Monday, January 08, 2007

Discrimination against homosexuals: why? why? why???

Despite the Democratic victory in the mid-term elections (which some would have you call a "Democrat victory" instead), it would appear that some anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives passed. (Did they really pass, or were they just on the ballot?)

Every time I hear of such laws, I can't stop asking: Why? Why? Why???

Why do some people care what other consenting adults are doing in the privacy of their own bedrooms? Why do people have to waste their time picturing other people's sex lives if they find it yucky? Why can't they mind their own business?

Well -- as with many random subjects -- it turns out that I have a wacky theory about this!!! And I'm going to share it with you right now!!!

Now if you're groaning "Oh no, not another one of those 'Chanson's wacky theory' posts..." you can go ahead and skip this one. And skip my next post too, as this is a two-part theory.

Part 1 of my theory answers the question: "Why deny gay people marriage? Of all things?"

(Part 2 will address: "Why worry about gay people's love lives? As opposed to, say, minding one's own business about what goes on in other people's bedrooms?")

A charge commonly leveled against gay people is that they're promiscuous. That's why religious moralists are doing everything in their power to try to encourage gay people to settle down in loving, committed, monogamous relationships, and trying to persuade gay couples to take on the civic responsibility of protecting their families through legal marriage.

Oh, no wait, they aren't. Indeed just the opposite -- committed long-term monogamous gay couples who seek to get married are being denied marriage licenses in many places. WTF?

I'm sorry if none of the following is new and/or if I'm preaching to the choir, but I'm going to say it anyway -- for the record -- because there are places (notably France and much of the U.S.) where gay people still don't have the right to legal marriage.

Marriage has changed. I don't think anyone denies it. Like all aspects of human culture, the expectations surrounding the marriage-type relationship have evolved over time. And I don't think I'm going out on a limb to say that some changes within the past fifty-to-a-hundred years have been fairly dramatic.

Now, I don't think that even the staunchest opponents of gay marriage claim that gay people or gay relationships caused this change. They merely see gay marriage as a part of a family of changes that they don't like.

Let's talk about a portrait of traditional marriage vs. a portrait of modern marriage. I'm doing this off the top of my head, so please feel free to correct me if I get any points wrong.

Traditional marriage:
* A woman could not typically expect the right or opportunity to command enough resources to support herself and her children. A husband was an economic necessity for a woman, especially a woman with children. Staying with one's husband -- even an abusive husband -- was a matter of survival.
* Since any act of heterosexual intercourse might lead to a child (requiring a father's economic support), marriage was the price a man was expected to pay for sex, on something of a "you broke it, you've bought it" basis. (see Deuteronomy 22:28-29: "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.")
* Rape within marriage was not legally recognized as such because a part of the marriage contract was the husband's right to have sex with his wife regardless of her opinion on the matter.
* If a husband wanted to have sex with someone other than his wife (because he's gay or for whatever other reason), he could more or less get away with it as long as he had the financial means. If a woman was not sexually satisfied with her husband (because she's gay or for whatever other reason) then tough sh*t for her. (Punishments for female cheaters have traditionally been much harsher than for males.)

Modern marriage:
* With effective and available contraceptives, straight people can have romantic/sexual relationships without the worry that a moment of passion will result in an unwanted child requiring the long-term efforts of two parents. Thus people typically don't marry someone unless they actually want to be married to that person -- not just as a relief for horniness or the result of an "accident."
* Even though divorce generally spells dramatically reduced economic status for a woman, a single mother can still expect to command enough resources to successfully raise her children to adulthood. Thus it is no longer a virtue to tolerate an abusive husband just because he provides for the family. Abusive and otherwise dysfunctional marriages end in divorce.
* Love isn't just a nice plus in a marriage -- people expect to love and be in love with their spouses.
* Marriage is an equal legal partnership, not an owner/property relationship.

Many traditionalists would like to dump the modern model in favor of the traditional model. The modern model, however, is very attractive, so it's hard to persuade people to stick with the traditional model as long as the modern option exists.

Gay marriage obviously fits right into the modern marriage model: neither partner is the expected master, neither is the expected servant; you expect to marry the person you love rather than being expected to marry for economic/dynastic reasons. Naturally gay people want to get in on this cultural innovation -- why wouldn't they?

