Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LGBT 2: Gay is the New Black

I covered a lot of this in my first LGBT post, but there's a couple of things I wanted to add. I see this enormously bad argument made all the time: that opposing gay marriage is equivalent to opposing interracial marriage. And it bugs me. I plan on doing a post (or a series of posts) on gay marriage (and marriage in general---probably marriage in general first), but I just wanted to throw this out here while it's on my mind.

In a certain way, this could probably go in the OBJECTIONS part of the other series, but I want to put it here because I think it's more of a cultural thing than it is a real argument. As I noted, the claim goes something like this: people who oppose gay marriage today are the same type of people who opposed interracial marriage in the past; this implies two things: one, the reason people oppose it now is the same reason they opposed interracial marriage back then: because of deeply ingrained, unjustified prejudices, and two, that it's inevitable that change will happen and people today will be the bigots of yesterday. I've seen these pictures tossed around a few times, for example:

The power of this argument is obvious. Since there is absolutely nothing in the modern world worse than being a racist (which, regardless of what one thinks about race issues, is ridiculous in itself), equating opposition to homosexuality with racism puts the traditionalist on the defensive from the get-go. It's a fallacious claim, of course, but that's the power of these types of arguments: it diverts and trips up the opponent; it makes him prove it wrong because it's superficially plausible. So why is it fallacious? For many it should be obvious, but a short breakdown is probably necessary.

Natural law says that homosexual sex is immoral because it frustrates the natural end of human sexuality. Marriage is merely an extension of this principle. Natural law does not say  that the purpose of sexuality is to just get semen into a vagina. That is just a basic minimum requirement. Instead, natural law argues that reproduction follows necessarily from this minimum requirement, and as such, marriage is a natural consequence of human sexuality. Or, that marriage and family are necessarily required for the flourishing of human beings. Or, that when a human being mates without another human being, he is good insofar as he protects and sustains that child, and he is defective or bad insofar as he doesn't. As homosexuality frustrates the natural end of sex itself, it has nothing metaphysically to do with the natural end of human sexuality: marriage. (This is just a quick overview; please hold back in-depth questions about marriage until a more comprehensive post.)

Now, interracial, heterosexual marriage would not frustrate the natural ends of sexuality and is perfectly in line with the end of human sexuality. Race is more akin to something like eye color. There is no defect in having a particular skin color or particular racial features, as they do not inhibit a human being's flourishing. There are certain disabilities that travel along with certain races (like sickle cell or something), but that's besides the point. Being white has nothing to do with human flourishing, and a white person is not better, in the metaphysical sense, than a non-white. Now, I think we ignore racial differences way too much or pretend that because we are metaphysically equal that we are necessarily physically equal (almost to the point of absurdity), but that's not really the point of this post. All I'm really trying to point out is that a black man having children with a white woman (or whatever), and their coming together to raise and protect the child, in no way violates natural law. Whether races should seek mixing, etc. etc. is a question completely outside the concerns of natural law. 

As such, when a person opposes gay marriage, he is opposing something unnatural and immoral according to natural law, a metaphysical impossibility, a perversion of the basis of human flourishing. When he opposes interracial marriage, he is opposing something that has nothing to do with natural law. Whether or not he is opposing interracial marriage because of personal biases is not really what I want to go into. He may have legitimate cultural complaints. All I'm trying to point out is that his complaints have nothing, strictly speaking, to do with natural law morality. Even if he says, in both cases, that it's "unnatural," he is only right in the first case. Now, this isn't a gay marriage post necessarily; there is a lot that can be said about gay marriage. I'm just trying to point out where the comparison goes wrong. But it's important to point this out, for the reasons that follow.

This whole thing falls well within the LGBT v. The World narrative. As I noted in the LGBT post I think the purpose of this is to legitimize the conflict and take attention away from the actual underlying moral questions.  People hate oppression (especially in the post-Christian West), and if you can equate LGBT with an oppressed group, then you're one step closer to convincing those same people that what LGBT people do is moral. As I noted, this is a complete sleight of hand. 

What really bothers me about the whole thing is how much power is has as an argument. People are so terrified of looking like the oppressive group that they will backpedal as quickly as they can to avoid the controversy. And what's worse is that it's arguments like this that really get people going. It makes the whole thing political, completely separated from the underlying moral and cultural concerns. People will march in the streets over stuff like this, and how can anyone compete with that? When we're at the "civil rights" movement stage, discussion is over. And as everyone knows (because their Kindergarten teacher told them so), anyone who pushes for civil rights is ultimately correct. The whole thing turns a legitimate moral position into "hate." It's a pretty impressive thing really.

