Public Discourse and Opposing Same-Sex Marriages
Doug Mainwaring has written an article on why same-sex marriages shouldn’t be a thing, stating that it’s a matter of semantics. Marriage, according to Mainwaring, is a term that is historically and culturally linked to heterosexual religious and legal unions. He says that we should leave the term “marriage” for the union of heterosexual couples, while homosexual couples should they want similar legal rights and recognition by the state/law should have “civil unions”. Which is all fine (we’ve got to start somewhere) if being in a “civil union” accords the same rights to a couple as a “marriage” (as it does in UK’s Civil Partnership Act). But Mainwaring’s designation same-sex marriages as “civil unions” flat out seeks to deny validity of same-sex marriages. Period. He goes on about the oversexualized nature of (specifically) male homosexual culture and how same-sex marriages are simply “implausible”.
Hold that thought. It’s apparently not his first article on homosexuality and marriage, so we’ll go to one of the articles that he points us to, also authored by Mainwaring himself:
- He calls gay rights a “faux-civil rights issue, diminishing the meaning of the centuries-long struggle by Blacks for equality”.
* Homosexuals are being [denied service in Arizona](http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/02/25/yes-of-course-a-business-owner-should-have-the-right-to-refuse-service-to-gay-people/); them and their associates are being hunted in [Uganda](http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/25/world/africa/uganda-anti-gay-law/) and [Russia](http://www.globalequality.org/newsroom/latest-news/1-in-the-news/186-the-facts-on-lgbt-rights-in-russia); under Singapore law, one can be imprisoned under [377A](http://www.singapolitics.sg/tags/377a) for performing homosexual acts. And that's just scratching the surface. How is the gay rights movement a "faux-civil rights issue" then?
- “Conflating the issue of same-sex marriages and gay rights”.
* My question is, how are these two not related? Is not the right to marry a right to be accorded to a human being?
- Attempting to play the numbers game
* Mainwaring constantly attempts to use "statistics" to show us that there is no "mandate" by the LGBT community to push for the right to same-sex marriage, and he puts it forth as "empirical fact". This is classic McNamara fallacy, where _he_ takes the number of same-sex marriages that are in place as an indicator of _the need to legally recognise same-sex marriages_. The leap in logic here is immense. Let me illustrate with a negative example: there are several endangered insects on the EEC's list that [are not represented by any wildlife conservation fund of any sort](http://www.earthsendangered.com/donate-links.asp?nr=1&donate=1). Because they are not furry, do not have many adorable cartoon counterparts in the media, **we are just going to let them die out**. Let that sink in for a moment. Because there is no _popular mandate_, we're leaving entire species to die because of what we're doing to their habitats. **Popular mandate is not, and should not, be a determinant in the well being of any living thing** (and leaving such things to popular mandate, I would say, _is_ an _objective evil_).
- “The meaning of marriage is immutable”
* [Bergen-Aurand](http://foreigninfluence.com/2014/02/19/its-philip-and-bartholomew-on-religion-the-state-and-same-sex-unions/) points out that marriage has not always been an exclusively heterosexual institution. Marriage as a heterosexual institution is no more or less a social and religious construct as same-sex marriages, or the "civil union" that he puts forth. In addition, Mainwaring continues to play the numbers game, saying that "[e]nsuring a better future for our children and grandchildren is more important than our generation’s desire to make history', citing the "unraveling" of the institution of marriage as a reason to, well, keep marriage laws as they are. And he tries to divert our attention to the statistic: "40% of all births in the U.S. are to unwed parents". First of all, this has **nothing to do with the validity of same-sex marriages**, and **very wrongheadedly reduces** the issue of single-parenthood to the "unraveling" of marriage and flat out shutting out factors such as poverty, poor urban development, racial politics, crime etc. If anything, this illustrates the poor state of heterosexual marriages_which legislation has yet to fix thus far_.
Coming back to the original article, we see that Mainwaring has added one more argument to his repertoire: that same-sex marriages are an “objective evil” because they deny children the affectations of parents of each gender:
"Two men or two women together is, in truth, nothing like a man and a woman creating a life and a family together. Same-sex relationships are certainly very legitimate, rewarding pursuits, leading to happiness for many, but they are wholly different in experience and nature."
I cannot argue against the idea that having both parents of the same sex would be objectively and qualitatively different from being brought up in a family where my parents are of opposite sex. I was brought up in the latter, and have no experience, anecdotal or otherwise, to tell me anything about the former. But what I cannot understand is the flat out decrying of same-sex marriage parenting as “objective evil”. You see how stuck on the phrase I am. Varied studies (that definitely come with their own biases and blind spots), such as that from the American Academy of Pediatrics, this well-researched article from How Stuff Works, the APA, and opponents such as Walter Schumm and this article from the New Family Structures Study show that the debate is far from settled. But saying that on the basis that “denying” children parents of opposite gender, to permanently etch “deprivation” on their hearts, and calling same-sex marriages genderless is again painfully reductive and over presumptive.
Because genderless-ness is a topic that is altogether different from same-gender parenthood, and one that requires a separate examination from that of same-gender marriage and parenthood. It is ironic that Mainwaring should state this because it shows that he does not fully understand the idea of “fluidity” in gender that he appears to acknowledge further down in his essay. Gender fluidity does not correspond to genderless-ness or changing preferences as and when — it is more related to what Judith Butler posits as the performativity of gender, and is more complex than Mainwaring appears to have acknowledged. In addition, the idea that same-sex marriages that “deprive” children of a proper family is one that is “evil” is one that is not founded on fact thus far. As much as Mainwaring would like to, there is no “empirical fact” to support evil-ness. What we do have in same-sex marriages is a structure where partners of the same sex are entitled the legitimacy and peace of mind to raise a child the best they can, in the same way a heterosexual married couple would seek to.
When I first came across Mainwaring’s article on The Public Discourse, I was inclined to give it the benefit of doubt. I mean, every voice counts in a debate, and that’s what discourse is about right? But only if the debate is informed and well substantiated. I would like to think that Mainwaring is as “intellectually honest” as he says he is, but I am starting to have my doubts after ploughing through the two articles above.
There are discourses on how humanity and society should progress, and how we should go about it, and then there are discourses on how we should treat fellow human beings, such as whether their union is legitimate or not. If you believe that your beliefs are “infringed” upon, or that agendas are being “imposed” upon you, please check your privilege before opening your mouth, or worse, pulling out your keyboard.
Edit: Of course, I’m one to speak, being the part of the fortunate majority where I live. But I try (and I hope it’s okay enough).
- Gay Denialism Is the New Homophobia—and It’s Terrifying (http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/02/25/gay_denialism_is_the_new_homophobia_catholic_argument_against_gay_rights.html)