Thursday, March 28, 2013

In which I feel I must take a stand, so I do even though it terrifies me

I read articles on gay marriage all day yesterday. Literally. Sat in my chair and followed links and links and links and read and read and read.

My conclusions:

1. The people who claim they are "only for love and tolerance" are primarily the ones who are spewing vitriol, anger, and outright hate. They are the ones who are vilifying the other side and preaching destruction and bigotry, even though they are claiming the opposite is true. They are also the ones who are refusing to engage in civil dialogue--or any dialogue at all, for that matter. The advocates of marriage revision have their fingers in their ears and are yelling mean things while the advocates of marriage traditionalism are trying to reach out, trying to appease, trying to find common ground, advocating kindness, tolerance, love, patience, and listening. Read articles for 12 hours straight and you'll see that I'm not making this up. That alone really turned me off to everything the marriage revisionists are saying. They're acting like spoiled children in their dialogue rather than responsible, adult citizens of a country. Amazing how the way you talk about something can completely destroy your chance of being heard.

2. I did not truly understand the social role of marriage before. I didn't understand how important it is to society as a whole for marriage to be strong and established and difficult to dissolve. Without that understanding, I found myself believing what the revisionists believe: That the purpose of marriage is to validate love. If that's the case, what business does government have in marriage at all? But it turns out the purpose of marriage is so much bigger than just to validate love. Marriage is the best, cheapest, easiest-to-comprehend, easiest to implement, and most effective way of ensuring that society continues, runs smoothly, protects the vulnerable, and lubricates the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. It helps keep government in its place (outside our houses and lives as much as possible) and helps society and government run smoothly and economically, guarantees and makes plain the rights of fathers (who are not obviously connected to their offspring), mothers, and children. A strong, healthy marriage culture eases or even fixes, to a great extent, all the problems our country is struggling with: debt crises, entitlement crises, mental health crises, health (even obesity) crises, education crises, crime crises, drug crises, overcrowded prison crises, economic crises, abuse name it, it would be a smaller and easier problem to deal with if we fixed marriage and put it at its proper place in our culture: as the foundation, the bedrock, and the most important part of society. Period. It is absolutely in government's best interests to support, legislate, and incentivize healthy, long-lasting marriage, especially as the foundation of families (with children, because having children at or above the replacement rate is what makes a country strong).

3. It is foolhardy to take the most important part of our culture and mess around with it without a lot of thought and planning and research and moving slowly, even if that slow movement offends people. I love this quote from G.K. Chesterton that my brother sent me:

"In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, or that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion."

4. While people say there is no gay agenda, that's actually impossible. Everyone has a bias and therefore everyone has an agenda. Nobody lives in enough of a vacuum for their actions to not affect anyone else. Simply the fact that the marriage revisionists believe that religion is foolish and needs to be reformed to be more inclusive IS an agenda. They think it's just truth. Both sides think they're saving children from evil beliefs that are harming them.

Of course nobody thinks they have an agenda. But if you believe that gay marriage is completely equal to traditional marriage, you're going to act in a way that spreads that view, and actively work to suppress ideas that oppose that view--for the good of society, not to further your agenda. Traditionalists will do the same. Both have an agenda. So we need to stop saying they don't and openly deal with it. Unfortunately, the agenda of each marginalizes the other group. That's not okay.

Interestingly, the dialogue I'm hearing (and I haven't tried to make an unbiased survey of it, so I might just be hearing the wrong things) has had a huge influence on my feelings on the whole matter. Obviously this is an oversimplification of the issues, but what I've heard from the marriage revisionists is that of course the traditionalists and religious people are going to be marginalized, but their beliefs are so stupid that they should be marginalized, and their rights to control their child's education should also be taken away because what they are teaching their children is too mean. In other words, it's not only okay to marginalize people, but a positive thing, as long as you don't value their belief system. I read one quote from a gay activist (and I wish I could find it now, but I can't) that said that he WANTED religions to be forced to stop saying homosexuality is a sin, and he was actively trying to get the government to force all religions to recognize gay marriage or be disenfranchised. (Scared yet?).

Not only that, the social pressure to force silence of anyone opposed to gay marriage is really scary. There are serious, swift, and mostly illegal repercussions for speaking out in favor of religion or traditional marriage, and that kind of bullying not only not punished, it's sanctioned by society. This is really, really scary. And wrong. And, in my experience, one-sided, targeting traditionalists. (Obviously mine is not all the experience in the world--I do hear a lot about gay teens being bullied, and that's horrifying and heartbreaking, too. But it doesn't justify bullying other people.)

