Marriage Equality

While the debate rages in Washington, the war for public opinion flares across the internet.  I have my own strong opinions about this topic and I know others do too.  The thing that bothers me isn’t that some people think homosexuality is a sin or even have hatred.  What bothers me most is how ignorant some people can be about freedom.

I get that we all want to live in a world that reflects our own world view.  We want our states to feel like a home rather than a prison.  Prop 8 makes me very sad for California because it is counter to my world view and it feels counter to my perception of California in general.  After living here for so long I’ve realized this state isn’t a liberal den of scum and villainy, it’s a very diverse population with two large liberal leaning pockets.  The bay area and greater Los Angeles county contain a large majority of the Californian population and those huge urban sprawls necessarily foster a liberal world view.  In these areas people from all walks of life bump up against each other and the only way to cope is to recognize the validity of most of them.

Sure, there will always be things that we shun as a society.  It’s okay to pick and choose what those things are, but we need to be clear about why we are shunning one thing and accepting another.  As I go along in this rambling piece of tripe, I think it will become clear how I judge the differences in acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  I know not everyone reaches the same conclusions though and so it is important to discuss and debate the points and counter points.  Since it isn’t really appropriate for most of us to do this in our everyday lives, we take to the interwebs.

It’s hard to tell whether someone on the internet is trolling or serious, but sometimes the earnestness of the commentary belays the absurdity.  When a topic is important to me I consume as much information as I can.  Some of that information is necessarily internet commentary in response to articles and op-ed’s.  This helps me get an idea of the arguments, counter arguments, concerns, logistics, and what have you’s.  From there I feel like I can work on a way to talk about the issue that makes sense to me and be prepared for the most common counter points.

I think any serious thinking should be filled with point and counter point.  Questioning our own ideas makes them stronger, this is why lively debate is so critical.  Unfortunately when we debate with others we often run against a steadfast defender unwilling to have their world view questioned.  I must admit, it isn’t easy for anyone to have their perspective scrutinized by someone, especially when that person sees things completely different.

So I find myself doing my best to call into question the most outrageous comments that appear to be serious.  I do my best to avoid obvious trolls, but no ones perfect.  Here’s an example of a comment that can seem like flame bait, but could be genuine.  ”If we accept homosexuals and agree that they are born that way, what do we do if pedophiles are born that way?”  Now seriously, this can’t be a real comment.  This thought cannot enter your head, get flagged as acceptable, and then pass through as communication.  If I’m in a self righteous defender of the internet mode, I have to engage.  It’s tricky because this seems like an obvious troll, but on the other hand, I have to stop and think, maybe there really is someone who thinks this way.

In an effort to walk that line, I call the person out on being a troll and the proceed to explain why I think the comment is flame bait.  I go on about how I can’t imagine the thought process that would produce such a comment, much less allow it to escape into the wild.  I usually don’t get a response, but I don’t want one.  I just want to add counter to their outlandish comment.  It’s a challenging line to walk because I don’t want to resort to name calling, but I also want to make them feel somewhat shameful for having polluted the internet with that trash.  What we say matters and while none of us are perfect, we need to take a bit more time than the person who came up with that gem.

I know that many people will see that guys comment and dismiss him as a troll or an idiot. I am concerned about the ones who do not.  It’s not hard to imagine someone reading an article on same sex marriage and then reading the comments looking for some discussion on the topic and validation of their own thinking.  If the above comment stands with no context, it can gain foot hold.  By pointing out how incorrect the comment is, I can invalidate it for some readers.

When I comment in discussions, my primary goal is to plant seeds of change.  I want to put ideas out there so they can start to grow; in the process helping others see the world a little differently.  I ask a lot of questions, I don’t really want to have a discussion on all of them, but I want people to take those questions with them when they leave the discussion.  I want those questions to rattle around in their head and bump up against their preconceived notions.  I like it when people appreciate what I have to say, but I don’t expect everyone to immediately agree with anything I put out there.

Getting back to my main point, I have been confounded by many peoples lack of understanding freedom.  Just so we’re clear, freedom is your right to influence your own world while inflicting the minimum negative impact on everyone else.  That’s it, simple and concise.  Sure, there are many nuances that we could get into, but I’m not gonna get someone who writes in 250 word paragraphs to read a doctoral thesis on freedom.  For the rest of us, another time and another place will have to do.

The same sex marriage opposition seems mostly dominated by the christian conservatives.  I see lots of arguments about sinning, gods law, marriage as a religious sacrament  etc.  For many of these people, their arguments reveal their clear misunderstanding of religious freedom and freedom in general.  The United States is a secular nation, if we weren’t then there would be no religious freedom.  This is because religious freedom only comes when all religions are equal in the eyes of the state.  If one religion has more influence or gets special treatment, then religious freedom is being infringed.

So if we have a law on the books that reflects the beliefs of one religion over another, it is unconstitutional   It isn’t the other way around.  I’ve seen a few people try to argue that allowing same sex marriage infringes their religious or personal freedom.  They clearly think this makes sense, but they are simply wrong.  So I try to convey the reality of freedom to them in the hope they will come around.  I don’t want to convince them to accept homosexuals, but I do want to help them learn why they are wrong.  In that way, we can diminish the freedom ignorance that has begun to rise up.

One example of this is saying same sex marriage harms you because it prevents you from raising your children as you see fit.  My initial reaction is to recoil.  Again, I can’t hardly see how someone can honestly think this, but the earnestness of the remainder of the comment convinces me this person must be legit.  So I engage, offering up my definition of freedom as an initial point of agreement to work from.  I explain how existence of things and legality of things does not have anything to do with how you raise your children.  I go on to discuss the nature of religious freedom and finally point out how impossible the original premise is.

So this is what I don’t understand about the arguments of the opposition.  Marriage equality can’t infringe on your religious freedom because no one is going to force anyone to attend, support, agree with, officiate, stop hating, or otherwise accept same sex marriage.  To the point about parenting, no one is telling these people they can’t teach their children that homosexuality is a sin, their kids might have some tough questions for them, but that would happen anyway with anything.  Science, math, sociology, are we going to outlaw all of it simply because the zealot can’t have their world view brought into question by their teenager?  Are we also going to outlaw college?

It doesn’t help matters that I am very much against the entire ideology of these religious zealots.  I have my own irritated view of them, as I’m sure you can tell, and it isn’t flattering.  I try to engage fairly though.  I don’t like making assumptions about people, especially when my agenda is to get them chipping away at the wall they’ve built in their brain.  So I do my absolute best to avoid saying some of the things I may want to say.  Sometimes it feels good to just let the insults fly, but there is very little value in that.  I do it on here because this is my blog and sometimes that’s what I feel like putting on the page.

The bottom line is simple.  Marriage isn’t a religious institution and we don’t call marriage civil union in this country.  Same sex couples should have the same benefits, privileges  and liabilities as opposite sex couples.  Defining marriage as only between a man and a woman sets a dangerous precedent because the only true way to identify a man or woman is through a blood test.  This would mean all marriage license applications would require a blood sample from both partners for testing.  Basing it on appearance is arbitrary and easily manipulated.  Marriage is not for procreation.

At the end of the day, I’m glad this debate is finally getting elevated, but I am appalled that it has taken this long.  I’m tired of the ridiculous arguments, of the childish selfishness, of the inequality, and mostly I’m tired of the religious zealots.  The misguided anger in their words is the fuel that drives me to engage further.  Reason and equality will win out, this is my wish, my hope, and my conviction.  If not today, then tomorrow.  If not with us, then with the next generation.

Stay Safe Out There,

~SH

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