In many ways I can't tell how convincing this argument is outside the mobs of protesters. I mean, decent philosophers who support gay marriage have to realize that this comparison is faulty. But at the same time, I don't know. I come across it all the time. And I only rarely hear people say "well, no, one is immoral and the other one wasn't." If they do, the usual retort is, "well, they thought interracial marriage was immoral too!" Then it devolves into a sort of emotivism back and forth until everyone is throwing food.

Now, there is one thing about the argument I can agree with: part two, which I said is "that it's inevitable that change will happen and people today will be the bigots of yesterday." This will happen. People will say this. I don't really have any doubt about it. Now, this will of course be a completely unjustified slander, but that's the way it's going to be.


  1. As a former gay marriage advocate, I'd say that the average gay marriage advocate does not understand the traditional marriage position at all. You see this in the criticisms they make, like the interracial marriage comparison. I think it's because they've already internalized marriage as a purely mental contract. And since 2 men or 2 women can consent to a contract as much as anyone else, denying gay marriage seems like discrimination to them. But they don't want to face the implications of this view when you point out that 3 men and 5 women can also consent to a contract, and thus you must also allow polygamy. Limiting a consent-based contract to 2 people is completely arbitrary because there is nothing about the nature of consent that limits it to 2 people.

    In contrast, the traditional marriage position frames marriage as a comprehensive union of persons. Since persons are creatures of both mind and body, any comprehensive union must allow for union on both levels: mental union (consent) and bodily union (heterosexual sex). There is thus a principled reason for excluding both gay marriage and polygamy, because 2 men or 1 man and 5 women can't experience bodily union in the same way that 1 man and 1 woman can. Critics often bring up the "sterile couples" example, but it's the unitive aspect of sex that matters, not the reproductive aspect--no one has ever claimed that a couple only became married once they conceived a child. This conception of marriage is rooted both in natural law and in the "one flesh" imagery of the Bible.

    I think it will come down to how the issue shakes out in the Supreme Court. Due to the recent high-profile work of Girgis and George on the definition of marriage, and Regnerus' work on the outcomes of children with a gay parent (first large-scale study with random sampling), I think it's a bit more up in the air than it used to be. If the Supreme Court were to come down on the side of traditional marriage, I could conceivably see the tide shifting. But I'd still say the odds are in their favor.

    But I'm okay with that. The abortion cause is shifting in favor of the pro-life movement, and the gay marriage cause is shifting in favor of the pro-gay marriage crowd. That's a trade I'm happy to make.

    As a convert to Catholicism, I've come to terms with the fact that most Americans will always find my views weird (contraception, premarital sex, etc.). I'm okay with that. Gay marriage will just be one more thing.

    1. Thanks, John, I agree with a lot of what you say here. I'd like to add, and definitely not take away from your point, that I don't necessarily see the things as separate battles. Surely you can have homosexual marriage without abortion, of course, but I think in a certain way it's better to look at the whole thing holistically. It's almost a zeitgeist (I'm not completely sure if this is the right word) sort of thing.

      In other words, I think the underlying problem is sexual perversion. I think the consequences of that problem are abortion and gay marriage (and unrestrained sexual activity, of course). And while I would certainly be thrilled if the country really Were going in a pro-life direction, I'm pretty skeptical of it so long as the underlying perversion is there. That is, while statistics and stuff about abortion can probably be helpful, I don't think they are really telling about what the spirit of the country (or world) really is. The question is, when push comes to shove, are we the kind of people who kill our children and have sex when, where, and how we want to? If yes, then that's really what we are. I think the political and economic circumstances can change the situation, sure, but I don't think the underlying issue is really being resolved.

      THAT SAID, I would absolutely take a change, and I am thankful even when I just see situational and not categorical changes. I know it's not an all-or-nothing thing, and in many ways abortion is a much more terrifying evil to me than gay marriage. I just think, when you have something like gay marriage gaining so much momentum, it says "we're not Really concerned with the essence of things," and that, I think, is the real problem.

    2. Very good argument John! I never looked at it from that point of view.

    3. @ Anonymous

      You should read "What is Marriage?" by Sherif Girgis and Robert George. I stole it all from them lol. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

      @ Joe K

      Let me pick your brain on another issue, Joe. What do you think are some practical steps that the traditional sexual morality movement could take that would help its success with young people? I feel like purely intellectual persuasion is insufficient.

      These days, they say that 95% of people have premarital sex. But if you go back to the data from the late 1800s and early 1900s, the overwhelming majority of people waited until marriage to have sex (of course some of them could have been lying, but it's all the data we have). And sex drives haven't gotten stronger in the past 100 years. What has changed is opportunity (cars allowed teenagers lots of time alone, etc.), cultural stigmas (premarital sex isn't as stigmatized as it used to be), practical consequences (invention of The Pill, etc.), people getting married later, etc. In short, culture has changed, not our sex drives.

