Monday, January 08, 2007

James Fullmer on Gay Marriage

The California Patriot Blog recently had a comment thread in which James Fullmer (a member of Berkeley College Republicans and managing editor of the California Patriot) and I debated Gay Marriage. However, as the comments became longer and longer, I decided that it would be appropriate to place a post on my own blog to continue the debate, already in progress.

Please feel free to add your own comments here.

“In allowing a government to determine which relationships are recognized and which aren’t, we are giving the [government] too much power.”

Then, government should stay out of marriage altogether and leave it up to individual churches. How very libertarian of you.

In general, I am very libertarian. I do believe that the government should keep its nose out of marriage except that so many of the privileges tied to marriage under federal law are based on the word “marriage” that it would be tedious to remove marriage from law. Besides, we know the government wouldn’t go along with those plans any time in the near future. So marriage should be offered equally to straight people and gay people.

The government recognizes and subsidizes marriage because marriage 1) provides a mass social framework that allows for the raising of children in two-parent homes with both a male and a female influence and 2) provides a mass social framework in which individual men protect individual women (who are generally physically the weaker sex) and individual women make sure individual men (who are generally the more idiotic sex) don’t do anything too stupid. This saves the government from having to do all the safety and police work itself. (You’ll pardon me for being unbearably traditional and generalizing in my views of the sexes.)

And the reason why two people of the same sex don’t qualify for this governmental recognition is because - at least in the eyes of society today - a relationship between two individuals of the same sex does not fulfill those two criteria. Both are up for debate, of course, and incidentally I think the strongest argument for gay marriage is that it does provide social stability. The whole “marriage tames men [and women, in this case]” argument.

Yeah. Not so much. I have a hard time taking any part of that argument seriously. For arguments sake, I will refrain from criticizing these rather sexist statements regarding the weakness of women and idiocy of men. Though such notions of sexual differences are still in vogue in places like North Korea they have been decreasing in popularity in the US since about 1910. But I digress.

If government sanctioned marriage is intended to provide a mass social framework for heterosexual, two-parent families then it has been a horribly failed experiment. The major flaw with that argument is that marriage and fertility have no correspondence, at all. Married people do not need to have or raise children to be married or even be ABLE to have or raise children to be married. If this were the case, elderly, infertile, and those without the desire to have children would be forbidden to marry for the same reason Gay people are not allowed to.

Further, last time I checked, one did not have to be married to procreate. In fact, it is not even a requirement to be heterosexual to parent a child. Lots of Gay people have children—whether from a previous heterosexual relationship, adoption, artificial insemination, or other means.
Yet, children of single parent families and Gay families are punished under a system that attempts to promote heterosexual marriage. If the government really cared for the upbringing of children, it would promote stable homes-regardless of the gender of the parents-by allowing all parents to marry and would provide shared custody to both parents (provided they are capable of caring for the child and are non-abusive) for the unfortunate event of a separation or death.

I am not convinced that there is a social benefit to children from heterosexual parenting. Clearly heterosexual homes have misinformed Mr. Fullmer regarding gender roles. The social structure promoted by heterosexual marriage is not necessarily detrimental, but neither is the social structure promoted by Gay marriage. That is to say that both can promote stable, loving, and caring homes for children to be reared in but neither necessarily provides such a functional environment. More structurally, both can raise children but neither must. Negatively, both can have the same faults—selfishness, abusiveness, and other causes of distress—but neither must.

Gay marriage has the same societal benefits that heterosexual marriage does. By this logic, there is no reason to incentivize heterosexual marriage over same-sex ones.

No, because given the two reasons government recognizes marriage that I listed above, an interracial marriage is no different from an intraracial marriage. Anti-miscegenation laws were attempts by racist idiots to preserve “racial purity” and had nothing to do with whether or not a particular marriage was beneficial to society. Racism and homophobia are both terrible things. However, there actually is a non-homophobic case against gay marriage; if there’s a non-racist argument against interracial marriage, I’ve yet to hear it. So let’s dispense with this analogy, shall we?
Gay marriage and Straight marriage are not intrinsically different. Laws preventing Gays from achieving marriage rights are put in place by homophobes trying to preserve a view of society that never actually existed. Gay marriage does not harm society any more than heterosexual marriage nor does heterosexual marriage benefit society any more than Gay marriage. If there is a non-homophobic case against gay marriage that is based in reality then I have yet to hear it.

“In allowing a government to determine which relationships are recognized and
which aren’t, we are giving the [government] too much power.”

