July 16, 2004

Right-to-Marry Hypocrites

First of all, congratulations are in order all around as the Federal Marriage Amendment failed a procedural vote (cloture, which ends filibuster) and is widely perceived as discredited or even dead. It was a stupid, petty social issue that should never, ever have been elevated to the constitutional level, same as Prohibition. If adults want to marry, we shouldn't stop them.

Now, Democrats would overwhelmingly shake their heads at that last statement. Let's read it again.

If adults want to marry, we shouldn't stop them.

Hmm, sounds good, right Democrats? Well think for a second, that means not just gay marriage, but what else? That's right: polygamy! Say that dirty word again: polygamy! The marriage among three or more partners, wherein one husband with multiple wives is polygyny and one wife with multiple husbands is polyandry. In almost all polygamous cultures, polygyny is the war it works. Anyway, this would also be covered under letting people want to marry. Does it still sound as good? Let's give it a shot.

If adults want to marry, we shouldn't stop them.

Now, I'm going to be an optimist and say generally most Democrats (by which I means activists and voters, not politicians) would be pretty okay with that. After all, it doesn't really hurt anybody (assuming it's not involuntary or with minors, of course) and it's not all that different from gay marriage. But I'm willing to bet $100 that you couldn't find two Senators or 15 Representatives willing to go on CNN, Fox and MSNBC sponsoring a polygamists' rights bill. The national Democrats are, I'm contending, not willing to allow polygamy. And that's why the pro-gay marriage mainstream politicians are being hypocritical here, not to mention slightly bigoted. The fact that the anti-gay marriage politicians are also being discriminatory should be obvious, and I'm not even going to bother arguing it right now.

There are plenty of people all up in arms about gay-bashing and homophobia and discrimination and they're convinced that this is a mini-recurrence of the civil rights era. They think they're like the new Freedom Marchers and the Bush Administration is like George Wallace. While I have to agree that there are some parallels between the black civil rights movement and the gay civil rights movement, I think they've selfishly cast themselves as pinnacles of freedom and virtue. I have to disagree.

The Republicans are fighting for their culture, theology, morality, philosophy, or whatever else you want to call it. They are not fighting for a universalistic cause (e.g. freedom or justice or tolerance or equality) but rather for a relativistic culture, for a social vision instead an ideal vision. They are fighting for what they're used to, for what seems normal, not for what seems objectively right. They are pushing their own culture. That may be commonplace but it's not excusable. The gift of America is in its individualism - we should each find our own happiness, values and culture from the marketplace of ideas. Allowing people to privately pursue happiness and virtue is what makes this country great. We should not push culture onto others, as often happens and has happened more or less since the beginning of culture.

I must strenuously object to the FMA and the entire anti-gay marriage concept. Look who pushes it: Southerners, family values advocates, the Pope and Catholics, and people who want to defend culture and civilization. These are all very culturally and socially oriented groups, they want to force and maintain their social vision onto the country because they believe it is right. That should never be what our country is about. What if a group in our early history had succeeded in keeping out all Catholics or all non-Europeans? They didn't think anybody but Protestants of Northern European descent had anything good to contribute. That was not their call to make and thankfully it never fully came to pass (although it had many supporters at one time or another).

So let me reiterate: forcing your unique cultural vision onto all of us is wrong. Trying to secure the public liberty and safety is good. I could go on forever about the distinction, but I think that's a way to frame the issue that most will understand.

Now the pro-gay marriage movement, by which I mean the mainstream national politicians, what are they doing? They tell us they're fighting for justice and tolerance. It sure looks that way at first, especially given that the Republican and anti-gay marriage folks are pushing for a basic cultural vision. But these national pols aren't truly tolerant, at least not in the absolute sense, and certainly not about love and marriage. If they were, they'd want to allow any adult to marry any other adults - polygamy, not just monogamy. They tell us that we should accept gay marriage even if we disagree with it, but then almost NOBODY tells us we should accept polygamy even if we disagree with it. What if you asked them? I'm willing to wager that most of those pols would be against polygamy. If in fact that is the case, I can only make one conclusion:

Both sides are fighting for their own social views, and the pro-gay marriage people simply have a strong claim to justice and tolerance then fall short (again, speaking of the national, mainstream politicians). It's a competing vision of two cultures, essentially. It just so happens that one group only likes straight marriage and one group only likes two-person marriages.

Now, I will admit, the propensity for being truly tolerant and open, representing freedom and justice and all that is certainly far stronger than the anti-gay marriage side - which clearly has no claim to that position on this issue. I give the pro-gay marriage side credit for trying to be critical and objective of tradition and for at least recognizing that freedom and justice should be the goal, not some mere social custom. But I think what should we really realize is that nobody even mentions alternative marriage outside homosexuality. That's the real bigotry, being totally ignored. When Republicans and conservatives are against gay marriage, at least they mention it, they come up with SOMETHING to say. The real bigotry (granted, this is not an extreme form, just an insulting one) is when you won't even acknowledge the argument or attempt to gain recognition.

