Friday, November 2, 2012

Question 6: Marriage Equality a.k.a. Sinners and Bigots

About a month ago, I set out a kinda-sorta-schedule for the ballot questions I wanted to review prior to the election.  It was not set to paper, but it provided an informal "If you can't think of a topic to post about, post this."  I did not include Question 6 amongst those topics.

First, my position on same-sex marriage has been quite clear for almost as long as I've had this blog.  I think it is the right thing to do, the just thing to do, and I think that by the time I'm raving against the lax morals of a younger generation, it will be legal in all 50 states and U.S. territories.  Second, the discussion devolves so darn quickly.  You're barely finished addressing 1,400 legal rights and privileges of marriage before someone is asking you whether you would permit someone to marry a goat (we'll address that shortly).  Finally, it has become nasty.  You're either a sinner or a bigot.  In the grand scheme of things, I think the former is a bit more offensive when put in the context of eternity.  Similarly, the latter is just bad form.  First of all, no one sees themselves as a bigot, so saying the same is just an insult under a fog of public policy.  Second, once you call someone a bigot, their opinions are locked in stone, lest they change their mind and confirm that their previous position was bigoted.

With those reservations known, I began to see people present reasons for why they were opposing Question 6 other than "because the Bible tells me so."  Don't get me wrong, if you want to vote based on your religious convictions alone, do not interpret me to say that is wrong.  Our religious have a place in the public square just as well as any other individual with any preconceptions, prejudices, influences, or ignorance they may have.  My position is that religious convictions cannot be reasoned with or otherwise persuaded.  What standing do I have to disagree with your interpretation of God?   

BUT so long as we are talking about actual logical reasoning, we're on the same field.  Maybe those reasons are a house of cards built upon the Bible, but maybe they are honestly held concerns about a piece of legislation that has been subject to lies, misrepresentations, and fear-mongering. 

1) Slippery Slope Fallacy -- I want to knock this one out first because it bothers me the most.  We're not talking about having cows marry spoons or whatever else makes you feel like Perry Mason when discussing same-sex marriage.  We're talking about two consenting adults entering into a legal contract to share property and other legally binding relationships until they get bored with one another and choose to divorce.  If you are concerned about a person marrying their pet dog, you really have no place in this discussion and should probably go back to watching clips of skateboarding accidents on YouTube. 

2) Religious Liberty and Ecumenical Organizations -- Many, including Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk, have expressed that the religious liberty exception to same-sex marriage is a ruse.  They note that there are specific provisions in the bill protecting religious institutions from having to conduct or condone same-sex marriage, but that this protection does not extend to religious service institutions receiving federal funds.  For those, I have some very bad news -- religious service organizations receiving federal funds are already prohibited from discriminating against recipients based on their sexual orientation.  "The cow is out the barn!"  (Which is a good thing too, considering how many homeless youth are kicked out of their homes due to sexual orientation -- often under the banner of religion).  Similarly, religious affiliated hospitals already offer partner visitation and disposition rights.

Receiving federal funds presents additional burdens and responsibilities.  You are not voting on whether religious service institutions may continue to hold their honestly held beliefs and serve Maryland's poor.  If you were involved in these organizations, you would probably be aware that this decision was made long ago.

3) Same-sex Parenting -- The most abhorrent objection to same-sex marriage is that children raised in same-sex households will grow up to be deficient in some critical, though unstated, way.  Look around.  We have thousands of children in foster care, are you cool with that?  Single parenthood is on the rise, not by accident, but by choice.  Who are you to say how children should be raised and when did we start thinking that was our decision to make?  That's not even getting to the fact that the supposed "study" that shows detrimental effects of same-sex parenting has mostly been undercut as ambiguous at best and junk science at worst.

4) The "Gay" Curriculum -- "If we pass same-sex marriage, it will be taught as "normal" in our schools."  You're right.  It will.  But if you find same-sex marriage offensive, you would do well to stay away from most bus stops, recitals, plays, sporting events, and teacher-parent nights.  Same-sex couples exist and are raising happy, smart, caring, talented, athletic children all over this great State.  (Terrifying, ain't it?)  They will continue to do so, in greater number, as time wears on.  And if you would choose to have your children and grand-children walk through life with blinders on as to the society around them, you entire life will be one big Three's Company episode.

That doesn't mean we're going to have classes on "the gay lifestyle" (never figured out what this meant).  It just means that same-sex couples will not be ignored when we talk about the family unit, anymore than single moms, single dads, or foster children are discussed in schools today.  Yet again, nothing will change.

Call it "permissive".  Call it "secular".  Call it "sinful" for all I care.  This is the right thing to do.  The overall utility of awarding same-sex couples the same civil rights and privileges as we allow heterosexual couples far outweighs the concerns that have been proffered against this law.  Maryland has the opportunity to be the first in the Nation to pass same-sex marriage by referendum.  The alternative is to be one more sad bullet point in the history books of the slow trek up the hill of civil equality.  It takes a quick look at the demographics of this issue to see where things are going.  But the time for this is now.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!