But it's very obvious that gay marriage is the result of the change in marriage, not the cause. Traditionalists can deny gay people their family/relationship protection nine ways from Tuesday -- but it won't shove the genie back into the bottle nor the woman back into her shackles.

Many traditionalists viscerally hate the idea of gay marriage because it symbolizes equal partnership marriage to them.

You straight feminists -- male and female -- who cherish your love-and-equal-partnership marriages: You're eating your cake while your gay brothers and sisters are bearing the brunt of the punishments that the theocrats would like to be directing at you.

Let's not leave them out to dry.

Stay tuned for my next installment: "Why worry about what goes on in other people's bedrooms?" I promise the theories I'll be presenting in that one will be far wackier than the ones in this episode. ;-)


Anonymous said...

I agree with you chanson - I don't understand why anyone would want to go back to the bad old days.

btw - some of your observations about modern marriage still have not resonated in other cultures for women.

As late as 1996 the former soviet union did not protecting women who were physically abused by their husbands. Although there was a ton of legislation protecting women on the books, it was rarely enforced. The country either did not protect women who were raped by their husbands or had only begun protecting women.

There was also horrible discrimination against gays there -I think it was still classified as a mental illness at that time.

We all have something to gain from the change in thinking you describe - and I hope the movement allowing gays to marry and protecting women in marriage spreads to these cultures.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Aerin!!!

Wow, and I had thought of the former soviet union as a relatively modern set of countries. We should really be greatful for what we've got...

T Wanker said...

You are your usual prescient self, c.l. Although you make traditional marriage sound like slavery, oh wait, you are right, it was like slavery. The male literally owned and had property (chattel) rights in the female. Which begs the question, why gays would want to enter into something that historically was so distasteful, kind of like Michael Jordan wanting to buy a cotton plantation in the Carolinas, instead of the Bobcats.

The political/legal solution to the gay marriage situation in the U.S. at least is for the blue states to stop being so blue about state's rights and start demanding blue state's rights. Gay marriage, in all its equality laced modern splendor, is going to have to go state by state. One benefit of a conservative Supreme Court is that they tend to favor State's rights in the Federalism debate that is as old as this Nation over here on this side of the Atlantic. (Tell all the French you see c.l. thanks for the help back then and for that cool statue.)

The next step after getting the blue states on board is to attack the reds with the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. Married in Massachusetts? Move to Utah? Have the court pull this out of their pipe and smoke it: "Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof." Despite the Defense of Marriage Act, the first sentence restricts the extent that Congress can limit the unions of pro-gay-equality-union states. Twenty six states end up with gay-unions and the Courts are going to have a hell of a time not forcing the other states from recognizing them.

From a purely propaganda point of view, I think the pro-gay marriage crowd should call themselves the "Union for Marriage" and the opposition, "Confederacy of Tradition." If anyone remembers the Civil War, it has a nice ring.

Finally, you are right on topic with the local news here in the land of Zion. Professor Jeffery Nielson got fired from BYU and went to teach at UVSC and landed on the front cover of the Salt Lake Tribune today as they recapped his travails for espousing gay marriage in an op-ed piece.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey T. Wanker!!!

I agree that state-by-state + the "full faith and credit" clause of the constitution is probably the best political strategy in the U.S.

Rebecca said...

This whole discussion is so frustrating because WHY CAN'T THE OTHER SIDE SEE THAT THEY ARE WRONG?!?!?! It's possible that my attitude is as bad as theirs. Except for the fact that I'm right.


Anonymous said...

Aaaaiiirrrrr baaaaalll !!
Aaaaiiirrrrr baaaaalll !!
Aaaaiiirrrrr baaaaalll !!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

I know how you feel. ;^)

Trevor -- Sorry, I don't understand your comment.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Chanson, have I told you yet how happy I am you are back off hiatus?? It's posts like these that bring me back for more every time.

Great stuff.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Sister Mary Lisa!!!

Anonymous said...

I have my own theory on marriage. Rather, it's a sub-theory, and I'm only going to give the high-level description here.

I believe institutions (religious institutions and power-based institutions such as monarchies) placed rules around relationships resulting in childbearing. And I'm phrasing this in a contorted way for good reason. Marriage in the classical definition is nothing but a set of rules. The rules were used to support specific goals. The goals had to do with the perpetuation of the welfare, wealth and teachings of the specific religious or power group.

