Thursday, May 10, 2007

Civil rights and gay rights

Found this letter to the editor of a Massachusetts newspaper (maybe?), which tries to argue that gay marriage is not a right. He doesn't do so well.
A recent contributor gave her opinion that gay marriage is a civil right. But from where does this right arise?

It cannot arise from social activity. One argument states that homosexuals should be granted marriage rights because they are in school, in the armed services, are gainfully employed, elect representatives and attend church, all alongside heterosexuals. But if these criteria were applied equally, then only those heterosexuals who study, serve in the military, work, vote, and worship should be allowed to marry.

Ugh. No, no, no. The argument is not, and has never been, that marriage is literally a right earned by performing certain services. The point is that gays are equal participants in society (well, insofar as people will let them) and therefore deserve to be treated equally by society. This includes affording them the same rights that other people have, which does include the right to marry.
Neither does it arise from citizenship. Even our local legislators, who uphold a right for all citizens to marry, have recently shown that they would defend the marriage rights of male and female illegal immigrants. This is because they simply cannot avoid the truth that marriage is even more ancient and fundamental than even citizenship and any related guarantees to work, vote, serve, etc. Marriage resides much deeper at the base of human dignity.

I'm not sure why he even brings this up--maybe because the person to whom he is supposedly responding mentioned citizenship, I don't know. But it's pointless. No-one claims that marriage is a right derived from citizenship. It is a fundamental human right. As the court said in Loving v. Virginia, "Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival." And as you almost eloquently put it, "[m]arriage resides much deeper at the base of human dignity." I don't know why then you think that gays don't have the same rights to marriage as straights do. Despite your best handwaving, gays are still human and also take part in this human dignity.
Nor can any right for gays to marry arise from human dignity. Nature reveals the right to marry, prior to any human governmental instrument, in two genders. The next time your elected representative tells you that the conjugal union and the gay relationship are equal, ask him if he can honestly see no distinction between these forms on the human, biological, and familial levels. The next time your senator states that the repudiation of gay marriage is discrimination, remind him that it is not discriminatory to use reason to discriminate truth from falsity. Ask him to do the same.

Wait, what? First you claim that "marriage resides at the base of human dignity", and then you say "no it doesn't either." At least, not for gays.

Your rationalizations, sir, are horrid. First off, appealing to nature is a logical fallacy. We might as well say that nature reveals the "right" to devour your children, as many animals do. Not all of nature fits the happy mold of one male and one female raising a family tha you wish to impose on people--consider the multitude of species where only a select few members get to do any mating. Should we have a queen bee that has all the children in one town? Or should we give multiple wives to one man, as with lions?

Of course, I fear that you're not really appealing to the family structure of animals at all. You seem to be one of the multitude who think that men and women are different and therefore--somehow--it is okay to discriminate against which of them may marry another. Let me address your hypothetical question: on the human and familial levels (whatever you might mean by those) there is absolutely no difference between gay and straight relationships. That is, in fact, the entire point here, sir. As for a biological level... well, what does that really mean? The people involved in the relationships are of different biological sexes, yes. And what of it? I have often heard people claim that sex is important to marriages, but no-one has ever explained why outside of discussing sex and procreation... neither of which are valid reasons for discriminating against gays.
Our elected officials are supposed to be the best and brightest of us. We should expect them to be so. They insult our intelligence, and forsake their public duty when they tell us that human dignity concerning issues of inheritance, hospital visitation, health proxy, burial, etc. cannot be preserved for friendships without recourse to marriage or civil unions.

It's interesting that no-one cared about expanding these issues from spouses to just friends until gays started wanting the same rights. Similarly, whenever gays demand rights, there are those who decide to give them those rights, but also demand that it has to be given to other people to. For instance, we couldn't get hate crimes against gays outlawed without people demanding that protections also be given to the elderly and servicemen. Instead of treating gay relationships the same as straight ones, they just decide "let's give any two random people the same rights." That way gay relationships are given legal protection but not recognition. I expect that this letter-writer never thought that limiting some hospital visits only to spouses "insult[ed] our intelligence" until gays demanded the same right. Then it suddenly belongs to everyone!

But anyways. Even if these rights were given willy-nilly to everyone, that's not the point. Gays wanted to be treated the same as straights. This isn't just about the over-1,000 federal benefits of marriage, though that is a good talking point that makes concrete some of the disadvantages gay relationships are subject to. It is about getting people to recognize that gay relationships are no different from straight ones, and hence there's no valid reason to treat them that way.

Fortunately, some of our "best and brightest" have figured that out. Someday the rest of you will catch up.

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