Anti-Gay Arguments We Don’t Bother With (And Should): Part 1
January 26th, 2009
Some anti-gay statements/ideas make me huff in frustration, but because they seem — on the very face of it — silly, I huff and move on. These comments are iterated in casual conversations and debates but rarely receive close scrutiny because they don’t make it onto CNN discussion panels or the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times. They are the stuff of anonymous online comments, the product of an amateur punditocracy. But these memes are powerful; while an offensive comment posted on one of Chris Crocker’s YouTube videos may not be suitable for public debate, it is perhaps more indicative of where public opinion stands — and what people, in the comfort of their homes and under the cloak of anonymity, really think.
I wanted to dedicate a series of posts (five in total) to crazy anti-gay arguments and encourage BTB’s readers to respond to and engage them below.
#1: Any man — even a gay one — can marry a woman. Therefore, it is not discriminatory to deny marriage rights to members of the same sex given that a straight man can’t marry a man, either.
What irritates me about this is that it very obviously misses the point and tries to win the argument on a technicality: “Aha! The law treats everyone the same — I can’t marry someone of the same sex and neither can you.” Underlying the argument is a very amateur understanding of what it means for the law to “treat everyone the same.”
Let me try a reductio ad absurdum (though it seems to me almost like a straight analogy):
- If the government passes a law requiring everyone to practice Christianity, it doesn’t infringe on the rights of those who are Jewish because they are treated equally; Christians can’t practice Judaism and neither can Jews.
Or to invert the principle:
- Men aren’t granted the right to terminate their own pregnancy/abort, therefore the law is discriminatory against men.
- Children are discriminated against because they are not allowed to buy guns.
The argument above is conflating and misunderstanding a number of issues:
First, what the right in question is. The real argument that proponents of LGBT rights are making is that the “fundamental right” in question is the right to marry the person one loves, not to marry someone of the other sex. It is also a moot point/irrelevant whether a straight person can or can’t marry someone of the same sex given that they do not want to (in the same way that, above, it is irrelevant whether or not a Christian is forbidden from practicing Judaism). I take exception with the narrow interpretation of the “marriage right” under dispute.
Second, the understanding of what it means for the law to treat everyone equally. “Equal treatment” without regard to the interests of the individual, age, identity etc. leads one to adopt silly positions such as those mentioned above. For very obvious reasons, the law does not treat all groups equally (though it strives to treat them equitably). Certain groups are “suspect classifications” and subject to special state protection. Thus, groups like Jews, blacks, and women are considered “suspect classifications” and protected from tyrannical interpretations of the equal protection clause. It is because the law does not strictly “treat everyone equally” that we can’t pass a law that says everyone has to practice Christianity just because it applies to everyone.
The premise of the argument — that the law is just so long as it “treats everyone equally” — is wrong. So is its narrow understanding of the right in question.
Next installment: The ‘slippery-slope’ argument: why allowing gay marriage does not entail allowing bestiality