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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: What is the difference between “gay marriage” and “civil union”?

With the judicial knockdown of California’s Proposition 8 this week — the law tried to redefine marriage as the union between one man and one woman only, in an attempt to deny civil marriage to gays and lesbians — we’re getting some hilarious responses from those who oppose the right of certain citizens to marry. Like from serial adulterer Newt Gingrich, who sees an “outrageous disrespect” in the new ruling toward the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman. (Perhaps he meant to say that marriage is only proper if it is between one man and one woman, and then that same man and another woman, and then that same man and a third woman, and so on.)

We’re also starting to hear again how some people, from politicians to ordinary citizens, support “civil unions” for gays and lesbians but they certainly do not support “gay marriage.” I always wonder what the hell these people are talking about. What is the difference between “gay marriage” and “civil union”?
I’m not talking about the legal differences between marriage and civil unionthere are real differences, most of which concern the fact that civil unions are matters of state law, and as such as not able to confer all the federal benefits of marriage. I mean, What do these people think they’re saying? I have never heard a rationale for supporting “civil unions” but not “gay marriage” that didn’t sound like this:

Some little voice in the back of my head tells me it’s wrong to deny gays and lesbians the same rights and benefits that come with marriage. But a louder voice in my head keeps shouting about how icky it is to think about two guys getting nasty together. (Two chicks might be okay, I guess, but only if I get to watch.) So we need to find some way to let gays get married and still pretend that that’s not what we’re doing.

What else could it be? Is there a reasonable explanation for supporting “civil unions” but not “gay marriage” that I don’t see?

Of course, the real solution for this problem would be for the government to get out of the business of rewarding marriage in the first place. Why should I have to pay higher taxes just because I’m single? Almost all of the other benefits that marriage now conveys — from the ability to make health-care decisions for a spouse to inheritance rights and parenting, and so on — can already be legally assigned to anyone you want to assign these rights to (via wills, health-care proxies, adoptions, powers-of-attorney, and such). But the main reason so many people seem to feel the need to create a bizarre dichotomy in their heads between “marriage” and “civil union” is because they insist that marriage is “sacred”… but if that’s the case, then what business is it of a supposedly secular government to reward something that is religious in nature? It is also already the case that many ministers and other religious celebrants will marry gays and lesbians in religious ceremonies, so some gays and lesbians are actually already married in the sense that those who believe that marriage is “sacred” would (or should) recoginze. How can anyone say these couples aren’t married if you say you believe in all that “in the eyes of God” stuff?

I’m fascinated — in an appalled way — by the justifications people seem to invent for their own bigotries, and so they can pretend to themselves that they’re not bigots.

And when we’re done with this, perhaps someone can explain how gay marriage undermines hetero marriage…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Martin

    Simple. It’s hedging bets. If you say you support Civil Union, you appeal to the left, but if you say you oppose Gay Marriage, you appeal to the right.

  • I_Sell_Books

    @Martin: ha!

    Honestly, I would have rather had a Civil Union for the same reason many people want a Marriage – I don’t like the word ‘marriage’ connected to what I and my spouse have. To me, it’s loaded with connotations that I don’t care for. Having said that, it sure as hell gives me legal rights that I sure do appreciate.

    If the legal rights were the same, and ‘civil union’ meant as much in terms of tradition* that ‘marriage’ does, then I think many people, gay or otherwise, would be just as happy to do that instead of the other.

    * not including ownership of women and children, lack of rights for anybody save the white male, yadda yadda

  • MaryAnn

    Simple. It’s hedging bets. If you say you support Civil Union, you appeal to the left, but if you say you oppose Gay Marriage, you appeal to the right.

    But Martin, I’m trying to get at *why* the term “civil union” appeals to some people when, to all intents and purposes, it already means the same thing as “marriage.”

    And I don’t think that saying “I support Civil Union” appeals to “the left.” What appeals to the left is removing a distinction between gay people getting married and straight people getting married.

    And here’s another thought: If those people who say that “marriage” is “sacred” and that’s why we can’t let some people get married, how do they reconcile that with the fact that hetero couples do not have to be married in a religious ceremony in order to partake of the civil benefits of marriage? The law already acknowledges that marriage does not have to be “sacred” to be considered marriage for legal purposes. So we as a society are clearly willing to confer civil benefits upon marriages that are not religious or “sacred” in nature.

    On the contrary, no one is saying that we have to force, say, Catholic priests to marry gay couples. Some Catholic priests will marry gay couples, but that’s their choice. The problem is that when a Catholic priest marries a straight couple, they can file paperwork with the government that gives them certain civil benefits. (And if they fail to file that paperwork, then it wouldn’t matter if the Pope himself married them: the government would not consider them married.) But if that same priest married a gay couple, they wouldn’t be able to file that same paperwork.

    So what does “sacredness” have to do with the issue at hand?

    If the legal rights were the same, and ‘civil union’ meant as much in terms of tradition* that ‘marriage’ does, then I think many people, gay or otherwise, would be just as happy to do that instead of the other.

    What I was trying to get at in the OP is that it seems to me that that is *exactly* what people are saying when they say “I support civil unions but not gay marriage” — they’re saying “same rights, different name.” What I want to know is why don’t people *recognize* that that is what is being said?

    Honestly, though, I_Sell_Books, when someone asks what your relationship status is, do you say, “I’m civil-unioned”? Would you *want* to say that? What would you say if not “I’m married”?

  • Most multicellular forms of life on this planet produce through sexual reproduction. This sexual reproduction involves a male and a female.

    When a male couples with a female. That coupling might produce children. When a female couples with a female or a male with a male, it does not.

    Sexual reproduction has been around for a billion years or so. It is not simply a creation of George Bush (even though George Bush is to blame for most things).

    Sexual reproduction plays an important role in the evolutionary process as it mixes up the genes of the two parents. The off spring from the union are different from the parents.

    This process has managed to fill the world with a wide variety of different species.

    Back to the question. Marriage is, first and foremost, a commitment to kids produced through sexual reproduction.

    Marriage is based on biology that has been central to life of this planet for about as long as there has been multi-cellular life on this planet.

    The idea that we should defend the institution is not based on gut feeling. It is based on the nature of life.

    As the other poster points out. The political issue is simply something manufactured by the left to divide the people and consolidate power.

  • Chris

    So infertile people should not get married? And marriage is about one thing, and one thing only historically: guarenteeing that the male knows the offspring is his.

    No one has to get married to reproduce and raise children. Wolves don’t get married. Marriage is purely a legal and social construct. Many children are raised properly by people who are not married (like, oh, I don’t know, gay couples)

    And what about homosexuality in the animal kingdom, of which there is a great deal?

  • Martin

    So the only way a couple can successfully raise a child is if they are married?

    If two people are infertile, should they be allowed to get married?

    And I think you’re referring to me when you say:

    The political issue is simply something manufactured by the left to divide the people and consolidate power.

    Don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t think this is being used to divide and conquer, I think it’s politicians playing the game, saying stuff because they want to remain in power. Rather than saying what they think, saying what they think we want to hear. Spouting the line “I support civil unions but not gay marriage” is saying something without communicating anything. It’s nonsense in lieu of a real opinion.

    Marriage started out as a contract between two families with little regard for the Bride (usually seen as a commodity) or Groom. Just because it was founded on certain ideals doesn’t mean that’s all it can be. Marriage has now become something two people do because they love each other and want to make a public commitment. There’s no trade of goods involved and in many cases the parents can be opposed to the whole thing and it not mattering.
    As an institution, marriage has evolved to fit whatever society needed it to be to survive, so why can’t it change again?

