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Gay Marriage and New Traditions April 24, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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I’m not bisexual. I’m not homosexual. How do I know this?

I’ve tried.

And so when I find some insecure guy who will call me “faggot” or anything similar because I am comfortable with my sexuality, I simply respond that I know I’m not gay because I have tried to be with men and found it less than stimulating. How does he know he’s not gay if he simply calls people names? Sound like, perhaps, he doth protest too much…

But I digress…

There is a stigma in many sectors of our western society against homosexuality. The recent debacle over the Miss America pageant, where miss California was asked about gay marriage and answered honestly that she thinks that marriage is between a man and a woman, is an indicator of how real this issue still is for many people. And while I applaud her willingness to be honest, I think her opinion is disgusting.

One of the arguments that is used against gay marriage is that if we start allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, then we will have to allow other “redefinitions” of marriage to become legal as well. If we allow gay marriage, some say, we will have to allow three people to get married!

Oh noes!

I find this slippery slope argument to be a little offensive, and not only because it isn’t true. I understand why many in the gay community want to back away from defending polyamorous marriage, but I think that this is short-sighted. In the long run the issue of polyamorous marriage will come to the front as well, and once gay marriage becomes more accepted, then the new “traditional” definition of marriage will be thrown down; “marriage is a contract between two people, if you allow three people to marry then we will have to allow people to marry imaginary friends or your dog!” people may say. How fickle tradition is.

I’ll only point out, in light of that, that nuns, all of them, are supposedly married to Jesus. If that’s not a polyamorous marriage with an imaginary friend, I don’t know what is.

The fact that something is traditional and therefore good, is not a good argument to keep it unchanged in itself. Marriage is a cultural institution and has already changed and will inevitably do so again. Culture, like language, evolves and changes.

It is no longer a property arrangement as it used to be, nor is it illegal for people of different races to get married anymore as it used to be. At every step of cultural process towards greater individual and social freedoms, the cultural conservatives, represented here and now by the waning Religious Right predominantly, will fight to keep the most recent definition of “tradition” alive. The irony about this is that their traditions would be considered liberal by their great-grandparents. Their inability to recognize this is part of the problem.

The Bible and the Koran (among other scripture) are full of old rules, laws, and prohibitions. And whether there are contradictions of any of these rules is not relevant here, because all I have to bring up the fact that the Bible says that you should not eat certain fish (cf Lev. 11:9-12, Deut. 14:9-10) or wear mixed fibers (Deut. 22:11). And for those of you who would argue that Jesus made the Old Testament obsolete, I give you Matthew 5:18

Matt 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

So why do some people focus on the comments about homosexuality (the ones that do not appear in the New Testament at all either) and then say that the ones that talk about homosexuality still matter but the ones that talk about shrimp do not? Hypocrisy?

There are a number of possible explanations, but I think that insecurity and fear are prime candidates. In our culture, being gay is something that most people have to come to acceptance of over years, especially if they are raised in an environment of conservative “traditional” values. If you happen to be bisexual, at least you are able to express part of your sexuality, but those feelings of attraction for others of the same sex will still exist but will be repressed.

And repression, is, of course, healthy.

spoing

Sorry, that was my sarcasm meter exploding.

I think that the opinions against gay marriage are the result of many factors, but I think that the fear and insecurity of people’s own sexual preferences plays a part. The presence of homosexuality within the evangelical Christian community, especially among those that proclaim (loudly) of its ‘sinfulness,’ is obvious. Except that Ted Haggard is how completely heterosexual. He doth protest too much….

These conservative voices are an oppressive and repressive force on us. Their martyr syndrome, the feeling of being persecuted while having sway over a large segment of society (mostly because the more moderate voices can’t challenge them without exposing their own weaknesses of trying to shelter their own faith), is illusory. The irony of their being the oppressive force in society while screaming oppression is truly a beautiful farce of epic proportions.

Oh, the irony, it hurts!

Oh, the irony, it hurts!

But I am really heterosexual. I would not mind being bisexual (I’m sure my girlfriends would not mind, either). In fact, I might even prefer it. But alas I am probably a ‘1’ (at most) on the Kinsey scale, which is just fine with me. But being heterosexual I fully and apologetically support gay marriage.

In fact, I support the right for anyone to get married to anyone, so long as each party is competent and willing to make that decision. I don’t see how the government should be able to have a say in this at all, whatsoever, in stating that marriage is defined according to any particular religious or non-religious view. Government should, like with all matters of conscience and religion, remain neutral.

