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Arguing about the "gay marriage" issue can be quite frustrating for most liberals. How can you successfully win an argument when it's just about impossible to fathom what the other side is even getting upset about?
Personally, I have a hard time understanding why anyone even cares. If two people want to get married, well, good for them. Unless I know them personally and I have to actually go to the wedding, how does that possibly impact my life one way or the other? As far as passing a law, assuming that government passes laws that protect us from harm or that looks out for the common good, what would be my interest in wanting the government to stop them? I don't see how anyone else's marriage hurts me, and I can't see any benefit to me or to anyone else in stopping people from getting married.
Unfortunately, as I've found out the hard way, just saying "why do you even care" is not going to get you very far in this (or any) debate. Some people do apparently care, and will not be shaken of their opinion by one's incredulity alone. Which means that, in order to successfully debate the issue, there needs to be a way to knock down just about every argument they can make in their defense.
Luckily, there is a pretty good way to do this. Most of the things people say in support of creating laws that ban gay marriage can be dismissed by demanding logical consistency.
For example, one of the main arguments is that by allowing gay marriage, it would ruin the sanctity of the institution of marriage. The sanctity of marriage should be protected, the argument goes, so something that is going to harm it should not be legal.
There is nothing wrong with believing that there is a societal benefit to making sure that the institution of marriage is respected. I happen to agree with that wholeheartedly. The problem comes with making those things that damage the sanctity of marriage against the law.
If we were going to make everything that damaged the institution of marriage illegal, we would need many new laws. To be consistent, we'd have to also ban divorces, celebrity weddings, "The Bachelor," "Who Wants To Marry A (Millionaire, Midget, My Dad, etc.)" and the Electric Slide. Obviously, it is completely unreasonable to have a law against any of these things. Not to mention that the American people would not tolerate that much government intrusion into personal decisions.
But, if we're not willing to make all of that illegal, why should we make an exception for gay marriage? Gay marriage is no more damaging to the sanctity of marriage than divorce. If "protecting the sanctity of marriage" is truly the issue, then it's a simple matter of consistency to demand that both be made illegal. If one isn't willing to go that far, then the argument falls apart.
The next argument people tend to make is that marriage is supposed to be about propagating the species. According to this logic, since two people of the same sex can never have children, then they should not be able to enter into marriage. Again, this logic falls apart under scrutiny.
Currently, heterosexuals that physically cannot have children are not prevented from entering marriage. That includes those that are barren or sterile or simply too old. Also, there is no law against a straight married couple simply choosing that they do not want children. There is also no contract any heterosexual couple signs stating that they must have children if they are to marry, and there are no fertility tests before a marriage is made legal.
Under the "marriage is intended for child-making" theory, shouldn't everyone entering into marriage be required to have children? Shouldn't every marriage where propagation is impossible now be made illegal? Again, this would be obviously unreasonable, and not tolerated by Americans. But if this isn't a reason to make marriage illegal for heterosexuals, it shouldn't be a reason to make it illegal for homosexuals either.
Some of the more demagogic types will next make the argument that goes, "if we let homosexuals marry, what's to stop someone from marrying their pet dog?" This one is rather ridiculous, and can be simply dealt with. Just pass a law that says marriage is only between two people. The US Constitution doesn't talk about the inalienable rights of house cats and puppies, only of men. Plus, it's not like there's a law against every weird thing someone might think to do. Unless we're willing to pass laws against every odd behavior, let's just leave this up to some basic laws and have a little faith in humanity, at least enough to believe that the vast, vast majority of people aren't thinking about inter-species marriage.
"It's against what nature intended." So are river dams and paved roads, and those are still legal. "The Bible says it's wrong." The Bible says a lot of things that aren't a part of US law. And so on - demanding logical consistency really can damage any argument people make in favor of banning homosexuals from marrying.
After that, all that's left is someone saying, "look, marriage is between a man and a woman, and that's just the way it is." But at that point, they don't have any reasons why. "That's just the way it is" doesn't cut it as an argument, and should never form a basis for a new law, let alone an amendment to the Constitution.
People saying that gay marriage should be illegal with no rational reason behind it are then left with this simple fact: they oppose gay marriage because gay people make them uncomfortable. Because they think gay people are different, and the "other." They end up just saying: "Why do they want what we have? Why do they deserve what we have? Can't they just let us have this one?"
Those sentiments are familiar to anyone that's been the victim of bigotry - American blacks pre-Civil Rights, World-War-II-era European Jews, Arab women, and so on. It isn't any less ugly applied to gay people. Which is why it can be so frustrating to argue with people about this issue. If you're arguing from logic, and they're arguing primarily from fear, or maybe even hate, that's not an argument the logical person's going to win.
Until the people opposing gay marriage admit that they just don't think gays are equal to straights, or until they are able to overcome their fears and get past their hatred, there is almost no point in arguing with them. Better to just flat-out oppose them, and to fight hard to make sure that the side of tolerance, understanding, and equality eventually wins the day. It's the path of least frustration, if nothing else.
Dan Filowitz is Toronto-born, New-Jersey-raised, Indiana-University-educated, and Chicago-residing. In addition to his Lost At Sea contributions, Dan is a senior staff writer for political humor site TalkStation.com and the president of ChicagoImprovAnarchy (The CIA) a Chicago-based improv theatre company. We are not mentioning the 9-5 corporate job. Apparently, Dan does not sleep much. Dan Filowitz is the perfect dinner party guest - fun, witty, intelligent, with wide-ranging interests, ecclectic tastes and a winning smile. Just make sure you have coffee available.
See other articles by Dan Filowitz.
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