    I hate to bring up Family Guy but they did make a point when they pointed out the insanity of allowing a straight couple that hate each other to be married but a gay couple that love each other to not.

  • Your comment appeared while I was typing my comment.

    The question as to why some people prefer the term “civil union” to “marriage” is simply because people are trying to protect their language.

    Throughout history, language has been very important to people. This is especially true today when we have radicals (Noam Chomsky, etc) who are set on changing our society by changing our language.

    So, some folk like the term “marriage” to refer to the traditional commitment of parents to their offspring, and are happy to have “civil union” refer to the things people want to experiment with.

    I know many heterosexual couples who are adamant about being in a civil union and not a marriage.

  • Kate

    No more marriage licenses for couples who are infertile!
    No more marriage licenses for couples of a non-childbearing age!
    No more marriage licenses for couples who do not want to have children!

    The “marriage is for the kids’ sake” argument is such a crock. HOW can people still be using it in 2010??

  • kassia

    Marriage is, first and foremost, a commitment to kids produced through sexual reproduction.

    Since when? Sure, there may be children involved within a marriage, but marriage is to legally create a bond between two people who love each other. That’s always a problem I have with people who object to gay marriage. Sure, I can respect their thoughts that marriage is between a man and woman exclusively, although I strongly disagree, but I have never heard or read an argument that actually tells me WHY they believe that. All I hear is bullshit that children are going to get hurt, children’s minds are going to be twisted and warped, the children will grow up to become gay, and WILL ANYONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN??

    The children are fine. It’s not like homosexuality is going to become so rampant that less children are going to be born. Like you say, sexual reproduction has been around for billions of years, and marriage laws in the 21st century are certainly not going to change that.

    Even without marriage, like if two parents divorce, or someone adopts, or uses a sperm/egg donor, or someone’s partner dies and leaves the other with a child, those parents can have the same level of commitment to their children and will protect their children just as much as people who are married.

    The Nature of Life will continue on with or without marriage.

  • kassia

    The question as to why some people prefer the term “civil union” to “marriage” is simply because people are trying to protect their language.

    Throughout history, language has been very important to people. This is especially true today when we have radicals (Noam Chomsky, etc) who are set on changing our society by changing our language.

    Sorry, but I see no purpose to these statements pertaining to the topic at hand. Marriage has never been defined as for the sole purpose of raising children, and it certainly does not mean that in 2010.

  • kassia

    As for your question, MAJ, I don’t know. All I think is that civil union is what politicians throw around as a neutralish word to try and appease both sides of the issue. Maybe they think gay people will think that a civil union is sort of like marriage, and somehow be happy with that, and people against gay marriage will be able to “protect” their archaic perception of marriage.

  • Alli

    The “marriage is for the kids’ sake” argument is such a crock. HOW can people still be using it in 2010??

    Because two men having sex with each other is icky! It will lead to having sex with ducks! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXPcBI4CJc8

    Seriously though, that argument is several decades old. It didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t now. Even if that was the criteria, with adoption and/or artificial insemination, gay couples can have children too.

    Spouting the line “I support civil unions but not gay marriage” is saying something without communicating anything. It’s nonsense in lieu of a real opinion.

    I agree 100%.

  • Anne

    I think that many people can’t really picture a “civil union” ceremony.
    A wedding, however, we have a very clear idea of. Thanks to hollywood and hallmark, we know it contains a large amount of guests, flowers, bridesmaids and in front of everybody someone dressed as a pinguin and a big puffball of a bride. While they’re not all exactly like this, our brain has strong connections between scenes like this and “marriage”.

    Even for me, a Dutch person (so I genetically love the gays), a same sex couple in a big traditional wedding scene seems odd. Which is absolutly no reason they shouldn’t do it.

    While I squeak with joy when I see two guys holding hands (mostly because I’m so happy for them that they found someone, as they have only 5% of the population to choose from instead of 50%), I think it looks fake if they seal their big traditional marriage with a kiss. But picturing them 2 years after the marriage bickering over who’se turn it is to make sure the kids go to bed is totally fine again. It’s just that darned hollywood imprint in my brain that says a wedding ceremony should be boy/girl.

    So, I think that for people who do not have religious or prude objections to same sex marriages, increasing the amount of same sex weddings will have a positive outcome.

  • MaryAnn

    All I think is that civil union is what politicians throw around as a neutralish word to try and appease both sides of the issue.

    But again, Why does it appease? Are people *really* so stupid? It’s not just politicians who say these things: People who aren’t trying to appease anyone still say things like “I guess civil unions are okay but I don’t like the idea of gay marriage.” This seems like a stretch even given the enormous capacity we have for self-delusion.

    Marriage is, first and foremost, a commitment to kids produced through sexual reproduction.

    Bullshit. Sexual reproduction long predated marriage even for humans, and humans have never needed an incentive to reproduce. Civil, legal marriage is about civil, legal matters concerning a relationship.

  • Martin

    But again, Why does it appease? Are people *really* so stupid? It’s not just politicians who say these things: People who aren’t trying to appease anyone still say things like “I guess civil unions are okay but I don’t like the idea of gay marriage.” This seems like a stretch even given the enormous capacity we have for self-delusion.

    I think so.

    Maybe people actually think that there’s a difference between the two. Maybe people are really blinded by tradition to think that calling gay marriage a different name makes it more acceptable?

  • Boingo

    Keywords: “Outrageous Disrespect.”
    Politicians holding hands with power bases (masses of religious voters), try to
    surf the grey area of doublespeak.

    Religious Shamans utter the magic incantations
    of a ceremony. They will not give up the connections
    with political power from upstart institutions
    without a fight … okay, maybe they’ll allow an
    “Assoc. Degree” kind of certificate.

  • Anne

    But again, Why does it appease? Are people *really* so stupid? It’s not just politicians who say these things: People who aren’t trying to appease anyone still say things like “I guess civil unions are okay but I don’t like the idea of gay marriage.” This seems like a stretch even given the enormous capacity we have for self-delusion.

    Maybe these are the same people who think that if you tell your kids that sex is bad and deny the existence of protected sex will result in virgin marriages instead of teen pregnancy?
    (insert brag about how low Dutch teen pregnancy rates are even though it’s off topic)

  • Tim1974

    In reality, there is no difference between the two. It is all about semantics put forth by politicians who are trying to secure the most votes. On the one hand they oppose gay marriage because they feel marriage should only be between a man and a woman. However, on the other hand, they realize and support the right of same sex partners to live together and enjoy the same rights as a male-female marriage. In this self serving way, they are attempting to appease both sides with an eye for future elections.

  • Alli

    Are people *really* so stupid?

    Yes, and it’s terrifying.

  • kassia

    But again, Why does it appease? Are people *really* so stupid? It’s not just politicians who say these things: People who aren’t trying to appease anyone still say things like “I guess civil unions are okay but I don’t like the idea of gay marriage.” This seems like a stretch even given the enormous capacity we have for self-delusion.

    It doesn’t really appease anyone, it’s just the illusion of it. Instead of saying “No, I do not support gay marriage” and pissing off gay people, or saying “Yes, I support it” and pissing off people against it, it’s a cop out to make it sound good to both sides of the issue. It’s either a different name than marriage, so we don’t have to worry about the definition of marriage being tarnished, or something close to a marriage that’s not quite a marriage but sounds like it would be close enough to go along with it. That’s not to say that’s what everyone believes though, but people are, as a whole, truly that stupid to go along with it.