And if certain churches don’t want to perform the ceremony, then they should not be forced to; they will be allowed their bigotry so long as they don’t try to enforce it on other groups. I’m sure that there will be other churches, temples, synagogues, fields, houses, and other places with open-minded people that will be happy to watch Adam and Steve, Adam, Eve, Steve, and Lilith, etc to join together in love (or whatever people get married for).

Seriously, how do some OTHER people getting married make your marriage less meaningful? That makes no sense.

Social conservatives, get over yourselves and stop being assholes.

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Comments»

1. Tomkinson - April 24, 2009

“Government should, like with all matters of conscience and religion, remain neutral.”

Exactly, so why do you favor the government getting even further involved in sex contracts? Marriage should not be anything other than a religious ritual, & such as it is Ms. California’s opinion, while silly, is not disgusting.

Polyamorous marriage is even more of a joke. As you’ve explained polyamory the concept of “polyamorous marriage” is an oxymoron. Which is different from a married couple who are polyamorous.

“There is a stigma in many sectors of our western society against homosexuality.”

Why single out western society? The prohibitions against homosexuality that exist essentially everywhere on Earth are the LEAST strong in western society. Its like you don’t even think before you type, you just spout stock liberal phrases.

“Seriously, how do some OTHER people getting married make your marriage less meaningful? That makes no sense.”

They feel it makes the concept less meaningful. They also frown on divorce for the same reasons. If anyone can marry anyone else or groups of people can marry and people can easily get out of marriages what is marriage at all? The more broadly it is defined and the more ephemeral it is the less meaningful it becomes. Too simple for you?

“Social conservatives, get over yourselves and stop being assholes.”

You don’t know any social conservatives at all and yet you feel comfortable bashing them and then have the nerve to call them bigots. Fascinating. Now tell us again how your atheistic evangelism is compelling & fruitful.

P.S. Oh and by the way your point about christian conservatives not being oppressed is wrong. Check out the link.

http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2009/04/update_eastern_michigan_univer.html

2. shaunphilly - April 24, 2009

“Exactly, so why do you favor the government getting even further involved in sex contracts? Marriage should not be anything other than a religious ritual, & such as it is Ms. California’s opinion, while silly, is not disgusting.”

Agreed, at least insofar as the issue of it being a religious ritual. The state should just allow people to design marriage contracts between people as they wish. I still think her opinion is disgusting. I don’t care if you agree.

“Why single out western society? The prohibitions against homosexuality that exist essentially everywhere on Earth are the LEAST strong in western society. Its like you don’t even think before you type, you just spout stock liberal phrases.”

No. I have only directly experienced western society in my life. To talk about other cultural perspectives would be presumptuous, in my opinion.

“They feel it makes the concept less meaningful. They also frown on divorce for the same reasons. If anyone can marry anyone else or groups of people can marry and people can easily get out of marriages what is marriage at all? The more broadly it is defined and the more ephemeral it is the less meaningful it becomes. Too simple for you?”

No, it makes sense, I just think that this opinion is silly. if someone gets married and stays married through hard times (etc), the meaning is derived from their relationship, not from the institution itself or what others do. Meaning is derived from what we do, not what others do while doing somethign called the same thing.

“You don’t know any social conservatives at all and yet you feel comfortable bashing them and then have the nerve to call them bigots. Fascinating. Now tell us again how your atheistic evangelism is compelling & fruitful.”

How do you know who I know? Tell me how your being a complete asshole is fruitful.

Your link I had already read about. Sure it happens that Christians deal with persecution and such. The question is whether secular society is actually unfairly oppressing Christianity or not. I think this is them projecting, in most cases. Isolated incidents don’t count (for any side of this issue.

the rest of society having to succumb to bronze-age myths is a form of oppression. Telling people that they cannot compel their particular myth is not.

3. Diane (Lucifrix) - April 24, 2009

Two things:

1. “If you happen to be bisexual, at least you are able to express part of your sexuality, but those feelings of attraction for others of the same sex will still exist but will be repressed.”

I think your phrasing is a bit clunky here. “Parts of your sexuality” and “repression” suggest–or at least, could very easily lead to, the way it did with me–the idea that bisexual people require relationships with both men and women to be happy, and that’s not true at all. The “light bulb” for me was the definition, given by bisexual writer Carol Queen, of bisexuality as not necessarily an attraction to men and to women, but rather, in some at least, an attraction to qualities that are wholly independent of a person’s sex.

2. “If we allow gay marriage, some say, we will have to allow three people to get married! […] I find this slippery slope argument to be a little offensive, and not only because it isn’t true.”

Why do you think it’s untrue? I understand why the pro-SSM people want to distance themselves (though I don’t agree with those who think poly is wrong rather than just finding it politically dangerous), but I’ve never really bought their arguments that there’s no slope there…to me, it just seems like another (not unwelcome) redefinition.

