Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gays Against Gay Marriage

How times change.

Twenty years ago no one had ever heard of same-sex marriage. Today, if you do not believe in it, you are a bigot and a hater, conspiring to deprive a group of citizens of their basic constitutional rights.

I have already had my say on the topic, and will not revisit it.

Today, I want to emphasize a different angle. I want to look at what the debate over gay marriage shows us about how today’s liberal intellectuals enforce dogmatic beliefs.

Most of the arguments for gay marriage can barely stand scrutiny. Yet, most people have come to believe that people of the same sex should have the right to marry each other.

Have they been convinced to support something that doesn’t make sense? Or do they not care enough about the issue to continue to defend themselves against vile accusations?

At least that’s the way it is in the great cosmopolitan metropolis. From the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side to Soho and Greenwich Village left-thinking New Yorkers are convinced that the failure of society to accept gay marriage is tantamount to slavery.

Evidently, disagreement on such a basic issue is not tolerated.

Natalie Neusch bears compelling witness to this form of unfriendly persuasion in an article on The Daily Beast. Link here.

A gay woman having doubts about gay marriage, Neusch hesitates before expressing her views to her friends.

She begins with a personal confession. When she dares to tell a gay friend that she does not think that marriage is for her, she is forced to face the inevitable reaction: “People reacted to my ambivalence as if I had just burned an American flag. How could I turn my back on the centerpiece of the modern gay-rights movement? My personal relationship choice had suddenly become a political stand.”

As a professed non-believer Neusch is well placed to offer us a glimpse at the kinds of psychological pressure that enforce ideological conformity, and that keep her from expressing her views openly and in public.

In her words: “I don't bring up these concerns very often. Questioning the idea of gay marriage makes people think your goal is to subvert the whole gay-rights agenda—we need numbers, to be unified on this matter as our top concern. For gays to talk about not wanting to get married is taboo. By expressing my doubts, I am clearly a dissenter in this persistent force for progress. But getting married, gay or otherwise, doesn't seem like progress to me.”

Expressing a personal preference is one thing. One might excuse Neusch if she were merely arguing that she would not herself want to marry another woman. And one does understand that she can defend herself better if she says that the entire institution of marriage is somehow a bad thing.

But you can tell that her doubt is more deep-seated. As she puts it: “But there's a subtler, even more insidious anxiety lurking beneath the surface of our gay-marriage win. It's the unsettling possibility that we've spent the past couple of decades fighting to fit into an institution that doesn't necessarily fit us. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone wince if I referred to my partner as my wife. And I might wince a bit myself. We've been so focused on getting marriage ‘equality‘ that we've hardly stopped to think about how we'd feel about actually being married.”

I think that Neusch is quite correct. It’s all about the wince. I find her argument against gay marriage especially persuasive because she summarized it in a single gesture, a wince, a grimace, an involuntary facial reflex that really says it all.

People are willing to go along with the fiction of same-sex marriage. Good manners forbids them from expressing an opinion that would hurt the feelings of other people. If they lack good manners, the thought police will let them know, in no uncertain terms, that such opinions are prohibited.

People will vote for gay marriage in the next referendum. But, when you get right down to it, when you get to the level of an emotion that your face reveals and that is beyond your control, most of them think it is all very strange indeed.

Because Natalie Neusch has realized that this effort to fit in, to become a full member of the community, will, in the end, make her the odd person out.

That's a great realization. Hats off to Neusch.


Anonymous said...

TO: All
RE: Sadly

But there's a subtler, even more insidious anxiety lurking beneath the surface of our gay-marriage win. It's the unsettling possibility that we've spent the past couple of decades fighting to fit into an institution that doesn't necessarily fit us. -- Neusch, as cited by Stuart Schneiderman

But she's right. Marriage is about the union between a Man and a Woman as mandated by God. The 'state' got into the act as part of it's never-ending battle to be the REAL 'authority' on Earth. [NOTE: Guess who is behind all of that. Three guesses....first two don't count.]

