Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Is a Liberal to Do?

Seventy percent of African-American voters in California voted for Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. Liberals, however, say that opposing same-sex marriage is a form of bigotry no better than the racism of those who wanted inter-racial marriage to be illegal and Jim Crow laws to remain. How, liberals wonder, can African-Americans--the victims of racism-- switch from being champions of equality to champions of bigotry? It is a true paradox.

Liberals, by definition, support the victims of racism. But how can they do that when those very same victims are bigoted against gays? Oh dear! What is a liberal to do?

I would like to offer two helpful suggestions.

Suggestion #1

It would be wise to consider that what is seemingly paradoxical generally turns out not to be when examined more closely. What makes the behavior of African-American voters seem paradoxical is the assumption that opposing same-sex marriage is bigotry and a rejection of the principle of equality. Were this true, we would indeed have a true paradox. But if liberals would look closely at why people oppose same-sex marriage they would discover that it has nothing to do with hatred of gays and everything to do with concern for children.

Maggie Gallagher, a leading supporter of Proposition 8, appeared on the Dr. Phil show last night as part of a debate (including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on the other side) about same-sex marriage. Gallagher, in her opening statement, said that she opposed same-sex marriage because it is important for a child that its biological mother and father should know, and be known by, the child--and that this cannot happen when the child is produced by a same-sex couple. Her debate teammate cited Rosie O'Donnell's son who wanted a daddy but was told by Rosie that he couldn't have one because Rosie wanted another mommie. They said that the needs of children should come before the desires of adults. One may disagree with Gallagher on this point (I agree with her) but one can hardly call her view bigotry.

Nonetheless, Mayor Newsom and his team did declare Gallagher's view to be bigotry, with the familiar charges that she was calling for gays to be denied the same right that straight people enjoyed. But did Mayor Newsom or his debating team members ever, even once, even obliquely, respond to Gallagher's point about the welfare of children being more important than the desires of adults? No. Not once. Did Dr. Phil chime in on this point? No. Not once. The liberal response to the 70% of African-Americans who voted for Proposition 8 is to completely ignore their reason. Liberals don't want to hear it.

When African-Americans relied on religion to back up their claims for equality, liberals had no objection. But when those same African-Americans rely on religion to back up their opposition to same-sex marriage, then liberals dismiss them as "religious fundamentalists."

Liberals seem to view African-Americans the way some people once viewed children: they should be seen (as victims of racism) but not heard (as people with opinions worth taking seriously.) When applied to 70% of the adult African-American population, this view of people has a precise technical name: elitism. Only through the lense of elitism do liberals see a paradox in the California vote.

Suggestion #2

It would be wise to re-consider if anybody, gay or straight, actually has a right to marry. Does it make sense, in other words, to say that gays are being denied a right by Proposition 8 if even straights do not have that right? To help liberals think this through, here are some questions they might try answering, in the privacy of their own homes of course.

1. Do straight people who are siblings of each other have a right to marry?

2. Do the laws against sibling marriage deny anybody their right?

3. Why are there laws against sibling marriage?

4. Do such laws reflect hatred of siblings?

5. Do straight people who are infected with syphilis have a right to marry? Does the law in California and other states that prohibits such people from getting a marriage license violate anybody's rights? Why not?

6. What do the laws against siblings and syphilis-infected people marrying have in common? Is it a concern for children, or hate and bigotry?

7. Do children experience emotional pain from not knowing and being raised by both their biological mother and their biological father?

8. Are syphilis infection and genetic deformity the only things from which society should try to protect children with laws about who can and who cannot marry?

9. Is it possible that the reason Maggie Gallagher and 70% of California's African-Americans voted for Proposition 8 is the same reason that virtually everybody, even liberals, agrees with the laws against sibling and syphillis-infected marriage?

10. Is it possible that the same-sex marriage issue does not, in fact, have anything to do with equal rights and everything to do with concern for children?

11. Is it really a paradox that people who fought against segregation also oppose same-sex marriage?

6 Comments:

At 5:57 PM, November 22, 2008, Anonymous Bunny Morris said...

Thank you for a trenchant and humane contribution to this controversy. Right on! Write on!

 
At 5:44 PM, February 15, 2009, Anonymous John Spritzler said...

