Jesurgislac’s Journal

April 7, 2009

But we are winning…

XKCD - AntiMindvirus image

I dunno. What is this obsession with incest, polygamy, and bestiality that most of the anti-marriage movement seem to have? I just stumbled across yet another of these people. [redacted name and link to blog]

FWIW, “MK”, Dan Savage has the right of it, and in words simple enough for even you to understand: “Bestiality is wrong, wrong, wrong, because an animal cannot give its consent.” That may be the problem, of course: these creatures howling at the edge of the world don’t really understand the concept of sexual consent, any more than they have any more understanding of what marriage involves – I mean real marriage: real commitment to another person, to love, honour, cherish, live with and long for. Until they have got a basic understanding of sexual consent, one hopes they do not, in fact, engage in marriage – if they could find anyone, since their notion of marriage is strictly limited to “Are we interfertile?” and not in any way touching on “Are you the one person I want to be with for the rest of my life”.

So for them, and particularly for you, Matthew, you zoophiliac, go read A Modest Proposal: The Thorny Issue of Sexual Consent.

In the mean time: that XKCD cartoon is addressed to me, to all of us who support marriage as a civil liberty essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness: the doors are opening, and love is coming in. However sad and horrible these people are, however vicious their attacks on families and on marriage and even on simple human loving – they are on the losing side.

Let me try and remember that.

Update – not an afterthought, exactly, because it’s one I had before.

I was at a friend’s funeral last week. And it was sad and strange – he had been slowly dying for years, but it was like: he had been almost dying so long that we all kept thinking he would keep doing it forever. But it occurred to me, sitting with his other half’s parents at the post-funeral meal afterwards, I mean really and literally right there and then – because my friend, like myself, had been a long time involved in gay equality activism – that even twenty-five years ago, a funeral like this with both their families and all their friends mingling, with a church service and the pastor who was the officiant at their wedding attending the burial, would have been all but unthinkable. Yet it is so. Now, today, 2009: this is how it is.

And I thought, for my friend as well as for myself: We got to do what not many people ever do. We live in a better world, a kinder and more generous and less hatefilled world, than the one we were born in, than the one we grew up in. We helped build it, this better world: it’s part of your legacy, as a gay activist, it will be part of mine.

He’s dead. I go on building.

4 Comments »

  1. So you continue to ramble on about how the line will definably stop at Gay Marriage…using (I assume) the same arguments you tried to use on my site. Exclude bestiality for a minute – think about other forms of Human relationships – Polygamous marriages, sibling marriages, etc.

    The argument that you tried to pass off on my site – that those things won’t come into being because because marriage “has always been predicated on being between two people, not three or more” – as I keep telling you, DOES NOT HOLD WATER. Yes, marriage has always been predicated on being between two people, and to allow polygamy would violate this, but marriage has also always been predicated on being between members of the opposite sex – and Gay Marriage violates that predication just as much as polygamy violates the “only two” predication.

    This “you’re free” bull**** follows the other distortions by those promoting gay marriage: that not allowing gay marriage somehow prevents people from doing what they want, that it breaks up couples. It does neither of these things. Gays are still free to live, love, and sleep with each other. They are still free to flaunt their sexuality. They are still free to ride in Gay Pride parades, rally for gay causes, and do whatever else they want. They are still free, even, to get married in a church, temple, or any other place that will have them.

    The only thing that a Gay Marriage ban does is it protects the vast majority of society who don’t approve of homosexuality from being forced to condone these relationships.

    If you want inheritance rights, or hospital visitation rights, that’s fine – we can talk about that. Personally, I don’t have any problem allowing (or even requiring upon age 18) all citizens to designate another individual as the one to make medical decisions, receive inheritance, social security, or other payments. But until radicals like yourself stop trying to force everyone else to support the gay lifestyle, you are only going to make enemies. Until you stop trying to distort, redefine, and damage traditional marriage, you will only have problems.

    If you were to agree to leave actual marriage alone, and accept instead domestic partnerships or legal agreements, and leave marriage as something for a man and a woman – and a tool society can use to promote the kind of man/woman relationships necessary to our national well-being, you might get somewhere, but until the homosexual-rights movement stops being the uncompromising bunch of radicals that it is, you are never going to get even close to where you want to go.

    Comment by Matthew Kilburn — April 7, 2009 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  2. My general policy on my blog is that anyone who is human (I use the mod function primarily to see off spambots) may comment freely.

    That does not mean, of course, that anyone – least of all, myself! – needs to waste their time attempting to engage in serious discourse a bigot who thinks there’s no difference between having sex with another human and having sex with an animal. Anyone who compares same-sex marriage to bestiality is, in my view, simply not worth talking to.