Otherwise, I agree completely, and am frustrated by how many people still don’t get it. But it’s encouraging to see how relatively rapidly change is happening these days, and between Iowa, Vermont, and NY–especially Vermont because they had not just a majority but enough to override a veto–I really have hope now that nationwide legalized SSM could happen in my lifetime.

Oh, and when you tried this gay thing, did you take pictures? 🙂

4. Diane (Lucifrix) - April 24, 2009

“They feel it makes the concept less meaningful. They also frown on divorce for the same reasons. If anyone can marry anyone else or groups of people can marry and people can easily get out of marriages what is marriage at all? The more broadly it is defined and the more ephemeral it is the less meaningful it becomes. Too simple for you?”

Most supporters of SSM understand *that* people think those things, what we don’t get is *why* they think them. Marriage is supposedly, above all, a commitment based on love–why would including the love between same-sex partners be defining marriage inappropriately broadly? If any facet of the debate can be said to devalue marriage, it’s the idea that the sex of the partners is more important than the seriousness of their commitment. Until these people campaign with equal fervor to require all couples to prove they truly have an intimate commitment–maybe the way it’s done in questionable green-card marriages–before granting a marriage license, I can’t take seriously the assertion that they just want to maintain the value of marriage, rather than keep same-sex couples from receiving the equal rights and responsibilities of civil marriage.

“Polyamorous marriage is even more of a joke. As you’ve explained polyamory the concept of “polyamorous marriage” is an oxymoron. Which is different from a married couple who are polyamorous.”

“V-shaped” polyamory, that being a situation in which one person is involved with a number of different people, and the sort I presume Shaun has discussed in the past, is not the only kind of poly. There are “triangular” relationships, for instance, in which three people all love and are committed to the others. A marriage among those three people makes total sense (unless you don’t believe such commitment is possible, or, again, hold something other than commitment to be more important to the correct definition of “marriage”).

5. Tomkinson - April 25, 2009

“No. I have only directly experienced western society in my life. To talk about other cultural perspectives would be presumptuous, in my opinion.”

Thats absurd and you know it, you’ve never experienced deep religious faith but you’ve no problem spewing all manner of doggerel about it. Is it impossible to infer that where homosexuality is punished by prison or death that gays have it a little tougher?

“the meaning is derived from their relationship, not from the institution itself or what others do”

WHAT!? How could you say something so ignorant? You must agree that certain institutions can be strengthened or weakened by community support. Why is the out of wedlock birthrate in the inner cities something like 70%, 50 years ago it was something like 5%. Its just a coincidence, or does the environment in which kids grow up effect their behavior & sexual mores? When Sharonda next door is pregnant at 13 and Zakiya across the way is pregnant at 13, its not such a big deal that Brenda’s got a baby. The consequences of course are disastrous. Is divorce not more common now in part because it is socially acceptable?…

To suggest that broadening marriage out of existence will not have an effect on stability of traditional marriages is probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever read that you’ve written.

“How do you know who I know? Tell me how your being a complete asshole is fruitful.”

You couldn’t possibly know any deeply religious people well and have such despicable and uninformed opinions about them. I don’t really see how I’m being an asshole but if I am its worked out pretty well for me.

“The question is whether secular society is actually unfairly oppressing Christianity or not.”

In a way it is. In the media the religious are invariably portrayed in such a fashion that were it done to say blacks would be considered racist. The persecution that you agree happens, happens more often than you think and certainly more often than it happens to us. But the point I was trying to make was that you glibly presume that because Christians are a majority they cannot oppressed. I suppose Africans could not have been oppressed by white colonials then?

“Marriage is supposedly, above all, a commitment based on love”

No, it is not simply this in eyes of deeply religious people. For them the primary role of marriage is for it to be the anchor which provides for the stable production and raising of children. Thats why those people often use the word “Family Values”. Homosexual relationships do not produce children, are vastly more likely to disintegrate (especially among males) and so on.

Most importantly, marriage is a religious ritual that foolishly became conflated with civil contracts. The holy books of the believers all prohibit homosexuality and so they view SSM as blasphemous, which it clearly is. Imagine if I wanted to redefine baptism to mean rejecting Jesus, that would be ridiculous. I reject Jesus therefore I have no business trying to redefine baptism or have the Church sanctify my behavior.

There’s a whole litany of problems redefining marriage civilly as well particularly when you move into plural marriage territory. Should my company pay for the health insurance of my 4 spouses?

