Monday, June 27, 2011

Time To Change Gay Marriage Strategy?

This is clearly my week for endearing myself to religious conservatives, so let's go for the unhappy trifecta! I think the fight against gay marriage is lost. Don't get me wrong, I'm still opposed to it, but I also think it's time to consider a change of strategy.

I’ve explained before why I oppose gay marriage. To summarize my position, the government cannot grant rights in a vacuum. If gays are given the rights of married couples, then those rights must come at the expense of other people’s rights. In this case, the rights the government would take away are (1) the rights of employers, who would become legally obligated to extend partnership benefits to gay couples, (2) churches, which could no longer refuse to recognize such marriages, and (3) taxpayers, who would be forced to bear the burden of subsidizing these new marriages through the government benefits that become available to married couples.

Thus, to extend marriage rights to gays, the government will take the property rights of businesses, the right to freedom of religious belief from churches, and will impose more burdens on the over-stretched taxpayers. I can see no justification for doing this based on a group that defines itself by its conduct rather than some innate characteristic. In other words, gays aren’t gay unless they act upon those impulses -- unlike blacks who are black no matter what they do. Thus, being gay is by definition a choice. And while gays may claim being gay is an impulse they cannot control, so is bestiality and serial killing, yet gays would not suggest extending rights to those groups. Thus, their argument is not principled and cannot support their claim.

Consequently, I oppose gay marriage.

And indeed, my fears are already being played out in England, where the government is forcing churches to provide equal services to gay couples and to hire gay employees, no matter what the church’s view on the morality of homosexuality might be. Consider this bit of incredible double-speak by The Economist explaining why this does not violate the freedom of religious belief:

“[The government] was not questioning the right of religious bodies to follow their own beliefs when hiring priests or imams; it merely wanted to clarify that, in recruiting for non-religious jobs (accountants, for example), churches must obey the law and refrain from discrimination against gays.”
I wonder if they would feel the same about the NAACP being forced to hire white racists, so long as they weren’t forced to hire them for their most senior positions?

In any event, on to the issue at hand. I think the writing is on the wall. Each liberal state, like New York, will slowly adopt gay marriage provisions. The conservative states are unlikely to at this time. However, even the conservative states will eventually cave in. For one thing, libertarians have wrongly fallen for the one-sided “we just want freedom” argument and have not considered the rights being taken. Moderates do not find homosexuality immoral and thus see no reason to oppose it -- a flawed bit of logic in American society, i.e. that having no reason to oppose something means a right thereto should exist. Thus, combining liberals, moderates and a chunk of the conservative ranks will be more than enough to eventually get gay rights passed.

What’s more, the pressure will increase when the world doesn't end. Little will change as a result of gay marriage laws. Cities won’t erupt into panic or fall into Sodom-like levels of debauchery and God’s not going to turn everyone in Boston into salt. . . though he should for several reasons. A small number of gays will marry, giving further proof they are only 1-2% of the population and not 10% as Kinsey claimed, and few people will even notice the difference unless they work in their firm’s HR department. If the world doesn’t end, then even conservative states will begin to wonder what the big deal is. And I suspect it will only be a matter of time before they follow suit.

So the thing to do now is to reconsider the strategy. And to do that, we need to consider what the goals are. If the goal is to change public perceptions about homosexuality, then a massive public relations campaign will be in order to explain why it should bother average Americans that there might be gays lurking in neighboring homes. This will be very difficult unless places like New York implode. Thus, a better strategy might be to figure out whose rights will be infringed upon and work to pass laws protecting those rights. For example, I would suggest legislation that:
(1) Prevents employers, businesses or landlords from being forced to recognize any marital arrangement they consider outside their moral beliefs and specifically granting these employers, businesses or landlords the right to discriminate against those types of marriages. Unfortunately, this would probably require a Constitutional change.

(2) Prevents churches from having to recognize any relationship, hire any person, or extend any right, privilege or benefit to any person where such an act would violate the church's religious doctrine. This would be consistent with the First Amendment and would probably work.
A better approach, however, might be to get the government out of the marriage business entirely. Let me ask this, has it helped or hurt the institution of marriage that the government has been recognizing and affirming marriages? I would say marriage is in much worse shape now that the government is involved -- as with everything else the government seeks to help. By making the government blind to marriage and returning this institution to churches, it would be entirely up to the churches and private employers, businesses, landlords and individuals if they choose to recognize and/or favor marriage.

This may sound radical, as indeed I thought it was when I first heard it, but it might be a good solution. It gets the government out of deciding what is moral and what isn't and away from social engineering. It also returns the role of the regulation of marriage to the churches, and thereby makes both stronger institutions again. Churches could require things like pre-marriage counseling, a waiting period, and consideration of numerous things the government doesn't ask anyone to think about. Indeed, this last point could be critical as removing the government from marriage would force people to take more care in arranging their affairs (e.g. inheritance, care of children in the event of death or divorce, etc.), things people now assume the government will do for them automatically. This should certainly force people to go into marriage with their eyes open.

Maybe a little bit of independence would be a good thing for all concerned?


No comments:

Post a Comment