Here is how Joshua Koritz, a member of the left organization, Socialist Alternative,(which opposes "homophobia"), answered the 11 questions I posed in "What Is a Liberal to Do?", followed by my reply to him.

1. Do straight people who are siblings of each other have a right to marry?

Evolution and biology would tell us that it is a bad idea for siblings to reproduce (see the genetic problems in pure-bred dogs for example). That said, is it necessarily wrong? I don't know.


2. Do the laws against sibling marriage deny anybody their right?
In today's society, no. There is no major movement afoot to erase this law, and as far as I can tell, there isn't likely to be. I wouldn't necessarily close the door completely on this, but I don't claim to be the morality police.



3. Why are there laws against sibling marriage?
I'd have to do a lot of research to answer this question. I'm pretty sure that these laws go back to ancient times though. It was a protection against the dangers of inbreeding.



4. Do such laws reflect hatred of siblings?
No. I don't understand this question.



5. Do straight people who are infected with syphilis have a right to marry? Does the law in California and other states that prohibits such people from getting a marriage license violate anybody's rights? Why not?
Why should anyone be denied the right to marry, or associate with whomever he or she pleases? Certainly diseases such as syphilis or AIDS shouldn't be a factor. Does California have a law against this? If it does, I'd say its as discriminatory as saying blacks can't marry whites. Further, everyone with Syphilis should, like everyone else, have easy and free access to treatment so that they are able to deal with living with disease as comfortably as possible.



6. What do the laws against siblings and syphilis-infected people marrying have in common? Is it a concern for children, or hate and bigotry?
These laws have nothing in common historically, as far as I know. I don't really see how these are causes for alarm for children. Parents with AIDS can have children that don't have the disease, and why shouldn't they have that option? Society needs to invest more money in healthcare so that this might be a more realistic option for more families.



7. Do children experience emotional pain from not knowing and being raised by both their biological mother and their biological father?
I don't know. If adopted kids aren't told they're adopted, how would they ever know? Further, children are raised, reared, socialized not just by their parents but they are the products of their environment which includes extended family, family friends, neighbors, other children at school, teachers etc...



8. Are syphilis infection and genetic deformity the only things from which society should try to protect children with laws about who can and who cannot marry?
No, eugenics is not scientifically valid. Genetic deformities/ syphilis are not reasons to prevent people from having children. Besides who gets to decide what exactly is a genetic deformity and don't you think that rich people would be able to get around that anyway?



9. Is it possible that the reason Maggie Gallagher and 70% of California's African-Americans voted for Proposition 8 is the same reason that virtually everybody, even liberals, agrees with the laws against sibling and syphillis-infected marriage?
You're making a statement that you expect me to just believe. I would like to see evidence. Also what is this reason? I don't know what people's reasons are for voting against for Prop 8 (remember that a majority of people who voted for it where white). You would have to go out and do an extensive survey to learn some of this. Polls can only give part of the picture.



10. Is it possible that the same-sex marriage issue does not, in fact, have anything to do with equal rights and everything to do with concern for children?
No. It has everything to do with equal rights. Children raised by same sex couples turn out just as well as children raised by hetero couples. As I said earlier, children are not raised exclusively by their two or one parent. If the concern was really about children, why isn't there a ballot question on providing more aid to single mothers or families that are working minimum wage jobs? Why isn't there more money being given to public schools?



11. Is it really a paradox that people who fought against segregation also oppose same-sex marriage?
A paradox is a statement that logically contradicts itself. I think you mean is it hypocritical. I would say it is. I would also say that it is hypocritical for Israel to continue to treat palestinians as second class citizens when the very history of jews has been to be second class citizens.


My reply to Joshua:

Hi Joshua,

Thank you for answering my 11 questions. Now it is possible to have a substantive discussion of the same-sex marriage question.

Q#1. You say you don't know if siblings should have a right to marry, though you apparently know that the children of siblings are at a higher risk of birth defects. The vast majority of working class people believe that siblings should not be allowed to marry because it poses a risk for children of such a marriage. I agree with them. I don't know why your views differ from those of most working class people in this regard.