      Personally, I'm increasingly a fan of strict college dorm arrangements (a la Thomas Aquinas College, with separate gender dorms and no visiting hours--I like this not only because of the sex thing but also because I think single-gender bonding/camaraderie is important), going to a school with like-minded people (this generally means either a devout Christian school or homeschooling), etc. Basically, minimizing temptation and positive social reinforcement. At the average high school or college, you can live these ideals, but it's a lot harder because of peer pressure, lots of sexual opportunity, marginalization of your views, etc.

      You should think about going to the Love and Fidelity Conference at Princeton this fall. There is also an event this spring I think, although it's smaller (the fall event had several hundred people). I went this past fall and it was really cool--they've expanded beyond abstinence into pro-traditional marriage, importance of fatherhood, etc. They had great speakers.


    4. I think the constant immersion in a sexual culture and the ready access to porn may have changed (increased) the sex drive. We have no idea what the messages and images may be doing to brain chemistry. I don't think it is any accident that pedophilia seems much increased since internet porn has made it's images so accessible.

    5. John,

      I think intellectual persuasion goes a much longer way than people let on, but I agree that it isn't everything. For me it had a big influence on my desire to begin changing, and I think it's a sort of necessary first step. A person needs, I think, at least a rational basis for doing or not doing something. Especially when it's enormously difficult.

      But as for practical steps. I plan on writing a post (or a series of posts) on how I kicked the pornography and masturbation habit. I imagine it might be helpful to a few people, but it's difficult to pin down exactly what it is I did. I have some ideas going, and that post (or the first part of it) should be up relatively soon.

      Quickly to your points, though, I am a big believer in keeping the sexes separate. Especially in academic environments. I think separation makes the coming together that much more special. But it's important that the separation isn't the Reason the kids aren't having sex with one another. That is, once they're of reasonable age, the reason they shouldn't be having sex with one another is because They think it's wrong. This takes a lot of guidance and teaching. Further, if there's really nothing philosophical holding the gates back, if you will, they're gonna find a way. And then they're just gonna be resentful about it and make stupid memes about how their parents are stupid and oppressive.

      The other thing I think young people should do is Get Married. No one gets married anymore. And I think this is because they can get sex and porn outside the marriage. (That and the fact that females have completely changed.) But because people don't get married, they're always in the situation where they feel tempted. If we had a society where people were made to marry, instead of made to "find themselves," people would be a lot better off.

      Sex is good, and people should be having a lot of it. They should just be having a lot of it in the proper context. When you minimize the importance of that proper context, sex starts feeling Bad, like this thing you should Avoid, etc. etc. This isn't what anyone wants.

    6. A better question, I think, is what to do with the Gay kids. That is, when I was in high school, the lockerroom was a great place to be. By the time I was done with Freshman year, I had a perfect mental collection of most of the guys from school Naked. Like being a straight guy in the girls lockerroom. In fact, I would have Preferred if women weren't in the school. They always got in the way of hanging out anyway!

      But you can't like separate the gay kid out, and you can't put him with the Girls. For about a million reasons. This is a strange thing about being gay. You feel like only halfway male sometimes. And a gay guy Isn't a girl. And I think that sort of male-male bonding, as you noted, IS good for human males. I just have no idea what you'd do. I was tempted all the time, and I was in a completely healthy situation. How couldn't I be? The guys I lusted after every day were completely naked right in front of me, making sex jokes.

    7. @ Anonymous

      When I say "sex drives haven't changed", I mean that our inherent/genetic sex drives haven't changed. I would put pornography in the same category that I would women wearing more revealing clothes, sex being generally more available, etc. They're all changes in the environment that simply stimulate the sex drive.

      A lot of people say that waiting until marriage is "unrealistic" because our sex drives are just inherently too strong. It's more a matter of being intellectually convinced, being insulated from temptation, and marrying in your early/mid 20s than it is constantly fighting an inherently overwhelmingly powerful sex drive.

    8. @ Joe K

      I agree with you on the importance of being intellectually on board. Someone who genuinely thinks that premarital sex is awesome is going to find a way to have sex. The importance of education/catechesis is actually an area that I've devoted a lot of thought to.

      What I meant to say is that being intellectually on board is not enough for most people, since there's a big difference between knowing something is wrong and actually not doing it (as I've learned with pornography). A lot of people, if put in a situation where their views are a small minority and where there is lots of sexual temptation, will have premarital sex and will eventually rationalize their new behavior by changing their views.