Shaun’s presentation of polyamory is such that it maximizes one’s sexual and emotional freedom. Marriage is necessarily a constraint (if not what is it then?). Ergo polyamorous marriage is an oxymoron.

6. shaunphilly - April 25, 2009

“Thats absurd and you know it, you’ve never experienced deep religious faith but you’ve no problem spewing all manner of doggerel about it. Is it impossible to infer that where homosexuality is punished by prison or death that gays have it a little tougher?”

I’m talking about the smaller subtle things that happen in our culture, I’m not talking about being jailed or killed; that’s a separate issue. I’m talking about the more subtle forms of social stigmatization that go on while out at the bar, on the street, etc. The little things that men or women will say or do that seems to imply they are reacting against fears of homosexuality.

Whether being gay in another country because they kill you there is not relevant to the point I’m talking about. Read what I say and not what you think I say, please.

“You must agree that certain institutions can be strengthened or weakened by community support…”

Of course. But the relationship itself gives it meaning. My relationship with my gf is not defined by the neighbors. I’ll agree that on a larger social scale, what marriage is will have social effects. the question is whether these social effects are detrimental or not. Community support can come from gay people, polyamorous people, or monogamous straight people, right?

“…When Sharonda next door is pregnant at 13 and Zakiya across the way is pregnant at 13, its not such a big deal that Brenda’s got a baby. The consequences of course are disastrous. Is divorce not more common now in part because it is socially acceptable?…”

Bait and switch much?

What does this have to do with SSM? What does this have to do with polyamory? If you are trying to imply that your kids (that’s a scary thought…) seeing the two guys next door or the three people married down the street, then you are betraying a problem with these lifestyles in themselves, and their being “married” or not will not change the influence they might have. Whether the state or any church sanctions these relationships will not prevent them from existing. The question is why these people who already exist and have these relationships should be hidden from your kids? What does 13 year-old pregnancy have to do with that?

This is not broadening marriage out of existence. It is allowing people with different lifestyles to have the same legal rights with the people they choose to spend tehir lives with as so-called normal people.

“You couldn’t possibly know any deeply religious people well and have such despicable and uninformed opinions about them. I don’t really see how I’m being an asshole but if I am its worked out pretty well for me.”

It is from knowing deeply religious people that I formed these opinions. The problem is that religious people differ as much as atheists do, and look at us! I think you are an asshole because, in addition to my own judgment, pretty much everyone I know that knows you thinks so too.

“No, it is not simply this in eyes of deeply religious people. For them the primary role of marriage is for it to be the anchor which provides for the stable production and raising of children. Thats why those people often use the word “Family Values”. Homosexual relationships do not produce children, are vastly more likely to disintegrate (especially among males) and so on.”

And for many other people marriage has other meanings. This parochial view should not be imposed upon other people for whom the concept of marriage has different import. Their understanding of marriage is their own, and they do not own the rights to the concept. Marriage is a social and cultural institution and it already has different meanings and uses. Just because a group of people think that their idea of it is being destroyed doesn’t mean that they are correct in that it is the only valid definition of the term.

The point I hear from people is that maybe, if they are right, people who are unable to have children, or who don’t want children, should not be allowed to marry. Marriage is many things for many people. It is already this way. The problem is that some people are so caught up in their own definitions that they don’t realize that their perspective is not necessarily shared. They close themselves off from the world in such a way that they do not realize that they are imposing a parochial definition on other groups that don’t use that definition.

You are perpetuating this.

“Most importantly, marriage is a religious ritual that foolishly became conflated with civil contracts. The holy books of the believers all prohibit homosexuality and so they view SSM as blasphemous, which it clearly is. Imagine if I wanted to redefine baptism to mean rejecting Jesus, that would be ridiculous. I reject Jesus therefore I have no business trying to redefine baptism or have the Church sanctify my behavior.”

Marriage, like morality and a bunch of other things, was usurped by religion. Marriage is a social contract that religions adopted and attached rituals to. They would exist whether religion existed or not. Does you most important point imply that non-religious people should not get married?

And not all holy books, from all religions, prohibit homosexuality. Not all current churches, temples, etc are against it. Why not allow the congregations themselves decide what they believe is OK with god? Granted, it is hypocritical for a church whose holy book says homosexuality is wrong to accept it, but it’s still their freedom of conscience that I have no legal right to disallow them.

Again, I am not trying to redefine marriage in general, I’m just redefining it for a few people whose definition is parochial. It doesn’t matter if the parochiality is the majority or not.

“Should my company pay for the health insurance of my 4 spouses?”

Should it pay for one? This is a red herring and you know it.

