way to go. I agree, obviously, the fight continues, perhaps for decades. I also agree we are on the same side.Report

  8. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Josh, Bob, sorry I didn’t say this before, but thanks very much for your comments here and your continuation of the conversation! Much appreciated!Report

  9. Avatar Dan says:

    The whole argument the author seems to be making is that argument that gays and lesbians should stop trying to gain equal rights and patiently wait for society to come around. This generation is not ready so the homosexuals of today need to give up their rights until a generation comes by that will. This view brings up the phrase “justice delayed is justice denied” or “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism”. You can’t ask anyone to simply accept second class status and abuse and possibly condemn future generations to the same thing so that the majority ‘come around to the idea’ which they never will if not pushed to do son. Interracial marriage and ending desegregation was forced upon society despite the fact that the majority of people where opposed. For lack of a better term they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new world order and if it hadn’t been done that way it is very likely that the people of today would still be calling for gradualism and there would most certainly not be an African American sitting in the White House. It might seem that the road ahead is difficult and it might not be that popular but justice and equality should never be postponed not by a generation not even by a day it needs to be pursued now in the present.Report

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