Conservatives all the time argue that if we allow gay marriage we'll eventually allow polygamy and bestiality. What is the typical leftist response? Shoot down the claim as ridiculous (which in most forms it usually is) but then barely ever acknowledge that maybe polygamy should be legal or isn't even wrong. That's not the hate spewed forth at gay couples or androgynous people on the street, but while it's not mean it sure is insulting. So please don't take bigotry to mean that mainstream Democrats hate polygamists, rather I mean they don't even acknowledge that they may have a legitimate argument. A very, very soft but at the same time rampant form of bigotry. Certainly Republicans and conservatives practice it as well - and almost certainly much more often and more deeply - but the fact that the people putting themselves up to be tolerant, objective and freedom-loving don't do it should be disappointing.

Multi-partner relationships deserve to be recognized in the political debate, or at the very least, deserve to be legalized then left well enough alone. Who is going to do either of these? The Libertarians already have. Libertarians across the country are saying that marriage should be privatized, let everybody marry whom they want (by which I mean adult humans, natch) and don't make it a regulatory issue. No licensing, just private ceremonies. Badnarik has also endorsed this, pointing out that baptisms and bar/bat mitzvahs are private, and marriage should be, too.

Why don't we get mainstream Republicans urging this? Because, frankly, it's weird and feels abnormal, like society isn't under their control - which it damn well shouldn't be. They're pushing their social view that romantic relationships should only be one man and one woman.

Why don't we get mainstream Democrats urging this? Because they don't want to seem out of the mainstream, and because there are no PACs for polygamists, and no votes. It's almost universally illegal hence you don't find a lot of polygamists admitting to it. The lefties are pushing a social view that romantic relationships should only be one person and one other person. Again, at least they try to be tolerant, though.

The Libertarians are saying privatize it all, let individuals decide what's right or wrong and the rest is nobody else's business. I have hope for Democrats and the ACLU-types to embrace this (maybe they are starting to already, cross your fingers for marriage privatization) but right now, they're going for their social views and their voting base. I tend to believe the grassroots types holds plenty of young people willing to allow polygamy (if not privatize marriage) but when it comes to party leadership, it's gotta be the Libertarians. The libertarians in every party are the truly tolerant ones here.

Now, as a quick policy explanation, plenty of people know marriage is useful for inheritance and work benefits, so wonder what would happen without the institution of marriage. Well, inheritance should be allowed to whomever you want, tax-free. That's the Libertarian position already, and until 2011 that's the federal tax code (the tax resurfaces at full-strength in 2011 without permanent relief). For benefits, people should simply choose their beneficiaries without needing to prove marriage. Let me explain what I mean.

Monogamous? Put your spouse as a beneficiary. Polygamous? Put all your spouses as beneficiaries. Celibate (e.g. priest or Buddhist)? Put a friend, a mentor, a parent, a pupil, a nephew, an aunt, a cousin, or whomever else. Anybody could simply decline to name any beneficiary. If you name more than one person (assuming your company allows) than your benefits get split for each person - for 5 beneficiaries, they each get 1/5 the total benefits. Not too hard.

This is the policy we should pursue. Privatize marriage, let every individual find his or her own happiness in life without hurting others or being hurt by others. I realize there aren't many polygamists (at least right now) so it seems like maybe the harm is less, but if we're going to put ourselves up as tolerant and open to non-harmful private actions, we should allow polygamy as well as homosexuality and heterosexuality. We shouldn't fall into the same close-minded rut as the conservatives.

And when that's what you want, to not just be pro-gay but actually be anti-discrimination, it's a rare breed to find, and almost every Libertarian fits there. Sad to say, I can't believe the same about most of the national politicians favoring gay marriage. Maybe that will change soon, but I wouldn't go out and get thirteen spouses just yet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was your best blog yet. I especially liked the last paragraph.

July 17, 2004 12:15 AM  
Blogger JuniorCouncilor said...

There's a lot to comment on here, and I don't want to get too carried away, so I may make a couple of different comments at different times. Then again, I may get distracted and never comment again. You know my AIM, feel free to contact me if you wish.

First of all, I suppose it wass a generalization, but it would seem to me that many conservatives are fighting for a universalistic vision. You mention theology, morality, philosophy, as possible relativistic visions. The difference you outline here is not clear to me.

Some conservatives live in a culture where morality seems paramount to them. Meanwhile, liberals live in a culture where tolerance may be of paramount importance. Yet the latter you label as a "universalistic cause", while the former is a "relativistic culture". This I do not understand. It is especially confusing to me since liberals constantly rely on moral relativism to justify tolerance, whereas most of those whose paramount value (or perhaps more accurately, principle) is morality, think of this as applying universally. And, in fact, showing the limits of their tolerance, liberals often have no tolerance for those with views opposing theirs, particularly with regard to religion. Liberal dogmatism is a frustrating, if ironic, reality.

