Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why I voted Yes on Prop 8 - A Post From My Facebook Account

What's written below is what I posted in a note on Facebook, prompted by a number of my friends/acquaintances from Cal expressing bewilderment (that's about as polite a way as I can put it) that rational people could actually support Prop 8.

A debate is currently running merrily along, with a minimum of incivility and a number of interesting digressions that I shan't post here.

Before I write anything else, I'd like to start out this note by laying out a couple of ground rules for whatever response you decide to give me, if any.

First and foremost, please do not use any invective or ad hominum attacks in your responses. We can disagree; but, for goodness sakes, be civil! We’re not barbarians here, after all.

Secondly, I ask you to keep an open mind. If you sincerely believe that people cannot honestly - and with good will - hold an opposing viewpoint, you are either engaging in intellectual dishonesty (on this issue, at least), or demonstrating a lack of sympathy and imagination, or both. I understand why you voted No on Prop 8 and I see where you're coming from. But I disagree with your reasons. I do not believe that your intentions are bad or that you are idiots. Please extend a similar understanding to anyone who voted Yes on Prop 8.

Alrighty, then. On to the meat of this post!

Let me start off my making what may at first sound like a rather shocking assertion: *discrimination is either good or bad,* depending upon the circumstances in which it is employed. Allow me to ground that statement with an example: fruits and vegetables are better for you than fast food. That is discrimination. It is also, most would agree, a good discrimination. To say that something is discriminatory is not sufficient to establish that it is, of necessity, a bad discrimination. A discrimination is simply an act of judgment. In this light, it becomes apparent that we discriminate all the time - we have to, every day: is it better to study tonight or to go dancing? To bike or walk? It should also be apparent that we may discriminate rightly or wrongly.

There is a real biological difference between a man and a woman and there is a complementarity between the body of a man and the body of a woman. This is a fact. Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman typically – or potentially – generates a new human life. That is the purpose, by nature, of sex. This new human life is (ideally, at least) the result of a loving union of a mother and father. A new human life cannot naturally be generated without a man and a woman, sperm and egg. The state supports the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman because of that unique relationship of man to woman to child and believes that relationship to be good for society.

These biological facts constitute the basis of my understanding of marriage. Marriage is not simply two people loving and vowing to be with each other. Marriage is the covenant a man makes with a woman by which complete unity and self-giving is achieved for the purposes of…making babies…and for lifelong friendship and partnership!

Note that here I do not expect you to agree with me that my definition of marriage is what marriage is. But I do expect you to agree that there is this peculiar natural relationship of man-woman-child, because that is incontrovertible – and the definition of marriage resulting from this relationship has always been the understanding of marriage, in Western culture (with the exception of polygamy).

For this reason, making a distinction between marriage and same-sex unions is not necessarily an act of aggression/oppression. It is recognition that same-sex partnerships simply do not share with marriage the same factual biological realities. Incidentally - if by marriage you mean a purely legal bond, then the state has the right to say what constitutes that legal bond is.

Yes, this is an act of discrimination. But it is not a discrimination that devalues the dignity of any human being: I'm not saying that people with a same-sex orientation are any less human than I am. I am, however, saying that same-sex partnerships and marriages are ontologically distinct things and hence should be called by two different names.

To many, this seems like a poor justification: what about the rights of the people? It has been pointed out to me that the proposition specifically says that it “eliminates the right…” I have been familiar with the text of the proposition for some time, and I take issue with the use of the term ‘right.’ There was a certain legal state of things, prior to the passage of Prop 8, that is no longer. But – bear with me – an assertion that rights are being removed does not mean that rights are being removed. Just as an assertion (and a legal definition!) in Nazi-Germany that Jews were untermenschen did not mean that the Jews were not fully human. In other words, I do not think that people in same-sex partnerships had the right to call a “partnership” a “marriage” to begin with, for the above-stated reasons.

But before I can go any further with that train of thought, it would be necessary for me to know what you think rights are and where they come from (I suspect we might have different definitions in this respect).

Finally, I should like to say that my goal here is not to convince you that I'm right and you're wrong. My purpose is to show you my reasons for voting Yes on Prop 8 - reasons which are not driven by a desire to unjustly or wrongly discriminate against people with a same-sex orientation. It is a judgment that the two types of relationships are not the same, and hence should not be called by the same term – especially since the term “marriage” is loaded with a number of connotations and social implications that should not be appropriated simply to accommodate an ideology.

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