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Gay marriage foes ignore progress, full spectrum of humanity

by Jeremy Hooper

   Thomas Sowell (pic.), a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and columnist for the Baltimore Sun, has today written a piece for the aforementioned paper that is -- and we mean this with all due respect to Mr. Sowell -- one of the most flawed, poorly organized, far-fetched attempts at discrediting gay marriage that we've ever seen. Ironically he (or the Sun) has titled it "Gay marriage advocates ignore history, reality," a headline made laughable by the fact that Mr. Sowell himself seems to have pretty much ignored rational thought.

In his first assertion, Mr Sowell says:

The "equal protection of the laws" provided by the Constitution applies to people, not actions. Laws exist precisely in order to discriminate among different kinds of actions.

When the law permits automobiles to drive on highways but forbids bicycles from doing the same, that is not discrimination against people. A cyclist who gets off his bicycle and gets into a car can drive on the highway just like anyone else.

In a free society, vast numbers of things are neither forbidden nor facilitated. They are considered to be none of the law's business.

And you know when a gay marriage opponent starts by equating same-sex nuptials to some other couldn't-be-more-unrelated activity (in this case riding a bicycle on a highway), there's little chance your belief in marriage equality is going to be realistically challenged in the subsequent paragraphs. But to dignify his linkage for just a brief second, we'll say: clearly laws than ban bicycles from being driven on the highway are enacted as a matter of public safety. And those who ride bikes are, in fact, performing an action, with any laws against the activity are discriminating against that particular action. But this, as well as his assertion that "[i]n a free society, vast numbers of things are neither forbidden nor facilitated," start his argument on a flawed footing from the very beginning. For while laws disallowing gays from equal marriage rights are preventing an action, they're doing so only on the discriminatory basis that only opposite-sex couples are worthy enough to have their unions recognized by law. While the "pro-family" crowd cries that such "marriage protection" endeavors are in the interest of familial and societal safety, they generally use nothing greater than religious bias and flawed studies to back up their claims. So shutting out gays from the marriage game is banning them from an action on the basis of who they are as people! And despite what the "professionally anti-gay" among us will tell you, one can't just get off their gay bike and get into a car headed for Hetero Town; it does not work that way!

Moving on, Sowell next states:

Homosexuals were on their strongest ground when they said that the law had no business interfering with relations between consenting adults. Now they want the law to put a seal of approval on their behavior. But no one is entitled to anyone else's approval.

And let the duplicitous path continue! Mr. Sowell, we are not asking for "the law to put a seal of approval" on what you classify as our behavior. We are DEMANDING that the law stop preventing us from living and loving as equals! Virtually all disapproval of homosexuality stems from religion. The law is not about protecting the right to impose morality onto society at large; we all have a right to live free from that sort of persecution. You can condemn gays to hell until you are blue in the face within the confines of your church or house of worship. But you cannot (and will not for much longer) impose those convictions on our equal, legal access to marriage.

Next flawed claim:

In the absence of the institution of marriage, individuals could arrange their relationship in whatever way they wanted to, making it temporary or permanent, and sharing their worldly belongings in whatever way they chose.

Marriage means that the government steps in, limiting or even prescribing various aspects of their relations with each other - and still more, their relationship with whatever children may result from their union.

In other words, marriage imposes legal restrictions, taking away rights that individuals might otherwise have. Yet "gay marriage" advocates depict marriage as an expansion of rights to which they are entitled.

Words that beg the obvious question: "On what planet?!?! " Mr. Sowell, you say "individuals could arrange their relationship in whatever way they wanted to," as if individuals have the option of forming their own alternatives to marriage that are in some way equal to the institution. But there are an estimated 1,138 rights, protections, and responsibilities that come with marriage. Those of us who are in a relationship that is incapable of being recognized as such know what is denied to us. Partner benefits, tax breaks, immigration equality, the right to make medical decisions -- we know full well what we're denied. And then you have the gall to try and paint marriage as if it is TAKING AWAY the rights of the individual!? Outside of the right to treat you partner like shit without repercussions, take part in another marriage, etc., what sort of rights does marriage take away? Marriage is about two people pledging to come together as a family unit. Just like the shitty apartments and disgusting habits you trade in upon taking those vows, you also trade in your single person's set of rules for a new one that guides both you and your partner. We "depict marriage as an expansion of rights" because it is! The right that we are struggling to obtain is the FREEDOM to marry (thank you Evan Wolfson), with those of us who choose to seal the deal also vowing to take on all the responsibility that comes with the territory.