  • I_Sell_Books

    Honestly, though, I_Sell_Books, when someone asks what your relationship status is, do you say, “I’m civil-unioned”? Would you *want* to say that? What would you say if not “I’m married”?

    Hmm, that’s a hard question to answer. In the area where I live, a hot bed of liberalism (yet, oddly, coupled with true conservatives – if there are tea partiers in my state they keep close to themselves), much of the time people refer to their partners rather than to husbands or wives, even if they are married heterosexually, so sometimes I say husband, sometimes I say partner, and to be honest, I’ve never really noticed if I say one more than the other.

    Neither one of us wanted to get married – his mother, who’s now been married for over 50 years – doesn’t understand why people want to get married in the first place. The only reason we did get married was so that we could continue dating (he’s a foreign national and I moved over to his home country to get married).

    But now that I’ve written all of that, I think I’d still say that I was married. My friends who’ve had civil unions (and not so civil divorces!) refer to themselves as being married, and a college friend recently married his long term partner, that’s how he referred to it, too.

    Personally, I’m with you, MaryAnn. I don’t get understand how gay marriage threatens heterosexuals, I just don’t. I want my friends who want to be married to be married, het or gay or trans, I want them to be happy. I think perhaps Sue Sylvester says it best, somewhere in here (can’t find a transcript) she says something along the lines of ‘If I don’t know who you are, how can I discriminate against you’. Funny, but true, too:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLDrntGjvo8

  • Althea

    This argument is getting too heated for me. Most of what everybody’s saying is pretty much right, but you’re fighting belief so deeply held that people aren’t even aware of it. They look inside themselves and find a door they don’t want to open – so they don’t. And they won’t, for a long time yet. Society is changing in ways that our psyche can’t handle. Down the road apiece this will have changed. We just have to hang on for the ride. Those who are called to be active will be active, showing the way to change. Those who aren’t can maintain their integrity, tell their truth, and know that those whose minds will not be changed by reason are doing the same.

    MaryAnn, there is no answer to your original question. What I have wished for has been suggested here already: that the government get itself out of the marriage business altogether, since it constitutes interference between church and state. If divorce is solely a legal matter, then unions should be too. Make it necessary to create a legal union before you get the financial benefits and whatever else there is, and then, ta-da, “married.” (Oh, by the way, whoever does the pronouncing the union completed will NOT use any form of religious language to do so.)

    Go do some ritual to “sanctify it before (insert god here)” anyhow you like. Jump a broomstick, howl at the moon, wear an incomprehensibly expensive big white dress, teach your parrot to perform the “ceremony”, I don’t care.

    That does leave the difficulty of same-sex couples being denied a big-white-dress wedding in the church of their choice, but it’s a hurdle that can and will be overcome in time. At least it would only produce sign-waving shouting matches at the church and not marches on Washington.

  • MaryAnn

    Make it necessary to create a legal union before you get the financial benefits and whatever else there is, and then, ta-da, “married.”

    But that is already what is happening. You get your marriage license from your local municipality, and your wedding only “counts” for civil purposes if the person who marries you (who may or may not also be a religious celebrant) has been recognized by your local municipality as being authorized to perform civil marriages.

    I don’t see that there’s any problem at all with one ceremony covering both religious and civil bases. If this were a problem, then all the “marriage is sacred” people would be complaining about the hetero couples who get married at city hall by a justice of the peace. Or by the captain on a cruise ship. Or by an Elvis impersonator in Vegas. But they don’t. So they clearly don’t care if people want to get married in civil ceremonies with no religious component whatsoever.

    Unless those people are homosexual.

    That does leave the difficulty of same-sex couples being denied a big-white-dress wedding in the church of their choice,

    But that isn’t the issue here. When people talk about “gay marriage,” NO ONE is saying that churches should be forced to perform marriages that their religion disagrees with. That is already the case now: No one forces priests or rabbis to marry just anyone: couples need to jump through whatever religious hoops are required by those religious institutions. And there’s no civil concern regarding that, because it is the right of those religious instutitions to confer whatever benefits come with those religions themselves.

    Keywords: “Outrageous Disrespect.”
    Politicians holding hands with power bases (masses of religious voters), try to surf the grey area of doublespeak.

    Yet these religious voters who believe marriage is sacred have not yet run the thrice-married Newt Gingrich out of town. How is he not a symbol of outrageous disrepect to them?

  • Knightgee

    For some odd reason, many people view marriage as this institution so sanctified that it cannot be perverted by letting me and my significant other marry and actually call it marriage. This requires on their part a complete lack of historical knowledge about the institution of marriage, as the institution not only predates the Christian religion (which is almost always the religion most concerned about preserving the institution’s “purity”), but also isn’t really all that pure and loving. Marriage is historically linked to treating women as property, objects to be bartered in a trade. The way some people talk about it, you’d think that it is about love and babies, when it’s about the consolidation of wealth and property and control of said property. While these things do make having and raising kids easier, they also make a ton of other things easier too, such as determining who gets what if there is no will, visitation rights, tax deductions and exemptions, tax-free transfer of property, certain protections from domestic violence, and so on and so forth. All of which can make living and working a lot less financially and in some cases legally difficult even without kids.

    In truth, civil unions are only provided with a meager fraction of the federal and state benefits that marriages gets and most states don’t even offer such unions to begin with, so I don’t know who these people think they are appeasing with this “you can have civil unions” nonsense, but it certainly isn’t this homosexual. They want to suggest there is no difference, when there clearly is. We already observed the inherent inequality of saying two things are equal but calling them different things when we reversed school segregation.

  • The quote that I_Sell_Books supplied hits the nail on the head. I think the real reason why someone might honestly be ok with civil unions but not marriage for gays and lesbians has to do with equality and second-class status. If gays and lesbians can only get civil unions, they remain “other,” and secondary. Particularly since, as already noted, civil unions do not give the same legal benefits. But even if they did, these people would still oppose same-sex marriage because if gays and lesbians can get married, then that would mean they’re *just like them*. The homosexual relationship would be validated by society, would be seen as equally valid as a heterosexual one.

    Basically, civil unions appeal because they’re bigots. They can’t really argue against two people choosing to share lives and resources, but they can sure as hell try and insist that LGTB people are kept separate *somehow*, marked as different. It’s about the power and privileges one gets from being higher in a hierarchy. Also, if you don’t make a distinction, how can you feel superior?

    I really believe that it’s fundamentally about not wanting to see gays and lesbians, or more particularly homosexual relationships, as equal. Making sure they get a different name ensures that.

  • misterb

    I’m with Crowfoot. I think that the difference between “civil union” and “marriage” is the blessing of the state. Those opposed to “”gay” marriage” don’t want the state to say that it’s OK to be gay. The irony is that these tend to be the same people who don’t want the state to interfere in their monetary decisions.

    Here in CA, the way Prop 8 was sold to the voters wasn’t so much anti-gay, but as a way to ensure that the state couldn’t tell churches and schools that they needed to be pro-gay. Just like MaryAnn, I don’t think that was ever the goal of gay marriage, but as you can see in the anti-Vaughan Walker hysteria, more people complain about the courts overruling the initiative than about the actual ruling.

  • Jurgan

    Basically, it’s a stepping stone. People “traditionally” think of marriage as between a man and a woman. Doesn’t matter that the “tradition” has changed numerous times over the course of history- for people currently living in Western society, that’s what they were conditioned to believe. While there may be no substantive difference between “marriage” and “civil union,” it’s difficult for people to change their definition of marriage halfway through life. I had trouble with this issue myself, but the sheer ugliness of the Prop 8 debate swung me solidly into the “pro” camp, by showing the hatefulness of the anti-equality crowd.