“Shaun’s presentation of polyamory is such that it maximizes one’s sexual and emotional freedom. Marriage is necessarily a constraint (if not what is it then?). Ergo polyamorous marriage is an oxymoron.”

Marriage is a constraint. The definitions and limits of those constraints are decided by those that are subject to it. Within my relationships, I cannot do anything I wish. Polyamory already has built-in restraints. The fact that you don’t know this implies you may think that what I’m doing is some type of Brave New World thing where everyone belongs to everyone. I’m not.

If I were to, hypothetically, marry two women, then my life is committed to them primarily. Now, if we all wish we could open up the relationship and occasionally include others, but they would not become married to us. This is no different than monogamous marriage brining in a third to play with on occasion. The commitments and bonds exist within the marriage and anything else is just play.

The intricacies of what is possible within polyamory makes this hard to encapsulate. But marriage would only become a question for some people sometimes, not for polyamory as a whole. In most cases, polyamorous people will still end up marrying one person and having others that they are not married to. The question why should we prevent three people from marrying if they all want to?

Is there something inherently wrong with that we need to keep our impressionable children away from? I understand that some would say yes, but I cannot live my life worrying about offending everyone, because then I could not do most things. Most things will offend someone.

Polyamorous marriage is only an oxymoron if your definitions of marriage and polyamory are incorrect.

7. Tomkinson - April 26, 2009

First don’t impute to me personally the arguments I’ve semi-defended. Second you don’t really know anyone that “knows” me so whether they think I’m an asshole is irrelevant. Almost everybody that really knows me likes me although they would probably all agree that I’m arrogant & that I drink too much.

Now you wrote “There is a stigma in many sectors of our western society against homosexuality.”

“Western” here is not needed if the point you were trying to make is as narrow as you claim, why add it? Why not just “our society?” But enough about that from now on I will not assume you choose your words carefully.

Now back to Ms California whom you say has opinions that are “disgusting.” Interesting the stigma you attach to being traditional. What if she holds that the following group of theses are more or less true:

1. Men and women are not interchangeable
2. The diminished importance of marriage & the separation of sex from deep long-term commitment and child bearing/rearing has profoundly negative social consequences
3. There will be negligible positive social effects but possibly further negative ones if marriage is weakened to include same-sex relationships and overturning the social order should not be taken lightly.

I don’t think any honest person can deny that the first two theses are true. We might differ as to the conclusions that can be drawn from their truth but they are true. The third is perhaps the more debatable proposition and reasonable people can disagree but I fail to see how it is disgusting. The second one is the reason I mentioned teen pregnancy.

The disconnect of sex from commitment and child-rearing that occurred in the early 1960’s resulted in an explosion of out-of-wedlock births that in turn lead to dramatic increases in crime, STD’s, and poverty. When marriage was dethroned as the only socially acceptable form of sex the duty & responsibility factors also in many sectors went out with it. Divorce also can have devastating impacts on families where the marital bonds existed originally. I MYSELF suffered greatly as a child because of the gross negligence & cavalier disregard my genetic donors displayed towards traditional parental/sexual responsibility.

The traditional marriage folks strongly believe that marriage is NOT simply a contractual union between two (or more) emotionally close people that want to have sex with each-other. The goal is children and they feel that if the State is going to sanction any sexual union it it should be the only one that can produce more human beings and by far the best one for raising them to become successful, happy, well-balanced adults.

Now I don’t find that argument entirely persuasive but there is some evidence to support it. I don’t think the State should be involved in sex-contracts at all. Churches should be free to marry whomever they choose. I don’t care if gays or polygamists move in down the street and if one of my children (why is this scary?, lets not start comparing which of us is the better parent) turns out to be gay they will have absolutely no fear in sharing this with me and their lovers will be just as welcome in my home as if they were straight.

But I do see why Traditionals don’t like the idea of people pushing forward a proposal that devalues marriage by removing children, duty, & honor from it, which are to them more important than sex and love. This IS historically what marriage was even before religion got involved.

Your description above was not a “polyamorous” marriage it would be an open polygamous one. The polyamorous concept is something way too to big discuss now. I have like a 1000 questions about this For example how do you know if your partner accedes to your suggestion that you be allowed to sleep with another woman because she’s deeply insecure and fears losing you otherwise and yet is still secretly pained by your actions?

Shaun I would just hope that you realize you are hardly more rational than average (in some ways less so) and this lofty position you take on everything is unbecoming. Particularly when you try to justify primitive urges by castigating social norms. You just wrote about sausage eating. It is irrational and morally irresponsible to eat meat, you probably know this so why do you do it? Is it because you are motivated by recondite principles or do you do it because it feels good?


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