Saturday, November 15, 2008

Post No. 66c: Question to Ponder – Why Are We So Worked Up Over This Same Sex Marriage Issue?

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In our immediately previous post, “Would Jesus Discriminate,” (, a very lively discussion developed about the subject matter of Rev. Dr. Cindi Love’s book of the same name.

In one of the comments to that post, “Stever” brought up an interesting point, about which we occasionally thought during the week following Sen. Obama’s election to the Presidency. Having previously lived in California for many years, one of our Senior Fellows contacted a number of his friends in California to discuss their thoughts about the election. Interestingly, virtually all of them had something to say about Prop. 8 and its effect on same-sex marriage, as if it were equal in significance.

In fact, one friend suggested that in a state disposed to electing an African-American, one would have thought that it would have also been able to handle same-sex marriage. (We will not delve further in the accuracy of any portion of this statement, at least not right now.)

Stever mentioned our country's obsession with who sleeps with whom, contrary to many other parts of the modern, industrialized world. Should one simply look at the religious views of the original settling colonists, and their successors, one can easily identify the roots.

However, why have these views, about such a relatively small aspect of the human body, spirit, and condition, persisted and occupied so much of our time and energy over the years?

In the grand scheme of things, aren't food, clothing, housing, shelter, and lack of disease or deformity the most important things to humans, as opposed to where someone places his or her appendage or orifice? How did such a biological, reproductive function evolve into a moral issue? Of course, there are many tomes written which explore this history. However, this is the 21st Century. Even if one has a conflicting view, why is it such a big issue that there is uniformity in behavior or conduct, either way?

We think that part of the answer is that when certain basic needs in society have been addressed, we then move on to deal with the less significant issues. That does not explain the sexual philosophies of so many in our country, who still struggle to provide the basics for themselves and their families.

As we prepare this piece, we are listening to a C-Span2 Book TV presentation ( by Charles Taylor, author of A Secular Age ( During the discussion, Taylor looks at the history of secularism and its relationship with the force of religion. He notes that as a country becomes more prosperous and “advanced,” it becomes more secular.

We are often reminded of a comment made by someone in Afghanistan about why the Taliban was welcome to his country, from 1995 until the US arrival in 2001. He noted that prior to the arrival of the Taliban, there was utter chaos and difficulty merely surviving. The Taliban (like Marshall Tito in the former Yugoslavia) established order, so that people could live in peace. In response to the complaint of westernized countries about the Taliban's position on women's rights, he said, "Who cares about women's rights when you have order?"

We here in the US have the luxury of looking at others and questioning their values and practices, and the discretionary time to address issues that are not necessarily basic survival issues. Some would suggest that we are the moral compass for the rest of the world. Are we?

A friend of our Senior Fellow earlier in the week said that she wants to be able to "love" whoever she wants to love. But what does that mean? What does love have to do with marriage? (The character of Gregory House, played by Hugh Laurie on Fox’s House, claims that a successful marriage is based on lies.)

What if the law permitted "spiritual love," but no same sex touching, or penetration, or genital contact? Would society be satisfied? Would we allow members of the same sex to get married as long as they did not have sex, or hold hands or kiss in public, so that minors could not view this conduct? Perhaps we could allow members of the same sex to marry, but not allow them to become, let us say, public school teachers, where they might come into contact with children.

What’s the deal with this same sex marriage thing? And why is it so important now that folks have difficulty feeding their families, filling up their gas tanks, and finding a job?

If we all decided to become more “religious,” and follow the purported dictates of God, would our country’s financial situation improve? If the individuals desirous of becoming married to one another agreed to abandon their quest, and marry individuals of the opposite sex, would the interests of our society be advanced and improved?

You tell us.

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense


  1. Logie, my man, it's all about fear baby. Materialism ... when you got the stuff, you got the power, you don't want to lose it. WATCH OUT! They'll take it from you! Let them gay folks loose, they'll take away our man on woman way of life. We won't have our widescreen and popcorn! You hit on 2 concepts I think of often in relation to one another. Religion and spirituality. Our society indeed does condone "spiritual love." We are all free to love whomever we want at that deepest of all levels. With due respect to LA's hack drama writers, a good marriage is founded in spiritual love, not lies. We had a discussion recently about evolution and the theory that we could make progress if we could get away from our monetary, zero sum approach, realize that there is plenty, there is technology to solve our resource-based problems, and move toward resource-based solutions. The jackpot we are in as a nation, and with our inter-related global economic partners - which now includes China, India and Brazil - may be an opportunity to start pushing the resource-based solution envelope. Now, back to gay folk. Part of the ultimate solution - and this gets back to some of your thinking and discussion on race and when racism will end - depends on people's ability to evolve into "spiritually loving" people. Religion can facilitate that or not. Religion and "following God" is poppycock. Religion can be used for good or evil. For helping others or justifying their mass murder. For embracing Jesus' life and what it meant in the spiritually loving sense, or ... embracing his death, and marching with Constantine up the hill to kill the infidel. Hate the other, stone the unfaithful wife, kill the man who lies with another. It's our choice. Evolve, or stand at the back door with a recent political phenom, in fear, shotgun at the ready, to kill the Russian bear should he invade our airspace. In the words of a song my daughter once taught me: "The world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid." Peace.

