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    Digging for the blue or the green / Constant in opal, ultramarine

    Michael Demmons has decided to tell us what he really thinks about gay marriage:

    It�s not like being polite is going to make some backward a**hole change his mind. So why should I try? People tell us to stop calling people bigots and homophobic because they don�t want us speaking the truth. They think �baby steps.� Well, sorry folks. We�ve been taking baby steps since the 60�s and long before.

    Why should you be polite to people who are determined to behave horribly? Well, for one thing, there’s the old-fashioned injunction against sinking to their level. Sometimes taking the high road convinces a**holes to act more civilized, but even when it doesn’t, it has its benefits. For one thing, non-a**holes are often listening to these exchanges, and it’s not a good idea to turn them off. For another, there’s no faster way to turn yourself bitter than to get involved in games of combat-vituperation.

    Besides, not everyone who has “a different opinion on the matter” is anti-gay. I hate to sound like a broken record, but our interests are not helped when strategy is conceived in hippy-dippy terms like “Marriage is love.” Give me a break. I care whether my boyfriend recognizes my love for him. I care whether my parents do. I care whether my friends do.

    I don’t care whether the state does, which is one of the reasons I have such a hard time figuring out what “equality” gay marriage advocates are looking for. Power of attorney and transfer of benefits, I get. The ability to get residency for a partner who’s a foreign national is obviously something I’m deeply interested in. I just grow very suspicious at the way arguments for gay marriage veer quickly into the territory of what would make us happy or unhappy. We cannot fall into the trap of offering the government that kind of power if we want our relationships to be integrated into society in a way that’s best for everyone, and if we want to put men and women who come out in the future in the best position to live happy and productive lives. If we do, we will lose, and so will they. I would be more than…well, happy…to see gay advocacy proceed in strides larger than baby steps if I thought the foundations of its arguments were more solid. As it is, we’re still in the middle of debates over first principles, such as what constitutes a “right” and what makes someone a “second-class citizen.” In that context, I don’t think you need to be a patsy in order to espouse caution and slow, deep-rooted, organic change.

    9 Responses to “Digging for the blue or the green / Constant in opal, ultramarine”

    1. Michael says:

      “I just grow very suspicious at the way arguments for gay marriage veer quickly into the territory of what would make us happy or unhappy.”
      Well, for one thing, you’re framing this as though I need some sort of recognition from government in order to enhance my self-esteem. Insulting. I don’t have that problem. But it would make me VERY happy if I could remain in the United States with my partner. And guess what? Government DOES have that control. I never gave them that control over a part of my life that would make me happy.
      But maybe you’re right. Maybe we should all just sit around, not advance any arguments like “happiness” and wait passively for society to change on its own.
      Seriously Sean, that sounds like what you’d have us do?!?!
      I’ve read your representative post on gay marriage thoroughly and see nothing in it that would suggest you have some road you would like us to go down – except that it seems clear that we should just sit idly and wait. Really! You talk about how we shouldn’t let government control our happiness, and that seems to be it.
      …and then you criticize me because I’m not going to put up with peoples’ bullsh** non-reasons for their lack of support.
      I’m extremely happy with straight people who support us – who support us actively. But, unlike some people, I see this is a BIG issue. A very big issue that affect my life and happiness in ways I can’t control unless the situation changes. I agree with you Sean, that government recognition of anything shouldn’t control our happiness. But in this case, government control of whether or not I can remain with Robert if I lose my job here DOES affect my happiness. I worry about it every day.
      So forgive me if I don’t put up with crap like “It’ll lead to polygamy” and “Next they’ll have to let you marry your horse” and “It’s tradition.”
      You can do that if you like.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      It depends what you mean by “put up with” and “make me miserable.” No one who can’t see the difference between marrying a horse and marrying another adult who’s entering into a contract in full possession of his faculties belongs in the public debate. Or near heavy machinery, for that matter.
      But that doesn’t mean that you can get away with flatly asserting that people who think there are good arguments against gay marriage are just plain obviously wrong or bigoted. Do I count as an anti-gay bigot, Michael? I’m not playing Gotcha! here; it just seems as if you’ve left little room for disagreement.
      My point has never been that we should just sit around looking winsome and wait for the rest of America to start spontaneously coming around to our view of things. I don’t do winsome. My point is that there’s a social context for all this, and gay marriage advocates are making truly catastrophic PR errors by not taking it into account.
      The last 40 years of social history have been rough on everyone, and that all of this was put in motion around the time you and I were being born doesn’t make it any less the case that it’s the situation we find ourselves in. There’s no quick fix. What we need to do most is live happy, responsible lives that people can see. Beyond that, I think pushing locally for civil unions and partnership benefits is the best current step. It keeps the focus on people voters can identify with and off preening, glad-handing, name-dropping, insular urban activists.
      This does not immediately solve problems such as adoption and immigration, but it keeps things moving forward and makes less likely the kind of backlash that could seriously screw up the lives of people who come out 50 years or so from now. For that goal, yes, I think it’s worth accepting for now that there are some states where we can adopt as couples, some where we can adopt as primary and second parents, and one where we can’t adopt at all. “Accepting” doesn’t mean lying down and taking it, it means viewing it as something to be tackled down the line and not to be spazzed about here and now.
      Finally, I will be only too happy to apologize, grovelingly, if I misinterpreted what you were saying about being made miserable. If it was along the lines of your comment above, I’m sorry (grovelingly) I misinterpreted you. In that case, though, I can’t see how you can endorse Andrew Sullivan’s arguments on the subject so ringingly, since he’s constantly harping on the need for marriage to make us feel complete, integrated into society, et c.

