Monday, April 22

Marriage "Equality": Why I Oppose It & A Worst Case Scenario

A lot of antitheists ask me why I don't support gay marriage. 
The reason is because I love people and want them to be happy. 
  • If I honestly love people, then I should support them only in decisions that will lead them to complete happiness and peace (since love is wanting others to find eternal happiness and peace and being willing to do anything to help them find it). 
  • I believe that homosexual relationships are incompatible with eternal peace - a moral belief that is completely my own. 
  • Hence, in my mind, if I or anyone supports gay marriage, it evinces one of two things: either 
    • (1) I don't truly love my gay brothers and sisters, and subjugate my desire for their eternal happiness to a personal desire to look good, be accepted, or avoid conflict, or 
    • (2) I don't believe that homosexual relationships are incompatible with eternal happiness.
That's why I don't support gay marriage - civil, religious, or otherwise. Because I love people and want them to be happy. 
I'm unwilling to subjugate my love for others just to keep the waters calm. Hence, the pleas to "let people live their lives as they want to" or "it doesn't affect anyone else" would be non-functional even if they were accurate. The only method that would change my stance on gay marriage would be a change in my belief - specifically, a change that showed me that homosexual relationships are part of the pathway to eternal happiness and peace. 
There are three main bases for creating beliefs about the world and happiness: observation, persuasion, and revelation. 
Observation is the development of personal beliefs through personal experience, combined with deductive and inductive reasoning. Touch a hot stove, feel the pain, and develop a belief that motivates actions that avoid touching hot stoves in the future. 
Persuasion is the development of personal beliefs through the experiences of others, as interpreted through their reasoning. "I touched a hot stove and it burned me" - which in turn develops the same belief.
Revelation is the development of personal beliefs through communication with God.
In many cases, I develop my beliefs about the world through observation and persuasion. I look at how the world influences people and determine how my actions and beliefs can best fit in with perception and reality. When I can avoid pain through learning from the experiences of others, that's awesome. In some cases, it's not effective to rely on the hearsay or experiences of others - I have to learn for myself. And in other cases, ones that are really close to home - things that will have a lasting impact and where I can't afford to be wrong - personal observation and societal persuasion aren't enough. I need to know from God Himself. That's the case with homosexual relationships. Being personally attracted to men means that I need to know how homosexuality fits in with the pathway to happiness, and it's not enough to take someone's word for it, whether myself, a friend, an activist, or even a prophet. Only knowing from God will be enough.
There's another issue - in the application of beliefs to the outside world. A logical question is, "Well, you may think that happiness comes by following a certain path. But what about when you are talking about someone else's happiness and your beliefs differ from theirs? What right do you have believing that their actions influence their happiness, when they disagree?" That's a logical question, and the answer belies the source of my information. If I believe that my beliefs are unique to my own experience, and from my own experience, then I won't readily apply them to someone else. There are plenty of mundane examples of things that are individual in nature. If there are societal proofs of something, I'm more likely to believe that it applies to others. In my case, I believe that God is the only one who can reveal the pathway to happiness, and that the principles He teaches are universal. I also believe that this is an incredibly important part of His Plan of Happiness. So does that mean that I believe my truth from God (homosexual relationships do not lead to eternal happiness) is more true than any other? Yes. It does. And I hold that belief unapologetically - that's the amazing part of the gospel - following it will always lead to happiness, no matter who I am or what has happened in my life... and in the life of every other person ever to live.
In an alternate universe, I see a number of reasons why I could support gay marriage. If I didn't really care about gay people is one option. If I honestly believed that homosexual relationships do not lead to happiness, but feared that opposing those relationships would make me lose friends, or felt that opposing them goes beyond my obligation to do everything in my power to help the people I love find happiness. All of those would be proof, in my mind, that I didn't really love people. Or I could be persuaded by my own personal experience or by someone else's personal experience to create a belief that gay marriage does lead to happiness.
Issues arise when people don't share my love or my belief that homosexual relationships are incompatible with eternal peace, and are also unable or unwilling to come to an agreement on the basis for our exclusive beliefs. It's pretty simple: if I love people, the deciding factor in whether or not I support gay marriage is based on whether or not I believe that gay marriage is a step along the path to eternal happiness.
That means that the conversation can quickly degenerate, since we are discussing beliefs that derive from different bases. My belief derives specifically from a personal relationship with God and revelation from Him, which is then supported by personal and other experiences. The beliefs of others are usually personal. They try to convince me with proof from their lives, but that's inadequate for me. I encourage them to get close to God to find specific answers, but they don't believe in God.
Recently, I've been trying to find other reasons that make sense to people who base their moral decisions on different bases. The issue of adoption is fraught with sampling errors and easily misinterpreted data on both sides. As are parenting, abuse, and other statistical references... and, honestly, I've never seen someone change their minds on the issue of gay marriage because someone showed them a statistical study.

