Saturday, May 17, 2008

I say it here, it comes out there

The Orange Sky led me to prophecy that there would be rapid and forceful reactions to California's decision to let people marry each other, and the Orange Sky was right!

Despite my recent cautionary comments (I use "despite" to maintain the pretence that my blog actually has some international sway on these issues), the religious right has not hesitated to demand that the California court ruling on marriage be nullified as quickly as possible. The Campaign for California Families (which ironically has very little to do with defending families), represented by Liberty Counsel (which equally ironically has very little to do with liberty), wants the court to stay its opinion and wait for the outcome of a referendum on the subject which could be held alongside the fall elections in November. (Under California law, such referenda are common.)

Well, that makes sense. Rather than (a) follow the current law, the Campaign and its lawyers want to (b) follow their speculation about what the law might be in several months' time. I think this is a fabulous idea. There's nothing like judging today's actions by tomorrow's laws. Incidentally, the chief counsel from Liberty is also a dean at Liberty University, which is the university run by the late Jerry Falwell. You know, the guy who blamed the September 11 attacks on "pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle." What the hell is with these people? I doubt most of them know any gay couples who want to marry anyways. Given that they gave up the battle for civil union rights and benefits long ago, this struggle has just become an increasingly petty effort to prevent people who love each other from referring to their relationship with the same word. I wonder if they realize how moronic they look.

Also as I predicted, the mortal terror of polygamy is rearing its head again, despite the fact that polygamy is a consistent Biblical position to take (as if that mattered to the religious right!) - see, for example, the National Review. I wish people would stop talking about this, because it's totally illogical. Even if the fact that recognizing the loving relationships among gay and lesbian people were to somehow strengthen the case for polygamy, which it doesn't on any logical grounds, it wouldn't matter. You can't deny human rights to Group A simply on the basis that it might harm our ability to deal with Group B. Group A's rights have to be recognized - or not recognized - on the basis of that group alone.

As I say every time gay marriage returns to the front page headlines, it's time to have the government stop "marrying" people. There is no compelling reason that the state should give anyone more than some of the benefits, obligations, etc. which would have been imposed by civil unions anyways, and also are granted through common-law marriage. Actually there is no compelling reason in my opinion that the state should be going around determining and legitimating any intimate relationships, but if it is, it certainly should go no farther than what I am suggesting here. I'm fine with the fact that people want to perform a social ritual declaring their desire to have a permanent relationship, but I don't think that we should be relying on the state to lend power to that ritual.

So, we should have only common-law marriages, at least from the perspective of the law. Other groups can perform marriage ceremonies, but without the present legal standing. If the lack of legal standing upsets people, this reveals their underlying dependence on the law to legitimate their activities - something which ought to be unnecessary, especially for Christians (after all, you don't really need the power of the state to prove the "absolute truth" of your morality, right?). People can read into marriage what they wish, and the conservative churches can continue to marry only those people they think "deserve" marriage (read: straight couples), while the rest of us live lives of our own choosing.

Speaking as a resident of territory controlled by the state of Canada, I can confirm to the residents of California what you'll probably also be told by residents of the territories controlled by the states of Massachusetts, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and South Africa: the sky hasn't fallen as a result of our having gay marriage. In fact, there appears to be pretty much just as many - or as few - gay and lesbian people here as there were before, and they still live pretty much just like you, or at least just like they were before.

To their credit, there are three denominations who have come out in open support of the Court's decision to strike down the ban on gay marriage - the United Church, the Episcopalians, and, of course, the Quakers. No surprise with that last one - they haven't really gotten along with the use of state power since, well, ever.