Jeff is tired of talking politics. I am too. But I can't pass this one up.
I've been listening to talk radio for the last couple days, curious to hear analysis of and interaction with the results from all of the various issues from Tuesday. I probably would have been sick of this by Wednesday at noon if it was all about Savior-Elect Obama, but my California airwaves have been filled instead with discussion of the passing of Prop 8.
I hope I am not arrogant when I assume that some of you will remember my going on record as not being against gay marriage- or at least not that against gay marriage. Truth be told, this election season has revealed to me my own political incompetence. I have been forced to consistently reconsider my positions on various issues and recognize some as more complex than I had previously thought. I'm still young.
This is one such issue, and what troubles me most now is that both sides want to make it simpler than it is. On the one hand, I stand by my primary contention with my previous post: I am not ready to argue that Christians should pull a simple, "The Bible says it so let's legislate it." This kind of thinking strikes me as somewhere between lazy and naive, with a dash of self-righteousness to add some flavor.
On the other hand what troubles me now is that I've been listening to radio personalities and various facebook friends express their disgust with those of us who ended up voting "yes" on 8. The issue is pinned as one of basic human civil rights, such that past bans on interracial marriage are invoked as perfectly analogous. Those who are against gay marriage are religious wackos who hate gays. The issue comes down to denying human rights, and no one should deny human rights.
What troubles me is the thoughtlessness on both sides. My older post addressed the religious right's thoughtlessness, so let me spend my comments here on the progressive left. I will be as brief and direct as possible and state my concerns:
Why does the state sanction marriage in the first place? Because the state recognizes that marriage produces children and as such build the blocks of society. Further, a good marriage tends to produce good children, which tends to produce a good society. It is thus in the best interest of society to reward marriage. But homosexuals cannot in fact produce children, which means that marriage for them has little to no societal benefit in that very sense. So why should the state sanction their marriages? If homosexuals want to have state-sanctioned civil unions, which would entitle them to many of the benefits of marriage (including, e.g., the necessary medical and legal considerations for their partners), that would be reasonable. Those are civil rights that heterosexuals and homosexuals alike should be entitled to. But there is no sense in the state rewarding homosexual union in the same way it does heterosexual union, because homosexual union does not have the same societal benefits.
This, by the way, is from what I understand the reason why even Obama thinks that homosexuals should be allowed civil unions but not marriages, and I don't know many "no on prop 8" types who don't like him!
Further, it is still yet to be seen what kind of effect homosexual unions will have on the children that homosexuals adopt and society in general. It is at this point not at all clear that this is a good thing for those children (one of the main reasons I did end up voting yes on 8).
Finally, I have not heard a homosexual marriage advocate address the slippery slope question: what is the limit of the term "marriage" for society? That is, what of other alternatives to one man and woman marriages, such as polygamy? If the reason that we allow homosexuals to marry is because homosexuals want to marry, why not allow polygamy to be carried out as legal, state-sanctioned marriage?
I am not saying that none of these concerns are answerable, by the way. I am still a libertarian wrestling with many of those issues. And I should add that it is a whole new experience for this person who tends to always be clearly one side of an issue or another to be in the gray middle. But this, like most political issues, is complex. It cannot be isolated as a single issue, but must be taken as one part of a larger political theory. And as far as I can tell, many of the loudest voices on this subject are unable to address it on this level.