  2. Hi Logisitician,
    Getting a little ‘religion’ sure wouldn’t hurt. Of course you’d be out of a job because lawsuits would fall by the wayside with everyone forgiving everyone.

    Would religion improve our economic situation? No. It would destroy it. Major industry, as it’s structured today, wouldn’t be able to maintain growth if their policy was based on doing what is always the moral or ‘right’ thing for ALL. It's an ugly truth but a fact.

    As to your question of why anyone would care whom someone chooses to marry: fear and ignorance.

    If the truth were really exposed, I seriously doubt any anti-gay group or individual has any moral or religious stimulus. Homophobia (which is what we’re really talking about here) is the most tragic and accepted form of human rights abuse we now have in our society and blatantly displayed with Prop 8.

  3. Right. I agree with Red. Homophobia and racism are sewn of the same cloth ... fear. They will abate with time. After Jesse Helms announced his retirement, I went to DC with a group of high school students to lobby our congressional delegation. One group of kids wanted to pitch Jesse on gay rights issues. As is typical, given the senate's 3 day work week, Jesse was not in town on the Monday we were there. We spoke with a young male legislative assistant. The kids, well prepared with talking points, launched into a vigorous advocacy of their position. Now, anyone who wants to get stuff done in DC deals with lots of gay people on a daily basis. Some openly gay, some not. This guy kept having to say the senator would not necessarily agree with you on that or I see your point of view, but the senator would disagree. Even though he worked for an openly homophobic senator, he was happy to personally agree and very likely had plenty of gay friends and/or people he dealt with all the time. The point is, this is generational. I found it interesting that Obama took an anti-gay marriage position in the campaign. That, along with his vote to continue Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, were his two clearest cases of disingenuous pandering.

  4. Stever, we suspect that you are "right" with respect to the fear factor. We're not sure how much of it is hard wired as opposed to being whipped up by those who benefit from the fear. To some extent, it the entire society "chose" homosexuality, then propagation would cease. We really had not thought of the kidnapping/replacement angle, but it is a type of fear.

    You've now made us question whether fear ever advances the long term positive interests of society, or only the interests of a few. We'll have to think about that further.

    In one of our earliest articles, we spoke of how religion serves the interests of those who subscribe to it, and thus you are pretty right on that it can be used for good or evil.

    By the way, your daughter taught you a very good line.

  5. Thanks Red Chair for your comment. I will respond to your comment, and if you don't mind, to some extent, that of Stever, with the following question: If the reasons for opposing same sex marriage (and we assume the correlative condemnation of homosexuality) are fear and condemnation, as Jonathan Haidt noted in his article about why folks vote Republican, why do some of our wealthiest and best educated business/Republican leaders join philosophical forces with the poorly educated and lower socio-economic members of our society? Are they exploiting their less fortunate fellow party members? Can this fear and ignorance be addressed through education alone?

    Finally, you made an interesting comment to the effect that you seriously doubted that any anti-gay group or individual had any moral or relgious grounds for their condemnation. When I lived in Southern California, I might agree with you. Now that I've been living back here in North Carolina, in the Bible Belt, you'd have to be around folks for whom EVERYTHING is religiously and morally based to fully appreciate the difference. One's failure to adhere to the accepted concepts potentially makes one a sinner in this world. That one is different is frequently viewed as a curse by God. Fascinating stuff.

  6. I agree that fear and ignorance are two incendiary reasons for opposition to same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, soothing fears and providing education does not necessarily heal the opposer.
    I had a male co-worker who was extremely homophobic and would shudder at the thought of two men engaged in any contact beyond sports and a handshake. He used all the typical counters including "men and women are built to be together," "procreation," "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve." When he tried to say, "It's a choice" and used examples of people "turning gay" in later adulthood, I vehemently protested the statement explaining that these late bloomers merely tried to conform to societal standards until they could no longer deny their true selves.
    "See!" he said, "It IS a choice. They CHOOSE to act on their homosexuality." I tried to inject the idea that by following his logic, I could say he was merely choosing to be straight. He didn't get it and I had to reconcile myself to the fact that sometimes, ya just can't fix "stoooopid."