    However, the really nasty ones are the minority, which as usual gets more airtime than the silent majority. Most people who favor “civil unions” realize that homosexual couples deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples, but have an emotional reaction to the idea of “gay marriage.” They can’t quite bring themselves to endorse redefining what they’ve been taught for decades, even though intellectually they know there’s no point. Is that bigotry? Well, yes, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. I think it’s a fairly innocuous form of bigotry, though. I’m comforted by the fact that this is where the debate is, because ten or twenty years ago you would not have been able to get a majority of people to endorse even civil unions. Progress doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s clearly moving in the right direction.

    I am a little worried, though, that the courts keep being asked to resolve this issue. Granted, protecting minorities is what the courts are for, but my fear is that unaccountable judges handing down these rulings will lead to a backlash, fuel the right-wing demagoguery about “judicial activism,” and possibly even increase hate crimes. I’ve seen arguments that abortion rights might be more secure today had Roe v. Wade never happened. In the years prior, public support for abortion rights was increasing, and many states were passing laws allowing abortions. After Roe, the opposition was energized and public support dropped. Now, nearly forty years later, we still have to worry about anti-abortion terrorism. I hope too many gay rights rulings don’t lead to anything similar. It would be much better if laws could be passed to the same effect, but I don’t know if that’s possible.

  • the courts are there to make the decisions that lead to equitable treatment under the law… thus, the courts were there to strike down discriminatory laws that said blacks could not vote, nor marry a white person… left to the tender mercies of the lawmakers, blacks would still not be able to use the same bathrooms, hotels, water fountains, hospitals and other *public* utilities and facilities. the courts are there to decide the basic constitutionality of laws and strike down and/or overturn those that deprive citizens of their basic rights. we need the courts to redress wrongs, because we certainly cannot depend on lawmakers to make equitable and just laws.

  • Jurgan

    Yeah, I know. It’s just a shame that we need them. I wish we didn’t have states where the majority of people, given a choice, would vote away the rights of the minority. I know the courts are there to be the last resort for those subjected to the tyranny of the minority, but it’d be better if they didn’t need to go to courts for protection..

  • iakobos

    The difference between “gay marriage” and “civil union” is throughout our country’s history, and all of western history, marriage has always been defined as one man and one woman. (That’s why the Mormons had to have a revelation to give up polygamy, or else Utah couldn’t join the Union.) Even in cultures outside of western culture, marriage has been defined as one man and one woman or one man married to multiple women. In all of recorded history it has never been defined as man to man or woman to woman. (I’m sure someone will find an exception but that really only proves the rule.) Therefore, “gay marriage” is an oxymoron. Obviously, you can deconstruct marriage to mean whatever you want, but I, and many others like me, will never agree to your deconstructed definition. I believe words, like marriage, have a definite meaning and it doesn’t change based on the cultural depravity of the day.

    That’s why there is a difference between marriage and civil unions. Civil unions were defined from the beginning as a union between two people without being gender specific. But alas, we live in an age where words don’t mean what they mean and anyone with enough power (such as a black robe or high enough political office) can make words mean whatever they want.

    The problem is the traditional, Christian side of America gave up the basis for their argument against “gay marriage” a long time ago. Marriage used to mean it was not only heterosexual, but procreative and monogamous for life. Once Christians and traditionalists embraced Contraception on Demand (and gave birth to zero or up to 2.1 children and no more) and then Divorce on Demand (multiple sexual partners in life but with an air of morality) the foundation to undermine heterosexual marriage was set. Now here we are arguing about the merits of homosexual marriage. Consequently, marriage has already changed definition for most Americans based on the cultural depravity of days gone by and I predict that marriage in the U.S. will eventually come to include both heterosexual and homosexual. But not in my book. For my part, I’ve had one sexual partner in life. That is my wife of 13 years. We are currently expecting our 7th child and enjoying the six we already have.

    As for “how gay marriage undermines hetero marriage” it has more to do with the continued decline of tradition and the Christian mores and principles of our country than actually undermining heterosexual marriage. I suppose you’re glad for that, but that’s why Christians and traditionalists are fighting back so hard.

  • Jurgan

    Oh, this is going to get ugly. I’d point out that a number of ancient civilizations, including some of the Hebrew tribes in the Old Testament, practiced polygamy. Claiming marriage has always been between one man and one woman is false.

    You’re right about frequent divorce being a problem (although people being forced to stay in unhealthy marriages is no solution). Jesus, after all, never mentioned homosexuality, but frequently railed against divorce, and even called it a form of adultery. So why don’t the right-wing religious groups seek to change the laws to prevent divorce? Could it be because they know their members won’t open their wallets to enforce a standard many of them can’t live up to? Seems to me like the first priority, if you’re seriously concerned about the sanctity of marriage, is to do a better job counseling couples before marriage and make sure they’re ready for it. But no one ever won an election on that platform.

  • iakobos

    Jurgan,

    I’d point out that a number of ancient civilizations, including some of the Hebrew tribes in the Old Testament, practiced polygamy. Claiming marriage has always been between one man and one woman is false.

    I hope you weren’t aiming that at me because that’s not what I said. The Hebrews were eastern, not western, and were therefore not included in my comments about western culture “always” defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Furthermore, I pointed out that other cultures, outside the western tradition, did practice polygamy. More importantly, none of them ever defined marriage as being between two men or two women.

  • Martin

    But not in my book. For my part, I’ve had one sexual partner in life. That is my wife of 13 years. We are currently expecting our 7th child and enjoying the six we already have.

    And I find that pretty awesome. That’s great for you and I have an enormous amount of respect for people that get married and can stick together for so long.

    But why would you deny other people the opportunity to experience the same? Allowing divorce doesn’t mean that every one (like you) will divorce and allowing gay marriage won’t stop traditional marriage from happening.

    You claim that you are fighting a decline in traditional values. Would those traditional American values include slavery too?
    I’m not saying that all traditions must be scrapped because traditions are what make each culture unique, I’m saying that keeping a tradition that essentially contradicts one of the most famous passages from the Declaration of Independence “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is wrong.

  • Victor Plenty

    “Kevin Delaney” wrote:

    The question as to why some people prefer the term “civil union” to “marriage” is simply because people are trying to protect their language.

    This is such pure bullshit I’m surprised anyone can say it with a straight face. The claim of “trying to protect the language” comes from the same factions who spend vast amounts of time, energy, and money polluting the language and distorting key words, in efforts to deceive all of us into voting against our own best interests.

    This ruthless campaign of intentional language corruption leads to the ruin of many formerly useful and meaningful words. For example, the word “liberal” once referenced advocating liberty and freedom from tyrannical governments (a meaning which actually makes sense, given the roots of the word). But now it is relentlessly distorted into an insult, implying the exact opposite of its logical meaning.

    These days the campaign of language corruption by the right wing has rapidly accelerated, with an ongoing effort to convince us all that there is no difference between “liberal,” “communist,” “fascist,” “socialist” and “progressive,” despite clear and compelling evidence that these words describe distinctly different sets of ideas.

    So sorry, but you’ll have to come up with something better than “trying to protect the language” to sell your irrational bigotry to anyone who still has half a brain in functional working order.

  • SaintAndy

    I’ve been following this debate since its beginning and I also had the misfortune of watching “Proposition 8”, which is a documentary showing how the Mormon church spent millions of dollars and furiously campaigned to deny other people their right to marriage.

