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I find this an incredibly naïve presentation of the issue. The objections to gay marriage (or perhaps more accurately in the case of the government proposal, ‘gender neutral marriage’ for everyone) tend to arise from three concerns: 1. public meaning; 2. the common good and the goods of particular parties vested in marriage; 3. divine command. The first concern is one of truth. ‘Marriage’ names a difference, something unique about the lifelong commitment between a man and a woman consummated in coitus, a rule to which same sex unions are exceptions, exceptions that must be treated in a sui generis fashion. This definition of marriage maintains it as an expression of the unique social significance of unions that bring together the two sexes in lifelong bonds of love, cooperation, and mutual dependence. It maintains the importance of marriage as something that relates to some of the deepest pre-political and aneconomic roots of our human nature – sexual difference, procreation, the bonds between biological parents and their offspring, the bonds of blood, etc. – things that cannot merely be positioned by a simplistic public-private dichotomy, as the private sexual union between a man and a woman has the intrinsic capacity to render itself public through procreation. To tolerate same sex marriage as equal would be to tolerate the reorganization of society around the lie that the exception can deny, negate, or claim the same status as the rule. The second concern is one of justice. Although our society increasingly thinks of marriage in subjective terms, in terms of the rights of individual lifestyle consumers, as an institution marriage exists to serve far greater ends than those of the couple. This is why marriage comes with social norms such as lifelong fidelity and sexual exclusivity, and with the presumption of openness to child-bearing and rearing. Marriage represents one of the few common goods that hasn’t yet been completely sacrificed to the maw of liberal capitalist individualism. Marriage upholds the normativity of the interdependence or ‘marriage’ of the sexes in society more generally. It maintains the normativity of the binding together of biological (genetic and gestational), social, and legal parenthood, and discourages deviations from this norm. It maintains the rights of children to non-complex origins, a lineage, and a parent of both sexes. It maintains the norm and ideal of the child whose origins are not mediated by law, politics, medical technology, or economics. The sexual union of pledged bodies between the male and the female in marriage is the spring from which a new society will arise, and the couple represent society in nuce (male and female in cooperation) to their offspring. To tolerate same sex marriage would be to jeopardize the goods of society more generally, and of children in particular for the sake of particular individuals. It would be to increase the power of the liberal state and the capitalist order by denying the significance of certain horizons of our being and allowing the economic and legal order to mediate them even more. The third concern is one of religious duty and morality. To justify a departure from the God-given definition of marriage as framed by sexual difference, and naturally ordered towards procreation would be to reject the authority of divine truth and command. The notion that those opposing same sex marriage would be prepared to trade on the matter is unwittingly strong testimony to the fact that this really is a ‘dialogue of the deaf’, as you put it in your post. The notion that same sex marriage resistance rests primarily upon some sense of irrational and instinctive ‘discomfort’ with the notion, the sort of discomfort that might be palliated by financial compensation, detached from concerns of truth, justice, morality, and duty, is one that most of us who oppose same sex marriage would find highly objectionable. In fact, many of us would rather not have to oppose same sex marriage at all. The position doesn’t win us many friends, and we are constantly attacked as homophobic bigots by persons who consistently avoid engaging with the issues that we raise. We oppose it because we feel compelled to on the grounds of integrity, moral and religious duty, or on the basis of our responsibility to uphold the common good and the rights of the most vulnerable in our society. These are the sorts of things that cannot be bought off. I don’t have the right to sell the rights of children or the common good of society for private gain, nor could I sacrifice my integrity by pretending that a lie established as public meaning is really the truth. As for religious duty, what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
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Mar 18, 2012