Well, that last one generated some confusion, and not where I thought it would 🙂 This will mean two of the last three letters were written for clarification. Not a good sign for my position, perhaps; but y’all know me pretty well. Regardless of the topic, it’s more likely that the trouble lies with me. I’ll try harder.
To review: I offered some advice on why you ought not to think of yourselves or others as special types of human beings in terms of something called ‘sexuality.’ I said that this new vision of humanity was artificial, unhelpful and dehumanizing. So far so good. I then claimed that such a view of humanity was required by any legal redefinition of the marriage institution, which was made on the basis of a civil rights argument. I thought this would be a misstep- one which we would one day wish to undo. This is where it got a bit trippy.
Now, I didn’t make explicit the link between a civil rights argument and the classification of human beings according to ‘sexuality’ because I thought it was obvious: civil rights arguments claim that one identifiable group is being treated inequitably (for the purposes under consideration) in comparision to another group. For discrimination to happen, then 1) homosexuals/heterosexuals must be considered distinct types/groups of humanity and 2) they must be treated differently for the purposes under consideration. The last letter was meant to poke around the edges of that first requirement. I want to offer some clarification on that, and then talk a bit about the second requirement.
So back to requirement one- let me see if this helps: many years ago, race played a defining part in how we viewed each other. One of the most important things you could know about a person (perhaps THE most important thing you could know) was whether he or she was white or not. Race- especially in terms of ‘whiteness’- was treated as hugely significant. It, supposedly, told you something about the person- something you needed to know. Some people still think it does.
Thankfully, most people now think that that is a horrible way to look at human beings. Being black or white necessarily tells you something about skin color, but that’s about it; and-like being a plumber or a member of the Radio Control Community- that ain’t much.
But years ago the significance of that identification seemed obvious and unquestioned. In some areas of the country, this was handled with ‘mathematical precision.’ People were either white or black; then there were people who were half white and half black. Those people were identified as Mulattoes. In addition there were Quadroons and Octoroons and Quintroons, etc, etc. This crazy way of thinking about people made it into the legal code.
Those labels are hateful. It’s amazing that they can be found in official legislation. It’s something to be ashamed of; and usually we are.
Whether rooted in reality or not, people were identified by these labels, and I understand that justice requires that we deal with reality- even an ugly reality (perhaps especially an ugly reality), and pass legislation that forbids discrimination against ‘those commonly known as Mulattoes’; but it would be a much better world in which that word had little meaning.
That is my point about homosexuals and heterosexuals and bi-sexuals and…etc. Perhaps we need to pass legislation against discrimination on the basis of ‘sexuality,’ but it would be a much better world in which there were only men and women.
Those whom society wants to label homosexual etc. ought not to be discriminated against on the basis of that identification. Agreed.
Have I given up the debate, then? No; not at all. In fact I think a simple observation makes it clear that no discrimination is going on: When were gays ever denied the right to marry? Think about it. Those ‘commonly referred to as Homosexuals, etc’ have never been forbidden from marrying. In fact in the past many- if not most- of those we now identify as gay, did marry. They conceived children and then raised them in a loving home. Until our present confusion, no one ever dreamed of making it illegal for ‘gays’ to marry… or suggesting that they ought not. Of course ‘marriage’ meant by definition the lifelong sexual union of a man and woman. That relationship was open to all people- ‘gay or straight.’
This exposes a significant difference in the civil rights issues that revolve around race and the current debate about Same Sex Marriage. The comparison is often made between old laws that made interracial marriage a crime and our current ‘refusal’ to allow gays to marry someone of the same gender. The argument is that since we all agree that the old situation was unjust, we ought to agree that the new one is too. Because we desire to be fair, it has a powerful emotional appeal.
But I want you to notice the difference in the two cases: in many parts of our country, it was once illegal for ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ to marry. No one questioned whether they could get married. No one questioned whether it happened. Some people simply believed that it ought not to, and so it was outlawed.
The current debate is not over the permission to marry; rather it is over the ability of two people of the same gender to marry. Thus there has never been legislation against it. There was no need. It would be like passing a law that forbad a man from mothering a child. If we now pass a law that allows such a thing, then we can do so only by changing what we once meant by ‘man, mother or child.’ And all of this redefining and replacing would be done on the assumption that Gay and Straight have radical significance.
That issue of sexuality aside, the inability to show when ‘gay people’ were ever forbidden to marry demonstrates that the proposed ‘recognition’ of ‘Same Sex Marriage’ is not an issue of discrimination. It is not the extension of some supposed ‘heterosexual rights’ to homosexual people; rather it is the remaking of all marriages according to the standards of something new. ‘Gay’ people don’t get what ‘straight’ people have; rather in the eyes of the law, all men and women will be entitled to only those rights that a same sex couple are capable of enjoying. Anything more would be discriminatory. Marriage- all marriage- is thus reshaped in the image of Same Sex Marriage.
That has huge ramifications. We’ll talk more about that later.
Love you as always,
Letter I– The Discussion
Letter II– Equality
Letter III– Institutions
Letter IV– Human Stuff
Letter V– Children, Love and Sexual Restraint
Letter VI– What I Meant to Say
Letter VII– A Commercial For the Opposition; Sorta
Letter VIII– Why I’m Not Straight and I Hope You Aren’t Either