After arguing against comparisons between gay and interracial marriage, Sowell then concludes his thoughts by saying the laws that have sprung from marriage as its been for centuries should not "be transferred willy-nilly to a different union, one with no inherent tendency to produce children or the inherent asymmetries of relationships between people of different sexes." He says:

Despite attempts to evade these asymmetries with such fashionable phrases as "a pregnant couple" or references to "spouses" rather than husbands and wives, these asymmetries take many forms and have many repercussions, which laws attempt to deal with on the basis of experience, rather than theories or rhetoric.

Wives, for example, typically invest in the family by restricting their workforce participation, if only long enough to take care of small children. Studies show such differences still persisting in this liberated age, and even among women and men with postgraduate degrees from Harvard and Yale.

In the absence of marriage laws, a husband could dump his wife at will, and she could lose decades of investment in their relationship. Marriage laws seek to recoup some of that investment for her through alimony when divorce occurs.

Those who think of women and men in the abstract consider it right that ex-husbands should be as entitled to alimony as ex-wives. But what are these ex-husbands being compensated for?

And why should any of this experience apply to same-sex unions, where there are not the same inherent asymmetries or the same tendency to produce children?

Now in many ways, these concluding statements are the most enraging of all. That's because they work fully off the idea that male-female couplings are the only types that come with any sort of investment or benefit. But what about a relationship with adopted children and the inherent symmetries of people of the same sex? We'll ignore the first mention of women taking time off from work to raise kids, as the idea is (a)antiquated, (b) presumptuous, in that it has to be the woman who takes off, and (c) totally applicable to a same-sex situation as well. In a lesbian coupling in which one partner gives birth to a child, one of the women many choose to take time from her career to be a stay-at-home mom. She may not. This point seems less one to argue in a gay marriage debate and one more suitable in a debate on feminism, child care, etc.

As for marriage laws allowing a woman to recoup her investment via alimony, again -- totally applicable to same-sex relationships! In the case of divorce, financial arrangements and support are settled amongst the participants and/or the courts. Mr. Sowell seems to be asserting that the woman is always entitled to the pay-out, even if she is to fault for the divorce. If that is, in fact, what he's asserting, then we don't even know where to go with that. In today's modern marriages --what with pre-nups, women sometimes serving as the sole bread winners, and all of the intricacies that come with various arrangements -- it just isn't that simple. Perhaps in same-sex situations there may even be a more logical, rational discussion of who is entitled to what based on criteria other than gender.

The thing is, we are aware that our relationships are not just like male-female ones. We know that some things are and will be different once we are granted equal marriage. But the denial of access to seal our love in the same exact fashion as our heterosexual counterparts will always be discrimination. There's simply no way to rationalize it! You can't just use the "oh, this is how it's always been" line of defense. INSIGNIFICANT! Many flawed policies have been adapted or eliminated over time. There's no reason to fully equate or negate the similarities between this civil rights struggle and past ones. POINTLESS! This situation is unique, and while similarities exist between other groups' struggles for parity, this one comes with its own issues and obstacles. And there's absolutely no reason to debate the hows and whys the law prevents us from our goal. IRRELEVANT! It does stop us, and it is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

Mr. Sowell, the "action" of two dudes or two ladies getting married does provide a societal benefit. It encourages stability and the well-being of two people who love each other more than life itself. We are sick and tired of this debate, which is only being prolonged by the water-muddying attempts of folks on your side of the debate. We are not "ignoring history or reality," as the Sun's headline so boldly asserts; we are ignoring the non-stop spin and attempts to demonize us, the likes of which have plagued our community for far too long.

Gay-marriage advocates ignore history, reality [BaltimoreSun.com]

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