Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I've been brooding most of the day about the idea that the problem with same-sex marriage is that it undermines the "ideal" that children should have a mother and a father. First of all, I'm starting to really hate the concept of ideal when it comes to raising children, period. The idea that anybody is either able or willing to approach child rearing from the standpoint of carefully researching what is most close to being perfect and then following it is ridiculous. First of all, most people would have to conclude that neither their or their spouse's genetics should be involved in the process...forget the studies that show that this, that, or the other thing can have a slight downward effect on IQ, to get real results you need to be willing to swap out prospective parents. I'm also fairly sure that any parent genuinely concerned with maximizing their child's safety needs to be willing to do things like give up car travel and move away from high or even moderate air pollution areas. Or on the less serious side, there's baby names. People have no end of opinions about the doom and misery that await a child whose parents give it an unfortunate name...unless that name is the last name. If it's not optional, then suddenly we remember that somehow, we all eventually learn to deal with whatever less-than-ideal hand life deals us, and our children will too.

But getting past the fact that I really, really need to take a break from pregnancy books for a while (and taking for granted that I actually see no reason two same sex parents are less ideal for a child than two opposite sex parents), why, exactly, would you obsess about the non-idealness of a choice that most people aren't even going to consider making? I think this guy (Andrew Cherlin) might have a very good point...raising children in wedlock confers status, and the thing about status is that it needs to be denied to some people in order to retain its worth. At least, looking at it from that perspective makes more sense to me than trying to understand it as some kind of bizarrely selective concern about the welfare of other people's children. Their goal is not to use the law to coerce others into what they consider better lives, I think most people - even those who I wouldn't call particularly rational otherwise - realize that that's unrealistic. We're talking about people who want to be congratulated for the way their personal preferences and good fortune already coincide with "ideal," who are used to being congratulated for it, and who resent whatever minor extent that might be taken away in order to make the world fairer for others.

(Blah blah blah obviously you can't assume that the whole 50% or so of the population that is against gay marriage is against it for the same reason. You can pretty safely assume that there are a wide variety of reasons out there...but this one I hadn't really thought about today, and the more I think about it the more significant I think it is)


  1. I view gay opponents in a similar way as Christian apologists.

    The Christian apologist starts from an assumed conclusion, "there is a god". And they cling to unfounded (and often idiotic) arguments to justify their position, "there is absolute truth, hence God". Of course these arguments aren't the reasons why the apologist believes in God; they often have had some sort of personal experience they attribute to God. Their mother survives cancer, their favorite baseball team wins the world series or they find their car keys after praying really hard. They are basically trying to convince themselves that they are smart logical people. "Ok, so it might seem silly that I believe in God because I found my keys, but if absolute truth exists it must have come from God...sounds logical, how smart am I...knew I was right".

    The gay opponent starts from an assumed conclusion "Gay is bad & those that engage in this abhorrent behavior will burn forever in hell". And they come to this conclusion because it says so in an old book or their pastor tells them. The after the fact justification is something like "well it's not good for the kids" or "gay behavior always leads to drug use & STDs". They convince themselves of the logical validity of their argument and they continue believing they're intelligent moral people.

    People don't oppose gay marriage because they want to be congratulated for coinciding with the ideal by withholding rights from gay couples; they oppose it because their irrational religious beliefs lead them to an assumed conclusion that gay behavior is immoral and it is their duty to stop it. Our goal should be to try to convince these people to think more critically and not deny gay couples rights just because they think prayer solved their car keys issue. And if this doesn't work at least we can bring up a new generation of critical thinkers. Or at least you can :)


  2. I think we're actually arguing very close to the same thing: the assumed conclusion "Gay is bad & those that engage in this abhorrent behavior will burn forever in hell" isn't that different from the assumed conclusion "Being straight makes me better," except in that I think people will fight harder to defend their betterness than to prove someone else's badness.