Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Horsefeathers and Mumbo Jumbo

Oh dear. I see that the religious crowd in Australia is getting their knickers in a twist over the prospect of same gender marriage.

We've heard all of the arguments in that article in Canada - and every last one of them is specious because they fail to recognize one fundamental point: Nobody is talking about the religious notion of marriage, but rather the secular and legal notion of marriage.

They can blather on all they like about the "uniqueness of love between a man and woman", or how sex between a man and a woman is "designed to create life" and they still miss the point entirely.

There are a couple of gems in the midst of their fear-riddled tirade against allowing gay couples to marry.

But, as hard and painful as it is for those who suffer
from same‐sex attraction, real love demands chastity – the integration of sexual desires into unselfish love for the other person. This means abstaining from sex that is not marital and open to life. Unfulfilled sexual desires can be a painful cross to carry. But a chaste life brings us true inner peace and joy, because we are living in harmony with the way our bodies have been designed and we are treating the person we love as a gift – loving him or her for their own sake, and not for the sexual pleasure they can give us.

Oh yes, the classic Catholic dogma - tut tut tut ... no sex outside of marriage; and anything within marriage had better be about making more babies.

Then it invokes the "nobility of suffering" line while advocating that homosexuals should have no sex lives whatsoever.

What this theology fails to recognize is the importance of sexual activity as part of a social bonding process between individuals. Whether the sexual activity is heterosexual or homosexual, it has a unique effect in bringing the partners closer together over time. It isn't trivial and should not be ignored. It is, in some ways significant that when a marriage gets into trouble (and they do), one of the first things to be withdrawn by one of the partners is sex. I do not think that is any accident, since it is a very common pattern. Conversely, a healthy marriage has an active and ongoing amount of sexual activity in it - and this pattern doesn't appear to differ substantially whether we are talking about a heterosexual or homosexual couple.

Allowing two men or two women to ‘marry’ would involve a fundamental
change in the definition of marriage, from a life‐giving and sexually complementary union to a personal, romantic relationship with no true communion or connection to procreation. It will entrench, in a public way, the separation of sex from babies and marriage from children. It will move marriage from a children‐centred institution to an adult‐centred one. It will trivialize the meaning and dignity of motherhood and fatherhood. This will deeply affect children and young people’s aspirations for their own marriage.

Nice try. You missed again. There isn't a shred of evidence to back this claim up. This is a restatement of the "marriage = sex = babies" routine. I hate to point this out, but it's hardly news that there are lots of marriages without children; and lots of children born out of wedlock (go back to when clergy acknowledged their offspring, we used to call them bastards - remember?) To claim that there is some magical connection between marriage, sex and raising children is arguably false - and I dare say that most single parents would agree.

Further, I don't think that the fraction of same gender marriages that will be created will ever be big enough to meaningfully affect how most heterosexual couples live. The fact is that homosexual couples have been a part of society for at least as long as we have had recorded history - not once have those couples ever changed the behaviour of their heterosexual counterparts.

As for the qualitative arguments about the "uniqueness of love between a man and a woman", those are pure conjecture. Nobody that I know of has ever been able to substantiate that love in that context is different between heterosexual and homosexual couples. The religious crowd likes to assert it ... let them prove it.

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