  7. My guess is that not nearly as many people are worked up over the issue as the media and certain politicians would lead us to believe. Well that is not exactly correct. If your family is denied the legal protections of marriage due to the law it is natural to be concerned. It is far easier to make this into a hot button issue than face and deal with the grim reality of a sinking economy, shrinking resources and unchecked immigration. A very important thing for people to understand is that whether you agree that marriage is something that can occur only between one man and one woman or not the laws governing that ARE going to change. People need to get over it and get on with life. As a Christian there are many things that exist in the civil code that may not agree with Christianity but that does not disturb me unless the law insists that my liberty to follow the dictates of my conscience is at risk. I believe that a person is a human being in the womb, other Christians believe human life begins at the first cell division, still others believe human life begins in the third trimester and some only when the child is not only out of the womb but breathing on his or her own. I would not have an abortion. The right to have an abortion does not mean that the Sate will force me to have an abortion ( unless I lived in China and exceeded the quota)so I am OK with that law. From my perspective a civil marriage should be handled by the government which means that all adult persons should have the right to marry whomever they freely choose. Just keep the government out of the church/synagogue/mosque/temple et cetera. If a minister chooses not to marry a same sex couple it is possible that couple is in the wrong church. No civil government should force this on a congregation. I also think that religious institutions should pay taxes. Not on charitable non-profit endeavors such as battered woman shelters, soup kitchens, hospitals,free clinics and the like but on the country clubs, golf courses , and other profitable ventures. Looks like I've almost become a Libertarian in my dotage.

    I hate to open a proverbial can of worms but as a person who has never married I find that society finds it OK to deny single people many rights and privileges enjoyed by couples. If the purpose of those rights and privileges are to promote procreation and protect children than no childless couple should have those entitlements any more than any single person. Furthermore a single person is rearing one or more children he or she should not be denied those entitlements that a married couple enjoys.....

  8. I am almost afraid to enter this discussion. And I probably wouldn't if I hadn't been invited. Everyone makes some good points as they approach this issue from their differing perspectives. I do notice that none argue against same-sex marriage (SSM), most argue against opponents of that. In those arguments, some have offered their interpretations of why the anti's oppose SSM.

    I don't oppose SSM, I oppose government being involved in something that is so clearly a religious concept. Way back, before SSM was even in the public eye and the Gay life was still being the subject of humor and ridicule, I was opposed to government being involved in marriage. I think it is one of the clearest examples of violating the separation of Church and State. Somewhere back when the State depended upon the Church for spiritual validation of authority, moral matters were governed by the Church and the State validated them in law. It was a quid pro quo relationship that was necessary for a (relatively) peaceful state. A king opposing the Church was likely to find a revolution brewing at the doorstep of his castle. Henry the VIII caused quite a stir when he broke with the Roman Church. I think one needs to examine the historical relationship Church and State and its evolution when developing a position on such matters as SSM.

    So my position on SSM is simple. Take the status of marriage away from the State. It does not belong there anyway. All references to "marriage" in law should be changed "civil union" or "domestic partnership". This can be done but it needs to happen at the federal level. It needs to be recognized that, even in the past, the true concern of the State in these matters has always been the issues of property with the relationship and not the moral validity. Not to offend any parent (I am one) but children are "property" in the eyes of the law which is why custody is an issue in a divorce.

    I wrote a short piece on my blog which Logisistician suggested I refer to. I updated that piece today with a list of other opinions on the matter to help flesh it out. You may find it of interest. It is incomplete. I realized this as I read the very interesting positions here and as I always realize that my opinions, my positions, constantly evolve.

  9. Thanks much Iris, June, and Douglas for your insightful comments. Since the Logistician, our Senior Fellow primarily responsible for the maintenance of this blog, is engaged in a very time consuming project, we will take the liberty of responding to the three of you simultaneously.

    Additionally, please keep in mind that the following three responses do not represent the views of the Institute for Applied Common Sense, but are provided FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES ONLY:

    (1) There is arguably a reason for some state or governmental involvement in perhaps not necessarily marriage per se, but "pairing up," namely health. During an era when disease was not under as much control as it is today, there was arguably the risk of the spread of disease without the tests. There is also the issue of incest, and its resultant health risk potential. Anthropologists have long argued that marriage and families serve as stabilizing influences, in that some order is achieved with respect to the responsibility for raising and caring for offspring. Otherwise, so the argument goes, many babies would be left to fend for themselves, assuming one could actually track down the parents.

