Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Monday, June 30, 2008

Fighting the Establishment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..."

What does this mean? Fundamentally, it means that Congress (and, by the Incorporation Doctrine, state and local governments) can't give preferential treatment to the ideas of one religion over another, without a clear secular purpose. This was in direct response by the founders to the naming of the Church of England as the official religion of England and its colonies.

What clearer violation of this principle could there be than laws preventing gay marriage?

Think of it this way. Certain religions consider gay sex (and by extension gay marriage) to be a sin. Other religions do not, and in fact would be performing gay marriages today if they could. (And they do in Massachusetts and California.) Even though it may be the majority opinion that gay marriage is "wrong", that does not eliminate the protection of the First Amendment rights of those whose religious beliefs include sanctifying gay marriage.

And it is not just the establishment clause. The First Amendment also prevents our government from prohibiting free exercise of religion. When ministers are arrested for performing a religious ceremony (gay marriage), there is no doubt that this right has been infringed.

So, is there a secular purpose to banning gay marriage that can be used to overcome this objection?

What about the argument that limiting marriage to a man and a woman is best for children? That is a completely bogus argument. This is about marriage not about child rearing. If this were true, then gay marriage opponents should be working to ban gay adoption and gay artificial insemination. Indeed, many of the same people who are so worried about the children in this instance would not dream of imposing government will on parents to protect them in other instances where the science is more clear -- banning parents from smoking and drinking, banning parents from serving soft drinks to their kids, etc.

But the more fundamental reason that argument is flawed is that it is not equally applied. Many people marry and never have children or ever intend to (including me). Think of the elderly people that remarry long after child-bearing years. That's clearly not in the interest of the children they will never have, but we allow it anyway. But by the anti-gay marriage argument, all of our marriages should have been prevented because they will not result in children, the only valid reason for marriage.

Another argument that is often offered is to protect the word, the sanctity, or the tradition of marriage. Well, these arguments come perilously close to being explicitly religious in nature, which goes against our quest for a secular rationale. For what other word are we willing to sacrifice the rights of an entire class of citizens?

Plus, if you honestly check other cultures and traditions past and present, in this country and elsewhere in the world, you will find many other interpretations of the traditions around marriage, many of which are contrary to the beliefs of the majority here today. For example, in the Native American tradition, gays were accepted, even revered, and would often marry members of their own gender.

What about the concern that gay marriage is a threat to straight marriage? In what way? Nobody would be forced to marry anybody they don't want to, no church would be forced to perform gay marriages, and no existing marriages would be affected in any conceivable way. This argument loses me completely.

It is claimed that gays are trying to force their agenda on everyone else. But who is forcing anything on anybody? It seems to me that the people who are being prevented from marrying are the only ones being imposed upon.

Colorado is one of the states in which gays are explicitly prevented form marrying. It's now in the state constitution. It really makes me wonder how so many people can fail to understand something so clear as the First Amendment.

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Blogger Skepticon66 said...

Yes it is me again. I just can't help myself. I hope you don't mind too much.

Slippery slope my friend. Where do we draw the line, can we draw lines anymore without being unfair to someone? Let's say we allow gays to get married (marriage is not a religous institution by the way, it is a legal one, so your argument of this being protected by the consitution is suspect). What about multiple spouses - why make value judgements about that one?

Let me twist this on you a bit...gayness has become socially acceptable over the past few decades...mostly because people say their born that way and can't help it. What about people born with a sexual attraction to children? How long before that is something that they can't help? Can they help it? I don't know, but I do know that it isn't and shouldn't be something that we ever accept. Does that make us bad people for drawing the line? We need to draw lines or we end up losing our societies morales and boundaries. People need limits and we need people to be able to set them.

Thu Sep 04, 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger insomniac said...

I don't mind your comments at all. I much prefer an open discussion on these topics to preaching to an empty room.

I don't buy the slipperly slope argument. Something either has no impact on the rights of others (like gay marriage) or it does (sex with children). In the former case, especially when it is a First Amendment issue, there should be no laws. In the latter case there should. The line is clear.

I've written elsewhere on here that polygamy should be allowed for the same reasons as gay marriage, as long as it is consensual and doesn't involve minors.

I agree that people need limits, but why do you get to be the person who decides what those limits are? Some people think gay sex is wrong, but many think there is nothing wrong with it. Some think that gay marriage is immoral, but many others think it is not only acceptable but also the best thing to do for committed gay couples. And nobody has ever suggested forcing anybody into a gay marriage, so this should be strictly a personal issue.

Some gay friends of mine just got back from California, where they got married. They've been a couple for years. All of their friends were extremely happy for them. I can't think of a single reason why they should be denied the right to do this, and lots of reasons why this is a good thing.

Fri Sep 05, 12:06:00 AM  

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