Part 1: Small Victories
The initial reaction to President Obama’s recent support of gay marriage was like a wave of awe passing over the viewers. No one expected any politician, let alone the president, to give such clear endorsement on a hot-button issue like gay marriage.
After the emotional response died down, I can imagine what people in both parties were thinking: on the left, it was “why so late?” and on the right “why so early?” By that I mean, liberals and LGBT activists likely wished Obama had made the announcement much sooner; for example, on the eve of the voting day in New York when gay marriage was in consideration would have been a good time for him to give his public support. On the right however, I’m sure a lot of conservatives thought this was happening too early; everyone from the GOP candidates to the pundits on Fox news have been telling us that Obama’s “assault on traditional values” or whatever they chooose to call it, would come at the start of his second term, right around the same time he would be waging war on Catholicism (according to Newt Gingrich).
Instead of quibbling about the timing of his and Joe Biden’s announcements concerning gay marriage, I’d like to instead pose a different question: was their support too much or too little?
My argument would be that their support was too little. When the president and vice president spoke to the press on national television, I am sure a lot of LGBT activists looked at this as a huge win, and indeed it was. For the past few years, the biggest name in politics to openly be okay with gay marriage was Ron Paul. For much of his first term, Barack Obama’s attitude has suggested to the public he’s okay with it too, but when he finally said it, many liberals could breath a sigh of relief, knowing they no longer had to put words in his mouth. Here’s the catch though: once the wave of positive emotions passes, it seems to me the gay rights movement is not much better off than it was before.
Nothing in President Obama’s address seems to suggest he’s going to make gay marriage a federal issue. Instead, he’s going to let individual states vote for or against it. This presents a big problem. By letting this go up for a vote, it essentially becomes a case of letting the majority decide the fates of the minority, and in this case, the minority is pretty small. One of the most interesting viewpoints I’ve listened to on the issue was that of a spokesperson for the NAACP, who argued that if the majority were allowed to vote on the lives of the minority, then in many parts of the South, Jim Crowe Laws could still be in effect. Another NAACP member, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, also added an important facet to the argument:
“Our message is consistent: A vote on the same sex marriage amendment has nothing to do with your personal and religious opinion on same sex marriage but everything to do with whether or not you believe discrimination should be codified and legalized constitutionally. We should never seek to codify or vote discrimination into the very heart and framework of our Constitution.”
If gay marriage were voted on in every state today, I would bet it would likely fail in most. A lot of people would vote against it for no reason other than homophobia or a zealous attachment to traditional values including prejudice and discrimination. Oppositely, many of the people who see no real problem with same-sex marriages don’t vote (young people).
I’m about to use a word I dislike using: freedom. I hate using it because it’s became the most rhetorically loaded word in the English language. Yet I think it’s quite clear that by outlawing gay marriage, it’d be a case of denying people the freedom to choose how they wish to live their lives. The problem is, people inevitably equate freedom with voting, and whenever the federal government does anything at all, millions cry out our freedom is being infringed upon. I hope by now you can see the paradox at work here. If gay marriage is decided by a vote in individual states, it will likely fail; for it to be universal in America, it would have to be a federal issue. The paradox is this: you would have to be told to be free.
If you haven’t already seen these, here’s the videos of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden supporting gay marriage.
Part 2: Why I Support Gay Marriage
To avoid any claims of exercising a personal bias here, I would like to point out that I am not personally a homosexual. I am, however, deeply interested in philosophy, and, philosophically speaking, I can find no actual cause to oppose gay marriage, and can think of many reasons to support it.
Let me propose a question: empirically, why would homosexuality be considered wrong? Notice I prefaced the question with the word “empirically.” If that’s not a word you’re familiar with, here’s the definition:
empirical |emˈpirikəl|adjective based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience
What I’m speaking of here is that which can be verified, that which has physical proof in the world we all live in–i.e. don’t go reaching for your Bible.
Empirically then, why would homosexuality be wrong? People say it’s wrong because the Bible says so, but that’s not based on scientific fact; the law, however, is. If we are going to ban gay marriage because it says it’s wrong in the Bible, then we should also legally ban leaving the house on Sundays and eating meat and drinking milk in the same meal.
I have seen many news pundits including Bill O’Reilly saying that allowing gay marriage would create a problem because it would then open up the doors for people marrying “turtles” or having five wives. Again, this isn’t empirical evidence against gay marriage–it’s a theory, and it’s rather specious reasoning at that.
A joke: if Bill O’Reilly says that gay marriage would lead to marrying turtles, maybe we should rally for man-animal marriages in hopes it leads to gays being allowed to marry.
So, to reiterate, I can’t think of one good empirical reason as to why man and man, or woman and woman, can’t be wed. If someone wanted to make an argument against gay people adopting children, I could at least see there would be some empirical reason for opposing that, since it could be argued that a child would need both a male and female presence in their home (although even that argument can be up for debate).
Others have argued that gay marriage shouldn’t be legal because it would devalue the concept of marriage for the rest of us. Again, that’s purely semantics. How, in reality, would your existing marriage be jeopardized by a stranger marrying someone of the same sex? You will still have your wife/husband. Nothing will change in your own home, and that should be what really matters.
–Okay that’s it for this week’s installment of Strong Opinions Held Weekly. I now return you to your regular programming.
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If you have an opinion, either for or against, feel free to share it in the comments box below but be forewarned that I’ll delete anything that contains swearing or threats. I always welcome logical arguments.