    Comment by jesurgislac — April 7, 2009 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  3. I know you don’t care to engage this commentator, doubtless on good grounds, but he raises a couple of issues that I’d like to address here (con su permiso), more for you and other readers than for him.

    FWIW, I believe that gay marriage – which I support – may indeed open the door to sibling marriage and polygamy. It certainly tends in that direction.

    Now neither of these alternatives ought to be rejected simply on the grounds of religion, “tradition,” or the squick factor. That’s what most who deploy the examples clearly intend: OMFG, if we have gay marriage we’ll have legalized incest!!!!111!!! To which I respond (in effect): So bloody what?

    From where I stand, the only legitimate objection to sibling marriage is the presumptive health problem, primarily genetic (though I suppose a “mental health” aspect might be posited). I don’t have the scientific knowledge to assess this, but from what little I know, this objection doesn’t seem to me insurmountable. If all we can say is “Such a union creates a higher [X%] risk of genetic defects,” we are open to genetic testing for a whole range of risk factors involving NON-sibling, where I for one do not wish to tread. (For parent-(adult)child unions, it may be somewhat more complicated; I haven’t thought this through fully.)

    I see no great demand for legally sibling marriage; I think the political costs of pursuing it at this juncture would be enormous; but if it came it wouldn’t be a problem for me. (Nor a particular advantage, since I don’t love either my sister or my brother in That Way. And they’re both over 60. And married.)

    Polygamy presents a slightly different set of issues. One is the feminist issue that throughout most of human history “polygamy” has in fact been polygyny, and has contributed to, or been complicit in, the subordination of women. Whether it’s the ancient Romans, the Chinese gentry, the Middle Eastern Muslim, the kings of Siam or the American Mormon version, powerful men have used polygyny as a means to acquire more than their “share” of women (at the expense of less powerful men, of course) and in the process created a framework within the household/harem of injustice, inequality (between wives) and oppression. This problem might, in theory, be removed or reduced by very strict framing of the question of “consent,” but I don’t know how well this could be managed in practice.

    More fundamental, in the short run, is the fact noted previously that in modern Western society marriage is presumed to be a binary institution. A married person has one – and only one – spouse, one other person who has the rights and obligations of a husband/wife: to insurance coverage, to immigration preferment, to conjugal visits in jail, to joint income tax filing, to be immune from forced testimony against the spouse, &c. Although historically this is not universal (cf. various polygynous societies mentioned above), it is far more structurally significant than the gender of the participants, IMHO.

    E.g., if it’s a matter of access to limited resources (tickets for commencement), it harms me not if someone else’s spouse is of the same sex rather than the opposite sex. But if someone else is claiming twenty spouses, then it starts to impinge on my rights. I want to keep the number at one.

    Moreover, I cannot imagine that if this gate were thrown wide open that ingenious lawyer-types would take immediate advantage of it. Can you imagine the entire corporate leadership of Enron or AIG claiming spousal privilege against testifying against each other? Hell, the entire Mafia could adopt this kind of “fictive kinship” for tax or testimony purposes! (But perhaps I repeat myself.)

    Let me be clear that I have no objection whatsoever to groups of people “marrying” themselves in combinations of any number, so long as there is no state sanction involved. (And really that’s what this is all about – what kind of “marriage” does/should the state recognize.) But I believe that the legalization of polyamory – as opposed to gay marriage or sibling marriage – is far more complicated, and contains more possibly unforeseen pitfalls, than its supporters acknowledge. *IF* these could all be worked out, I’d be OK with legal polygamy, but that’s a very big “IF.”

    As for marriage with minors or non-humans (animals, machines), I think the consent question settles that simply. No and no.

    I guess my point here is that while it is certainly politic to deny or ignore the implications of the push for recognition of gay marriage, it is also worthwhile now and then to consider them. Reasonably. In a quiet and sane environment, which this blog seems mostly to be. To decide – squick factor aside – what kinds of marriage a just society might reasonably validate. And not to be afraid of the implications.

    FWIW (not much): In October I will have been married to the same woman for forty years. So I have no particular vested interest in any of these alternatives.

    Comment by dr ngo — April 8, 2009 @ 3:07 am | Reply

  4. Dr Ngo: I know you don’t care to engage this commentator, doubtless on good grounds, but he raises a couple of issues that I’d like to address here (con su permiso), more for you and other readers than for him.

    I was (on Matthew’s own blog) having a reasonably civil (I thought) and rational (I thought) discussion about the issues of sibling marriage and polygamous marriage, with regard to same-sex marriage… and then Matthew made a front page dump in which he compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, and (after a brief discussion in which Matthew declined to apologize or to withdraw the comparison) I thought: this person is not worth attempting to communicate with, for the reasons given above.