    (2) There is also the "slippery slope" argument. Whether one believes in the applicability of this argument reflects not so much what people think about the issue at hand as opposed to humankind's ability to "think," restrain, control, or discipline itself. If one believes that humans are basically incapable of making "good" judgments (or those which do not present cost complications for society and which society might have to correct), then one is concerned about where the mind (and heart) might go without restrictions. (This is just another form of "management.") First opposite sex, then same sex, then same family, then any age, then higher form animals, etc. It is a different type of fear.

    (3) An argument can be made that marriage should not be permitted as an institution at all (and should actually be outlawed), no matter what the sex of the participants, because of all of the societal costs associated with its failures. When one considers the resultant costs of failed marriages (spousal abuse, child abuse, legal costs and court system costs, murder, mental health complications), society might choose to avoid the practice in its entirety. Having already gotten itself into the opposite sex quagmire as it is, society might say "let's not further complicate the situation that we have."

    Douglas has a very interesting piece on his blog "Boomer Musings" which is on our blogroll, which he posted on October 31, 2008, which suggest that the government get out of the business of marriage entirely. It's worth a read.

    Finally, all of you are thinking people and have the good fortune to have been educated. That's not the case generally in this country. If you really travel around and just talk to anyone and everyone with whom you come into contact, you will not find the level of conversation and interest in these issues as reflected in your posts. The project on which the Logistician is currently involved further supports that, and his upcoming post will delve further into the state of America without much of a voice. That's why Sarah Palin appealed to them.

    Finally, and this is in response to June
    's comment about

  10. Hi Logisitician,
    In answer to your question, ‘fear and ignorance’ is not a trait owned by the uneducated or lower socio economic class philosophy. I’ve worked with some of the wealthiest and most successful people in the U.S.- and have found ‘ignorance’ alive and well in their numbers. (And I classify fear just the product of ignorance)

    The ignorance I speak of is the inability to comprehend or accept facts due to a chosen and believed bias. In short, making decision based on irrational belief. Prejudice, sexism, and homophobia are taught to children. It’s usually done without conscious intent (on the part of the parent) that they’re doing it. But- from the moment a child’s cognitive education begins they are taught to hate (or fear) what’s different- as the parent does.

    It’s this simple: Anything odd- we fear. And the greatest fear is that ‘oddness’ may rub off on us or our family - so we dispel it as ‘wrong’. Homophobic fear homosexuality will come into their lives.

    On the flip side, intelligence is the ability (or personal choice) to investigate life and equate matters based on logic and without allowing previously disposed biases to define your answers.

    This is exemplified repeatedly today by parents (of every socio economic level) who may have been anti-gay and suddenly find their ‘kid’ announcing they’re homosexual. If they have the ability to think with any level of intelligence- they will not allow their bias to take precedence over the love they feel for their child and need to be in their lives.

    That form of intelligence does not come with a college education or dollar bill attached. It comes from the heart.

  11. Thanks much Vikki/Red Chair. First things first. Coupling "fear" and "ignorance" together has complications for me personally. I can comprehend and appreciate the concept of "fear." I suspect that most people can. Let's chat about that first for a minute.

    Some of us have fear, and obviously some of us do not, at least about specific subjects. Does that mean that some of us are irrationally fearful, and others of us are logically brave? What constitutes being brave if brave is the opposite of fearful? Is bravery dictated by where your position is located or ultimately lands, or is it dependent upon the thought process or "scientific method" used to reach the result?

    I'm just talking about fear for now because I thought, at least at the beginning of this comment, that I understood it as a concept. Now I am not quite so sure.

    I would probably agree with you that fear is not the province alone of the uneducated or those members of the lower socio-economic classes; however, how do we counter fear except through the mechanism of education? Should we apply financial resources to attack it? If education does not work, or is ineffective, in eliminating fear(as you suggest may be the case with some of the wealthiest and most successful folks you have met), then what do we do to address it? Should we force or legislate homosexual mixing/understanding on society as we did with racial integration? (If I recall correctly, you also questioned whether we have really made progress in the arena of racial and gender discrimination, 50 years later.)

    I indicated that I thought that I had a grasp on the concept of "fear." That may have been wishful thinking on my part. With respect to the concept of "ignorance," I am totally at a loss, and a member of the unsophisticated in connection with this concept. I really do not know what ignorance is. I had an extensive discourse with Douglas about this a week or so ago, at which time I rambled incoherently.