    Now, to me the whole thing is very simple. People in a certain country are guaranteed certain rights. Everybody has those rights. If you deny one category of people those rights, you invalidate the whole social contract (and I’m not talking about taking away some rights because that person was convicted of some crime). Everything else is bullshit. There is no reason to deny people marriage, regardless of sex. Marriage, like many of our other social constructs, is what we define it to be. Marriage serves people, and we can change it to make it serve us better. In other words, this whole crap with protecting the sanctity of marriage is insane. Marriage is a contract and it’s supposed to make life better for the 2 people who want to get married. Nothing is sacred in this world, not really.

    So, when i hear people like iakobos complaining about the decline of Christian bullshit values, it makes my blood boil. There is no decline, just change, to adapt to the new requirements of society.

    One last thing: I will never understand how so many people have the immense ego to think they can choose for everybody else. I will never understand how so many people say they are Christians, but seem to have forgotten that their religion promotes humility and love for everybody. I would never presume to tell another person how s/he can live his/her life. Why do they think they can do that?

    Also, I am not familiar with the legal workings of the American system, but why did there even have to be a popular vote/ballot? Marriage is a right for all citizens, if a man wants to marry his boyfriend, you automatically change the definition of marriage, you don’t tell him he can’t get married. Seriously, why did people vote? They were basically being asked if they think it’s ok to persecute a minority. But the law says people are equal, so that’s not even up for debate.

  • Kate

    Therefore, “gay marriage” is an oxymoron. Obviously, you can deconstruct marriage to mean whatever you want, but I, and many others like me, will never agree to your deconstructed definition.

    This is why I hope bigots of iakobos’s ilk gradual die out in the next few centuries. Believe it or not, cultural attitudes change, and no one will care what iakobos thinks or what he agrees with.

    Christianity and all of its bigoted garbage needs to die out like the deities of pre-Christian civilization did. No one posting on this forum will live to see it, but I hope it does happen one day.

  • Victor Plenty

    Um, Kate, actually many Christians actively oppose the narrow minded bigotry of people like iakobos and Kevin Delaney. You might find many more potential allies and friends among them if you would give up your own bigotry.

  • Boingo

    ..reverse side order of double back flipped discrimination- sunny side down. Reasons for fears
    of gay marriage? Countless varieties. For me, it’s
    off to the movies (sometimes,a balancing, anti-neurotic,healthy endeavor).

  • Cameorn

    Not directly related to gay marriage, but: I don’t know if I’ve sent you this before, but you may appreciate the writings of Dr. Bella DePaulo. You both discuss similar issues persuasively.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single

  • iakobos

    posted by Martin (Sun Aug 08 10, 2:52AM)But why would you deny other people the opportunity to experience the same? Allowing divorce doesn’t mean that every one (like you) will divorce and allowing gay marriage won’t stop traditional marriage from happening.

    As I said before, marriage in western culture is, and always has been, defined as a union between a man and woman. Therefore gay marriage is an oxymoron unless you mean a gay man and and gay woman who decide to marry each other. Homosexuals can cohabit and call it marriage but that doesn’t make it a marriage. I can’t deny something to someone that, by definition, doesn’t exist. If a gay couple wants to have a committed relationship they don’t need the government to sanction it. Ask yourself this question, why should gays care about any legal sanction from the government for their cohabitation?

    You claim that you are fighting a decline in traditional values. Would those traditional American values include slavery too?

    Red Hearing argument

    I’m not saying that all traditions must be scrapped because traditions are what make each culture unique, I’m saying that keeping a tradition that essentially contradicts one of the most famous passages from the Declaration of Independence “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is wrong.

    Do you really think gay marriage is what the Fathers of the Country meant by “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” You’re taking that phrase out of context. The Declaration of Independence explains what they meant by that phrase and gay marriage isn’t part of it.

    posted by Kate (Sun Aug 08 10, 1:28PM)
    This is why I hope bigots of iakobos’s ilk gradual die out in the next few centuries. Believe it or not, cultural attitudes change, and no one will care what iakobos thinks or what he agrees with.

    Christianity and all of its bigoted garbage needs to die out like the deities of pre-Christian civilization did. No one posting on this forum will live to see it, but I hope it does happen one day.

    Hi Kate, Just remember when you point your bigoted finger at me, you have three bigoted fingers pointing back at yourself.

  • Orangutan

    If a gay couple wants to have a committed relationship they don’t need the government to sanction it. Ask yourself this question, why should gays care about any legal sanction from the government for their cohabitation?

    The way I understand it, this is a question of legal benefits. There are a ton of legal benefits of marriage, from tax cuts to medical to insurance. Why shouldn’t a gay couple in a committed relationship be allowed those same benefits?

  • JoshB

    I believe words, like marriage, have a definite meaning and it doesn’t change based on the cultural depravity of the day.

    Just the word marriage, or all words? If you think all words have definite, unchanging meanings then I suggest you look up the definition of the word etymology.

    If it’s just the word marriage, then why is that word special?

    Marriage used to mean it was not only heterosexual, but procreative and monogamous for life.

    As others have pointed out, marriage was once defined as being between people of the same race. And was arranged by parents for purposes of wealth transfer. I’m guessing that you’re OK with these particular deconstructions.

    So your task (which you will probably avoid) is to show why assigning the word marriage to mixed race unions is ok, but doing the same for homosexual marriages degrades the word. And you have to do it without invoking religion, since, you know, First Amendment and all.

    Now of course we both know that your linguistic purism is a dog and pony show. You think homosexuals are depraved, and you want your disgust to be made official in law and in language. Civil Unions = wicked, God-cursed perverts, marriage = good, upstanding folks like me (you, that is). That’s the gist of it, right?

  • Martin

    Ask yourself this question, why should gays care about any legal sanction from the government for their cohabitation?

    Because they want acceptance from society? Or perhaps it’s the legal benefits straight married couples enjoy?

    Red Hearing argument

    Why? It’s an example of how attitudes about what is considered ‘right’ can be changed. Sure, the traditional ideas of marriage have probably been going on for longer than the ideas of slavery but that doesn’t make it any more or less susceptible to change. Just because something has always been doesn’t necessarily make it right (doesn’t make it wrong either).

    Do you really think gay marriage is what the Fathers of the Country meant by “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” You’re taking that phrase out of context.

    I don’t know, I’ll ask them next time I hitch a lift on the Tardis.
    So what does the pursuit of happiness really mean then? I always thought it was to give people the opportunity to live their lives the way they saw fit, without oppression or ridicule, unless it meant the oppression or ridicule of others.

  • Martin

    OK iakobos, I’ll bite.

    Break this one down for me, I am British after all…

    We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    All men (and women) are equal. Even then ones that certain people don’t like.
    All men (and women) have rights that cannot be taken away from them based on the fact that they are sentient creatures.
    One of those right is the pursuit of happiness.
    For a gay couple, it gives them enormous happiness to know that they can share the same legal rights as straight, married, couples.

    Now, unless there’s an addendum at the end that states “except the queers“, I’m pretty sure that whilst they probably weren’t thinking specifically about gay marriage, the Founding Fathers words sure makes it look like gay marriage should be acceptable in the USA. Of course, it’s all a matter of interpretation so I’d love to hear yours.

  • JoshB

    The Declaration of Independence explains what they meant by that phrase and gay marriage isn’t part of it.

    You either haven’t read the Declaration of Independence or your reading comprehension is sorely lacking.

    No, it doesn’t explain what they meant by “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It lists some the of the particular ways King George violated those rights. No sensible person would argue that the listed violations comprise the full extent of life, liberty, or happiness. Certainly the Founders wouldn’t (see the Ninth Amendment).