So you already know the reason why I oppose gay marriage. But, here's a worst-case scenario... and another reason I could oppose it. This is definitely going to be controversial.
First of all, let's set some definitions.
Equal: Uniform in operation or effect - the same as.
Marriage: the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc. (from Random House dictionary)
To set the stage, gay marriage isn't about marriage equality. Equality, by definition, means the same as. Gay men and women have the exact same ability to get married just as much as anyone else. I can go get married tomorrow and tell the clerk I am gay; he will still issue me a marriage license to marry a woman. No questions asked. Under laws that instituted racial segregation in marriage, I couldn't do that. Civil rights made it so that all men now have the same ability in marriage - all men of any race can marry women of any other race. There is no law that discriminates against gay men implicitly or directly in marriage or that stipulates that gay men and women cannot get married. I know hundreds who are.

Gay marriage is more about extending a new set of rights to a special interest group. The gay marriage decision will fundamentally change marriage because it creates a new basis for it. Currently, marriage is based on the union between man and woman as the basic social unit of society, and, traditionally, the only place where sexual relations were allowed and also the method by which children entered society and were dependent on their parents. Traditionally, marriage was a permanent commitment from one person to another, one that instituted massive societal penalties up to and including death for the betrayal of marriage covenants. As time has passed, the sanctity of marriage has become less and less, especially with the introduction of civil divorce, no-questions divorces (note: this is not a discussion on abusive relationships), and the essential elimination of adultery and fornication as sins in popular society, but the basis of marriage has remained the same. 
The basis of gay marriage is that of "equality" - specifically, based on the principle that since you can't choose who you love, any two people who love each other should have the benefits of marriage. This is problematic, and where the worst-case scenario begins.
The first issue is that redefining marriage will take away personal moral rights that have been held consistent for hundreds of years. The laws covering gay marriage do not end at just wanting to be married - eventually individuals and organizations will be forced by anti-discrimination laws to accept and support gay marriage. One reason for the development of reformations within England and eventually why the first settlers left for America was religious freedom - and not just freedom to believe, but freedom to act accordingly to their beliefs. They did not support the moral beliefs of their king (specifically that he was divorced and remarried) and were being persecuted for not supporting him. If gay marriage is passed, and anti-discrimination laws are passed next, Americans will lose the right that drew the first settlers - the right to act in accordance to our own beliefs without government intervention. We can already see that in cases over private marriage halls, florists, bakers, photographers - the gist is that if it is available to the public as a service, then individuals with personal morals have no right declining their services in support of a person or cause that opposes those morals. This is a massive change from the current model. Today, I can choose to not support a business as a supplier, or to reject a potential contract with an organization based on moral standing. I can also reject participating in activities that are not protected by the law - so in my case I can refuse to bring essential oils to a gay marriage and I'm fine. It's apparent that gay marriage will eventually reverse that, and effectively force individuals and businesses to adopt a new standard that is completely dissimilar to things in the past. Currently, as a gay man, I can go into someplace that is currently against gay marriage and get support for my own marriage. To a woman. Just like any hetero guy. There is no discrimination based on who I am, as there was in racial disputes. There is only discrimination based on personal choices - which has traditionally been preserved as a right reserved to individuals - if you don't support something, then don't give it your business. Worst-case scenario: since religious exemptions are usually only made for churches, individuals and religious organizations who offer services to the public will eventually be forced to choose between two alternatives- close their doors or support gay marriage. Those who receive government funding will be in a similar situation. This would simply require the passing of anti-discrimination laws and courts that find them appealing. It has already happened in some places.

Next worst-case. By creating a new standard for marriage, we are also paving the way to destroy the societal meaning of marriage itself. If anyone who "loves one another" can get married and divorced, then what keeps college roommates from getting a marriage license while they live together to save on taxes and insurance? Nothing. Today there is still a societal expectation that a practice would be untrue to what marriage is. But a shift in the basis would allow quickly for expansion in usage. But that probably already happens. The bigger issue is that if "love" is now a defining factor, and marriage is all about "equality," what about the people who haven't found love? You can't choose who you love... which means you can't choose who you don't love. Why discriminate against individuals who haven't found love and provide government and other benefits only to people who have found love? That's certainly unfair, as love is seen as something you cannot control, which is a crucial part of the gay marriage debate. If you cannot control love, you also cannot control the lack of it, which, if granted and moved on based on equality, could easily extend the rights of marriage to singles as well. Or multiple spouse relationships. Or relationships where marriage is allowed between people who are already married and happen to love someone else as well. Which destroys the meaning of marriage, since once you toss singles in the mix, everyone will be married, regardless of who they are. And then the benefits associated with marriage will suddenly be tossed up to the government to decide how to divvy them up, and will probably also be extended to everyone, which means they will be taken from everyone. Worst-case scenario: Rights and benefits of marriage are extended to everyone based on principles of equality - married, single, polyamorous, or any other. Which means that marriage becomes completely meaningless as a civil convention. Likelihood: I don't know. But setting a precedent that rules equality definitely opens that door and will cause the eventual down that path (as far as singles go). Polyamorous relationships are more likely in the near future.

I'm sure there are more worst-case scenarios that could happen. Pastors in civil affairs (chaplains, etc) lose their license to practice if they preach against homosexual sins. Teachers are fired for refusing to teach secularism's beliefs that homosexual relationships are not sinful. I really don't feel like this is about equality.