Traditional marriage is beneficial to the welfare and growth of religious institutions. It's not just a means of controlling your "flock," but also a means of making sure they create new working hands, and those working hands are brought up with the teachings of the specific religious group. Basically marriage insures the future of the religious group. It's like a pyramid scheme. More people means more marriages which means even more people, all to control, put to work for the religion, and marry to have more babies which will grow up in that religion, etc.

Power-based institutions, such as monarchies, cast groups, etc had an interest in keeping the wealth and "class/royalty" traits within their family/cast/circle etc. Thus for them the proper marriage was insurance that no bad seeds were going to make it in their class, also insurance that the married couples will reproduce and carry on the legacy, and also insurance that their wealth was going to stay with the wealthy.

When the two groups, the religions and the power-groups met, they had the perfect set of rules for another set of rules--all should marry within their class, religious group, etc, which would fully support the needs of both groups.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey M.M.M.!!!

Wow, your theory's even wackier than mine!!!

Hehe, just kidding!!! ;-)

I essentially agree with you although I'd add the precision that I wouldn't say that the religious and power institutions invented these rule sets. However, those institutions that promote rules favorable to their own reproduction tend to thrive and grow.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Yep I agree the institutions are promoting the marriage rules. As I said it's a sub-theory. I'd have to go back and read some Eliade to figure out who I think "invented" the rules hehe. They probably have to do with humanity's dark and pagan past ;P

I just got an idea now, I should try to dig out some studies on matriarchal societies. I'll post later if I find any interesting info. :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey M.M.M.!!!

Cool, I heartily encourage additional research!!! Be sure to tell me what you find out!!! :D

Freckle Face Girl said...

Amen Sister c.I. hanson!!! In additon to that, I would like to add the fact that making gay marriage legal would be a tremendous boost to the economy. Think of the additional ceremonies, cakes, jewelry, flowers, party favors, honeymoons, etc. Then when/if it doesn't work out, lawyers will have more clients. Plus, employees should be able to add their committed partners onto their health insurance if they wish.

Anonymous said...

I thought something along these lines a few days ago. While I still do not have a very strong opinion in favor for or against gay marriage, I've come out slightly in favor of it.

Not because it's a moral issue, but simply because it will decrease the prevalancce of some diseases. Perhaps my reasoning is flawed but I thought back to America's attempt at prohibition which failed miserably. The people wanted alcohol.

Gay people will have sex. It seems to me encouraging monogamous relationships would reduce the spread of STDs...

Then again, I've just my computer back after 5 days and I'm more excited about being able to use it again than I am in seriously conducting this debate which is at least more entertaining with people who do have strong opinions on the subject carry it out.

Gluby said...

Excellent post, Chanson.

You hit an excellent point about the relationship between the rise of divorce, on one hand, and the reform of laws and institutions that had made marriage a trap from which none could escape. Because marriage is not so much an economic survival strategy as it used to be (though it continues to be for many sub-middle-class women), and because of social justice developments, we're seeing the rise of companionate marriages.

I remember in my conservative days buying the line that an increased divorce rate represented people's increased selfishness and unwillingness to honor obligations.

Here's an interesting fact I learned about: in Iran, only men could file for divorce. Women could not. The divorce rate was very low. When women were granted the right to file for divorce in 1965, the reaction was huge and immediate, and the floodgates were opened. Thousands of divorces were immediately filed in Tehran.

Was morality in Tehran ruined? Or did people's suffering in miserable marriages finally find an outlet?

It's horrific how conservatives see things like economic assistance to single mothers as corrosive to "the family." Very revealing, really. I mean, if economic desperation is what keeps the family together in your ideal society, perhaps we should be running away from that ideal society as fast as our legs can carry us.

But, yes, the way I see things, and this is a common view, is that women for so long were commoditized. Hence the laws and customs you describe. There are many ways in which mainstream conservative society has really not progressed very far from days of slavery and brutality. If these guys had their way, we would truly live in fear.

I think you have some good points on the opposition to gays. There's a lot to the issue -- and I am sure that one of the main reasons for religionists' aggressive push on homosexuality and abortion in their modern kulturkampf is because it provides a viscerally-appealing battle cry that rides a wave of ambient bigotry in the populace. These are highly emotional issues that function as hinges by which they can swing the entire citizenry their way.