'Homosexual marriage', therefore, is a classic oxymoronic.

Dollars-to-donuts, homosexual 'marriages' will have a higher rate of divorce than heterosexual ones.


[If marriage were outlawed, only outlaws would have in-laws.]

Anonymous said...

Having read both this and your previous article on the subject, both seem to suffer from similar problems.

Both your article and Neusch's offer very little in the way the of support for your arguments, other than vague references to people who you believe condemn you for your ideas. (You make alusions to 1984, when in fact you are clearly free to voice your opinions and are in fact actively doing so. If someone chooses to view your opinions as bigotted, is that not therefore, their right as well?)

Secondly, both you and Neusch fail to distunguish between "Marriage," as a historical and sociological concept, and "Marriage," as legal definition in US. With regard to the former, entire papers and books have been written on how concepts of marriage have varied throughout the ages and across different cultures. But that is neither here nor there, the current battles being fought by advocates of same-sex marriage are for the most part legal ones, in the front of judges, none of whom, pro-gay marriage or not, will likely put much stock into the arguments "Gay marriage should be illegal because one person wrote an article about she personally doesn't think marriage is for her" or "People might wince, your honor." Thankfully, most judges are capable of noting that many people WRONGLY winced at, shunned, threatened, etc., interracial couples as well. That attitude changed, thankfully. It's called growth.

Anyway, what if I were to say to you that I don't care about whether or not you, Neusch, or anyone else winces, I just don't want my wife to pay ridiculous taxes on her in heritence should I die before her? I hasten add that the IRS has little interest in whether or not you are able to procreate. What happens to your arguments then?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for a very thoughtful comment.

It deserves a thoughtful reply, so I will try to offer one.

You are quite right that I did not get into the legalities of the marriage issue. I limited my reflections to the sociocultural institution.

As for the sociocultural institution, it is a universal institution that has always had a certain number of variations. Take a look at Claude Levi-Strauss' The Elementary Structures of Kinship.

Among the more recent variations was allowing women a free choice of their husband.

Nevertheless, there has never been a time or a place where the institution has included same-sex couples. Admittedly, some same-sex couples have at some times and in some places declared themselves to be married, but that does not mean that they were married.

I would mention that since the institution is universal, any married couple can travel to any place in the world and will be recognized as a married couple.

Marriage is what it is because it is essentially a mating ritual. It does not require procreation, but it does require the possibility. It has never made much sense to extend the ritual to couples who could not or could never have fulfilled the basic requirement of consummating the marriage.

Of course, if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, that recognition will be legally binding and will confer certain rights and privileges.

The question would then be whether these couples could receive the same rights and privileges through a form of civil contract.

I don't know, and, not being trained in the law, I have not ventured to offer an opinion. In principle, I have no objection to the idea.

As it happens, if marriage is changed from a mating ritual into an expression of affection and commitment, then clearly the institution will have been changed. Some will say, for the better, some not.

The point I was trying to make is that marriage as a sociocultural institution contains a universal constant, that it only takes place between an opposite sex couple.

It is possible for the courts to decide that the institution be extended to same-sex couples, but their unions will probably not be recognized as marriages by very many people.

If a man says that another man is his wife, for example, he is also asking people to believe that this other man is a woman, in some basic way. And most people are simply not going to accept it.

I think that that is what Neusch was getting at with her notion of the tell-tale wince. Obviously, sometimes people wince for a good reason and sometimes they wince for a bad reason. Just because people used to wince about interracial couples, does not mean that everything that everyone ever winces at is not worthy the wince.

Besides, interracial couples are affirming the basic nature of the institution, as an institution that involves the potential for procreation, and thus, it does not change anything about the institution, only who is or is not allowed to participate in it.

Same-sex couples are changing the nature of the institution. And requiring everyone to accept that Jack and Jim are husband and wife.