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    As I said before, marriage in western culture is, and always has been, defined as a union between a man and woman. Therefore gay marriage is an oxymoron

    Appeals to the immutability of language really don’t fly given that no living language, ever, has been immutable.

    Ask yourself this question, why should gays care about any legal sanction from the government for their cohabitation?

    This is an easy one: marital status, in this country, confers certain rights and responsibilities (inheritance, powers of attorney, issues related to the tax code, etc). The state has no vested interest in denying those rights and responsibilities to homosexuals.

    Red Hearing argument

    You brought up traditionalism and values. i appreciate that this is a touchy aspect of those issues, but, as a matter of polite discourse, you ought to at least acknowledge the point. This isn’t even a particularly hard one to respond to, unless you continue to insist that traditions are, like language, immutable.

    Do you really think gay marriage is what the Fathers of the Country meant by “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” You’re taking that phrase out of context. The Declaration of Independence explains what they meant by that phrase and gay marriage isn’t part of it.

    If you want to be pedantic, marriage isn’t mentioned at all. All lot of things aren’t mentioned by name that could easily be incorporated under the umbrella of “the pursuit of happiness”.

    Hi Kate, Just remember when you point your bigoted finger at me, you have three bigoted fingers pointing back at yourself

    Look, I appreciate that Kate is being more than a little extreme, but seriously? “I know you are, but what am I”? Are you 12?

  • iakobos

    posted by Orangutan (Sun Aug 08 10, 5:44PM)
    The way I understand it, this is a question of legal benefits. There are a ton of legal benefits of marriage, from tax cuts to medical to insurance. Why shouldn’t a gay couple in a committed relationship be allowed those same benefits?

    But gays, in California, already have most of those benefits through Civil Unions. If they are some how still lacking some benefits why not change the law to allow them the benefits. Why does it have to be called marriage? Unfortunately, this is where federal laws come in benefitting marriage and I agree with MaryAnn, the federal government needs to get out of the marriage business. But with this latest court decision the federal government has once again waded deep into the marriage business. I suspect that, eventually, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is going to be the one who ultimately decides how our country codifies marriage, whether it’s hetero only or hetero and homo.

  • iakobos

    So your task (which you will probably avoid) is to show why assigning the word marriage to mixed race unions is ok, but doing the same for homosexual marriages degrades the word.

    Duh, mixed race marriage is still between a man and woman.

    Now of course we both know that your linguistic purism is a dog and pony show. You think homosexuals are depraved, and you want your disgust to be made official in law and in language. Civil Unions = wicked, God-cursed perverts, marriage = good, upstanding folks like me (you, that is). That’s the gist of it, right?

    And you think I’m depraved, and you want your disgust to made official in law and in language. Marriage allowed only between a man and woman = wicked, but not God cursed since he doesn’t or probably doesn’t exist, homosexual marriage = good, upstanding folks like me (you, that is). That’s the gist of it, right JoshB?

    As for your invocation of etmology, yes words do change over time. But that doesn’t mean that the original wording of a law changes with it (except when dealing with activist courts and liberal politicians who enjoy changing words to mean whatever they want.) The law has always held that marriage is between a man a woman. It’s not that hard to understand.

  • iakobos

    Because they want acceptance from society? Or perhaps it’s the legal benefits straight married couples enjoy?

    I agree that’s probably part of it. But why? Why should marriage make a homosexual couple any more accepted in society? Shouldn’t couples of any gender be accepted in society on their own terms, regardless of some legal sanction from the state? Somehow this assumes an air of morality or legitimacy. But legitimacy for what? How does calling it Marriage make it anymore legitimate than Civil Union. If there is a moral nature to this, why should we be concerned about that?

    As for the legal benefits please see my response to Orangutan.

  • iakobos

    One of those right is the pursuit of happiness.
    For a gay couple, it gives them enormous happiness to know that they can share the same legal rights as straight, married, couples.

    Now, unless there’s an addendum at the end that states “except the queers”, I’m pretty sure that whilst they probably weren’t thinking specifically about gay marriage, the Founding Fathers words sure makes it look like gay marriage should be acceptable in the USA. Of course, it’s all a matter of interpretation so I’d love to hear yours.

    I think the problem here is we are arguing from two different premises. You believe marriage includes homosexuals and I do not. Since I do not believe marriage includes homosexuals there is no “right” here for the homosexuals to be denied. To put it another way, if something doesn’t exist (ie gay marriage), then no one is being denied their rights when they don’t have what doesn’t exist. Because marriage has always been defined as being between a man and woman, homosexual men and women are not being denied their rights to marry the opposite sex.

    Martin, I’ve enjoyed the exchange but it’s time for me to move on. It’s no surprise to me that I’m the lone wolf on this thread and the other comments are getting way off target to MaryAnn’s QOTW, so I’m going to sign off.

    MarryAnn, thanks for the opportunity to share my views about the subject matter.

  • JoshB

    And you think I’m depraved, and you want your disgust to made official in law and in language.

    LMAO! Your self-centeredness is astounding! No, I don’t support gay marriage out of contempt for you. Neither the world, nor my mind, nor my support for gay marriage revolves around you. It is not all about you. If I wanted to enshrine my disgust for you in law it would be more like “people who lack basic reasoning skills are required to wear a dunce hat at all times.”

    In contrast to that, your opposition to gay marriage is all about you, and your need to feel superior to these people that you don’t like.

    But please, if you have a more altruistic reason, I invite you, AGAIN, to give it. I won’t hold my breath.

    Marriage allowed only between a man and woman = wicked, but not God cursed since he doesn’t or probably doesn’t exist

    I wouldn’t use the word wicked, it’s too nebulous. I would instead say “pointless, cruel, and unconstitutional.”

    I don’t know if God exists. I hope so. Assuming he does exist I suspect that this all knowing, all powerful entity that created quarks and quasars and all life really couldn’t care less if two dudes want to call themselves husband and husband. He has far more interesting things on His mind.

    homosexual marriage = good, upstanding folks like me (you, that is).

    Why thanks for saying so.

    Yup, something that increases the sum quantity of joy in this world while harming no one? Seems like a functional definition of “good” to me.

  • Rebecca

    Back to MaryAnn’s original question, I think this quote from upthread is the reason a lot of people support civil unions but not gay marriage:

    But gays, in California, already have most of those benefits through Civil Unions.

    The word “most” in this phrase is the important bit — civil unions don’t necessarily give gay couples the same rights as marriage. While the names are different, the rights given to people with civil unions can be changed and restricted separate to those of marriage.

    This comes back to the same “Think of the CHILDREN” thing again. The rights of gay couples with civil unions to adopt children varies from place to place. Even in places where rights to children are the same for marriage and civil unions, while the terminology is different it’s much easier to change the law to bar gay couples from adopting. If gay couples can only get civil unions, the legal battles about what rights civil unions apply to can go on forever without touching the rights of marriage, and there’s nothing to stop endless court cases chipping away at the rights of gay couples. If every couple gets married, though, it’s way harder to bar gay couples from everything straight couples get. In the law, exact language means a lot.

    I think there are a lot of people who don’t care if a gay spouse inherits money or has access to hospital rooms and life insurance, but DO care if a gay couple adopts a child, or especially if they have to explain to their own kid why their classmate has two mommies or two daddies. That’s why there were all those attack ads about Prop 8 that boiled down to “They’re going to tell YOUR KIDS that gay marriage is OK!” It’s a belief that’s shared by two groups — people who think that the only healthy environment for children is one where they live with their married biological parents, and people who are fine with gay people in theory but think their right not to be offended or to shield their kids from things they don’t believe in trumps gay people’s rights to live their lives openly. When a couple has kids, it’s way harder for society to ignore them.

