Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Gay Rights vs. Gay Marriage Rights

Slate has an interesting article on the dichotomy between the opposition to gay marriage and the steady progress gays have made toward other civil rights, suggesting that opposition to gay marriage may be based less on hatred of gays and more on a desire to promote traditional gender roles. In a certain sense, what the article is saying is that opposition to gay marriage is based more on chauvinism than bigotry.

I'm not quite sure if I buy it, but it's an interesting argument that I think is probably true to a certain extent. I doubt it would satisfy Andrew Sullivan, but it would at least provide an alternate explanation than his standard position that any opposition to gay marriage is simply based on hate.

I also wonder if some of the issue is that a gay marriage takes what many people see as an abnormality and gives it official recognition, a semi-permanent stamp of approval. This is probably a bigger mental leap for a lot of people to take than most other civil rights for gays, which are based more on the idea that you shouldn't discriminate against people based on what they do (consensually) in their private lives. Marriage, by its very nature, takes our private lives and makes them public. This makes people uncomfortable even when they realize that nobody chooses their sexual orientation.

Personally, I think the arguments for allowing gay marriage, at least by the civil authorities, are strong. Nobody bats an eye when non-fertile straight couples are married, so the whole "marriage is for procreation" canard doesn't hold water. Marriage lends legal recognition to the special bond that stable relationships have, and the consequences of gays not being able to marry become acute when, for example, the law doesn't recognize one of the gay de facto parents of a child as anything more than a roommate.

I think that homosexuality still sets off an "ick factor" for a lot of straight people, self included, even when we know loving, stable gay couples. But an ick factor isn't a very strong basis for public policy when it runs up against the notion of equal protection under the law or just the basic American ideal of letting people live their lives however they see fit as long as it isn't hurting somebody. And for the record, I can't possibly see how anybody's gay marriage is going to harm my own straight marriage.

1 Comments:

At Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 10:18:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Erich Schneider said...

I agree with your belief that much of the opposition comes from the fact that legal gay "marriage" means legitimizing gay sex for many people, and this makes them uncomfortable (or whatever). And the claims that gay marriage is an "attack on marriage" stem from people who hold that point of view believing that a legitimizing institution is being forced to put a stamp of approval on something they find intrinsically wrong or disgusting.

 

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