Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prop Yourselves Up While Others Fall

In lieu of the passing of Proposition 8 in California, a bill that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, I feel that Lefty's must shed some light on the issue. For so many, the discussion about gay marriage is a muddled mess of irrational arguments and failed understanding. Bill and I often talk about how so many discussions fail to align in basic framework, terminology, and logic. What happens is that ever argument turns into a battle of confusion, over premises and definitions. And so I digress...

The most appropriate comparison with gay marriage, I feel, is the right to vote. The only natural flaw is that marriage isn't defined or enumerated in the Constitution. Nevertheless, the comparison draws some strong parallels. In 1920, when women were given the right to vote, many opponents of the idea were blinded by their bigotry, trapped in a sort of historicist cave, where they were unable to understand the universality of rights and the extrapolation of Constitutional rights to strange and unfamiliar cases. The same occurred in 1965, when African Americans were finally granted de facto (on top of de jure) suffrage.

In my eyes, the same problem exists in our current case. The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution states rather explicitly:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Perhaps the connection has not been made, but I see it one of two ways. If marriage is a right, then states banning same-sex marriage are denying Constitional rights of certain individuals, AKA unequal protection. If marriage is a privelege, then the state is making a law that abridges the priveleges of certain citizens. The only other option is to say that homosexuals aren't citizens. Madness!

One final note, is that I must address the perennial "Slippery Slope" argument. Opponents of same-sex marriage feel that by granting marriage rights to gays, we are redefining marriage and it could easily slip into a relativist decline thereafter. For example, they will argue, that perhaps one day the definition will be so loose we will allow polygamy, or marrying one's pets, or any series of other hyperbolic provisions. Consider this: if we applied that logic against women's suffrage, to say that one day children (under 18) would vote, or maybe dogs would vote, or even inanimate objects, or maybe one person's vote would count for two, how RIDICULOUS would that seem? None of those have come true, nor will they. The whole point is, rather obviously, that people have rights. These rights aren't given by the angry mob, they are inherent in our personhood (as some would suggest, granted by God). They must be protected from the 52% mob rule that has just stripped away the right from Californians.

And to say it gracefully, Keith Olbermann:


Bill said...

I was under the impression that the institution of marriage, having existed thousands of years before the founding of this country, would have to be considered a fundamental freedom, one which needs not be enumerated in the Constitution in order to be protected.
Of course, I don't understand why we ever let the government define marriage anyway

Anonymous said...

I heart Olbermann. Best special comment ever, but I feel very passionately that a gay marriage ban is a civil rights infringement and clearly unconstitutional.
Gov't shouldn't define marriage at all though. It would be much simpler and less controversial if they just gave everyone civil unions and churches controlled marriage rights. Good to have your blog.