    I'm going to look up the definition right now in Webster's. IGNORANCE: the condition or quality of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, education, etc.; unawareness. IGNORANT: lacking knowledge, education, or experience; uneducated; inexperienced.

    Having gone through that exercise, I am still not sure whether it really helps me. Should we require parents to be "re-educated?" Should we teach tolerance or awareness in our public schools? Should we teach tolerance or awareness in our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques?

    Should the state be involved at all? Should we override the teachings of parents about such subjects? Is there are a higher incidence of "ignorance" amongst the uneducated as opposed to the educated? In certain states as opposed to others?

    You indicated that intelligence "is the ability (or personal choice) to investigate life and equate matters based on logic and without allowing previously disposed biases to define your answers." I am glad that you inserted the phrase "personal choice." Does that mean that someone can choose to be intelligent or not? Is there a biological/organic source? Does the end result dictate the quality or nature of the intelligence?

    I respect and admire all of you folks out there who have commented some concretely on this issue. I wish I had that level of sophistication, but I must admit that I don't. Although I may not agree with the Sarah Palins of the world, and her followers, I understand them. I am concerned that the label which we apply to them may not advance society's long term positive interests, however defined.

    I need more guidance from you folks out there. I'd appreciate it. I haven't figured this out, at least from a public policy point of view. I have no problem with my personal conduct and choices. What about our society's goals?

  12. Log, you did not "ramble incoherently", you spoke well, you touched on some good points, and we both gained from it. You know that I consider all ignorance willful. That is, people choose to be ignorant. Of course, there is the possibility of unawareness; not being aware of the opportunity to learn about something. But that presumes someone has not been made aware of a subject and that isn't the case here regarding same sex marriage.

    I would like to take up the issue of "fear and hate", as discussed here. I agree that children learn what to fear and hate from their parents. They also learn it from their peers and from their life experiences. But, certainly, they first learn some of it from their parents. But I do not think they learn homophobia from their parents. They are much more likely to learn this from their peers and then, maybe, have that reinforced by their parents. One other thing about "hate and fear", it has no ideology. That is, it does not solely belong to the conservative. There is plenty of fear and hate on the liberal side. A casual examination of liberal blogs will reveal plenty of it there, just as a casual examination of conservative blogs will show that side of it. It is human nature to hate and fear. It may be grounded in our genes, part of our DNA, to hate and fear. I hypothesize that it is an integral part of our survival instinct. That we control it is crucial to advancement as a species but I do not think we can eradicate it.

  13. Douglas, I am pretty much with you on the survival instinct gene source theory. If I ever get the time to transcribe my notes, I will generate an article about the evolutionary, hard wired aspects of racism and discrimination.

    I am glad that you brought up the issue of "fear" and "hate" existing on liberal as well as conservative blogs, which suggests that it exists in liberals and conservatives in society at large. I do believe that they can be equally intolerant of the other, and dismissive of the points of view of each other. I also suspect that they both can "fear" the other. I'm going to have to think further about whether there are equally hateful, at least in a "quantitative sense." I suspect that they may be in a "qualitative sense." However, I suspect that .... Going to have to think about this further.

    As I was outdoors raking leaves for the past hour or so, I thought about marriage further, and wondered why so many references have been made to religion in this regard. Monotheism and Christianity are only roughly 2,000 years old. Marriage, to my understanding, goes back much further. How did the views of those individuals subscribing to monotheism end up controlling our thought processes with respect to an institution which predated that form of religion? And if we examine history for instruction and example, why is there such frequent reference to the most recent traditions and prescriptions, but not those which existed prior thereto?

  14. I look forward, eagerly, to your position on "the evolutionary, hard wired aspects of racism and discrimination." I suspect we have very similar views. I was just playing with an essay on that subject but it is all conjecture, opinion, and casual observation on my part so it carries little weight.

    I will argue that monotheism is older than 2000 years. It is at least 4000 years old (Judeo history) and perhaps 6000 years. And, while Judeo-Christian an Islamic thought does rule our thought processes on the subject, that is quite natural given that these are majority religions today. I am sure that, logically speaking, religion controlled what constituted marriage in the older dominant religions also. Marriage is the spiritual union of two people. Even in polygamous societies, that is so if you think about it (there is one person to which each of the others are married). Communal marriages are incredibly rare, though I am sure that they must have existed in some culture at some time.

  15. I stand corrected. My intention was to refer to monotheism in the form of Christianity as being only roughly 2,000 years old. Thank you.

  16. Just noted a post on another blog concerning the same sex marriage issue. Post analysis:


"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense Should be a Way of Life"™