May 10, 2012

The Gay Issue

No doubt you've heard Obama's recent comments on gay marriage? How could you not, as the liberals have been simply unbearable in their trumpeting. Obnoxiousness aside, though, I do share their joy in seeing the President of these here United States endorsing, even tepidly, gay marriage. It is an important step, even if perhaps just a symbolic one, and it is worth celebrating. To an extent.

I’m with ‘em most of the way. It’s high time we stopped this nonsense, endorsing bigotry and exclusion, and just let people live. Whether because you favor freedom, as I do, or just want gay folks to share the same misery as hetero couples do, as many like to quip. This will, hopefully, be the civil rights movement of our era, and kids will some day grow up learning about these times in the same way I grew up learning about racism in the early 20th century.

But let's be realistic. The president’s statement is not going to change anything on its own. It's not real leadership, yet. It's just politics as usual. We wouldn't have even heard anything had Biden not basically forced Obama's hand (which he has since apologized for). Here are some selected quotes by others more eloquent than me that I find myself agreeing with on this matter. Emphasis mine in all excerpts.

First up, a statement from GOProud Chief Strategist Christopher R. Barron:

“It is good to see that after intense political pressure that President Obama has finally come around to the Dick Cheney position on marriage equality.  I am sure, however, the President’s newly discovered support for marriage is cold comfort to the gay couples in North Carolina.  The President waited until after North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.”

“This is hardly a profile in courage by President Obama.  For years now, President Obama has tried his hardest to have it both ways on this issue.

“The real kudos here goes to LGBT activists and their allies who finally forced the President into yielding on this issue.”

Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party presidential nominee, former Republican, and former Governor of Arizona, had this to say:

"Instead of insisting on equality as a US Constitutional guarantee, the President has thrown this question back to the states. When the smoke clears, Gay Americans will realize the President's words have gained them nothing today and that millions of Americans in most states will continue to be denied true marriage equality. I guess the President is still more worried about losing Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia than he is in doing the right thing. What is the President saying--that he would eat a piece of cake at a gay wedding if the state the happy couple lives in allows it? Where is the leadership? While I commend him for supporting the concept of Gay marriage equality, I am profoundly disappointed in the President."

Liberals will accuse me of raining on their parade. I'm just trying to maintain a healthy bit of perspective. Let us not get carried away in the moment and forget how lukewarm Obama has been on gay rights thus far. Sure, maybe he’s had better things to do. Sure, he’s been better than the Republicans typically are (i.e. abysmal). Sure, there was even Don't Ask Don't Tell, but really he was responding and acting on a trend that began years before his presidency. I commend him for allowing it and making it official, but I have no illusions as to his influence on that issue. Politicians are always reacting, after the fact, to the constantly moving popular opinion zeitgeist.

A lot of conservative commentators are trying to find any way they can to paint this in a bad light for Obama. They mean to tear his image down, because they want Their Guy to win, after all. As valid as some criticisms are (such as the ones I highlighted above), I do not want to get bogged down with criticizing the Pres. It is no comfort to the loving couples across the country that are still being denied legal unions. The socons are so fixated on bashing the liberals that they cannot see the real important issue underneath all this political fluff.

I like Johnson, a lot, but I don't fully agree with him on the gay issue. He deems it a civil right that should be protected, and not left to the states to allow or deny as they see fit (as the president stated). He sees any attempt to deny the right a form of discrimination. Well, yes, it is discrimination. I'm not sure it is, in of itself, a human right, though, but it certainly is an extension of the right to contracts, which should indeed be formally protected by the state.

But you know what would solve all of this? If the government weren't in the business of formally recognizing marriage in the first place.

Think about what problems suddenly go away from a legal point of view. It doesn't matter anymore whether you opt for federalism and leave it to the states, opt for authoritarianism and have it federally defined and enforced (DOMA or even a gay-friendly version), or what, because you won't need to define it anywhere. It no longer matters what you even mean by "marriage" (is it simply a social contract? or a religious practice?), which is why we came up with concept of "civil union" to try to generalize and secularize the practice of committing two people in a formal relationship with legal ramifications.

And It is those very legal ramifications that make the formal recognition so important. Anybody can live as though they were married without actually having the official certificate. Hell, I do it currently. I live with my girlfriend, we share a bank account, bodily fluids, and life decisions. We are married in every way except for having the damn certificate and filing our taxes jointly. And that right there is the stickler for gays: they, too, can live like I do, and they can't file jointly and don't get an innumerable amount of other protections and precedents, such as right to make medical decisions, inheritance, child custody, you name it. The difference, though, is that being heterosexual I can go get a license easily, any time I want, and they cannot. Why? It's stupid.

In the atheist circles, some have tried to find alternatives to marriage because they view it as a religious thing and want nothing to do with it. But, in the end, I believe most end up doing it anyway, though perhaps their reception and all that is highly secular. The reason is that there is no legal assurance to any drawn up contract between two folks to simulate a civil union that will have the same protections and precedents as marriage. In a way, the problem that causes so much grief for gays all over the country isn’t just limited to them. Of course, this is nitpicking in comparison, but the point is that it’s just one more kind of discrimination due to the government defining marriage at all.

I’m not going to bother combatting the arguments opposing gay marriage. The legitimate arguments, I mean, not the bigoted stuff. Many, far better than I could, have already blasted those myths to shreds.

And I don’t mean to sound too cynical either. I’m actually quite hopeful for the future of gay rights, and I think this statement by Obama is on the right track. I just want folks to simmer down and stop acting like this was a Christmas Miracle or something. When ya’ll are done gushing over your black beau, just remember we still have much work to do yet.

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