No, quite frankly, we’re not. Marriage, as we’re discussing it, is recognized by-guess who-the government. For the purposes of this discussion, marriage is a government program. If the government has a program, it can set requirements for who qualifies for that program.

As “Republican” and “Conservative” as Fullmer claims to be, it appears that he has forgotten the greatest of Conservative tenets: promotion of small government. This nation and the GOP were both founded on the value of personal liberty over ill-placed government sovereignty.

Simply because the government can and does doesn’t mean it should set certain requirements for certain government programs. In fact, the Supreme Court has often held that the government can not impose certain requirements preventing people from partaking in government programs if they are improperly established, are discriminatory, or otherwise are wrongly imposed. Any argument that something is proper because it is status quo is illogical.

As I’ve said before, if the government interferes with our rights to enter into consensual relationships with whomever we want, then I’ll be out there with you protesting it. But don’t mistake the fact that some relationships qualify for government recognition for an inherent right to have a relationship recognized by the government.
Somehow, I do not think we will see Mr. Fullmer fighting for Gay rights on the front lines any time soon.


fullmer said...

Wow, I dunno if I've ever seen my name up in the headline of a blog before. Freakin' sweet.

I fear, my friend, that we've basically reached the point where further arguments going to be difficult. You have your assumptions, I have mine, and they're seemingly pretty intractable. Just a couple notes, though.

First, if it's "rather sexist" to suggest that men and women are different (and you're not the first person who has told me this, I caught hell from a friend for defending Lawrence Summers once), then, well I guess I'm rather sexist. And if I believe men and women are different, and you don't, then we're going to have a tough time having a constructive argument about whether same-sex marriage really is equal to heterosexual marriage. Dead end there, sadly.

On a tangent, you could have chosen a slightly better example than North Korea if you wanted to try to tie me and my views to something negative. North Korea, like most of the various Communist-derived states, has always been at the forefront of saying women and men are the same. And as for the idea that the traditional two-parent family that I hold up as an ideal would be held up as an ideal in North Korea, that's simply laughable. Allegiance is to the state, buddy, not the family. Again I'm sorry to go on a tangent here but your comment about North Korea was either an attempt to smear my views by association or a stunning display of ignorance about the situation there, or both. And what gay marriage is to you in terms of importance, North Korean human rights is to me. So call me a sexist pig if you want but don't bring North Korea into the argument until you learn something about it.

Anyway, back to the subject, it does seem we've reached an impasse. If, as you assume, a heterosexual relationship and a homosexual relationship are inherently the same, then you're right. There's no reason for the government to promote one and not the other. If, however, as I assume, they are different, then my argument holds. And these assumptions, in the end, go back to what we believe about the relevant differences or lack thereof between the sexes. Our readers at the Patriot and yours here are just going to have to make up their mind about that on their own; once they do, I think we've both given them a pretty good path to follow.

As for whether or not I'm standing up for the principle of small government, I think you've got it a tad wrong here. See, I believe in negative rights - things granted to us by a power greater than government, that therefore cannot be taken away by the government. One of these is the right to enter into a consenting adult relationship with whomever you choose. As a basic human right, this applies to you, to me, to everyone, whatever their sexual orientation.

Now, I don't believe in positive rights in general - for example, a right to a job. Reason being, if the government says you have a right to a job, then it may have to impinge on someone else's negative rights - say, the business owner's right to hire whomever they please - in order to provide for your positive right. Positive rights usually lead to bigger government and abuses of negative rights. "Ill-placed government sovereignty," in the words of someone more eloquent than I.

Is the "right to marry" a positive right? If it is a right, then yes. It's certainly not a negative right. And, as a small-government conservative, I think the government exists to enforce our negative rights. (For the record, I don't believe there is a "right" to a government recognized marriage, not for anyone. The word "right" is like the word "love" - you shouldn't say it unless you really mean it, otherwise it loses its impact.)

My friend, I say once again, you find me manmade laws that prevent you as a consenting adult from doing whatever you want with another consenting adult and I will condemn them. You show me someone who has committed a crime against someone because of their sexuality and I will condemn them. I would consider this my duty to my fellow human beings. So don't try to paint me as a homophobe.

fullmer said...

Oh, almost forgot to mention this. I'm not exactly an active member of BCR anymore, and while I am Managing Editor of the Patriot, I'm speaking on behalf of myself here, not on behalf of the magazine.

Marenda said...

Interesting to know.

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