Again, I can only assume you are making a generalization when you say that on this issue Republicans are fighting for what seems normal rather than objectively right. In many cases, this is true, since not everyone can explain difficult moral issues, especially when assaulted by those with little objective moral grounding. Plenty of people are willing to make arguments for what is objectively right on this issue.

Next you say we should each find our own happiness, values, and culture from the marketplace of ideas. The idea that people should choose their own values I find particularly interesting. I never knew you to be one to yield to the idea of subjective morality. But perhaps you merely refer to public policy. Yet I know that at a certain point libertarians insist on the imposition of their own values, namely, at the point when force is being used against another. In my mind, this implies a breakdown of the whole system. At a certain point, values must be imposed.

I find it interesting, as well, that despite what I would describe in the past as your support for and advocacy of objective morality, you apparently see no interest for the state in fostering morality. Yet who can doubt that a decline in morality leads to issues that concern the state? Might it not be worthwhile, for example, to crack down on prostitution for reasons of public health? To discourage illegitimacy, because of the subsequent increases in poverty and crime? I fail to see how one can say that the state has no interest in the morality of its citizens.

July 26, 2004 3:44 PM  
Blogger neo-libertarian said...

Hmm, well thought out response, as usual, John. :)

I would say most conservatives and Republicans tend to oppose gay marriage for cultural reasons. While I would also say that most leftists and Democrats are simply supporting civil unions or gay marriage for cultural reasons (or even a baser opposition to conservative culture) they at least have a decent claim to universalism. I do not find many great arguments coming from opponents to gay marriage, and the best tend to be the ones that are merely self-fulling tautologies or biblical references (the worst being insults or poorly established stereotypes).

I don't think mere Biblical reference is an especially great claim to universalism (while it may universally applied, perhaps I should have said objectively verifiable). Simply resting the argument on tradition or on X authority is self-fulfilling. If a neo-pagan religion said that it's wrong to be straight and their gods say so, we'd have two competing visions from two competing authorities. One must prevail and only argumentation is left.

Now, there are certainly objectively-verifiable ways to be consistent and against gay people or gay marriage. But to avoid simply self-fulfilling prophecies (e.g. "it's wrong to be gay because it's wrong to be gay") requires some deeper or wider principle. In this case, that would probably be something relating to procreation or lust. If it were a matter of procreation then all willfully single people (and potentially all infertile people, depending on the application) would be committing grave sins as well, and gay people would be wrong for entering non-procreative relationships. If the issue is sex and lust then those having uncommitted sex or pre-marital sex or adulterous sex would all be committing crimes, as well as any alone-time sexual activities. These all fall under what I think is a normal orthodox-christian definition of lust.

In order to be consistent, non-procreative people would be forced to procreate or attempt to procreate, and all lustful people would be forced to cease their lustful activities if not lustful desires. In other words, the USA would be like a super orthodox Catholic's vision of the world. :)

Since I find that non-procreative people and people who get hysterectomies and vasectomies are all accepted and nobody wants to ban that; and since I find that plenty of lustful activities are condoned and practiced by most people I see that are against gay marriage, I come to a conclusion. There is no wider basis from these people, and only quite orthodox people have a real claim to objective opposition to gay marriage. All the rest fall into two or three categories:

1) tautological; it's wrong because it's wrong
2) traditional; it's wrong because it's new or weird
3) bigoted; whatever percentage of people are legitimately bigoted against gay people (which is wildly overestimated by most lefitsts)

I don't give a lot of conservatives credit for being against, say, condoms or pre-marital sex, and I'd say that's why they're pushing this for cultural or political reasons, not objectively moral ones. I'll leave the Pope and certain orthodox religious people in a separate category, but I will go out on a short limb and say this applies to few or none of the mainstream political opponents of gay marriage.

And I'd say on moral issues, we must be prepared to use ultimate force if the law is violated; ultimately, we have to be willing to put someone in jail for a crime, to beat them down if they use violence to reists arrest, and to shoot them if they use violence to escape or fight back. So we have to be willing to do an awful lot to people we arrest, otherwise laws are meaningless. Unless we're willing to arrest people for obtaining, performing or licensing alternative marriages then the law shouldn't be written. We can't simply fine, either, since refusing a fine ultimately has to be enforced with the threat of imprisonment or violence.

I'd further say that civil society should be split between what is good and what is right. What is right is undeniable, no killing, no theft, no asault, no fraud. What is good is completely up to each individual's interpretation, everything from religion to taste in clothing. What is right is the province of government. What is good is not the province of government. We must separate these two. Establishing the ground rules, the boundaries of civil society provides a framework for honest debate and open exchange of ideas, wherein each person can freely associate with any or no religion, ideology or fashion-line.

We shouldn't combine all morality into the realm of civil society because that impedes the freedom of choice of each person. We should stop fraud and assault and murder, everything else is up for every individual to determine.

July 31, 2004 1:00 AM  

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