Anonymous said...

" Marriage is about the union between a Man and a Woman as mandated by God. The 'state' got into the act as part of it's never-ending battle to be the REAL 'authority' on Earth."

Wrong. Marriage was a civil affair long before the Church came into being. Even in ancient Greece and Rome, people weren't married by priests. In rituals, they married one another, with civil or religious witnesses. Even in the early Church, marriage wasn't a sacrament. It was a civil arrangement. Couples could go to the Church for a blessing of their union, but this wasn't required. It was the CHURCH which got into the act in an effort to be the "real power on earth".

Anonymous said...

I am gay, in a relationship now for 21 years. I support same sex marriage, but would be equally happy with civil unions. Some opinions:

1. Most people are straight, and most of those will marry and have children. Same sex marriage doesn't change this.

2. If "God" mandated that only men and women be married, then it was for the purpose of having children within a certain context. Many heterosexual couples choose not to have children, or can't, but have sexual relations anyways. Shame on them? Forbid them to marry?

3. Sexual orientation (not "preference" isn't learned. Kids brought up by same sex parents are usually straight, and MOST gays and lesbians in the world today were brought up BY HETEROSEXUALS.

4. In the ancient Church, and in parts of the Orthodox Church today, people celebrate the feast days of the saints they are named after instead of their birthdays. Why? Because birthdays are shameful reminders of parental lust! Legs must not be crossed when sitting because by doing so you form a cross with your "vile, lower regions". When children leave home, parents are expected to live as brother and sister (no sex) or enter religious houses.

Some see same sex marriage as being abnormal and unhealthy. I dare you to tell me that the above examples of the mindset on "normal" sexuality, as held by Christians for centuries, isn't also. The obsession that people have with what consenting adults do, with who loves who, and with people wanting to be happy in ways that "hurt" others who "hurt" only because they can't stand the very IDEA of it, is unhealthy too.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, Anon for your thoughtful remarks.

I agree with some of them, and I would support any legal contract that allowed same-sex couples many of the same rights that married couples have.

As I was saying, marriage is a mating ritual. Clearly, it matters to a community that it produces children; otherwise it will die out.

Still, the structure of the institution only requires that couples perform the act that might lead to procreation. It does not require them to procreate and does not limit marriage to fertile couples. Though, in fairness, when the institution came into being very, very few people lived into their infertile years. In 1900 the average life expectancy in America was 46 or so.

If people of the same sex are allowed to marry that tells us that marriage is no longer a mating ritual but is an expression of abiding personal affection. I understand that people fail to see the problem but it does make marriage more of a matter of personal self-expression and less of a service to the community.

Most marriages in the history of the world have been social arrangements.

I can understand that the courts might decree one day that same-sex marriage exists.

I was trying to say in this article that it is extremely unlikely that the world will recognize them as such. Courts and legislatures cannot will something into existence. If anything such a ruling will allow same-sex couples some of the rights of married couples, but that is not the same thing as navigating the social world and saying that the couple is husband and wife. Given that marriage has always been between a man and a woman because of the mating possibility, the truth is that most people will simply not grasp that marriage can exist between a couple that cannot and never would have been able to mate,

Left Coast gal said...

Please, as a supporter of Same Sex Unions and not Gay Marriage--I think one of the most illuminating articles on this whole "debate" can be found at the "Center for Public Justice" website/you can "google" the title of the article: "Same Sex Marriage is Not A Civil Right" by James W. Skillen. This is the best legal explanation I have found. Please read and share with everyone you know for it is the truth and nothing but.(also supports Mr. Sneiderman's position on what constitutes marriage). I shudder to think how the Internet and cheap cable media (NYT is guilty, too, however) is too lazy to dig this up. But also, the legislators and politicians are pathetic, in my opinion. Pres. Obama is the only adult in the room and he also knows the law. For shame.

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Anonymous said...

Will you poofters please be quiet..?

Adele said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.