      One thing that I've learned in the past year and a half (when I started the reading that led to my conversion) is that it's very difficult to separate what you want to be true from what you genuinely think to be true, even if you're making a genuine effort. So I think it helps to be in an environment where your wants/incentives are aligned with your thoughts.

  2. The question I most hate to get thrown at me is the one that goes "How does gay marriage hurt your heterosexual marriage?" I know that it does, but I've never been able to formulate a concise answer.

    Also, I always know I am dealing with a person who 'feels' oppressed when they choose to single out one characteristic to define themselves that overrides every other they possess, e.g., black, female, gay, etc. They make themselves into caricatures.

    1. Start with this paper; http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155 (chapter: How Would Gay Civil Marriage  
      Affect  You or Your Marriage?)

    2. Thanks, but I'm familiar with the article. I'm looking for a distillation of the arguments into something pretty direct and pithy and easy to use in a combox. If you've come up with one I'd love to hear it.

      I also think the argument that marriage is an organic physical union that is valid and worthy of a unique protected status even without the necessity or possibility of procreation is very much lost on a utilitarian, consequentialist society. Marriage, absent procreation and the raising of children is simply seen to justify other kinds of sexual couplings that provide for similar emotional unity.

    3. I think, perhaps, you're accepting the premise they're giving you without first evaluating whether that premise is any good. That is, gay marriage doesn't necessarily have to "hurt" heterosexual marriage for it to be bad. Whether it does hurt it or not, it's not the defining characteristic as to whether something is good or bad. (I also have no idea what could possibly count as "hurting" marriage that would fulfill their standard.) If they're starting with some quasi-utilitarianism and you're not, I'm pretty sure you're going to have difficulty meeting in the middle. I'm not sure that gap can ever be filled.

    4. I don't accept it, just trying to come up with a good argument. And the part of the question that focuses on MY marriage also comes from the relativist mantra that we can't interfere in what others do and what others do shouldn't matter to us. There is no acknowlegement of societal obligation or harm, only individual rights. It's hard to penetrate that mindset even though it is silly and false on it's face.

    5. @ Anonymous

      I would read "What is Marriage?" by Sherif Girgis and Robert George. Here's the link: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

      Their 3 main arguments against that particular objection are this:

      1. Gay marriage changes how everyone views marriage, and the ripple effects of that change in culture affects everyone.

      2. Gay marriage is an objectively false conception of marriage, and enshrining objective falsehoods can never have good effects.

      3. Gay marriage will eventually lead to big infringements on religious freedom, as organizations that view it negatively will be increasingly targeted by anti-discrimination laws.

      In regards to the first point, it's important to realize that this kind of issue has a precedent: the proliferation of no-fault divorce laws in the early 1970s. Back then, people also asked "How will someone else's divorce affect you?" And indeed 1 divorce would affect your life very little. But the subsequent doubling of divorce rates had massive ripple effects on society.

  3. Joe,
    Off topic, but have you considered putting up a 'recent comments' box on your sidebar? It would make following the conversation in the comments easier.

    1. I haven't! I didn't know I could do that. Let me see.

    2. Is this something that Blogger has by default? If you know how to do this, let me know. I couldn't find it.

    3. There is gadget for it (recent comments or something). I can't remember exactly how, but something like; "Design", "Add gadget", then you find it somewhere :)

      + You can add some "recent comments" application which is not part of blogger, somet outside code with more options, but I have never used it so I can't help, google it...

    4. Yeah, I found where to add it; it keeps error-ing. Working on it. Thanks!

    5. This is the best I could do; I'll keep looking for something a little more classy looking that's easier to navigate.

    6. I see them. Thanks!

  4. What are we to make of a nation as stereotypically post-modern as France producing a million-person strong public rally against gay marriage?

  5. Frankly, I found that stunning. Not to mention some of the people marching - I saw some gay atheists arguing that gay marriage made no sense as an institution, because the purpose of marriage was centered on mothers and fathers having children.

    Really, the whole thing caught me offguard. I'm surprised it wasn't talked about more.

    1. That was meant to be in reply to the France march comment of course.

    2. Here is some friendly analysis of the England and Wales SS Marriage Bill:

      "The act of consummation is deemed not applicable as a voidable ground (whereby you essentially argue that a marriage never really existed as you didn’t consummate it with a sexual act) for same-sex marriage but remains in place for different-sex couples. Civil Servants it seemed just couldn’t figure out how to define the sexual act for same-sex couples."

      Wonder why.


  6. Hi Joe,

    I thought you might enjoy this document that Wyoming Catholic College put out on their approach to education, which includes a lot of thoughts about how morality can be best taught. It's actually really good. I have the document's appendix too, which isn't posted on their website (I emailed the professor to get it), and I would have e-mailed it to you but your e-mail isn't listed.