  • Sok

    Activist Judge (noun): Someone who interprets the Constitution in a way I don’t like, usually when the interpretation contravenes “the will of the people”, thus undercutting the sanctity of mob rule (see also: Poll Tax).

  • Mazort

    But gays, in California, already have most of those benefits through Civil Unions.

    Another thing to keep in mind, Gays and Lesbians who live in California may have many of those benefits from the state, in California, but once they cross the border they’re strangers. And yes, until the (so-called) Defense of Marriage Act is overturned, even a marriage doesn’t cross over to all states.

    Let’s put it this way, I live in Maryland. If I got married to my boyfriend (FYI, I’m gay) in DC the marraige would be valid in my state right now. Keep in mind, that’s only due to a opinion of the state District Attourney and that could change any day. Were we, my husband and I, to travel and see my parents in Ohio we would be strangers. If we went to Disneyland, we’d be married. If we drove up the New England coast we’d go back and forth so many times ones head would spin.

    The only way around this is to either open up marriage irregardless of gender, or to enact on a Federal level Civil Union/Partnership law. And to be honest, the opponents of marriage equality say they’re all for CU’s/DP’s as the proper alternative until they’re offered and then you have the state of Washington’s Referendum 71 that tried to overturn the state’s Domestic Partnership law… because it was too much like marriage.

  • MaryAnn

    Why should marriage make a homosexual couple any more accepted in society?

    Why shouldn’t it? Why shouldn’t homosexual couples be accepted, and accorded all the benefits extended to heterosexual couples should they choose to marry?

    The only reason to deny homosexual couples these privileges comes from personal distaste and/or religious objection, which is every individual’s personal perogative. But there is no reason *at all* why civil society should encode the bigotries of some in law.

    If you want to turn your head, iakobos, when faced with a gay couple, that is your right. But why should your biases be law? And please do not say “tradition” again. Our culture has overturned many a tradition, from women being second-class citizens to the right of one human being to own another based on skin color. How is the “tradition” of denial of rights to gays and lesbians any different than the denial of rights to people based on their genitals or skin color?

    homosexual men and women are not being denied their rights to marry the opposite sex.

    This is a fascinating argument. Do you believe, iakobos, that it does not degrade the institution of marriage when a man and a woman marry out of convenience, for the many benefits a marriage confers upon people? Do you think it’s better or at least more acceptable for a man and a woman to marry each other out of convenience and not out of any true love or desire to commit to each other, than it would be for committed and in-love gays or lesbians to marry each other even if they also were able to claim the many civil benefits marriage confers?

    I personally do not understand why a marriage of convenience between heteros is okay but a marriage of love and committment between homos isn’t.

  • Anne

    The thought occured to me that saying a marriage must be between a man and a woman is sexism.
    And therefore slightly unconstitutional I think.

    I personally do not understand why a marriage of convenience between heteros is okay but a marriage of love and committment between homos isn’t.

    Reason has little to do with it. Some people just believe (not necessarily because they’re christian) that gay people are incapable of a loving committed marriage with a father(role), a mother(role) and well raised children.
    This believe will also cause them to think a hetero marriage of convenience will fix itself at some point?

  • Kate

    Dr. Rocketscience:

    Look, I appreciate that Kate is being more than a little extreme, but seriously? “I know you are, but what am I”? Are you 12?

    It’s “more than a little extreme” to hope that an antiquated system of belief that has no place in 21st century society dies out in the coming centuries? Wow. No words.

    My “bigotry”, as the ever-openminded iakobos (and Victor Plenty) both put it, is aimed at people like him who actively seek to discriminate against, marginalize, and treat gay people like they are less than human. All because they and their behavior does not fit the narrow rules of a religion created (by humans) two millennia ago. Tradition is not a virtue in and of itself. Good tradition is (sadly not much of it is, as all of it was created in a time when everything was inferior to the white, heterosexual, Christian male). The world has changed since those days but religion, such as Christianity (but it’s hardly the only culprit), prevents people from acting accordingly. Believe in whatever you want (if it brings you comfort), just don’t force your own morality and make people who are different from you feel like second-class citizens.

    I personally do not understand why a marriage of convenience between heteros is okay but a marriage of love and committment between homos isn’t.

    This is so true.

  • Victor Plenty

    Kate, if you really want to attack only those who actively seek to discriminate, marginalize, and dehumanize, why do you target all Christians, when so many of them do none of those things, and in fact actively oppose all of those things?

    It seems to me that “more than a little extreme” is a perfectly apt description for a tactical decision that attacks so many people who are working toward the exact same goals you support.

    (And if it matters, although it really shouldn’t affect the validity of these ideas, I’m NOT a Christian.)

  • why do you target all Christians, when so many of them do none of those things, and in fact actively oppose all of those things?

    On that topic, here’s a post I recommend, from the blog The Meming of Life (aka Parenting Beyond Belief):

    http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=4148

    An excerpt:

    Not all religious expressions are benign, of course. The more a religious tradition insists on conformity to a received set of ideas, the more harm it does. The more it allows people to challenge ideas and think independently, the more good it does. Religion will always be with us in some form. It’s too hand-in-glove with human aspirations and failings to ever vanish at the touch of argument or example. So I think one of the best ways for humanists to confront the malignant is to support and encourage the benign, the non-dogmatic, the progressive.

  • MaryAnn

    Some people just believe (not necessarily because they’re christian) that gay people are incapable of a loving committed marriage with a father(role), a mother(role) and well raised children.

    And of course, by denying gays the opportunity to marry, they assure that this belief is perpetuated.

  • Mazort

    Just another thought to add… While a conversation like this us important, at the end of a day there is one simple fact. Marriage is a fundamental right to all people in the US. When it comes to denying it’s citizens access to a fundamental right, the state has to have a better argument than hetero’s are better.

    When criminals on death row, child support deadbeats and those who don’t or can’t breed can get married, when people of any religion, race, age, political belief can get married, when the only argument against it is the gender of the spouse, that does not hold water under the constitution. That is the law, and that is what you are arguing against.

  • Kate

    Kate, if you really want to attack only those who actively seek to discriminate, marginalize, and dehumanize, why do you target all Christians, when so many of them do none of those things, and in fact actively oppose all of those things?

    It seems to me that “more than a little extreme” is a perfectly apt description for a tactical decision that attacks so many people who are working toward the exact same goals you support.

    (And if it matters, although it really shouldn’t affect the validity of these ideas, I’m NOT a Christian.)

    Victor, as much as I would love to believe that a majority of Christians (and adherents of other major religions) are as seemingly progressive as you are, the numbers seem to be against both of us. I don’t have concrete numbers to back this up (nor will anyone, really) but of the billions of Catholics, billions of Protestants, billions of Muslims, millions of Conservative Jews, I really doubt huge percentages of them support gays marrying. Or women being allowed to control the contents of their uteruses, but that’s another issue.

    Religion is by definition divisive and conservative, as it tries to conserve the mores of societies that are long extinct, and exclude huge groups of people who disagree.

    I don’t think all Christians are Bible-beating lunatics. What I do think is that their beliefs regarding homosexuality are of an antiquated nature and really serve no purpose in today’s world. The degree to which the Christian right controls the ostensibly secular American government is just tragic.