Q#2. You say that the laws against sibling marriage do not deny anybody their right. Fine, I agree. You seem to waffle on this point, however, by implying that if siblings started to demand the legalization of sibling marriage, then maybe your answer would switch. But that is illogical. Whether sibling marriage is a right or not does not depend on whether siblings are fighting for it. But now consider the implication of your reply--that sibling marriage is not a right. This means that in some cases (siblings) two consenting adults who wish to marry do not have a right to do so. It follows that there is no general principle that any two consenting adults have a right to marry. And from this it follows that the question of whether same-sex couples have a right to marry cannot be logically anwered by simply asserting (as virtually everybody in the pro-same-sex marriage camp does) that denying same sex marriage is wrong because it denies to same sex couples a right that all other consenting adult couples presently have to marry each other.

Q#3. You agree that the "dangers of inbreeding" (i.e. harm to the children of sibling marriage) is the reason why society has laws against sibling marriage.

Q#4. And you answer "No" such laws against sibling marriage do not reflect hatred of siblings.

Consider the implications of your answers. You are agreeing that society denies the right of a certain category (siblings) of couples to marry, and yet it has nothing whatever to do with hatered of that category of couples (or persons.) This means, logically, that when you see 70% of California's African-Americans denying the right of a certain category of couple to marry, that it does not logically follow that their reason for doing so has anything to do with hate, i.e. with "homophobia." It MAY be due to hatered of gays (homophobia) but it also may not. To decide the question one must look more closely at the facts. In contrast, the pro-same-sex marriage people illogically assert that the mere fact that people oppose same-sex marriage constitutes proof of their "homophobia" and hate.

Q#5. You oppose laws that deny marriage to people who are infected with syphilis. Yes there are such laws. The reason is the same as with laws against sibling marriage--to protect the children of people who are infected with syphilis from harm due to that infection. You say that people who are infected should get treatment. Fine. When they are cured they can marry. You seem to have a low regard for the safety of children in this arena. But most working people and people without money have a much higher regard for children's safety in connection with marriage than you do. I don't know why you disagree with working class people as you seem to do. It is not as if workers who care about preventing syphilis harm to children are being racist or anything. So I am baffled by your disagreement with them on this.

Q#6. You say you cannot see what laws against sibling and syphilis-infected couples have in common and you say you don't see how these laws are causes for (I assume you mean "caused by") alarm for children. But you seem to admit that there is an issue of concern for children in motivating these laws because your reply then goes on to bring in the question of parents with AIDS. The only relevance of parents with AIDS to the question about sibling and syphilis marriage laws is the issue of harm to children: that an HIV-infected mother puts her child at risk of being HIV-infected, just like siblings put their child at risk of genetic harm and syphilis-infected parents at risk of syphilis harm. So you really do see that what the sibling and syphilis laws have in common is that they are motivated by a concern for children. You argue that that concern is not necessary because people can be treated. But actually, there is no cure for HIV infection. There is no cure for genetic disorders caused by having sibling parents. And there is no cure for a child's pain due to not having his real mommy and real daddy in his life. So I think you may want to reconsider you factual premises here. The implication of your answer to this question is that you do, implicitly at least, acknowledge that the laws against sibling and syphilis-infected marriage are motivated by concern for children, not hate.

Q#7. You say you do not know if children experience emotional pain from not knowing and being raised by both their biological mother and their biological father?
The implication is that you agree that people in the anti-same-sex-marriage camp, who believe this emotional pain is real, may be right. You just don't know. You then go on to make logically unrelated points about adopted children, the point of which seems to be that children conceived by donated sperm or egg in a same-sex marriage do not in fact suffer any emotional pain from this fact. But you already admitted that you didn't know if they do, so why bring in adoption? Since you did introduce adoption, however, you should know that there is a large literature about the pain that adopted children/adults feel due to not knowing and being raised by both their real parents. See the links in my other article on this. Your comment about not telling adopted children they are adopted (a practice that is opposed by most people who are knowledgeable about the pros and cons of this) is beside the point for same-sex marriage because, obviously, one cannot keep secret from a child that both his/her parents are the same sex and one of them cannot be his biological parent. The implication of your answer to this question is that since you do not know if children of same-sex marriages experience emotional pain from it, you therefore do not know that the anti-same-sex-marriage people are wrong in believing 1) that it does cause such pain, 2) that children should not be put at risk for it, and 3) that therefore, like sibling and syphilis marriage, same-sex marriage should not be legal. It is not logical to dismiss people, whose argument based on concern for children is one you cannot say for sure is wrong, as hateful or "homophobic."