    I have no objection in the world to discussing the issues of incestuous marriage or polygamous marriage, though I disagree that giving same-sex couples the freedom to marry opens the door to more radical changes in marriage.

    First, on simple historical grounds: same-sex couples have been able to legally wed (either as a registered partnership, or more recently, in marriage) for nearly 20 years. In no country where same-sex marriage/partnership has become legal, has this been in any way related to any movement to make sibling marriage or polgyamous marriage legal, except by those opposed to the principle of same-sex marriage.

    (In France, for example, the PACS can be registered between any two people who live together – two siblings, aunt and niece, even father and daughter – it is cohabitation protection, and was specifically designed that way by far-right religious nutcases who, like their opposite numbers in the US, wanted any legal relationship a same-sex couple could have to be as much unlike marriage as possible while satisfying the anti-discrimination requirements of membership in the European Union. The far-right religious opposition to civil partnership in the UK attempted similar amendments in the House of Lords, which failed.)

    The radical change which makes same-sex marriage a logical and incremental step, had nothing to do with sibling marriage or poly marriage: it had to do with making marriage a legally equal relationship between husband and wife. In cultures where marriage is mandated as an unequal relationship – where husband has rights over wife – the only way in which a same-sex couple can marry is if one of them plays “husband” and the other plays “wife”. Where the law requires the two to be legally equal spouses, with the same rights, obligations, and privileges, there is no real argument that same-sex couples shouldn’t also be able to be married. Same-sex marriage has, around the world, followed equal marriage in lockstep.

    It would be exceedingly complex to legislate a poly marriage as an equal marriage: it really would entail fundamentally changing marriage legislation. (Can a new spouse be added into the marriage, becoming at once an equal partner? Or is a marriage of four equal partners dissolved if they want to add a fifth, so that they must then remarry as five? What if spouse A wants to divorce spouse B, spouse C likes B and wants to divorce spouse A, and spouses D, E, and F want the fivesome to remain together – is the marriage dissolved completely? What happens to community property? What happens to pensions? What happens to children of the marriage?)

    These are just a few of the questions that come to my mind, and in order to legislate equal poly marriage, every single line of marriage legislation would have be looked at and considered how it would apply to a marriage with three or more spouses as well as two. It would be a truly massive legislative effort – and for what? There is no mass movement towards equal poly marriage. Maybe there will be, at some time in the future, but it’s a vast and different reform from saying “We have the equal marriage legislation already – let’s just let same-sex couples use it.”

    Which is, more or less, what you’re saying, I think.

    From where I stand, the only legitimate objection to sibling marriage is the presumptive health problem, primarily genetic (though I suppose a “mental health” aspect might be posited). I don’t have the scientific knowledge to assess this, but from what little I know, this objection doesn’t seem to me insurmountable. If all we can say is “Such a union creates a higher [X%] risk of genetic defects,” we are open to genetic testing for a whole range of risk factors involving NON-sibling, where I for one do not wish to tread. (For parent-(adult)child unions, it may be somewhat more complicated; I haven’t thought this through fully.)

    The legal argument against sibling marriage (or parent-offspring marriage) that I have seen, is not concerned with genetics, but with the legal relationship that a blood relative already has. I have an equal legal relationship with my brother and with my sister, and all three of us have an equal legal relationship with our parents: if any two of the five were allowed to marry, creating a new and equal or stronger legal relationship, this would strongly affect the legal relationships by blood that we already have. Even in France, where any two people can register a PACS, they have to be living together and in no other similar legal relationship – two ENRON directors in France couldn’t register a PACS together unless they divorced their spouses and moved in together (I think there’s even a requirement for living together for at least six months before you can register).

    Reasonably. In a quiet and sane environment, which this blog seems mostly to be. To decide – squick factor aside – what kinds of marriage a just society might reasonably validate. And not to be afraid of the implications.

    There’s certainly a case to be made for allowing, as in France and in the Netherlands, a legal registration of cohabiting partners – a declaration that these two people, or more, are more than just a group of people sharing a house, and the contract between them ought to be recognised. In the Netherlands, this was set up in the early 1990s, a precursor to registered partnership (which was open there to mixed-sex and to same-sex couples) – it doesn’t affect tax or pensions, but it can affect other community property. In the Netherlands, this is used sometimes to make poly relationships as legal as they can be: it is also used (I gather) to ensure that a long-term carer can be legally protected; similarly PACS is used in France, sometimes. But it’s not in common use.

    Comment by jesurgislac — April 8, 2009 @ 7:23 am | Reply


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