It's Not Same-Sex Marriage I Object to...

It is the mind-bogglingly silly things some advocates write in its defense. Here is Nick Gillespie:

"If conservatives are serious about individual rights and limited goverment (as they claim to be), you'd think they would be at the forefront of striking down laws that treat marriages between two men or two women differently than, say, one man and one woman or one black person and one white person."

First of all, what is it supposed to mean that (prior to SSM legalization) the government treated marriages between same-sex couples "differently"? There were no marriages between same-sex couples! The issue is not about "treating marriages differently," but about whether a special government status (legally married) should be made available to people to whom it was previously denied.

And once we look at the issue from this correct perspective, we see that Gillespie is simply begging the question: Legal marriage being a special status granted by the government (and it is legal marriage that the debate has been about, since any group of two or more people can declare that they consider themselves to be married), it must by its nature be restricted to certain situations, or it will cease being a special status. If Gillespie wishes to do away with all restrictions on who may marry, he is actually asking for marriage itself to be done away with. After all, given his logic (that treating any potential marriages differently is unjust discrimination), why stop with SSM? We must, per this logic, legalize incestuous marriages as well, and group marriages, and really, anything anyone at all wants to call marriage. If Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley--both legal persons, after all--want to declare they are now married, who are we citizens to decide that we can treat their marriage differently than Ozzie and Harriet's?

(Inevitably, someone is going to say, "So, Callahan thinks gay marriage is the same as two corporations marrying!" No, no, no: the point is that if "legally married" is to mean anything at all, the government must inevitably discriminate as to who can attain that status.)

Gillespie continues: "Why should the same government that can't educate your children or deliver your mail get to decide which couples can marry in a civil ceremony, right?"

Um, um, OK, I am now grabbing my own self from beside me in flummuxation: These "civil ceremonies" are about getting a government license which shows one has gained a special, government-created status that allows one to have certain government-approved privileges. That after all, is the whole point of why lesbians and gays have been agitating for SSM, correct? And Gillespie apparently thinks that this government license for special treatment by the government... should take place without government involvement? This is kind of like a campaign to "end government involvement in Federal elections"!

Next, Gillespie plays the "losing side of history" card:

"Fully two-thirds of Americans believe that homosexuality among consenting adults should be legal and 55 percent believe that gay marriages should be treated the same as traditional ones. Both percentages are increasing rapidly and the plain fact is that social and religious conservatives have not only lost this cultural battle, they have been so routed that even laggards such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have switched sides on gay marriage."

So, if only a two-fifths or so of Americans support some position, those who hold it should really just shut up and stop agitating about their minority view, right? But Gillespie writes for a... libertarian magazine, a magazine that often takes stances supported by only a couple of percent of Americans. So is Reason going to realize it has been "routed" in, say, making an argument for laissez-faire economic policies, and just close up shop?

Then Gillespie goes on to criticize conservatives vis-a-vis boycotts: while they sometimes threaten their own boycotts, they now object to the boycotting of Indiana: "So too is their unwillingness to countenance potential boycotts of Indiana and other jurisdictions that support similar laws [hypocritical]."

Apparently Gillespie believes that one must either:
1) Approve of every single boycott; or
2) Disapprove of every single boycott.

But boycotts are a tool used to punish those the boycotters feel are doing wrong, like, say, prisons. Does Gillespie think that if conservatives approve of jail sentences for rapists, they have no right to object if jail sentences are handed out to those who object to government policies? Isn't it quite possible, and not in the least hypocritical, to believe that some boycotts are good and others are bad?

Opponents of SSM should try this argument: even bringing it up as an issue seems to render otherwise intelligent people unable to think straight.

5 comments:

  1. Yes. A conservative argument for ssm would advance arguments about for example the advantages of couples committing to take care of each other over time, and the benefits to them and others of legally recognizing and promoting such unions.

    But the real argument isn't over that, it is over the word "marriage." What will happen to someone who says "I recognize you have a civil union establishing a certain status but I refuse to call it a marriage"? Many want that bit of language usage to be policed and enforced.

    But it is hopeless to expect improvement; this is one of those topics where rational discussion has become impossible.

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  2. This is kind of like a campaign to "end government involvement in Federal elections"!

    That ship has sailed! I've seen people argue against voter ID laws on the grounds that, "hey, I thought you conservatives wanted limited government! Issuing and checking IDs at the polls is another government program!"

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    1. This is why I hate speaking of government size. It's just no fundamental or even much of a thing.

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  3. Outrage that boycotts are being used against folk like oneself is, however, rather empty if one has happily endorsed boycotts against other folk.

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  4. Um, um, OK, I am now grabbing my own self from beside me in flummuxation: These "civil ceremonies" are about getting a government license which shows one has gained a special, government-created status that allows one to have certain government-approved privileges. That after all, is the whole point of why lesbians and gays have been agitating for SSM, correct? And Gillespie apparently thinks that this government license for special treatment by the government... should take place without government involvement? This is kind of like a campaign to "end government involvement in Federal elections"!

    I understand what you're getting at and I don't at the same time. Going about the issue of legal marriage as one of "government involvement" in the institution that can somehow be ended is just confused. I lean towards marriage equality, but I never got this line of thought.

    What I don't quite get is if you are saying that legal marriage is a special "government-granted status" in the sense that it intrudes upon civil society or something as some paleos awkwardly argue. I've been meaning to ask how your views on this during your libertarian days compare to your views now (i.e., whether you think contracts are nonsensical as a replacement, if privatization of it works, etc.).

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