Q#8. The question asks if syphilis infection and genetic deformity are the only things from which society should try to protect children with laws about who can and who cannot marry. Your answer is a real muddle. You seem to want to deny that anything about a couple could cause harm to the child they may produce. But you are all illogical in this effort. In Question #1 about sibling marriage you cite the genetic problems of pure-bred dogs as evidence that children of siblings are at a higher risk of similar genetic harm. You write, "Evolution and biology would tell us that it is a bad idea for siblings to reproduce (see the genetic problems in pure-bred dogs for example)." Now in Q#8 you do a 180 degree turn and dismiss such concerns as "eugenics" which "is not scientifically valid." You cannot have it both ways. Is your own reference to the problems in pure-bred dogs "not scientifically valid"? Then in Q#8 you say that genetic deformities/syphilis are not reasons to prevent people from having children. Well, maybe YOU don't think so, but lots of "working people and people without money" do think so. Instead of discussing the issue on its merits, however, you dismiss those working class people as "homophobic." That is not logical. It is just name-calling. Your last statement in Q#8 about who gets to decide what is a genetic deformity and that rich people could "get around that anyway" has no clear relevance to this discussion. Your point seems to be that being for working class people somehow logically implies not caring about protecting children from genetic harm; it is a non-sequitor. The overall implication of your answer to Q#8 is that you do not wish to admit that laws about who can marry are motivated by a concern for children, but the only way you can argue that point is by contradicting your own answer to Q#1 and denying that there is such a thing as genetic harm due to sibling human parents (or inbred dogs.)

Q#9. You say you would like to see evidence that people who voted for Proposition 8 against same-sex marriage did it because of concern for children, the same concern that explains why they support laws against sibling marriage. You say you don't know what people's reasons are for voting against Prop 8. OK. Fine. What this means, logically, is that you have no basis for saying that the vote against same-sex marriage is in any way hateful, or "homophobic" or (see the discussion of your answer toQ# 4) even about denying anybody their rights. It means that you and others in SA need to find out why people voted the way they did, and not describe the Yes on 8 vote as necessarily a bad thing, reflecting hate and homophobia.

Q# 10. The question asks is it possible that the same-sex marriage issue does not, in fact, have anything to do with equal rights and everything to do with concern for children? You reply, "No. It has everything to do with equal rights." But again you are contradicting yourself. See the discussion of your reply to Q# 2. In order to uphold the SA position, you are forced to be self-contradictory. Perhaps the problem is in the SA position itself: that opposition to same-sex marriage means denying a "right to marry" to certain people. There is no general right to marry, as your answer to Q#2 confirms. The logical implication of your own answer is that the pros and cons of each category of couple, with respect to the welfare of children that may come from that couple, need to be taken into consideration to decide if marriage for that category of couple should be legal. It is not about some abstract general "right to marry"; it is about who should and who should not be allowed to marry.

Your claim that "Children raised by same sex couples turn out just as well as children raised by hetero couples" does not address the emotional pain children experience from not knowing both their biological parents and being raised by them. Just because a child may (and the evidence does not exist yet because there are still few same-sex marriage children and they are not that old yet) grow up and hold a job or career and not end up in prison etc. does not take away from the pain. You may dismiss that pain as of no importance. Fine. But you have no logical basis for saying that those who take that pain more seriously than you do are, for that reason, denying some general "right to marry" or exhibiting hateful "homophobia." The SA position does says this, however.

Q#11. You say that people who voted against same-sex marriage are hypocritical the same as Israel treating Palestinians as second class citizens when Jews historically were treated as second class citizens. Your point seems to be that there is an analogy: blacks are to gays as Jews are to Palestinians, since blacks were once denied their rights and now deny others their rights, just as Jews once were denied their rights and now deny others their rights. I agree with you about Israel. But the analogy does not hold because, as your answer to Q#2 again demonstrates, same-sex marriage is not about any general right. But the SA, apparently, insists that it is, even though it (you, at least) needs to make illogical and contradictory arguments to hold that position. I think the working class (of which the 70% of African-Americans voting yes on 8 is a part) deserves respect. If you don't know why they voted as they did (as you admit) then respect them enough to find out why they voted that way before dismissing them as a bunch of "homophobes".