    I reaffirm my wish that obsolete religious faiths die out in the distant future. As a species, I think it might add unseen levels of tolerance and unity to human society. To quote Wallace Stevens, “To see the gods dispelled in mid-air and dissolve like clouds is one the great human experiences.”

    If all of that makes me a bigot, well… so be it.

  • Paul

    If you all want to learn about the extent of GOP hypocrisy on all matters sexual (and child raising), I suggest reading “Republican Gomorrah” by Max Blumenthal. It’s deeper and darker than I ever imagined.

    I also think some of the anti-gay marriage folks on this site have been reading Orson Scott Card’s essays on the matter, or perhaps reading people who read Card. The clue was the thing about gays having the right to marry straights. So far as I know, he was first to put that out on the Web.

    I agree that marriage has been assumed to be between men and women, but that is the problem. We should change the definition of the word to include gays, just as we changed assumptions to allow people of different races to marry. Part of the feminist movement has been expanding the assumptions about what defines men and women.

    Defining what words mean is an important part of debate, and as ideas about things change, language changes with it. Those who say the definition of marriage excludes gays are purposely putting the cart before the horse to keep it from going anywhere.

  • Victor Plenty

    Kate, I never said anything about a majority of Christians, nor of any other group. However, I have observed a growing number of Christians who no longer share the right wing obsession with demonizing and dehumanizing gays and lesbians. Instead, many of them increasingly focus on the passages of the Bible which emphasize love and compassion (which I’m told vastly outnumber the ones that even mention same sex relations at all). A significant number of them now argue that they cannot call themselves Christians while denying same sex couples the right to marriage and family life.

    If you’re able to recognize that not all Christians have the exact same beliefs on any particular subject, then you’re not a bigot.

    But if you simply assume the loudmouthed bigots are speaking for all Christians on any particular topic, without ever seeking out those who might share your views, then your life is being impoverished, and your chances to promote your values are being harmed, by a form of bigotry as virulent as that which you oppose.

  • Kate

    But if you simply assume the loudmouthed bigots are speaking for all Christians on any particular topic, without ever seeking out those who might share your views, then your life is being impoverished, and your chances to promote your values are being harmed, by a form of bigotry as virulent as that which you oppose.

    Victor, this was well said and well taken. I think we can shake hands and agree on our differences, as well as our common dislike for loudmouthed bigots who seek to marginalize entire groups of the population.

  • Victor Plenty

    Agreed, Kate. It’s clear we both want the same thing – a world where all people are treated with dignity and respect – even if we differ on the best path to achieve that goal.

  • MaryAnn

    But if you simply assume the loudmouthed bigots are speaking for all Christians on any particular topic, without ever seeking out those who might share your views

    Wouldn’t it behoove the progressive Christians to publicly counter the loudmouthed bigots who are giving their beliefs a bad name? When a non-Christian looks at the public sphere to see what Christians are saying, mostly it’s loudmouthed bigots doing the talking. Why should a non-Christian make it a point to seek out those with other viewpoints if those others don’t bother to make themselves publicly known? (Where are we supposed to look for them if they’re so quiet they can’t be found?) Silence sounds an awful lot like agreement in this instance.

  • Victor Plenty

    MaryAnn, you of all people ought to realize that the bigots only SEEM louder because they get more funding from the right wing media hate machine.

    No matter how loudly the progressive Christians might shout their dismay at the horrible things being said by Gingrich and others who don’t really deserve to have their names repeated here (or anywhere else), the progressive voices are never going to find their voices fairly represented on Fox News, nor in the vast wasteland of political talk radio.

    But they are speaking out, as best they can with the limited financial resources available to them (a challenging situation I’d have thought you might be able to sympathize with). If you happen to live near any Unitarian-Universalist congregations, it’s likely they can easily direct you to some of the many Christians who support full equality for gays and lesbians.

  • Jurgan

    Wouldn’t it behoove the progressive Christians to publicly counter the loudmouthed bigots who are giving their beliefs a bad name? When a non-Christian looks at the public sphere to see what Christians are saying, mostly it’s loudmouthed bigots doing the talking. Why should a non-Christian make it a point to seek out those with other viewpoints if those others don’t bother to make themselves publicly known? (Where are we supposed to look for them if they’re so quiet they can’t be found?) Silence sounds an awful lot like agreement in this instance.

    We do. Crap, are you really going down this road? Yes, liberal Christians do publicly argue against the bigoted nonsense all the time (I had a lot more examples, but there were so many links the system thought I was a spambot). No, it’s not mostly loud-mouthed bigots doing the talking. Of course, the “liberal media” doesn’t go out of its way to show that- much easier to paint with broad strokes. But saying “why don’t they speak out-” well, I’ve heard people say Muslims should speak out against terrorism, even though many mosques run non-violence programs for their youths. Or how about foreigners saying “if you didn’t like George Bush, why didn’t you do more to stop him?” You can have issues with an organization’s policies, but claiming all their members are alike is always false.

    While it’s easy to denounce hate merchants who get rich off divisiveness (Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Ted Haggard, etc.), it’s the subtler, less aggressive bigotry that’s the real issue. If it’s someone you’ve known for years, who’s watched you grow up, maybe taken care of you as a child, then it’s not so easy. My grand-father, for instance, says he thinks gays are “unnatural.” I’ve heard lots of other, mostly older, people in my church say similar things. But most of them aren’t hateful towards gays- they’re mostly just unsure about how to deal with a changing world. I’m not willing to abandon these people over their beliefs, even if I think they’re wrong (in fifty years, maybe young people will think my beliefs are backwards). Organizations like the church, or the Boy Scouts, change from within. I choose to maintain ties with people who are backwards in their beliefs. I won’t denounce them, but I will make my opinions very clear- that’s how things change. Leaving would just leave the real bigots in charge more fully than they already are.

  • Paul

    When I used to attend a UU church, some of the members argued that the church as a group should take more public stances and roles in favor of liberal ideas. However, the individuals most likely to do so already belonged to secular political groups devoted to the issues they thought important.

    Liberal Christians usually take separation of Church and State more seriously than conservative ones, so liberal Christians are more likely to act through secular organizations. I believe they are right to do so, but it does leave the unfortunate impression that Christianity is only conservative in nature.

  • MaryAnn

    MaryAnn, you of all people ought to realize that the bigots only SEEM louder because they get more funding from the right wing media hate machine.

    You’re right. I should realize this. But I do read lots of progressive Web sites that cover stuff that the mainstream media doesn’t cover, and I don’t see a lot of pushback from liberal Christians against the loudmouth bigots in the same way that I see pushback against loudmouth idiots of other (nonreligious) stripes. It’s no good if the non-idiot Christians are speaking only to other Christians. They need to be speaking to non-Christians too.

    (I had a lot more examples, but there were so many links the system thought I was a spambot).

    FYI, I got a notification of such comments, and I approve them as soon as possible if they’re legit.

    I’ve heard people say Muslims should speak out against terrorism, even though many mosques run non-violence programs for their youths. Or how about foreigners saying “if you didn’t like George Bush, why didn’t you do more to stop him?”

    I think those are both legitmate questions, actually. They can be frustrating questions to face, but, you know, when George W. Bush can get reelected, especially in the face of his first four years, there’s something really fucked up going on.

    You can have issues with an organization’s policies, but claiming all their members are alike is always false.

    I never did that.

  • MaryAnn

    I choose to maintain ties with people who are backwards in their beliefs.

    I appreciate that that is a tough place to be in. But do you not feel that your silence acts as agreement with them? Doesn’t this mean that voices for change within such an organization are silencing themselves, and hence slowing down any change?

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