On the other hand, when the traditionalists hear that the revisionists are afraid of being marginalized and losing rights, the traditionalists are saying, "What rights are you afraid of losing? Can we change the laws to guarantee you get those rights? How can we make you happy without destroying our rights in the process?" MASSIVE difference in approach. One side is willing to compromise, the other is only interested in vilifying and snuffing out the others. And it's opposite of what the media is saying.

No doubt there are voices on both sides that want to snuff out the other, and no doubt there are voices on both sides that want to listen and compromise, and no doubt I found biased sources because they all are. So I'm not disputing the fact that a different set of readings might have led me to the opposite conclusion, but this is the conclusion I drew from the readings I found yesterday.

I am terrified of changing laws one way or the other without adequate protections for people's right to act on and live by their beliefs. ALL people, even the ones whose beliefs you don't like. 

And until the religions and religious people are properly protected, I can't support a change in laws regarding marriage.

And dismissing the other person's arguments by saying, "Yes it will change things, and some of us think that's a good thing." is not really helpful. From either side. But I hear it a lot lot lot, and primarily from the revisionists. For example, "I'm concerned that you will be teaching my 7 year old that homosexuality is a good thing."  "Yes, we will. And some of us think that's a good thing."  That doesn't address someone else's concern--it merely justifies their fears. It's like saying, "Yeah? So what?" to everything someone says. Not dialogue. Not a good way to win people to your side. Just rude.

5. Another thing I noticed in my research yesterday is a small but powerful and vocal group of gay activists have hijacked the stories of everyone and are using them for their own purposes. This leads me to doubt what's going on. I don't like to be swept away by activists, especially if they are claiming they aren't activists. They say they want all voices to be heard, but they are actively suppressing voices and legitimate experiences, both of gay and straight people, marriage traditionalists and revisionists. Someone is controlling the conversation, and this isn't right. The voices need to be heard. Members of the gay community and gay people who don't want to be part of the gay community are increasingly noting that the story being told is not their story, there are not just two sides (both extreme) to the issues, and the labels aren't right or accurate or acceptable.

6. When we talk about "marriage," our assumptions about what that word means are not all alike. Do you mean open marriage? Closed marriage? Marriage that lasts forever ideally, or marriage that's easy to get out of? All of these make a difference. I, personally, believe that marriage is best for society at large if it is 100% exclusive (not open or tolerant of infidelity at all), intended to be permanent, difficult to dissolve, and respected. So when I talk about marriage, you now know where I'm coming from. If we don't define what we mean, we might all be talking about different things--and that makes forming good laws difficult, if not impossible.

After all that reading, I can't see any reason government should be in the business of sanctifying or recognizing people's love for one another. Nor can I see any reason government should be incentivizing love. I do see reason government should be protecting property rights, inheritance rights, etc. And I now understand why government benefits from (and should do more about) protecting solid, permanent family structures founded on marriage that is intended to be both exclusive and eternal.

So what do I think should be done? I was about to write a lot more, but then I read my brother's blog and discovered he already said it. So go to SixteenSmallStones and read it there. I think this is a fair compromise, especially if it gives already-established families with gay parents a way to give those children some permanency in their lives. That seems important.

The bottom line for me has become strengthening marriage all together. Just because it's broken doesn't mean we should throw it away. Perhaps we should try to fix it? And always, always, always with love for all men, respectful dialogue, respect in general, lots of listening, and compromise--which seems to have fallen out of fashion, especially in Washington, but which is so very important. If only everyone could take the attitude of Robert P. George, that "there are "reasonable people of good will on either side." Then, perhaps, we could talk. 

Oh, so the title of the article. I said I'd take a stand. Until the dialogue is more respectful, until there is clear respect for and protection for religions and religious people as well as gay people (of all stripes, not just the one viewpoint being presented by the media and activists), and until the social science (good science, not shoddy or limited science) becomes more clear in other directions regarding what's good for children, I am in favor of traditional marriage as the ideal (with understanding that life isn't always ideal, but that doesn't mean we don't try for it), but I am also in favor of having strong and clear rights and protections for gay people and their relationships, including with their children--no discrimination, no tearing children from the only family they know. How's that for ambiguous? (Go read Jon's article at Sixteen Small Stones and it won't be so ambiguous). 

And, while I'm taking a stand, I am in favor of keeping immigrant families together, too, even if some members of the family are illegally in the country. The more I study, the more vital it seems to me that we support families and do everything we can to keep them together and help them succeed. 

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