Friday, June 13, 2008

"Deep" Thought #16: Marriage Defenders Undermine Our Government By Accusing Others of Undermining Our Government

Our anti-gay friend "Chairm," has a new series on the "harm" to society that will supposedly result from allowing same-sex couples to marry. It should be noted that his "series" is really a choppy compilation of unsatisfactory arguments from previous articles that Chairm faithfully recycles and repeats in typical broken-record manner. In all fairness, maybe someone who didn't agree with Chairm when he originally made the exact same arguments will agree with him now that it's all packaged a little differently exactly the same. But, as so many marriage defenders do little else besides gnash their teeth at the depravity of butt sex and repeat circular arguments as to what marriage is and isn't, I at least have to give the fellow props for trying to do more.

Yet, even a cursory examination of Chairm's analysis demonstrates a highly confused argument. I am analyzing it today because, in light of the recent California decision declaring discriminatory marriage laws to be unconstitutional, it is an argument that many so-called marriage defenders have re-ignited.

Essentially, his claim is this:

The "harm" of same-sex marriage "campaign" on society is that it is "an attack on principles of good governance" that's "undermining our form of government." Specifically, tyrannical judges in certain states have overturned the will of the people by declaring laws against same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Ruling by the will of the people is good governance. Because these judges overturned the will of the people by legalizing same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage leads to bad governance. And therefore, same-sex marriage harms society.

As we can see, his case isn't even an argument that it's same-sex marriage that is harming society but, rather, that it's the "campaign" and the "imposition of same-sex marriage" that is harming society. Such an argument, as I will show, is like saying that American democracy is "undermining our form of government."


1. American Government 101

To begin, it's funny, you know. People love love lurv their democracy until the process leads to some sort of outcome they do not agree with. Then you can pretty much guarantee that they'll be the first to yell that the outcome is the result of tyrannical procedures that are antithetical to "democracy."

Yawn, snooze, and snore.

But here we go. Let's all take a trip down American Democracy Lane 101. Although, I have an inkling that those who could benefit from such a trip won't humor us enough to even consider taking a ride. See, Chairm's main gripe is not just with same-sex marriage. It's with the fact that our democratic system allows judges to declare laws unconstitutional, even if the majority of people are in favor of these laws. (I write more about this activist judge phenomenon here). Yet, oddly, perhaps because Chairm disagrees with same-sex marriage, he blames the same-sex marriage "campaign" for this basic facet of our democratic system.

Yet, our "form of government" consists of three branches each having separate powers. Separating the powers of government in such a manner prevents one branch of government from becoming too powerful. Furthermore, while each branch has its own role, it is the role of the judiciary to say whether a particular law is unconstitutional. After all, it would not exactly comprise a "check" if the same branch of government that wrote laws was also responsible for declaring these laws unconstitutional. Thus, a court declaring a law unconstitutional is no more a threat to "our form of government" than is the president vetoing a law or the legislature writing one. So get a grip, Chicken Little.

Let's take a deep breath and hope that Chairm realizes that his beef is more with "our form of government" than it is with the alleged devious tactics of the "SSM campaign," tactics which really amount to nothing more than law-abiding citizens exercising their lawful rights as Americans. In fact, even a cursory search on the Google reveals this Gay Marriage Agenda put out by some of the major gay rights groups. Not that there is any single authoritative Gay Agenda, but this mainstream one looks pretty benign and law-abiding to me. Not surprisingly, it contradicts Chairm's characterization of the "gay community" as one out to undermine democracy and liberty. I doubt most marriage defenders have even seen it. Not that such a minor detail ever stops them from declaring what the Gay Agenda is.

At this point I believe we Americans have something we say to other Americans who complain about America. I believe it goes something along the lines of "love it or leave it, buck-a-roo." Ah, but dissent and disagreement are good for democracy. They test whether we truly value tolerance, equality, and fairness as much as we say we do. So, what I'd really suggest to Chairm and his cohorts is that if your anti-gay goggles blind you from understanding these basic fundamentals of American government, take them off for a few minutes and digest reading material from a more objective standpoint. It's difficult, I know, since your anti-gay goggles are more like Lasik surgery gone horribly awry.

In fact, let's substitute a court's imposition of same-sex marriage with its imposition of any other policy that the majority of "the people" disagree with and we'd end up with the same complaint. Why Chairm paints the utilization of courts as some sort of un-democratic failing unique to an "SSM campaign" that will arrogantly stop at nothing to get its way is indicative of either Chairm's ignorance or a conscious effort to vilify this community.

