Fighting on the Wrong Field: The Terrible Way We Frame the Gay Marriage Argument.
When structuring the argument around the issue of gay marriage we see an incredible series of events occur in American society. These actions, taken by both sides, pigeon hole the argument into an endless cycle of repression and protest, expressions of terrible hatred and nearly unimaginable love, and a collection of mistakes that are costing both sides dearly.
Firstly, the unavoidable fact that the side of the argument seeking to deny marriage rights to the LGBTQ community resides completely within religious origin, no matter how it is disguised. The cost to this side is that the entire endeavor becomes a Taliban-like attempt to enforce the religious interpretations of the few upon the many. The founding fathers had a few things to say about this practice and their words echo from a place in our hallowed antiquity to cast a shadow of shame upon those who walk this path.
By not calling out the religiosity of the countering argument the LGBTQ community misses a very potent opportunity. Since religious leaders from the Dali Lama to an assortment of Christian denominations have begun to support gay rights, why not move forward by framing the argument as one of religious freedoms?
A recent bill in Arizona sought to expand the discrimination against gays using the law, it seems the opposite would be a far easier case to make. “It is my ardent religious belief that the creator of the human race does not play favorites, nor should you.” Time to turn that particular table.
Secondly, the LGBTQ community champions a perspective that seeks to say that because they are “born this way” that these people should have these rights. While I wholeheartedly agree with the principle I feel they are missing a vast and fertile part of the argument by leaving personal choice out of the equation.
People have the right to have sex with any other consenting, non-family member adult they choose. Why? Because this country does not seek to involve itself with the personal choices of its people.
I am not of the homosexual persuasion yet my rights as a human grants me the freedom to explore that freely without any bar or impediment. If at some point in my life I meet a man I fall in love with I want the right and freedom to choose to be gay. Saying with a painful expression that “People don’t choose to be gay!” ultimately does not help the LGBTQ cause.
“People have the freedom to choose to be gay!” That is a rallying cry everyone who seeks to defend personal freedom can get behind. If you want to explore your sexuality, then you are free to do so without governmental involvement or discrimination that would be prohibited against anyone else making those decisions for themselves.
It may not seem like it at times but religious affiliation is a choice, yet discrimination against people on a religious basis is not legal nor tolerated. This is not a difficult concept to get the mind around, people have the right to choose for themselves how they express something as intrinsically personal as their sexual preferences.
Thirdly, the concept of marriage is the murkiest and misunderstood part of this entire equation. Furthermore, the idea of “traditional marriage” varies so violently from location to location, from timespan to timespan, that to claim to be working toward it is folly on its own account.
Since the definition of “traditional” is rooted in religious scripture more so than anything else we have to look at the way religions over the centuries administered it. I will spare you the quotes and disturbing definitions of religious marriage (from the trading of daughters for livestock to the marriage of Mohammad to a 6-year-old girl) and simply state that to the modern world every element of the religious definition of marriage is barbaric and without any meaning to a post-Enlightenment society.
We are not giving away daughters, we are not requiring that women be virgins before marriage, we should not be allowing children to wed, we prohibit close family relations from marrying, we allow divorce! By any of the Judeo-Christian texts, we are already violating the “traditions” of marriage.
This segment of the argument is ripe for destruction, there is no such thing as a traditional marriage, get over it.
Fourthly, marriage in America is a legal contract, nothing more. The faith or spirituality that is brought to the ceremony is generated by the individual and their community, nothing more. From a legal standpoint, anything further than a measure of laws that dictate the method for drafting and enforcing this contract is an imposition of religious ideology.
From alimony to child support the entire argument resides in the same segment of jurist prudence as any other contractual agreement. This does not reduce or simplify or negate the validity of the institution of marriage, it defines it for the government and everyone else.
It is up to the individual to imbue the institution with meaning or purpose.
Fifthly, one person cannot prohibit another person from making you feel icky or emotionally disturbing the other side in such a broad way.
Sports fans make me feel icky, their ceremonies and superstitions and practices trigger a gag reflex that makes me want to hurl every time they invert their baseball caps or thank god for their team scoring a touchdown. Would it make me a better person for openly advocating that avid sports aficionados should not be allowed to have the freedoms to do those things that make me feel icky?
If I do not have the right to prevent a Yankee’s fan from expressing themselves in the privacy of their own homes or in public without disturbing the rights of others, then why are the forces fighting against LGBTQ communities allowed to abridge the rights of this minority?
The answer is that they are not.
Whether it be altruism or the simple need to not be like those they fight the LGBTQ community has been intelligent to limit themselves to legislative actions that seek to expand rights, rather than their opponents that seek to further limit other people’s rights.
Lastly, society will be defined by the words and deeds of the people within it, always has and always will.
The LGBTQ community does well to avoid pushing itself into the faces of those who disagree with them. If you don’t want to watch gay people having sex on television, change the channel. If you are not willing to live in a neighborhood with a gay family then you have the right to move.
You do not have the right to require them to move, you do not have the right to prevent them from moving in, and you do not have the right to abridge their right to be recognized as a married couple under the law the same way that you are.
To a bigot, the abridgment or limitation of their right to be bigoted may seem like an overreach of the law. In this, America and the world writ large has established a clear counter argument simply stating that all should be treated equally.
These very same advocates for anti-LGBTQ laws would cry murder if Christians were considered un-natural and prevented to get married, or violently oppressed or imprisoned or murdered. This double standard cannot be emphasized enough.
If as a society we allowed the anti-gay marriage person to exercise one ounce of power over the LBGTQ person then our society should be judged harshly. If we fall into the same legal morass as the Ugandan government who is imposing criminal punishment against the LGBTQ community, or Russia who are expressing violent oppression of the LGBTQ community then we will be painted with the same brush of bigotry and hate.
The argument is being fought by both sides on the wrong battlegrounds for a simple reason, the forces that seek to suppress the freedoms of others have no ground to stand upon. The side of the anti-LGBTQ communities have pushed and pulled to keep the argument on the false grounds that are admittedly falling out from under them in order to maintain the fight.
The errors on the LGBTQ side are that of over caution that can now be shed. The errors on the Anti-LGBTQ side stem from the foundations of their argument, simply stated they do not have anything to stand upon other than this intolerable hatred spawned from ancient Bronze and Iron age societies that need to be shed.
Moving the fight to the grounds of personal freedom, religious freedom, and a strict legal definition and limitation of the term “marriage” will be the death knell for the forces of bigotry and hate.
As the fight moves into this field of play, as the religious dogma is further displaced by the interests of a free nation and world become more center stage, the way that we look at ourselves and each other will improve.
It always has.