The SA wishes to provide leadership to the working class. Fine. But what does this mean? It means being a champion of working class values and helping people see that those values are morally right, and that they are attacked by capitalism with its opposite values. Working class values include equality and concern for others, especially the least powerful, like children. For the SA to characterize the working class value of concern for children as "homophobia" is really a huge mistake. Please reconsider.

Do not make the mistake of reflexively rejecting the positive values of working people just because reactionary politicians on the far right profess agreement with those values. Right wing politicians sometimes pay lip service to some positive values held by working people in order to link those values, in the minds of working people, with support for capitalism. Expose those right wing politicians. Don't help them do their nasty job by linking anti-capitalism with contempt for the working class value of concern for children. Unfortunately, this is the effect of an organization that opposes capitalism at the same time declaring people "homophobic" for voting against same-sex marriage.

Sincerely,

John Spritzler

 
At 12:25 PM, May 13, 2009, Blogger PhotogFauxPas said...

I would like to ad to the debate, albeit a little late. The right to marriage does not necessarily have to do with children. Plenty of straight married couples elect not to have kids, as do gay couples, married or unmarried. The right to marriage has little to do with procreation. It has to do with equality. Equality in the eyes of the law and all systems that revolve around the law (taxes, health care issues, legal arrangements, etc.). Also, and I know some people may find this hard to believe, but some gay people are in fact deeply spiritual and religious, and marriage is an important ceremony that they would like to share with their community. Yes, you can just as easily have just the ceremony, but if people simply wanted to to celebrate their love, there would be commitment ceremonies on every street corner. The point is: gay people should be afforded the exact same rights that straight people have, bottom line. There is enough institutionalized hate and bigotry in this world. This is one place where we can easily institutionalize equality.

Years ago a black person wasn't allowed to marry a white person. Today a woman cannot marry another woman. If you're looking to bring the "what about the children??" argument into this one, feel free. But it's a weak argument. I'm really tired of children being used as puppets for people's moral and political agendas. If those same people really cared about children they would stop trying to take their children's potential rights away.

On another note: John, I have always admired your writing and your passion. You may not remember, but I used you as a first hand source in a high school essay on the Vietnam War. Ring any bells?

Best,
PFP

 
At 2:16 PM, October 06, 2010, Blogger John Spritzler said...

In reply to PhotogFauxPas (sorry I took so long; I didn't notice your comment until now):

Yes, I do remember you from that time when you were in high school with my son. Nice to hear from you.

You make the point that some people marry for reasons that have nothing to do with having children. I agree. But it doesn't change anything in this discussion. Here is why. A marriage license is a license for a couple to "produce a child of their own." The criterion for deciding whether or not to grant a couple a marriage license is that they should have permission to "produce a child of their own." Likewise, some people get driver's licenses for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to drive a car--they just want the license as an ID card. Nonetheless, the criterion for deciding whether to grant a person a driver's license is that they merit permission to drive a car. We don't give a driver's license to a blind person, not even if he/she says they won't drive a car but will only use the license for an ID card. If a blind person wants an ID card, then they can get an ID card that is not a driver's license. Likewise, if a same sex couple wants to live as a couple, they can get (or at least nothing I have said argues against their being permitted to get) legal approval that is different from a marriage license.

--John

 
At 1:24 AM, May 26, 2014, Blogger Derrick said...

So does that mean a heterosexual couple which is unable to produce a child due to impotence the husband's part or infertility on the wife's part should not be allowed to get married? that they should pursue some sort of alternative "legal approval" instead?

 
At 10:07 AM, May 26, 2014, Blogger John Spritzler said...

No. It means that third-party gamete donation conception (tpgdc) should be illegal, as it is in some places already I believe.

If tpgdc were illegal, then nothing in what I have written on this topic would constitute an argument against same-sex marriage. The connection between tpgdc and same-sex marriage is only this: Advocates of same-sex marriage insist on keeping tpgdc legal, on the quite logical grounds that making tpgdc illegal would make a mockery of same-sex marriage because it would prevent such couples from being able to do what heterosexual married couples can do--produce a "child of their own."

 

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