For fun, let's also stroll down analogy-that-homobigots-love-to-hate lane and look at Brown v. Board for a moment. There, the Supreme Court declared state school segregation laws to be unconstitutional, even though the nation was deeply divided over the issue and even though "the people" through their legislators passed these laws. Under Chairm's reasoning, the Supreme Court's imposition of desegregation caused harm to society by declaring a law unconstitutional even though "the people" favored it. Some members of the Court itself were, in fact, troubled by the non-representative aspect of ruling against "the people" but ultimately they unanimously ruled that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. As public opinion was turning on the segregation issue, the justices, as law professor Michael Klarman writes, "understood that they were working for, not against, the current of history." Importantly, and what will help validate future pro-marriage equality rulings, a similar trend in public opinion is occurring with respect to same-sex marriage.

As another interesting parallel to the same-sex marriage issue, the Brown v. Board decision created a severe backlash to integration whereby certain politicians advanced their careers by eagerly touting their segregationist "cred" to racists and where segregationists strongly denounced the "activist" Brown justices. One Senator from Mississippi, for instance, called the decision "illegal, immoral, dishonest, and a disgrace" while another called it "a monumental fraud which is shocking, outrageous and reprehensible." In one of the greatest statements undermining "our form of government," a Governor said "no true Southerner feels morally obliged to recognize the legality of this act of tyranny."

Does any of that sound at all familiar?


2. So, What's the Actual Harm?

Yet, most importantly, in his article Chairm never articulates the actual harm to society that same-sex marriage supposedly causes. All he tells us is that the "SSM campaign's" utilization of the courts, which of course is completely legal to do, and the court's subsequent ruling in favor of same-sex marriage means that "harm" is occurring since most people disagree with same-sex marriage. In other words, the judicial imposition of same-sex marriage harms society because most people disagree with it. The question begged, of course, is well, why do the people disagree with it in the first place? Are "the people" like rebellious kids who merely disagree with same-sex marriage because courts dare to impose it on them? What I think we all want to hear is a calm, logical prediction of the harm that same-sex marriage will supposedly cause in and of itself.


Ah, but perhaps all of this will go over Chairm's head. Rather than focusing on my response to his very weak arguments, he and his cohorts will paint this reasoned critique as some sort of Hateful Diatribe (tm)- I mean, let's be honest, by definition that's what any critque of an Opine argument is, right? It's easier, after all, for Chairm and company to paint genuine criticism as [insert pro-gay opponent] being mean to us again as though that erases the serious shortcomings of their arguments.

In which case, it's their loss if they ever hope to be taken seriously. For, what's also interesting to observe is the penchant this hate-blog has for calling other people mean and "hateful" in the midst of them vilifying gay people by calling them perverted, absurd, disgusting, selfish, arrogant, and non-existent among other unkind names. Now, I'm not opposed to people babbling their own ignorant tongues within the confines of their own cocoons. But when people vilify the community that I am a part of, they can expect to get called out on it.

On the other hand, we could give credit where it may not be due and assume that these marriage defenders write what they do out of ignorance. It's a plausible explanation, as virtually anyone can start a blog about anything, regardless of education, credentials, or qualifications, and discuss any subject of his or her choosing. This isn't an elitist notion. It's just human nature for people to regularly overestimate their competence and intelligence. Sort of like how everyone thinks that they are a good driver, it's everyone else who's bad. Free speech is wonderful, but humorously, it also makes the internets resemble a big old kiddie pool full of poop. I mean, if I had a dollar for every average Joe Schmoe whose status as such "qualifies" him to be a "moral values guru," "marriage nut," or "kin anthropology expert" I could probably pay off Sallie Mae and swim in a vault of Gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

So, what should be noted about those who argue that the Gay Agenda is "undermining our form of government" is that most of these people haven't even shown that they understand our form of government enough to be able to tell who is and who isn't undermining it. In fact, you will usually find that it's those who are out ignorantly shouting that other people are tyrannical who are the ones who are actually in favor of tyranny. For a recent funny example, let's take a moment to remember anti-gay "upholder"-of-democracy Jose, a teacher nonetheless, who believes that it's "a problem" that those who hold religious beliefs contrary to his own "are allowed to vote." It makes me laugh to then observe this same man foam at the mouth about how democracy isn't working when democratic processes are, actually, working.

It's ignorant (at best) and tyrannical (at worst) "marriage defenders" like these who leave me convinced that the only salvation for our nation lies in an independent judiciary. It has been argued, and I believe rightly so considering the degree of anti-gay animus that exists, that it is unrealistic when facing a regime of entrenched inequality to wait to change the minds of resistors before attempting social change. This ability to correct inequality, rather than being somehow un-democratic, signifies the very best of what American democracy is and has been. So stick that in your "800-pound gorilla," Chairm.

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Yeah, marriage defenders who don't understand our form of government are totally "right" about how the "SSM campaign" is undermining our government. "Deep" thoughts.

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