While I'm here, may I recommend two excellent recent books on the subject:

What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank -- a book that demonstrates horror at the trend but also explains quite well, in my opinion, what is at the heart of modern American working-class ultraconservatism.

Culture Struggle by Michael Parenti -- same subject matter, to a large degree, but Parenti was never "one of them" and provides a powerful critique. Yes, the reference to the Nazi kulturkampf is deliberate.

Cheers et au revoir!

Gluby said...

Oh, and amen on the call to GLBT allies. Of course, I am a grand-scale radical, so I would expand it further to say let us acquire a consciousness of injustice as a whole. Not merely pick and choose based on our personal sympathies, but ally ourselves with the oppressed anywhere and everywhere.

Gluby said...

Sorry -- two more things.

1) Trevor seems to post that same "air ball" post on lots of exmormon blogs. He also writes things like "LOL! Go back to church where you belong! LOL!" Facetious or not, he seems to be annoying and idiotic. I deleted him off mine.

2) The phenomenon you are referring to, M.M.M., has been generally called "pronatalism." Interestingly, opposition to abortion based on claimed humanitarian grounds is a new phenomenon. In the early- and mid-20th century, governments like Mussolini's adopted pronatalism out of a claimed need for more workers and soldiers. Countries like France adopted it out of a fear of "demographic crisis" -- net population loss -- because of decreased birth rates and so forth, that would result in a decline in the nation's status among the Great Powers.

It was always about ambition and power. We want you people to breed, because we need to send your children off to war!

Pronatalism has been around for thousands of years, but we really see a lot of it in the 20th century. I can't remember, but either fascist Germany or fascist Italy actually gave governmental awards to women who had a certain number of children (something like eight) -- it's been a while since I read about it, so forgive the fuzzy details.

Anyway, in the age of mass communication, social reforms and mistrust of government, the whole humanitarian pretense has given pronatalism a legitimizing shot in the arm. And, of course, churches are heavily driving the trend as well. There is no Mormon like a born Mormon -- ah, the beauty of someone who has never known anything you didn't want them to. There are few people so easily controlled.

Sideon said...

*warning - probable use of graphic language at some point*

A quick note to Sinister Porpoise's comment about marriage and disease: I don't think they're related or relevant.

The sheer numbers of heterosexuals versus the number of homosexuals, for one, gives heterosexuals them far superior proclivities to spread the wealth called STD's. HIV is not a "gay" disease, if that's what the inference was to, it's a universal tragedy.

Two, speaking as a member of the gay community, we're at least upfront and PROUD about being sexually active instead of cheating behind spouses. Granted, there are gays and lesbians who do cheat on their spouses, but that's a subtopic for "bad communication within marital bliss."

Three, EVERYBODY wants sex, not just gay people. If people want to lick, finger, suck or fuck, they'd better be responsible about it, which means safe sex. Anything else in this day and age is stupidity or a sub-conscious death-wish.

Anonymous said...

It's an issue of basic human rights.

A straight couple's marriage is legally recognized by their state or the US gov't.
That means that they can visit one another in the hospital as close family when ill. Their property is held in common and can go through the divorce process if that should ever happen. Ensuring that both parties are treated equally. Children produced from the union are automatically protected and the other parent has custody. Straight couples get all these protections simply from a marriage license.

Gay couples are denied these rights in most US states. If they are able to get some of the protections, it is with great effort and expense (living wills, etc.) It's the same type of discrimination the same as miscegenation laws from earlier in this century - where straight people of different races were not allowed to marry.

I have yet to hear a valid argument from anyone (not here, in the outside world) about why this discrimination against gay couples should be allowed to continue. Or why it's good for society as a whole...

FYI - I believe currently the highest percentage transmission of STDs (including HIV) in the US is between straight people.

Anonymous said...

That was amazing Carol. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love how your mind works.

Preach on sister, the choir is listening!

Anonymous said...

Sinister Porpoise said:
"Gay people will have sex. It seems to me encouraging monogamous relationships would reduce the spread of STDs..."

The encouragement of marriage and/or monogomous relationships among heterosexuals hasn't done much, if anything, to slow the spread of STDs in that community. Why do you think it'd be any different in the gay community? It's a red herring anyway.

