Musings and evidence explore an article from the May issue of Change: “The Land of the Free”
In your own home, if you want to walk around naked, have sex, grow pot in your bathtub and smoke it, ain’t nobody’s business but your own. On the other hand, if you want to do any of these things outside on the street corner, the government or society has the right to sanction you, if it deems necessary. There is a difference between private and public.
It’s not always easy to distinguish the two.
In the May 2012 issue of Change magazine Dr. Farid Noie, in “The Land of the Free,” says: “Our homosexual citizens are denied marital status and benefits because of their private sexual orientation.”
Love is a private emotion. Even when it is shared between two people, it is still private. The people who share it can announce their love to the world or they can keep it to themselves. They do not need society’s or the government’s permission to love each other.
There is no law stopping two, or more, people from filling out their own marriage contract in front of witnesses and promising that they will abide by the terms of that contract. But if they want that contract to be legally enforceable and not merely rest on the word of the people entering the contract, then the government has to recognize that contract and be willing to enforce it. At that point, it is no longer private and it is a fit subject for public discussion and government decision as to what kinds of marriage contracts are recognized.
The argument is made that we should respect the rights and dignity of homosexuals by allowing them to marry each other. This is certainly a reasonable argument. Why stop there? Why limit the expansion of marriage to homosexuals?
Depending on who is counting, Islam has the most (or second most) adherents in the world. Islam allows polygamy. There are many polygamous families, some of whom now reside in the U.S. through immigration. Their families are not given legal recognition. A major American religion, (adherents would say a major world religion,) Mormonism, has polygamous roots that go back as recently as the 19th century. That religion has breakaway factions that still practice plural marriage. There are many polygamous families in some of the western states. Their families are not given legal recognition. Shouldn’t we respect the religious beliefs of all our fellow citizens? Aren’t their families also worthy of respect and consideration?
The laws limiting marriage to people of the opposite sex are often compared to the American laws against interracial marriage. Looked at historically, however, the comparison is not valid.
Romantic relationships between people of different races have a long history. The bible’s “Song of Songs” celebrates one. (“Shekhorah ani venavah;” “I am black and beautiful.”) Even earlier, Moses married a black woman. Forget different races. Humans apparently mated with another species. People who are descended from those humans who migrated out of Africa have a small percentage of their DNA from Neanderthals.
On the other hand, there has never been a case of any society in history recognizing marriage between people of the same sex, and that includes societies where homosexual activity and pederasty were accepted.
The American experience was unique. After all, what the hell is an octoroon? In any sane society, someone of seven-eighths Caucasian descent and one-eighth African descent would be considered Caucasian. Not in America. Indeed, in the famous Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, a case that established the legality of segregation for more than a half a century, the man in question, Homer Plessy, a so-called octoroon, was, by any normal definition, a white man. For some reason—perhaps psycho-sexual, to keep white women away from black men; perhaps economic, to keep black women away from white men and thereby keep property in the white community; perhaps some combination—the racism in this country danced to the beat of a different drummer.
Once upon a time—and not so long ago at that—marriage entailed more than companionship; people were expected to start a family by having children. These general mores influenced the decisions of individual couples. Yes, there were outliers, couples that could not have children and a small number who decided never to have children, but these exceptions did not change the general pattern. Indeed, one of the miracles of modern medicine is the techniques that allow couples who were previously considered infertile to conceive. By allowing marriage to include couples who biologically cannot procreate, we are driving the final nail in the coffin of the connection between marriage and procreation.
This is a radical change for society. Its implications should at least be discussed.
To quote the English writer G. K. Chesterton:
There exists . . . a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.". . . The truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.
On the other hand, there are some good reasons to allow people of the same sex to get married. Among them: It would be fairer. It would allow more people the many benefits of pair-bonding. If it had been allowed 30 or 40 years ago, the lives of male homosexuals may have been regularized, allowing patterns of courtship and marriage similar to that of heterosexuals, thereby avoiding the spread of a terrible disease that killed more than a half a million people.
An open, free and rational discussion of same-sex marriage would be good for society. It could serve as a pattern for other issues that need resolution.
But there will be no such debate. Both sides talk past each other. One side proclaims, against the preponderance of evidence, that homosexuality is a choice, a life-style. They quote scripture, a dicey proposition in a secular society. The other side—the elites of the media, the entertainment industry, and the university—declare that you are a bigot if you oppose same-sex marriage. There is no rational discussion; only name-calling.
And thus the closing of the American mind continues.
If you have any thoughts on this current and controversial issue—and I know that you do!—please leave a comment below if you’re reading this online. If you’re reading this in Change magazine’s print version, please visit the magazine’s web site and leave a comment. Thanks. Harry