    3. Normal Desmond says:

      I’m with Sean. It’s better to practice what you preach. If you advocate equality, civility and love, then behave accordingly.

    4. Nathan says:

      I’ve said before that Sean should be the leading voice on the homosexual marriage, and this post and response provides a good example why.
      I am straight, and disapprove of homosexual marriage. I’ve heard Michael mention “If I can’t get married to my partner, I might be forced out of the country!”
      Well, wah. So we have to overturn centuries of tradition and institute something never before done in civilization just so you won’t have to leave the country if you lose your job? Are *you* that important? What, your partner wouldn’t leave the country to be with you? You can’t get a permanent resident card any other way? If you are employed, I guess I doubt that, and it makes me wonder what choices you are not making so your situation will be more sympathy-inducing.
      (don’t worry, it gets better)
      And then, in one sentence, Sean turned it around for me. He said: “The ability to get residency for a partner who’s a foreign national is obviously something I’m deeply interested in.”
      The difference? Giving, rather than giving. That’s what I’m interested in hearing.
      I’ve expressed distrust of the whole civil union/marriage issue, wondering exactly what the hidden agenda was. Sean never pushed his agenda in our conversations.
      Now that he tacitly admits (and overtly describes, but never overtly says it is his) an agenda to eventually have gay marriage, and I find I don’t care.
      So it wasn’t the agenda that bothered me, it was the way I was told to mind my own business, the way I was told my opinion didn’t count because I’m not gay, the way even asking questions was automatically deemed homophobic. Those are the behaviors of people not mature enough for marriage, and I found nothing compelling in their arguments thereafter. When a 13-year-old argues for hours that they’ve found the love of their life, one that eclipses the great loves and will last forever, do you believe it and allow them to marry? Of course not.
      But Sean is an effective, if unintentional advocate. Or maybe I just like him, and so I’m more willing to listen to his views and arguments. One of the things I like about him is his blog touches upon homosexual issues because its part of who he is, but he isn’t dominated by this one aspect of his life. When someone wears their sexuality on their sleeve, such lack of balance also strikes me as immature, or a stunted personality growth.
      Not that you haven’t impressed me in other ways, Michael, but not in your gay marriage advocacy.

    5. Nathan says:

      That should be “Giving, rather than getting”

    6. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, Nathan, I really don’t care whether we end up with something called “marriage” that both gays and straights have equal access to. In that sense, you were right before–my agenda do not include gay marriage the way we usually understand it.
      It’s not that I was hiding my intentions, or anything. I’m not against gay marriage; if the way things are going right now ends up working out, I’ll be happy. I’m not against civil unions, either, and they seem to me to be more likely to work for all concerned. To me, the important thing is that couples that want to form a lifelong bond of responsibility be allowed to take care of each other without interference.
      The giving vs. getting thing is a matter of degree. It’s possible to want to have certain specific resources at your disposal without going off the deep end and expecting to shake down society for anything and everything. Residency for non-marital partners (though there’s a bill for it right now) is a long way off, and I have no interest in trying to force the issue. But I do have a stake in it, and I have no compunction about acknowledging that.

    7. Michael says:

      I’m glad that I impress you in other ways, Nathan. I really am. But I know what that means. It means I agree with you wholeheartedly on something – which is probably what it takes.
      And I haven’t impressed you with my equal marriage advocacy because you are not open to it. It’s not because I haven’t given good arguments against conservative non-arguments.
      But again, glad you are impressed with the stuff I write when it agrees with your static world view.

    8. Nathan says:

      Great! Now I’ve offended everyone! [grin]
      I expressed myself badly, but that’s nothing new.
      It’s not that I thought you were deliberately misrepresenting your views or goals, Sean. There are things I want that I don’t actively advocate for, like someone giving me a million dollars. Heck, I don’t even have a tip-jar up to make it easy for some insane posse (clown, or not) to do so. But if it were a real possibility, you know I would probably vote for it.
      Michael, I don’t think it’s so much that I’m not open to the idea as much as different arguments/thought processes are more compelling to any group of people than others. If you notice what the main difference between Sean’s and your arguments are, its that Sean sees marriage/civil unions/recognition of the commitment as a way he can give something, whereas you always seem to frame it in terms of something you want to get. I am rarely impressed with an argument for self-benefit, no matter how clever or inspired the argument.
      Think a moment of why the Gift of the Magi is such a moving tale, and you’ll get what I mean.

    9. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, Michael, I don’t think any of us can really claim to be free of that bias. I’m a great believer in the unsparing pursuit of truth and orientation of oneself toward it (or against it, if one is a drag queen), but I don’t revisit every point I think I’ve settled satisfactorily just because someone has come up with a new arrangement of counter-arguments I’ve already considered. At least convincing people that you’re worth listening to on issue X might convince them to give you a fairer hearing on issue Y.
      Nathan, you didn’t offend me. Just making sure what you meant.