Promoting gay marriage on the basis of any greater good for the world or the communities is beside the point, in my opinion. Equal rights under the law is the essential bottom line of what we're dealing with here.

In their ruling regarding gay marriage, the Massachussetts Supreme Court said, "It is unconstitutional to discrimate against a designated class of people." Granting marriage to heterosexuals and denying it to homosexuals is a blatant act of discrimination against a clearly designated class of people. The constituion forbids it.

Ultimately the courts will have to sustain gay marriage because it will be proven to be unconstitutional to do otherwise.

And that's why so many people want to change the constitution; because they know that sooner or later that's where we're going to end up with all of this.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Freckle Face Girl, too true!!!

Hey Sinister Porpoise!!!

I'm not trying to do social engineering on gay people, I'm just saying that it's contradictory for the traditional moralists to complain about gay promiscuity while actively denying monogamous gay couples the right to marry.

Thanks Gluby!!!

Very good points, and thanks for the additional historical perspective. I touched on the connection between the birthrate and willingness to go to war in my post fertility, mortality.

I agree we should be concerned with social justice issues in general.

Hey Sideon!!!

I understand how you feel about gay people being scapegoated for problems that are everyone's problems.

Hey Aerin!!!

Thanks for emphasizing this point: it is a civil rights issue.

Thanks Tom!!!

I like your style too!!! :D

Kalv1n said...

I agree with the why? why?? why??? of it all. It doesn't really make sense, but you probably already know my thoughts on the subject. :P

Anonymous said...

Er... sorry, it was a Non sequitur, but it is in this case because I did not follow the steps necessary to prove a correlation.

I am not however, the best advocate for this nor for the other side. I simply don't care what two people decide to do together.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Kalvin!!!

Sorry, what was your position on the subject again?

Hehe, J/K!!! ;-)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Sinister Porpoise!!!

Exactly -- there's no reason for some to care about other people's personal life choices that don't affect others.

MoHoHawaii said...

I find it telling that cultures that treat their women like property tend to mistreat their gay people, and vice versa. Did you know, for instance, that they currently execute homosexuals in Iran?

Once we in the West figured out that women were people (and this took an awfully long time) we started wondering if gay folks might be too. That's where we are right now. We'll arrive at the logical conclusion soon enough. In one more generation this whole issue will be a historical curiosity in First World societies.

P.S. Love your blog.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks MoHoHawaii!!!

I agree things are going in the right direction at the moment -- the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness and/or a choice is becoming a thing of the past.

Eric said...

Slate Magazine just published an article called "Marriage, Trademarked" which looks at this from a refreshing perspective. The author analyzes the "institution" of marriage as an issue of intellectual property, particularly as regards to trademarks and the idea of "tarnishment."

Ultimately, of course, this claim is baseless (as the article goes on to demonstrate). Fundamentalists don't have a leg to stand on legally, and the tide of public feeling will (I hope!) sweep away any lingering discriminatory laws.

Chanson, I think your observations are right on target. Your point of view is refreshing and helps us get out of the rut of viewing the issue from one angle.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Eric, and thanks for the link -- it looks interesting!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm completely on board with you on this. And I think that heterosexual marriage will be improved by the participation of gay people in the institution. Though for a variety of reasons, I'm not the biggest fan of marriage--I think providing universal health care, still better contraceptives and so forth so that people have even less incentive to get married unless they REALLY want to spend their lives together is pretty important too.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Holly!!!

I agree that improvements in healthcare and contraception will continue to make marriage less of an obligation and more of a choice, and this is a positive change.

Anonymous said...

Trevor said...

Aaaaiiirrrrr baaaaalll !!
Aaaaiiirrrrr baaaaalll !!
Aaaaiiirrrrr baaaaalll !!

Been thinking about this one for a while, and have come to the conclusion that it's probably something prompted by the guy's Tourette syndrome: he's announcing that although he IS a pathetic prick, he's also a freak with three inconsequential,useless and utterly irrelevant air balls that are unattached to anything.

I hope he's begun getting the medical care he needs, for all his problems.

C. L. Hanson said...

Fortunately he hasn't been seen in Outer Blogness for some time, so hopefully you're right about him getting treatment... :^)